Our Top Tips For Small Meetings That Work
If you’re setting up a meeting for a dozen, perhaps 20 delegates, it’s likely that you don’t impose the usual strategic approach and rigour that you would when organising the annual conference for hundreds or thousands of attendees. Small meetings are often agreed on an ad-hoc basis, with more spontaneity (aka flying by the seat of your pants.)
And yet … far more small meetings happen in each business than the big showstoppers, and without vigilance the total costs escalate over a year. Furthermore, how can Duty of Care be carried out if you do not have a systematic meetings programme implemented at all levels?
Costs and care
Let’s look at costs. UK public services company Serco instituted a Meetings Programme but limited the policy to meetings worth more than £1,000.
Smaller meetings could be booked direct, and this lower-level spend usually goes unnoticed by clients who do not realise it can be incorporated into the same policies. In Serco’s case, however, data analysis uncovered that these meetings made up 25% of spend. As a result, they were included in its Meetings Programme . Small meetings are often simple one-day events in a single room with basic audio-visuals and catering. Venues, however, often manage them in the same way, with the same costs in labour and time as larger events. A more strategic view can offer better value for money. HBAA, the hotel bookers association, cites the case of a company booking 26 different venues for internal training events. Consolidating them to one venue saved £1m a year.
Are you managing your small meetings bookings via Excel spreadsheets, phone calls and emails?
Many companies are, yet this approach can mean that data is hard to transfer and learn from, historical data gets lost, and productivity is compromised when the spreadsheets have to be collated or a report is needed at short notice. And is a supply of different post-it notes and pens the best way to make sure that you know where all your people are all the time? To conduct risk assessments, warn them if there is trouble ahead and take care of their emergency needs? The Duty of Care built into Meetings Programmes provides peace of mind as well as legal compliance.
Terrorism, weather disruption and political unrest highlight the need for employees and meeting attendees to follow processes for booking and documenting travel. These processes also allow meeting owners and planners to have easy, comprehensive access to delegate information, so they can help identify and mitigate risk when something goes wrong.
How to have a successful small meeting
Once you’ve booked your small meeting, the priority is to make it a success, because unproductive meetings cost companies time and money.
One survey found that 47% of employees complained that meetings were the number 1 time-waster at the office.
It’s worth reminding ourselves what the purposes of a meeting are, and they can be neatly grouped under five headings: first, they reinforce that attendees are a team or collective working together; second, sharing knowledge helps everyone do their roles more intelligently; third, meetings make communication
and problem solving more more efficient; fourth, they lead (if successful) to an agreed outcome or commitment; finally, a meeting can reinforce leadership.
Here are our tips for small meetings that work:
1. Define the objective
2. Share information in advance (such as progress reports) then cover and clarify them at the meeting
3. Agree what you will do for each entry on agenda – WHAT?
4. Discuss WHY?
5. HOW will you do it?
6. Agree responsibilities – WHO?
Meetings Management Tools
Businesses wanting to take control by adding small meetings into a strategic programme can reap most benefit by using the best meeting management tools. Tools such as Inntel’s offer diary and budget management, delegate management, a trusted venue database and a well of knowledge founded on years of experience and expertise. Each of these enables companies to run the best value, safest and effective meetings – whatever their size.
 HBAA: Strategic Meetings Management Programmes  Salary.com, 2012.