Meeting Planning, When Key Players Change

Hand-offSooner or later, an event or meeting planner may encounter a scenario that involves changing players. When you're in the process of planning a client event or meeting, sometimes a new stakeholder joins the team or a key stakeholder retires, resigns, or, heaven forbid, is fired.

It's so obvious that it's almost not worth stating "no two people are alike." Inevitably, new players bring a different set of expectations and different perceptions of the shape the meeting or event should take place.

Yet, if an event is fast approaching, it's tempting to assume it's "business as usual." Particularly if there have been delays or last minute glitches, the tendency is to address them as quickly and efficiently as possible and race to the finish. This approach could be the very strategy that dooms an event to failure in the eyes of the new stakeholders.

What's a meeting planner to do?

  1. Hit the pause button.
    Taking the time to do this, may mean that some tasks may have to be re-assigned.
  2. If possible, facilitate a transition meeting.
  3. If you can't, assume that limited information has been passed on.
    Hand-offs aren't always smooth. Often, they are rushed. At times, they are unfriendly. It's not surprising that sometimes information gets lost in the transition and documents don't get passed on.
  4. Clarify the role of all new stakeholders.
  5. Re-set. At the start of a project, identifying key stakeholders and facilitating an initial project meeting set you off on the right course. It's time to go through this process again.
  6. Clarify expectations.
  7. Share your understanding of the nature and level of content  to be provided and ensure that this dovetails with the expectations of the new players.
    If the original contact wanted a finance 101 workshop covering the basics and one or more of the new stakeholders wants a focus on in-depth financial analysis but never articulates this, there will be a disconnect.
  8. For training or learning events, if there has been a delay in implementation, re-do the needs analysis.
    A colleague provided consulting to an organization with an experienced client care team requiring advanced training to become an elite team of specialists. 

    Although a service provider had been selected, implementation was delayed when the organization went through dramatic changes and explosive growth,. Many of the experienced client care specialists moved on to other responsibilities and were replaced with inexperienced CSRs. New managers had been hired and their expectations were different. 

    My colleague, who had just been hired, sat in on the pilot, diagnosed the situation and completed a new needs analysis. The training took a significantly different course.

  9. Go over ALL details of the event plan including the initial proposal and any reports that document decisions.
  10. Review the critical path and agenda in detail.
  11. Re-confirm who is responsible for each and every aspect of the event.
    Even if a client has agreed to handle the transportation, for example, don't assume that new team members have been briefed about this. They may assume that the meeting planner is taking care of it. If a group is stranded because no one arranged for a bus to pick them up, this will get any event off to a very rocky start.

    Also, if the client has agreed to print the workbooks or workshop notes, re-confirm that in your meeting with the new players. If client input comes late and there is a delay in getting documents to them for printing, re-confirm with them a couple of days before the workshop that they will still handle printing internally. On a going forward basis, design all participant workbooks and handouts so that it can be used on a paperless basis (i.e. with active fields for typing). If it is just designed for print and at the last minute printing is not done, the soft copy of the workbook or handouts will still be of great value to attendees).
  12. A few days prior to the meeting, ask again if there are any new key players on the team.
    It is important to get their input to ensure that they are in agreement with the agenda, content, and even logistics. Better to make those painful 11th hour changes than to find during the course of the meeting that their expectations don't dovetail with what is on the agenda.

Photo Credit: tableatny

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