Surviving the Two-Day Meeting

So your company needs to cram a week's worth of content into a two-day meeting. No problem, right? Just skip the meeting breaks, don't stop to eat, and create an all-night agenda. After all, your conferees can always sleep on the plane.

When it comes to planning a two-day gathering, flustered meeting planners may believe they simply have no choice but to go to these lengths. But before you drag your conferees through the meat grinder with a nonstop, sunup to sundown (and sometimes later) itinerary, a little thought during the preplanning process can result in a better way to ensure a productive two-day gathering.

You can save time through savvy site selection. During a two-day meeting, time is a meeting planner's most precious commodity. Every minute counts, from the moment conferees arrive to the instant they depart. For this reason, planners of two-day meetings should look first to booking at an airport property. Most likely, an airport property can eliminate two to three hours of arrival and departure time ordinarily associated with picking up and dropping off a rental car or waiting for transportation. Add that time back into your itinerary and you've suddenly found room for an agenda item that may not have otherwise made the cut.

Besides the time-saving nature of an airport property's location, your attendees will appreciate not having to dip into their wallets for arriving and departing cab fares.

Plan to say good night—twice. The conventional wisdom for most two-day meetings is to limit the gathering to a one-night stay. That's fine for some two-day meetings, where attendees have short distances to travel. But some require longer trips, and the thought of jumping into a meeting after a three-hour flight is rarely that appealing, even for the toughest of road warriors.

Consider overnight accommodations the night before your first day. Planners find that teambuilding benefits from evening socializing can be considerable and well worth the cost of an additional night. Plus, an overnight stay before the first day of your gathering allows for a much earlier start.

Make your meals count. Two-day meetings and "working meals" tend to go hand in hand. Avoid the time-consuming nature of a hotel's sit-down restaurant or banquet presentation and look more to buffet-style offerings, which minimize serving time and encourage interaction.

Spread out the "heavy" content. An intermittent presentation of the most important content is best, particularly for two-day meetings. Choose the morning for some of your heaviest lifting, then re-visit mission-critical information later on in the day. Your attendees are more apt to maintain an informed and interested attitude.

Look into local off-site venues. Just because you are limited to a two-day meeting doesn't mean an off-site event has to be out of the question. After all, everyone can use a change of scenery. But getting your group to an off-site location isn't always practical when downtime must be kept to a minimum. For this reason, make sure your property is in proximity to an off-site venue suitable for groups of your size.

Choose your breaks wisely. While there isn't a great deal of time to squeeze breaks into a two-day meeting, planners should not forego them altogether. Try not to start too early on day one. Travelers often experience their two most difficult nights of sleep the night before their trip and the first night away. If you must start early, then think about a sunrise start after the second night of your group's stay. A good night's sleep can make all of the difference in the world if you're looking to add some rise-and-shine to your meeting.

If you have to plan a two-day meeting, remember you can create a gathering that leads to a productive and creative discussion without forcing attendees to burn the candle at both ends.

Fred De Sota is director of sales & marketing at the Crowne Plaza Chicago O'Hare, Crowne Plaza's largest U.S. convention/conference hotel. He can be contacted at [email protected] or call (888) 446-4273.