Planning any kind of event is a complex, time-consuming process that is filled with potential pitfalls. All kinds of factors, big and small, can mean the difference between your meeting being an outstanding success or a dismal failure. When planning your next event, avoid these common mistakes.
1. Not choosing the right meeting room
A sub-par environment diminishes the ability of your speakers to be effective and makes your attendees uncomfortable. Before you book the venue, scope out the room(s) thoroughly.
Q: Are there good site lines to the stage?
Q: Is the sound system clear and crisp?
Q: How are the acoustics?
Q: Is the lighting bright enough? And is it adjustable?
Q: How is the temperature controlled?
Q: Is there good Wi-Fi reception?
Q: What’s the noise level like outside the room?
Q: How many bathrooms are there? How big are they?
Q: What is the furniture like?
Tip: Many venues will invest a lot to make their meeting rooms look nice, but will cheap out on the sound system. Check it!
2. Not including proper force majeure provisions in contracts
Meeting planners work very hard to ensure that no problems will arise in connection with the meeting. We all have experienced many reasons why a meeting is interrupted: hurricanes, snow, union lockouts, etc. These events are out of the control of either party. Yet, unless the issue of force majeure is properly addressed in the contract, a group may have little to no protection.
Tip: Have more than one person review the contract.
3. Not knowing what else is occurring at the venue
What is booked in the meeting room next to yours? If some group is having a Grateful Dead concert with only an air wall in between, you want to find out before- not after- you book the room.
Tip: Let your sales contact at the venue know what types of groups you are and are not willing to be near.
4. Not hiring professional speakers
Too many meeting planners will budget for meeting space, food, A/V, décor, printing and even alcohol, but don’t budget anything for the one element that can make the biggest impact on their attendees: the speakers!
Professional speakers are not just subject matter experts, they also are skilled at engaging audiences and helping them learn more effectively.
Tip: Have your executives write out the goals of the meeting and the role the professional speaker(s) will have in meeting their objectives. Be sure and schedule at least one conference call with the speakers to discuss your goals and have at least one executive on this call.
5. Selecting the wrong speakers
Some speakers look good on paper, but don’t perform well on stage. Some speakers are terrific presenters, but are a nightmare to work with. Some speakers are phenomenal with certain groups, and not so phenomenal with others. Vet your speakers thoroughly. Does the speaker you are considering use Power Point? Pictures not just words are better learning tools compared to a boring slide with too many words. What experience do they have and how long have they been speaking?
Tip: Speakers Bureaus save you time in finding the best speakers for your budget, goals and audience, as well as keep you from hiring prima donnas...all at no cost to you! Be sure the company you use to book speakers belongs to IASB.
6. Choosing the wrong A/V company
Great audio-visual work doesn’t get noticed, yet it is a huge factor in a successful event. Poor A/V can doom even the best speakers and entertainers.
Tip: Check A/V companies’ references and be sure they have experience in the venue you have chosen.
7. Not using IMAG
You wouldn’t consider not amplifying the speaker’s voice. It is also important for your audience to see the speaker. Budget for and use IMAG (Image Magnification) when you have more than 150 guests in a long and narrow room or more than 300 guests in a square room.
Tip: Always have enough in your budget for a dress kit. Those naked screens look cold and detract from the atmosphere you’re trying to create.
8. Using the wrong seating arrangement
Rounds are fine for a meal, but not for any other type of program. Unless your speaker/entertainer is performing during or immediately after the meal, use a different seating arrangement.
For a motivational speaker or humorist, theater style is ideal. It creates the right atmosphere because attendees feel like they’re at a theater or club. (Think about comedy clubs- people are more likely to laugh in crowds in a tight area because laughter is contagious.) For a content speaker (sales, marketing, leadership, etc.) set the room classroom style. This way, everyone can see the speaker and has a surface on which to take notes.
TIP: Set classroom tables in a chevron and curve theater style seating so that everyone has a better view of the speaker and screen.
9. Putting an aisle in the wrong place
One of most common mistakes I see meeting planners make is setting the room so that there is a large aisle right in the middle of the room. That’s where the best seats should be!
Instead, set two- or even four- aisles with seats in the center. As a bonus, setting more aisles makes it easier for attendees to come and go.
TIP: Aisles don’t need to be as wide as most meeting planners think they do, especially when you have more of them.
Debbie Taylor is the founder of Taylor Made Events & Speakers