When your organization has decided to fill an auditorium or hotel ballroom for the better part of a day (or maybe two), you need to have your act together. The stakes are way too high to not put forth your very best effort.
Whether you’re calling it a conference, convention, annual meeting, symposium or forum; the secrets of success are a clear purpose, an efficient plan, helpful tools/techniques, and a skilled person running things from the podium. You want participants walking away with a sense that the meeting was a good use of their time. They’ll be more likely to think this if they learned something useful, had a chance to participate, and felt like the meeting moved along at a quick pace.
Help from the outside
Assisting with large meetings is one of my favorite things to do for clients. People who have never worked with a facilitator on a project like this usually wonder how I can help. It depends on how much help they want, but typically there are four main ways I add value:
- Refine the purpose and goals for the meeting. It’s critical that they are clear, achievable and meaningful.
- Develop an agenda. Usually the client has a rough idea about how the meeting should run. Together we work from that point to create the best plan for achieving the goals.
- Provide recommendations for room setup, audience response tools, and other activities that will keep things moving.
- Lead the meeting. The best plans in the world only work if you have an experienced person implementing them.
When I lead meetings I go by a variety of names: Chair, facilitator, emcee or master of ceremonies. Regardless of the name, the focus is the same. Meet the goals. I do this by using these key strategies:
- Keep the group focused on one specific task/question at a time.
- Use well-honed facilitation techniques to move quickly through each piece of work.
- Invite participation whenever possible, making sure attendees know that they are playing an important role in the meeting.
- Listen respectfully, helping people say what needs to be said.
- Keep things lively and fun by demonstrating high energy and a good sense of humor.
Large meeting do offer unique challenges. The trick is to understand what they are so that you can plan your way through them. The next time you are charged with bringing together a large group for an annual meeting or convention, I’d be happy to be your partner in making it a memorable success.
Image credit: © Can Stock PhotoPosted January 26, 2012 By Tom LaForce