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    The grand scheme

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    Strategic meeting management skills are vitally important to the already over-worked executive assistant. Steve Knight explains why


    The PA?s life is not an easy one ? particularly when meeting management and organisation is added to your burgeoning in-tray. You are expected to be a highly organised, totally flexible mind reader capable of picking up new skills at a moment?s notice, and being a professional meeting organiser is just one of those skills. 

    Life would be a pretty dull place without meetings, and the workplace would certainly be a lot less successful. From conversations by the coffee machine to the annual company conference, well-run meetings allow us to build relationships, develop ideas, implement change, achieve goals and measure success. However, not all meetings are equal and the key phrase in the last sentence was ?well run?, because a badly run meeting is at best a colossal waste of time and at worst highly detrimental to an organisation. 

    The expression ?strategic meeting management? has become more and more popular over the course of the last few years. It represents the future of successful meetings, due to the way it looks at more than just someone?s desire to hold a meeting, chat for a while and come away with some vague outcomes that are never implemented. Strategic meeting management is a skill all PAs should learn more about, as it will empower them to improve the quality of meetings within their organisation and make it a more effective business.

    A shift to making meetings more strategic and effective needs the input of three separate groups of people. All of which, as a PA, you are in an unique position to influence, particularly when considering larger meetings within your organisation. 

    The first of these is the meeting holder. This is the person who decides a meeting is necessary. You can start having an influence from the moment they mention the need for a meeting. Make sure you ask these important questions: Why do they want a meeting? What outcome do they expect?

    Is a meeting the most effective way to achieve that outcome? Does the expense justify the result? How will we ensure we measure its success?

    Then there are the attendees you need to consider. These are the individuals who will decide whether or not a meeting is a success. Their input and engagement is paramount, and communication with them ahead of the event is vital. Explain why they should attend, what the holder?s expectations are and how the outcome of the meeting will be measured.

    Last of all, we have the organiser ? more often than not the PA to the organisation?s CEO. While seen by some as the mere creator of the agenda, the role of meeting organiser is one of immense power. You can take the reasons, expectations and goals for holding a meeting and cement them in place. You can ensure everybody knows why they are gathering, what they are expected to do and why it is so important they do more than just show up ? they must actually engage. 

    By using the most simple metric of all ? expectation versus outcome ? you can go back to the holders and attendees after a meeting and show them why it worked or failed and what they need to know for next time. 

    As a PA you have 1,001 balls to juggle on any given day. If you can change the attitude to meetings in your organisation, you can make it a more efficient and successful place to work and maybe in the process make one of those balls a little easier to catch.

    Steve Knight is Event Director of The Meetings Show, which takes place from 7-9 July at London?s Olympia. For more information, or to register, visit themeetingsshow.com

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    Molly Dyson

    Former Editor – PA Life

    All stories by: Molly Dyson