At its core, a planning meeting is exactly what it sounds like: meetings that take place BEFORE an important upcoming event. The type of event itself doesn’t matter – it can be the beginning of a specific project, an event that will see employees interacting with clients, a community-focused effort designed to build awareness for your business, or something else entirely. Regardless, the purpose of these strategic planning sessions is clear: you need to make important decisions about the direction of effort and lay out important details for everyone involved, all so that all parties know exactly what is expected of them to help create the most successful event possible.
Planning Meeting Agenda
Generally speaking, anyone playing an important role in the event itself will attend these types of planning meetings. This includes both the people who will be “running” the event (in the case of something like a customer networking event, that would consist of the people who will be giving speeches and interacting with the customers themselves) and also those acting in a “behind the scenes” capacity (meaning those who will be arranging meals and dealing with other vendors of that nature).
Because every event is slightly different from the next, the question “how to facilitate a strategic planning session” isn’t necessarily one with an easy answer. In fact, you may not be talking about one planning meeting at all – multiple may be required to get everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction. One meeting could involve purely coming up with creative ideas and discussing the direction of the event or project, for example, while a separate meeting could be devoted to the logistics necessary to make it all possible.
As a result, these meetings will last as long as they need to – ranging anywhere from a half-hour to a few hours or more depending on the circumstances. Likewise, they’ll become increasingly important not only at the beginning of the process, but as the big day on the calendar moves closer and closer to arriving.
But regardless of the nature of your event, the overall goal is clear: you need to give everyone the actionable information they need to adequately play their part, bringing your vision for the perfect event or project into reality in the most effective way that you can.
Strategic Planning Session
One type of common planning meeting that usually involves both management and leadership teams in a business is called a strategic planning session. This type of meeting often involves the top leaders within a particular department or even an entire organization, during which they will discuss how to achieve certain high-level goals and objectives with their available resources. Their current budget, their existing timeline and other factors would all be carefully considered within the context of what everyone is attempting to accomplish.
More often than not, these types of meetings involve heavy research periods regarding recent company activity and competitor activity. Market analysis will also play a role in the proceedings.
Overall, these types of planning meeting objectives are designed to give context to what you are attempting to achieve as an organization. If you know what your destination is (meaning you’ve identified your actionable goal), and you know what position you’re starting in, you’re in a much better position to determine exactly what you need to do to connect these two dots. Plus, by understanding how you’re faring versus your competitors who may be attempting similar projects, you can learn more about what they’re doing that is working (and, more importantly, what isn’t). This level of research can identify opportunities that may have otherwise gone undiscovered to help stand out in the minds of your target audience.
Strategy Meeting Objectives
As stated, one of the most critical factors to address as you learn how to run a strategic planning meeting involves what your objectives are. When your team finally adjourns, every last member should fully understand what the project entails or what is expected of them in the given time period. They should generally know how much budget this project will require and where resources should be allocated (and in what order).
Finally, they should understand that it’s their job to share this information with the rest of the team AND with key stakeholders at an appropriate time.
In other words, part of your project planning meeting agenda should always involve giving team leaders the information they need to return to THEIR teams and fully align everyone’s efforts with your current vision. Communication plays an essential role in this, and you need to make sure the right message is being conveyed at exactly the right time to optimize your chances for success.
How to Run a Planning Meeting
As previously mentioned, every planning meeting will be different from the next because it will be so heavily influenced by WHAT you are trying to accomplish. Therefore, there is no “one size fits all” planning agenda template or strategic planning meeting agenda template for you to follow.
Still, there are certain elements that most successful planning meeting agendas share given that the free flow of information across your business is a top priority regardless of the event or project in question. Therefore, consider the below planning meeting objectives as a starting point for building such a meeting of your own.
Planning Agenda Template
Welcomes and Introductions
Typically, these types of meetings begin by giving everyone a chance to introduce themselves to everyone else in attendance. This is especially important for larger organizations or businesses with multiple locations, where all parties may not necessarily know one another personally because they don’t interact daily.
Depending on the total number of people in attendance, you may need to keep this brief. But at a bare minimum, you’ll want to give people a chance to communicate:
- Who they are and what their role is within your company.
- A little bit about their personality.
- What job they have to perform given the task at hand.
After this portion of the meeting is complete, people should have a better sense of how their own work will fit in with the larger whole.
Setting the Stage
Next, you’ll want to set the stage for what you’re trying to accomplish as a group – beginning with your recent achievements and activities that are particularly notable. This is important because if the goals you’re trying to accomplish are particularly challenging, this can help remind people that you’ve faced situations like this successfully before, and that you’re prepared to do so again.
You’ll also want to allow people to discuss their current strengths and weaknesses along the same lines. Be sure to detail the threats you face within the context of the recent event or project, along with the potential opportunities that you can capitalize on along the way.
Review Organization Mission and Vision
During this portion of your planning meeting agenda, you’ll want to take a moment to review your current status as a company. What was your mission and vision for the future at the beginning of the year? Are you still aligned with these ideals, or has the industry forced you to change? Is the vision for the future that you had in January still valid six or even nine months later? Do you need to make adjustments to get back on track, or are you prepared to pivot in an unexpected (but prosperous) new direction?
These are all important questions you’ll want to answer before moving onto the next part of the planning meeting.
Set & Review Goals
Along the same lines, you’ll also want to go over some of the goals that you set for yourself and your people at the beginning of the year and make sure that they’re still accurate. How many were you able to accomplish, and how many are yet to come? Why is that the case?
Likewise, discuss how you’re defining and measuring success in the first place. What metric are you using to separate successful activities from failures? This is another essential part of keeping everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction.
Here, you’ll get to the “meat” of your strategy meeting agenda – the steps you need to take to accomplish the goals you’re currently focused on. This will be open to discussion among all key stakeholders, and you’ll want to go into more detail about things like:
- What your absolute top priority should be in the days and weeks ahead.
- The secondary priorities that aren’t quite as important but that you still don’t want to lose sight of.
- Those “nice-to-have” priorities that would be great to achieve, but that won’t necessarily mean the difference between success and failure, given the circumstances.
- Those elements that aren’t priorities and that can be tabled for later, thus freeing up valuable time and resources to focus on the other factors above.
Finally, you’ll want to end the meeting by going over the next steps – meaning that people should walk away knowing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing and why it’s so important. Here, you’ll go into more detail about exactly which actionable steps you’re going to be tackling first. Everyone will know who is responsible for which activities. But most importantly, they’ll also know when they need to check back in with the group to ensure that everything is proceeding as it should be.
If you’re able to follow these key steps, you’ll have more than just a successful planning meeting on your hands – you’ll have the most successful project or event, too.