Do board meetings just make you bored? Are the meetings you go to more about wasting hours than taking minutes? We take the business of meetings very seriously here at Radisson Blu - in fact so much so that we're investing in the brand new, innovative technology to help improve the meeting experience even further.
Read on to find out more and see if you can benefit from some top tips from our expert - Meeting & Events Manager at Radisson Blu Hotel, Cologne, Elke Peters…
What do you think are the most important factors people should keep in mind when planning a meeting?
In terms of planning, for me the key things are a clear and structured schedule and a full agenda, which should be provided in advance if needed. That way everyone can come to the meeting with a clear understanding about their role and what's expected of them on the day.
Meanwhile, when it comes to the meeting itself, I'd suggest always choosing a room with natural light whenever possible - as it helps people to concentrate throughout. I'd also recommend that regular breaks are scheduled in with light refreshments (nothing too heavy) and an opportunity to get fresh air too. Breaks are important for helping participants to stay alert throughout the meeting and also to give them an opportunity to check emails or network, for example.
Do you have any suggested 'rules' people should follow for a successful meeting?
There always needs to be an element of flexibility with meetings - it's definitely not a case of 'one size fits all'. There are a few tips though I'd suggest people should start off thinking about at the outset which can make a big difference when it comes to getting the most out of the people, the space and the time.
Only serve light snacks during coffee breaks and lunch –you don't want to have to deal with afternoon naps after everyone's enjoyed a delicious but stodgy meal!
Try and make sure wifi is available so people have the choice to check emails etc during breaks - it will help to keep them focused at other times
Don't try and cram lots of people into too small a space - make sure the room is big enough for everyone and, where possible, also has natural daylight
Keep the room setup in line with the number of attendees. For example, a 'u' shape will work for a maximum of 30 people, but for higher numbers 'cabaret' style is much more appropriate
Don't scrimp when it comes to A/V equipment and set-up - it can help to make all the difference to your performance.
What's the secret to keeping up energy levels throughout a long meeting?
It's really important to try and give everyone who's in the meeting an active role and not leave them sitting and listening for long periods. Eating and drinking little and often is also key to helping to stave off any energy slumps - we've developed the Brain Food concept for conference and meeting guests in line with this principle which is focused on serving fish, whole-grain products, fruits and vegetables with minimal processing and lots of delicious taste and healthy options.
What about seating? What's your preferred approach?
For me, 'cabaret' style is a really flexible seating arrangement that can work across different numbers of attendees and meeting requirements. It also saves time if you need to split attendees into sub-groups or plan workshop sessions into the meeting too.
You must've experienced some high pressure moments in your time as Meeting & Events Manager - any particularly hairy moments spring to mind?
Every day is exciting working in a hotel and we all thrive off the unexpected moments! On one particular occasion we had a big meeting planned in with 60 odd attendees and the client's plan was to start with lunch. They'd failed to mention this to us though and only realised 45 minutes before the meeting was due to kick off. All was not lost though - we pulled together as a team and did everything we could to make lunch for 60 people happen. A real success story and one we're all really proud of.
Tell us more about the new technology that's now available as part of the meeting package.
We're delighted to now be able to offer Digicharts, which capture meetings notes instantly without any of the hassle of writing them up, along with the Multipad - a mega tablet which is ideal for presentations, videoconferencing, as an alternative to whiteboards and more. It's a real showstopper!
What are the main benefits of the new technology?
The key benefit of using this new technology is the time that can be saved - whether it's time that would have been spent on typing notes up or the ability to get more people along to the meeting virtually using the Multi-pad's videoconferencing facility. It's also a great way of encouraging more interactivity as meeting outputs can be visualized much more effectively and shared instantly.
Is it easy to use?
As with lots of new technology, usability is at the heart of our offering - our aim is of course to make people's lives easier. For anyone who does have a question, meanwhile, we're always on hand to help out and give some pointers.