matter how informal the meeting, preparation in advance can improve
the effectiveness of the meeting itself. When planning a meeting,
visualize in advance how the meeting will unfold: who will stand
where, how long the presentations will last, how the meeting will
When sending materials in advance of the meeting, be clear what
home work you are asking attendees to do. For example, if you send
a document for review, ask for comments on specific aspects of the
document - different reviewers are asked to comment on substance,
design, and editorial issues. If you've been asked to prepare for
a meeting, allow plenty of time to finish the work before the meeting
starts. If you haven't been asked to prepare, double-check with
the organizer to be sure nothing is expected of you in advance.
Occasionally it is necessary to ask someone to speak on a topic
for which they have not been asked to prepare. Courtesy dictates
that you inform the others in attendance that the person is speaking
off the cuff.
if you expect guests to prepare for the meeting, bring enough copies
of the agenda and of the handouts for everyone who attends, along
with notes from the previous meeting if applicable.
Choose a meeting location that suits the occasion - right size,
convenient location, appropriate technological capabilities, proper
ventilation, space to hang coats, etc. Then, make sure the room
is outfitted with the appropriate amenities and equipment to make
the guests comfortable and the meeting effective.
and chairs. There should be enough room for everyone to sit
down and spread out at the conference table. It is a show of courtesy
and respect not to make guests bring their own chairs to a meeting.
For a large meeting or conference, it may be necessary to arrange
with facilities professionals to provide sufficient chairs. Investigate
lead times for such services as soon as you know you will be organizing
If the room is cool at the beginning of the meeting, it will warm
up to a comfortable temperature as the meeting unfolds. Check lighting,
including dimmer switches. Practice dimming the lights and covering
the windows for audiovisual presentations. For a larger meeting,
be sure the speaker is well lit and visible from the back of the
Make sure all guests are fully able to participate: the room is
accessible by wheelchair, interpreters are present, and other disabilities
Test all microphones and amplification equipment before guests arrive.
Stand in various parts of the room to be sure the sound is neither
echoed nor muffled. Check battery levels on cordless equipment.
Arrange for flipcharts and markers, notebooks, pens, sticky notes,
pencils, nametags, podiums, projection screens, video equipment,
and other materials required by the speakers. If the meeting is
off site, it may be worth bringing your own meeting supplies if
you are unsure about the venue.
taking. One person should be responsible for keeping an official
record of the meeting. Designate that person in advance. Formal
meetings may call for an audiotape record. Use video sparingly,
for example at conferences and shareholders' meetings. Video makes
the tenor of the meeting more formal and may discourage participation.
If guests are coming in from outside the organization, refreshments
are in order. Order bottled water and a variety of other drinks
and food that is easy to eat without spilling or leaving crumbs.
Decide in advance what restaurant will supply lunch to avoid unnecessary
discussions, and take into account your guests' dietary restrictions
when reviewing menus. Regular work meetings may not call for food
Give attendees a rest approximately every 90 minutes. Some meetings
may need only 5- to 10-minute breaks. If refreshments are served,
a 15-minute break is typically needed. As the meeting breaks, say
specifically what time the meeting will resume to ensure that everyone
If the room has a telephone, make sure it is set to "Do Not
Disturb." If necessary, post a sign on the door saying a meeting
is in session. Let support staff know what types of interruptions
Jo Schlegel, Editor-in-Chief