Meeting content often overflows the allocated timeframe when organizations lock in the dates, meeting length, destination and venue before devoting quality time to planning meeting content. It's like trying to solve Rubik's Cube blindfolded. (The sales conference is always 2 days, so content is shoe-horned into that timeframe.)
An early initial project meeting is a must
To avoid this, set an initial project meeting with key decision makers early. If gatekeepers refuse access, provide a one-page document to assist them in gathering key information. Pinpoint goals, objectives and essential meeting content.
Crowdsource the content
Getting input from attendees early reduces the chances of discovering at the last minute that important content has been left off the agenda.
Identify content that can be delivered virtually
Virtual meetings can take pressure off the face-to-face meeting agenda.
Slot all known agenda Items Into the schedule
Always build in a bit more time than you think you will need.
Allow ample time for executive presentations
Get executive input about time requirements early. I would suggest at the very least doubling the amount of time requested. Build a buffer around the executive presentation and, if possible, to give more flexibility, try to schedule it before the group heads off for free time. For example, if free time is scheduled for 4:30, schedule the executive presentation after lunch at 1:45 PM. If the CEO requests an hour, schedule it but build an extra 1-1/2 hours into the agenda. Here's an example:
1:45 Executive Presentation
2:45 Leave blank on agenda
3:30 Leave blank on agenda
In all likelihood when you do a final review of the agenda a few days before the meeting, you will find that the CEO will require more time.
Make sure that team building and keynote speakers are not afterthoughts
If you plan to include team building in your meeting or conference, unless you are opting for a high power technology assisted simulation that can be done in a tight timeframe, at minimum, build at least a day plus a couple of hours for a briefing into the agenda.
Contact team building specialists and keynote speakers before you make a final decision about the length of the meeting and the location. Ensure that you book speakers and facilitators several months before the meeting.
The bottom line is that it is important to avoid picking dates and a timeframe out of the air and then trying to force fit content. This is a common practice and one of the main reasons that meetings fail.
As an alternative, start with a blank canvas and help your internal or external client build the meeting from the ground up. Once you determine how much time is realistically needed, build in a buffer in case there are last minute organizational issues that need to be added to the agenda.
Photo Credits: fw42