If you’re a strategic planner, what is the greatest story you’ve ever told?
Whatever it was or will be, you can bet that SMM — Strategic Meeting Management — will set the stage. Planners around the globe, from novice to savvy, use SMM to deliver successful outcomes to organizations.
In the past decade, SMM has raised the bar for how professional planners consult their internal and external customers in developing strategic expectations and outcomes. The “24/7 spotlight” is more focused on measuring and aligning financial and non-financial short- and long-term results to the mission, value and initiatives of an organization.
Being strategic won’t eliminate proven historical planning, but asking and answering these “Tactical Questions” will continue to be critical:
- What type of meeting is being requested? Is it internal or external? A convention, symposium or workshop? For a board of directors or customer appreciation?
- What are the meeting’s logistical needs? This can include everything from room sets and audio-visual needs to food & beverage, speaker needs and transportation
- Why is the meeting taking place? It could be an annual meeting required by an organization’s bylaws, mission-driven, educational or motivational.
- Who’s attending? Examples might include staff, management only, VIPs, volunteers or guests, or customers and clients.
- When will it take place? You can be as broad as the decade or year, and as specific as quarter, month, day, date and time.
- Where will it be held? Examples might include a hotel, a resort or spa, or a conference center with or without sleeping rooms.
- How will the meeting be planned, organized and executed?
What questions do you ask now when a stakeholder requests a meeting? Do you, as the planner, do all the talking and fill in the blanks? Your answer should be “no.” The best strategy is to ask lots of the right questions. “Strategic simple steps,” as listed below, provide a proven checklist that can help planners add SMM to their process.
Define the needs of the meeting by asking the “Tactical Questions” (above).
Make sure your client knows how important is is to fully understand the needs and expectations of the meeting. This helps you deliver the best meeting environment and desired outcomes.
Stop and listen to the answers during this conversation. Ask more questions, if need be, to make sure all parties understand what will happen. The planner should not make suggestions or express ideas at this point. If asked, the planner should enthusiastically remind the client that recommendations will come in an executive summary after all meeting objectives are reviewed. This approach elevates basic planning to a strategic level. By staying neutral and focused on what’s best for the organization, planners win the client’s and/or management’s trust as well as empowerment.
Next turn the “Tactical Questions” into “Strategic Questions.”
- What must be accomplished in this meeting and what value will it deliver? This meeting will increase ROI (Return on Investment) by 20 percent, for example, and the value received from it will increase productivity by 20 percent.
- Why is this meeting important? This meeting will inspire innovation and creative outcomes, for example, and increase the sharing of unknown information by 50 percent.
- Who will the meeting impact? It is targeted to impact all staff, for example, and will influence strategic alliances with vendors.
- When will the results of this meeting be realized? Examples: This meeting will impact the first quarter quota and needs to happen before Dec. 15 so that staff has enough time to prepare for the new year. Or, an 85 percent return of attendee evaluations will show participants immediate feedback.
- Will the meeting location influence its results? By meeting at a resort, for example, attendees will be able to network in a relaxed setting without the usual daily pressures or stress.
- How important is delivery and execution to meeting success and how will ROI and value be measured? Examples: The delivery and execution will let meeting participants focus on why they are there. Or, this meeting will be financially supported by the 2012 training and development budget.
After the Strategic Questions are answered, restate the answers and make sure this is what the stakeholder wants to achieve. Will these strategic objectives bring measurable, value-added results to the organization?
Create an executive summary that reports the strategic meeting objectives and supports your recommendations. You can do this via an outline that includes a background/introduction, main conclusions, recommendations, action requested and additional data. The summary should detail recommendations, include a request for action and set a deadline for approval. Any questions can be answered through the information gathered by the tactical and strategic questions, and the what, why, who, when, where and how. Depending on your client’s style, the summary can be a written report or support a verbal presentation. The summary is flexible and should be changed as needed.