Feb. 21, 2014 11:00

Planning a meeting with results

The art of the meeting is an ever-evolving animal. One that could make or break a business. From 10-person gatherings to meetings of the masses, there are certain rules that apply to all. We've rounded up the best local resources for getting it done from the first agenda item until the last power point closes.

In Lafayette, there is a reservoir of resources gathered in one simple place thanks to the Lafayette Convention and Visitor's Commission.

"This should be their first stop if planning a meeting here in lafayette," says Kelly Strenge, LCVC VP of communications. "Everything from finding the right hotel to putting in a request for proposals for the hotels and getting them the rates they need to the possibility of meeting space in a hotel or finding venues for their size and budget."

Even details like name badges and registration fall under the umbrella of LCVC's offerings. Strenge notes LCVC can guide businesses in finding less likely locales for meetings - think Acadian Village and Vermilionville. These locales off the beaten path may just be the ticket for shaking things up, according to meeting gurus like Aileen Bennett and Cookie Tuminello.

Bennett, a roaming creative director and idea thinker up (yes, that's officially her title), says shaking up the location can make all the difference in the success of a meeting.

"If everyone sits in the same ballroom in the same chairs thinking the same ... If something changes, they think differently," she notes. "And have healthy food in the meeting. Protein is good for you. You give everyone donuts and expect great ideas 15 minutes later?"

Good food may seem like a minor detail, but it's also one Liz Webb points quickly toward. The Cajundome's convention center sales manager says meeting planners are increasingly looking for great food for their meetings.

"People don't want to skip out for lunch anymore," she notes pointing toward award-winning chef's employed by the Cajundome to ensure that doesn't happen.

As people plan meetings, Webb says more and more businesses are looking to set themselves apart and seek alternatives to the traditional boss running the meeting - think motivational speakers and comedians.

Tuminello, who works with businesses of all sizes to achieve goals large and small, says setting up a meeting where the team can be honest is vital to accomplishing the goals of the meeting no matter the type of business or size of meeting.

"You have to begin to build trust among your team members. That it's okay to speak up. It's okay to pose ideas," Tuminello says.
Bennett also points to a neutral party leading a meeting and participation by every person in the room.

"Is your iPhone important in this meeting? What if everyone was paying attention? Wouldn't it be quicker and better? Half the time people are texting under the table," Bennett says. "If you're not participating in the meeting you shouldn't be in the room. If you're not saying your ideas out loud you are not doing anyone a service."

While getting creative is a great way to engage meeting goers, Bennett points toward the most basic elements missing from many meetings. These are the elements that mean the difference between success and failure. Between a meeting that ends with solutions versus a meeting that results in nothing more than more meetings.

"There should be a prepared agenda and everyone has thoughts about something before the meeting and my idea is this,'" Bennett says.

Bennett says knowing the team's strengths and how to tap into that is another crucial way to meeting success. She suggests new ways of brainstorming.

"Brainstorming isn't just writing things on a piece of paper. All meetings should be respectful of people's time. It's the only limited resource we have. I put different constraints on people. What would we do if we had a million or what would we do if we had no money? What would be a plan for two weeks or a three year plan? Having different constraints forces you to think creatively in different ways," Bennett says.

When it's all said and done, Tuminello notes, every single meeting should end with goals achieved and commitments made.

"You can have meetings all day, but when people walk out with this glazed look on their face and not a lot accomplished? You have to structure a meeting so that there are certain guidelines you are clear on and then have a verbal commitment," Tuminello says.
She notes that a simple absent nod of the head from your team member isn't enough. Meeting goers should be engaged in a real way.

"Everybody wants to comment and then you get off topic and you get done and everybody says that sounds good' and yet no one is accountable," Tuminello says. "Build in accountability, responsibility, trust and camaraderie and take into account you want them to take interest in and feel like a part of it and trust they can say what they need to say."


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