Meeting Planning Done Right: 9 Tips

By |Published On: January 25, 2024|
Association members sit around a table in a bright room during the meeting planning process.

An issue is looming on the horizon that your association needs to tackle. You know what that means — meetings! 

Successfully addressing the issue may take several meetings. You’ll have to buckle down to plan them, then run the meetings themselves.

Planning is a serious step. Poorly planned meetings aren’t just unproductive — they’re wasteful. Consider the time and money that the working world puts toward meetings:

Our nine tips help you with the meeting planning process so you avoid hiccups, save time and advance your mission.

[Related: How Do You Handle Negativity in Your Association’s Meetings?]

Tried-and-True Meeting Planning Tips

When you approach meeting planning strategically, you set yourself up for collaborative, structured meetings that produce results. These pointers give you exact factors to consider. 

1. Define Your Purpose Clearly

Outline the meeting’s purpose, set goals and compile a participant list far before you send calendar invites. Don’t go into any meeting with an ambiguous idea of what you need to accomplish — you’ll just waste time.

Then, identify the meeting’s core type: 

  • Brainstorming 
  • Decision-making
  • Budget setting
  • Problem-solving
  • Team building 
  • Project planning

Naturally, many more meeting types exist. The meeting’s purpose and type influence every facet of how you plan! 

Still, leave room for flexibility. Unexpected needs can arise before, during and after a meeting, no matter how thoroughly you’ve laid the groundwork.

[Related: Donald Hocking’s Wonderful World of Meetings]

2. Draft and Revise a Detailed Agenda

Draft a meeting agenda, and double-check it. Make sure you cover the bases:

  • The meeting’s primary purpose and type (see Tip 1)
  • The topic(s) for discussion
  • Key information and topic(s) resources
  • Action items and/or tasks

Your agenda can be even more granular, including how much time you’ll spend per topic and real-time deadlines. Reread the meeting agenda and revise if necessary. Correcting any oversight is much easier sooner rather than later.

Well-written agendas create shared understanding and give your meeting structure. As a result, participants get more opportunities to learn and contribute meaningfully. No one works in the dark, and you demonstrate leadership.

Note. If you’re not confident about writing meeting agendas, check out online templates. For ideal meeting agendas, an association management company (AMC) will work with you during the meeting planning process. 

[Related: Do Volunteer Association Leaders Lead Balanced Lives?]

3. Set Fitting Roles

Consider what tasks the meeting might demand, and assign members to those roles in advance. You can designate these roles and more according to the meeting’s type, size and objectives:

  • Meeting leader/organizer
  • Facilitator
  • Presenter
  • Timekeeper
  • Notetaker, recorder or scribe
  • Discussion leader

Consult with your members when assigning roles to ensure they’re willing and able to perform those tasks.

Alternatively, your AMC will organize tasks, fill roles, take meeting minutes and keep matters in order. With an AMC at the wheel, your members can focus on the meeting content and necessary collaboration

[Related: How To Find the Right Association Management Company]

4. Carefully Choose Where and When the Meeting Happens

Think about exactly how, where and when the meeting will happen well in advance. Note key details that help determine its time and place:

  • In-person vs. hybrid vs. virtual meetings
  • Members’ schedules
  • Meeting room size, if applicable
  • Members’ time zones

Additionally, take into account aspects you might unintentionally overlook, like holidays, vacations and meeting room reservations. This is partially where flexibility is crucial in meeting planning

For example, opt for a hybrid or virtual meeting if its purpose is urgent — generally, more members can attend.

[Related: Membership Retention Basics: What Your Association Needs To Know]

5. Send Specific Invitations

Write a detailed meeting invite. Brevity is your friend, and include the meeting’s must-have elements: 

  • Descriptive, concise subject line
  • Fast, professional introduction
  • Purpose and type
  • Date, time and location
  • Meeting agenda or agenda link
  • RSVP request
  • Link to the virtual meeting room and/or physical address
  • Link(s) to resources, if applicable

Then, reread and (if needed) edit the invite before sending. Remember that a good meeting invite covers the five Ws — who, what, where, when and why. Include the “how,” too! 

Note. You can find meeting invite templates, but an invite should work for each participant and include all relevant facts. Your AMC can curate precise meeting invites that check every box before the meeting starts.

[Related: Consensus: The Way Associations Work]

6. Distribute Materials Before the Meeting

Send materials, resources and supporting documents that help participants prepare. 

You can do so in an email following the meeting invite or link directly to the materials in the invite and/or meeting agenda. If you have significant prework or a large number of resources, sending them in a follow-up email may be a better tactic. 

This tip is particularly important for effective meetings that cover financial matters, important external events or detailed decision-making.

Note. Meeting planning is smarter when participants go into the meeting knowing exactly what you’ve planned. If you’re unsure how to find and distribute the right materials, your AMC will manage the meeting, including document preparation and meeting coordination.

[Related: Measuring the Effectiveness of Your Association Management Company]

7. Prepare Prompts To Spark Engagement

List discussion prompts that could help move the meeting along. Recall past meetings and what seemed to stall them, and share the prompts with your discussion leader/facilitator. 

Planning meeting prompts doesn’t have to be a strain — these simple ones get your team involved:

  • Tell me our most effective effort so far.
  • What are our biggest challenges here?
  • Let’s talk about where we’re strongest.
  • How can we make our next meeting more engaging?
  • Discuss what next steps we can take.

Of course, that’s the tip of the iceberg, and prompts don’t have to be all business. 

In fact, they’re more beneficial than you might think — 91% of participants have drifted off during a meeting. That’s the last thing you want. Prompts help your team stay focused and on track, so make them part of your meeting planning process.

[Related: The Importance of a Member Survey for Associations]

8. Take Notes During the Meeting

Watch participants and jot down your thoughts throughout the meeting. Pay attention to what makes the conversation freeze, and brainstorm how to prevent that in the next meeting. 

Even if your notetaker does most of the writing for you, your personal insights are invaluable. After the meeting, review and compare notes to see whether you’re on the same page.

Additionally, encourage participants to take their own notes. Seemingly minor ideas can turn into major growth opportunities and lead to greater meeting success! Those ideas might even make their way into the next meeting agenda or association newsletter.

Note. At the end of the meeting, thank attendees for their involvement. Tell them you value their time and feedback. It’s not just polite — it’s positive leadership.

[Related: No Silver Bullet for Association Success — It’s All About the Members]

9. Follow Up With Attendees

Send a follow-up email when the meeting is over to formally thank attendees and sum up the discussion. 

In the same message, outline what goals you met, list any new initiative you covered and summarize what you discussed together. Make sure to recognize members who held roles during the meeting. Additionally, describe any actions you identified, and assign responsibilities and deadlines.

This meeting planning tip doesn’t merely inform members who couldn’t (or didn’t) attend. It validates an effective meeting and lays the basis for another productive one. And you bolster your role as a forward-thinking leader while encouraging accountability.

[Related: The Membership Recruitment Plan for Every Association]

Find Skillful Meeting Planning With CM Services

We want to ensure each meeting is productive and aligns with your mission. 

At CM Services, we have nearly 50 years of experience in providing associations like yours with preparation, guidance and consultation. From planning meetings to handling project management and beyond, we work tirelessly for your organization’s success. 

We’re proud of our work and the clients we serve. Please see our services to view what we can do for your association. 

Contact us to enlist our expert team.

Featured image via Pexels

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