Research and White Papers

National Conference Center: How to Conduct More Productive Meetings

By Matt Alderton
March 15, 2012

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In the current economic climate, "cost" has been the focus du jour for many meeting planners. Equally important, however, is "productivity," according to the National Conference Center in Leesburg, Va., which this week released its list of the "Top 10 Ways to Conduct More Productive Meetings":

1. Select a meetings-focused venue. "Choosing venues that are focused on the meetings business will ensure your group has a productive meeting," the National Conference Center says, citing a white paper it produced this winter. "According to the white paper, 'Why Conference Centers are More Conducive to Learning,' facilities dedicated to meetings and training produce the best results."

2. Find distraction-free meeting space. "As a planner, be wary of air-walls and ask about who will be in the room next to you," the National Conference Center advises. "In an ideal situation, any other groups on property during your training or meeting will also be there with similar organizational goals."

3. Ask for the ability to control the comfort of the meeting room. "Attendees are the most productive and attentive if the room temperature is 'just right' at 70 degrees," the National Conference Center points out. "A room that is too warm will send your attendees to sleep or frustrate them and a room that is too cold will prevent them from fully focusing. Ask if the room has individual climate control during your site tour. On the day of the meeting, set the room at 70 degrees for the optimum learning temperature and keep in mind that the room will warm up due to participant body heat."

4. Pay attention to chairs. "If your meetings are long, participants will have a hard time focusing more than a few hours in the chairs are not comfortable," the National Conference Center says. "Ergonomic chairs for meetings are best because they are designed for the best possible learning experience, specifically in an upright position at a table level, whereas banquet chairs were intended for shorter events such as a wedding reception."

5. Don't overlook visual obstructions. "Avoid rooms with pillars and other obstacles that could prevent attendees from focusing," the National Conference Center suggests. "Natural light is good, but if the room backs up to the golf course or the pool, your attendees mind may be elsewhere. During site tours, look for meeting rooms that are free of visual obstructions but provide enough light (natural or otherwise) for a healthy learning environment."

6. Ensure functioning audio/visual equipment. "A/V equipment that is up-to-date and functioning is just as important as an A/V staff that is in-house and readily available," the National Conference Center says. "An in-house A/V team will be able to answer questions, be readily available, anticipate future opportunities and can provide their expertise and ensure the execution of your audio/visual is seamless."

7. Ask for flexible break service. "It can be difficult to determine when you'll need a break and your meeting schedule will often change to adapt to learning needs of the attendees," the National Conference Center says. "During your site tour, smart conversations include, 'How flexible is the property in adapting to changing timeframes for coffee breaks? Can I negotiate continuous breaks throughout the meeting day?' It's also pertinent to cater to the needs of attendees and give them the flexibility to visit a break station when need be, even when not on an official break."

8. Separate meetings from the meals. "While working lunches on the surface seem like a good use of time, research shows your attendees need a break," the National Conference Center points out. "Try to schedule lunch in a pleasant dining environment with lots of natural light. Your attendees can also utilize this time for more face-to-face interaction and networking; remember, contact is now one of the most popular reasons why attendees travel to conferences."

9. Provide variety at meals. "Private banquet service tends to limit the variety you can offer," the National Conference Center says. "With the explosion of special dietary needs, the most productive meetings will be at venues that can provide for those attendees. Another smart conversation to have with the on-site venue contact is if the property has a restaurant or dining hall that can offer variety and expediency for the group's meals."

10. Look for on-call venue support. "One of the most important factors to ensuring your meeting does go off without a hitch is the reliability of an on-site venue contact that you can go to for all your facility needs," the National Conference Center says. "This person should be empowered to solve your potential concerns, so you can focus more on the objectives of your program. Overall, the accessibility of an on-site liaison via Nextel radio or phone for immediate access improves the meeting experience."
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