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Planning A Meeting? Get To The Point(e)!

I have participated in a lot of corporate retreats. By a lot, I mean three or four annual, all-day planning sessions each year over the past five or six years. Our business holds an annual sales retreat, and I sit on the boards of several not-for-profit organizations in the community and each of them holds an annual retreat. Some of these retreats have been very productive, but unfortunately, half of these meeting marathons have me scratching my head as I walk out the door at the end of the day wondering: “Did we just accomplish anything?”

Is it a coincidence that the most grueling experiences seem to occur when an “expert” moderator is in charge? I think not. Often, the hired professional moderator has just been a bad fit for the group. A qualified expert with no industry experience, poor preparation or lack of topic knowledge can very easily sidetrack the group from the point of the meeting. If the purpose of the meeting is setting priorities and objectives, is a two-hour team building exercise really necessary? Does the group need to spend the whole morning doing an exercise to enhance listening skills? I am a “get to the point” kind of guy, and it really drives me nuts when these retreat agendas do not schedule the heart of the topic until after lunch is over! Inevitably, the whole group loses focus after a few cycles of caffeine-carbs-caffeine-carbs during the meeting day, and most participants are more ready for a nap than for talking business after lunch and the afternoon cookie break. By that time of day, the moderator is usually trying to rush through the meeting agenda before the numb-minded, barely quorum, and as the day ends suggestions are made to set a follow-up date to finish the business at hand.

Suggestions to enhance your retreat and get the most productivity in your limited time:

  • Choose your moderator carefully. Pick someone that is familiar with your group’s mission and objectives and has knowledge of your industry or organization. This may be someone within your organization, an industry expert or a trained facilitator with experience in your field.
  • Spend time going over the agenda with the moderator. As the meeting planner, it is ultimately up to you whether your retreat is a success. Minimize the “exercises” and make sure you get to the big picture items early in the day when participants are fresh and creativity is at the peak. It is easier for people to deal with detail and specifics later in the day when the priorities and objectives have already been identified. This also allows your group to go back and modify as the detail is discussed.
  • Try to lay off the sugar and carbohydrates when you plan your menus. Provide protein snacks to keep participants alert. Did you know that NASA and the military use diet to help regulate sleep patterns for pilots and astronauts? Carbs slow down the metabolism and induce sleep. Proteins increase the metabolism and promote alertness.
  • Allow and even encourage people to get up and move around during discussions. Many people think better when they are on their feet, and standing up will keep people from zoning out or dozing off.
  • Make sure you have all your meeting resources on hand. This might include flip charts, markers, pens and pads, internet connections, projectors and screens.

Contact your meeting professional at Adams Pointe Conference Center and the Courtyard by Marriott hotel of Blue Springs at 816.220.4400 or We are ready and able to provide the resources, advice and menu insights that will make your retreat, conference or meeting a huge success!