Before you jump into automatic pilot and start your last-minute meeting organization, challenge the request. Deciding to hold a meeting demands serious consideration because of the costs involved, so double-check the rationale for having the meeting. Find out if a meeting alternative, such as a teleconference, would achieve the same results.
If the meeting really needs to happen, make sure that you plan for the basics. Ask yourself some simple questions, such as: What's the budget? Who needs to be invited? What travel and hotel arrangements are necessary? When is it scheduled? What is the purpose of the meeting? What's the agenda?
Checklists should be every meeting planner's guardian angel. They're there to help out in times of trouble and to reduce unnecessary panic. With the hundreds of pieces that make up the meeting puzzle, the only way to put them together and keep tabs on all the details is with a checklist. The more thorough you are, the greater the probability of success — even at the last minute.
When you need something in a hurry, whom do you call? These are the people who need to be on your contact list. Consider your facility needs such as catering, audiovisual, etc. Compile a list with phone (including cell phone) numbers, fax, and e-mail addresses.
Don't wait until you need a favor from someone; rather, build a contact base of other meeting professionals, suppliers, vendors, and others you can call on at the last minute. Don't forget to include co-workers who might be willing and able to help you out at a moment's notice.
Because your plans are last- minute, the chances are greater that something won't work out the way that you'd like it to. What's your backup? If you don't have one, all your original plans could be destroyed in an instant and you'll be scrambling to put a second strategy into operation.
Keeping a sense of humor will definitely help prevent you from getting angry and frustrated with those disorganized managers who leave things to the last minute and expect you to perform miracles. Learn to laugh at them and yourself in order to stay sane.
SOURCE: Susan A. Friedmann,CSP, The Tradeshow Coach, Lake Placid, N.Y. www.thetradeshowcoach.com.