What is an Overall Plan and what Role does it play in The Meeting Planning Process?
By my definition an Overall Plan (sometimes referred to by others as an Action Plan) is a working document that identifies and/or defines the key components or elements of a meeting or special event from which all things flow throughout the Planning Process.
The Overall Plan begins to take shape when a program sponsor or host determines a need to inform, modify, resolve, update or implement some sort of change in delivery, process or procedure. It may be that the CEO wants to gather senior leadership together to lay out a new strategic plan, or to work through the details of the merging of a key business function, or a means of recognizing individuals or groups for a job well done and/or exceeding financial goals.
In this case, the CEO would identify a group of people – which I refer to as the Design or Planning Team -- to fully define and execute the Plan. Key components of the Overall Plan are as follows.
The meeting purpose
Overall meeting goals and objectives
The target audience
Program sponsor or host
Design/planning team members/levels of authority
The Meeting Purpose is a brief description or main reason for calling the meeting. This could be as simple as the name of the meeting, i.e. Senior Management Strategic Planning Meeting or Chairman’s Award.
Meeting Objectives must be Specific, Measurable (how you will tangibly measure results), Achievable, Results-Oriented, and have a specific Time Frame for completing all follow up. Suggest four to six program objectives max.
In addition to program related objectives, I also recommend you include an objective for safety such as “to provide a safe and secure meeting environment for attendees.”And, now with the emphasis on “green meetings,” I would suggest an objective that addresses this area as well.I also always liked including an objective pertaining to budgets, something like: “to stay within 5% to 10% (you pick the number) of projected budget.”
In a corporate setting, the target audience is determined by the meeting goals and objectives. Typically, the final decision rests with the meeting host.
The is a broad picture or statement of the goals and objectives.The flows from the theme.The is carried out through all forms of communication – from invitations to brochures, to stage set and meeting visuals, to speakers and entertainment and décor.The look and tone of the communications helps your organization convey the message and tone you want participants to take with them when they leave.
Remember when you are designing a meeting or event, you are in fact CREATING an “EXPERIENCE,” and in doing so you need to integrate all five senses: taste, sight, touch, smell and hearing to help deliver your message.
The program sponsor or host is the person who called for the meeting. This could be the CEO or a division head – the person who “owns” the meeting (and probably the budget).
The Design Team is charged with defining the goals and objectives, key messaging, information flow, tone of delivery and the communication plan that best helps convey the meeting purpose. Team members might include the division head, key direct reports, meeting content specialists, communication, marketing and HR staff.
The Planning Team is responsible for the planning and executing of the PLAN. Team members might include some or all of the Design Team, plus the meeting planner, graphic designer, audio-visual and IT support to name a few.
Depending on a company’s organizational structure, the functions of the Design and Planning Teams may be one and the same or divided as noted above. In either situation, I think it is important to the professional growth of the planner be the one to take the initiative to submit a draft copy of the Overall Plan to the team for review and approval – especially if the Design Team on its own does not do this. By doing so, the planner LEARNS to LISTEN to what is being said and better understands what needs to be accomplished and will be in a better position to recommend meeting venues and meeting space that best fits program objectives. The planner will also LEARN more about the function of the business unit hosting the meeting, and will hopefully gain the trust of the team and perhaps take on a more prominent role in the future.
Actions items are the key components or design elements of the program broken down step-by-step and in sequential order required to pull a meeting together such as: Design/Planning Team; Program Development/Content; Budget; Marketing Communication Plan, etc. (Refer to the Overall Plan template for more action items.)
The Overall Plan is crucial to the success of the meeting because it lays the ground work for why you are doing the meeting in the first place and what you are hoping to accomplish; the tone and message in which the information is to be conveyed; what needs to be done, by whom and within a specific time frame. It provides a PLAN for moving forward; it provides a place to refer back to when questions arise and/or people start going off track. It may go through a number of revisions before it is ready to be fully executed and signed off on by the program sponsor or host, but the Plan should definitely be approved in concept before any major contracts for services are signed off on.
To request a copy of my Overall Plan Template, click on the following link.
Mary Jo Wiseman, CMP | Author | The Meeting Planning Process: A Guide to Planning Successful Meetings