Your boss has just given you the assignment to plan the next meeting. Lucky you. “How will I work that into my schedule?” you ask. Then your boss says something about time management or being a team player or something. How hard can it be? After all, you attended your share of meetings and they all seemed to go smoothly. If it was easy, anybody could do it. Planning and executing a successful meeting is a complex and difficult process. In fact, professional meeting planner - people who specialize in putting events like your together - spend a lifetime learning more and better ways of making meetings and conferences succeed. There are some ideas for professional meeting planners on this site and you might want to look them over AFTER you have considered these basics: OUTCOME - you must know the purpose of your meeting and focus your energy and decisions on it. DEADLINES - when requesting the information you need, give everyone (including your boss) a deadline. You need the information when you need it. The information you are requesting make up the components of your meeting: presentations, activities, etc. The most common reasons why meetings fail is because during the planning deadlines were not met. AGENDA - once you know what you are trying to accomplish with your meeting and what the components are, they need to be give specific slots on your agenda. Be sure to allow for breaks and note that a fifteen minute break is usually twenty-five minutes long. EXECUTION - the first thing you can do to insure success in your meeting is START ON TIME. Regardless of how many people are in their seats, start on time. This will send a clear message. Starting late usually insures a sloppy meeting. Whoever your first speaker is, have them start immediately. STICK TO THE AGENDA - speakers will run long; it is human nature. Let them know in advance that they cannot run long. Ask them to practice and time their presentation. To keep them on track, hold up a sign that says “FIVE MINUTES”, followed by one that says “ONE MINUTE”. When their time is up, have someone approach the front of the room and take the attention away from the speaker. (You will only have to do this once or twice!) PREPARE FOR THE UNEXPECTED - something will go wrong. Despite your planning, there are many things that can disrupt your best laid plans. If you are using any audio/visual equipment, what will you do if it fails to cooperate? If a speaker does not show up, what will you do with the time? If your boss, or THEIR boss takes too much time, how will you get back on track? EXPECT LAST MINUTE CHANGES - immediately prior to your meeting, a significant issue may require you to alter your agenda or even your venue. It happens and is no reflection on you. However, you need to be an a position to alert others to the cost of the change to insure that the emerged issue warrant the disruption.