The same holds true for corporate education programs -- design the right program, and you and the training are a success. But what makes the right program?
For those responsible for corporate education and training, planning a meeting or an event requires the planner to be imaginative, highly motivated, organized and prepared for the unexpected. Yet in planning meetings, several crucial factors remain constant. Think of them as the who, what, where, when and how of meeting planning.
The right reason (what and when)
Make sure the meeting's objectives are important enough to merit the time and resources necessary to proceed. Take into consideration employee work schedules, the general business cycle for the company, the state of ongoing projects and other issues that have the potential to distract attendees' attention.
Also, while meetings are an excellent educational tool, they only work if designed with the organization's specific goals in mind. All too often, executives find themselves having meetings just for the sake of having meetings, with no real objective outlined.
The right location (where)
Location, location, location -- a Realtor's favorite buzzwords and a potential downfall to on-site or off-site meetings. How many times are meetings plagued with interruptions?
Many employees find that meetings conducted at their place of employment tend to be less productive than those held off-site, where interruptions are controlled. When planning your next training session or corporate event, consider holding it at an off-site location such as a local college or university that may offer affordable training facilities perfect for your needs.
Most of these training facilities offer state-of-art technology, including videoconferencing, high-speed Internet and training rooms designed specifically for a high-quality learning experience.
The right attendees (who)
Who should attend? If your focus is on meetings directed to internal participants only, the list of attendees may be based on factors such as job assignment, level of responsibility, supervisor recommendation or length of service.
For meetings involving external groups, corporate planners may find an ally in the services offered by a university's meeting and event services. Local higher education institutions pride themselves on developing partnerships within their communities.
If you select a university as your meeting site, you will find a university events coordinator or similar staff member who is more than willing to assist you with planning, facilities support and the occasional networking support to increase your invitation list.
The right presenters (how)
Presenters can make or break the most well-planned meeting or event. You need to decide what message you want to deliver to your audience, then choose who is best to deliver it.
Professional event and meeting planners can assist you with their wide knowledge of presenters, keynote speakers, professional trainers and instructors.
Once these four crucial elements are considered, you can move onto the next critical step -- evaluating your efforts. You should create a strong evaluation method, a way to measure your personal success, record where you experienced difficulty and things to do differently the next time.
Most important, evaluate the success of the meeting through your attendees. Some universities may be willing to administer the evaluations for you or, in some case's even analyze them for you. Whatever approach you take, study the results and plan. Remember Vince Lombardi's saying, "The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary."
ALICIA VINCENT is corporate programs manager for West Chester University's College of Business and Public Affairs. She has more than 12 years of meeting planning and training program development experience. For more information on corporate programs, visit training.btcwcu.org or call (610) 425-5000, ext 2440. West Chester University serves the educational and training needs of students and corporate clients from its off-campus, state-of-the-art Graduate Business Center located off the Boot Road exit of Route 202 in West Chester, Pa.