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11 Ways to Create Successful Corporate Meetings and Retreats
by David & Lorrie Goldsmith

What's the cost to put together a strategic corporate meeting or retreat? Regardless of the specifics-hotel expenses, payroll, lost opportunities, lost management time planning the agenda, the cost of guest speakers, food, and supplies-you expect the returns to far outweigh the $3000 or $150,000 bill.

Unfortunately, too many meetings never hit their mark. You start with specific goals and an agenda. You sit everyone down and start covering your list. However, somewhere the whole thing veers off course. Perhaps a guest speaker doesn't deliver the content you intended. Maybe a member of the group falls short with their sales presentation or operations report. Before you know it, you're at 72% of where you wanted to be, and you can't go up. Now you're stuck answering questions or offering solutions that weren't part of your original agenda.

When the event is over, you're happy…not elated. The whole thing wasn't a total loss. You rallied the troops, but didn't achieve objectives the way you had intended. Sales will rise, maybe by 20%, but they won't double the way you had hoped. You pay the bill and go home.

It doesn't have to be this way. Here are 11 ways to get more of what you want out of future meetings:
  1. Set the agenda yourself…don't have your staff do it. Yes, ask for ideas, and get involvement early. However, you give the purpose for your meeting, and that can only be focused if you keep on target.
  2. Select presenters who have some presentation skills. This is not a popularity contest, but if your operations person should have been buried 8 years ago, you don't need him/her at your meeting. Find a presenter who will perform in a way that suits your needs.
  3. Get presenters on the same page you're on. Too often guests are asked to deliver information and then left on their own. Stage the content like a Broadway show. Choreograph more than just their topic; know their direction, content, and tone. If you've ever been disappointed, that's typically the reason why.
  4. Focus on the value to the participants. Remember that participants are looking for "what's in it for me." Plan every aspect with this important factor in mind.
  5. Get to the point. Start meetings off fast. How often have you enjoyed the CEO/President speech? No one else likes it either.
  6. Stick to the issues and keep it honest. The purpose of the meeting is to focus on real data. When egos, sales, or fear get in the way, participants build solutions to fictitious problems. Not the way you want to go.
  7. Place handouts in order of use. Then staple them in that order. Participants can't pay attention if they're struggling to find out where you are.
  8. Create an accountability sheet. One page. Who does what, when and how? If it's discussed, someone must do something (or decide to do nothing). Minutes are nice, but how many times in your history have you read minutes from a meeting and then acted? We're guessing few, if any.
  9. Don't speak "off the cuff." Even professional speakers who sound like they're winging it are not. You shouldn't either. Take the time to bullet your points. Think them through. Odds are you'll get significantly better results with a trial run through your notes before the event, versus improvising in front of the crowd.
  10. Stick to the schedule. Make sure your room has at least one clock facing the moderator. Try the Wal-Mart $5.99, 8-inch clock. The worst thing you can do is look at your watch. Then everyone else does.
  11. Prepare the next agenda during the meeting. It's like setting a rocket booster under your seat. Set 15-30 minutes aside to plan the next meeting while issues are hot. There can be changes later, but at least the burden is lifted, you're covering key topics, and everyone knows what to expect.
Olympic ski races are won and lost by only hundredths of seconds; most corporate meetings teeter on the edge of success and failure by similar fractions. Creating meetings is not rocket science, yet so few meetings bring about the impact intended. Implementing even a couple of the above suggestions should boost future results from so-so to astronomical.

Copyright David and Lorrie Goldsmith. All Rights Reserved.

David and Lorrie Goldsmith are managing partners of their own consulting group. Their firm offers consulting and speaking services internationally. David was named by Successful Meetings Magazine as one of the "26 Hottest Speakers in the Industry." Jeff Gitomer say’s "David Goldsmith is unique in that he can see a 30,000 feet view of business and then delivers the hand-to-hand tools for combat."

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