Electronic Options for Your Meetings

Advancements in technology have made meetings more effective by providing ways of communicating and storing meeting information. Although many new tools are available to help give your meeting that cutting-edge-feel, there are many things to consider when determining electronic options. It is not always imperative to use new technology at your meetings, but having an understanding in advance helps to expand your choices. In this blog, you will learn about the latest meeting tools available to you, things to consider and reaching a decision.

Overview of Choices Available

Electronics in meetings brings a wealth of advantages if used properly. Technology has increased the reach of the meeting room into the virtual world. You are capable of connecting with participants anywhere in the world. Technology also expands your ability to disseminate and record information. This lesson presents an overview of the various tools you can employ in your next meeting.

Presentation software: programs like Microsoft Power Point help to organize your materials into one file. Once the information is in the presentation program, you can make handouts that you can give to your participants as an agenda.

Electronic whiteboard: an electronic whiteboard is an efficient way to write and record ideas all with one source. The electronic device acts like a normal whiteboard, but uses special electronic markers. This electronic device also records the items written on the board for referencing later.

Web meeting programs: programs similar to Microsoft Live Meeting allow you to conduct your meeting via the Internet. Voice, images from your desktop, and a web cam view of the meeting room and the individual.

Video conferencing: this dedicated line uses cameras and television screens to connect two or more remote sites into one meeting.

Telephone conferencing: this is a dedicated telephone line where many participants call in and participate in the meeting.

There a many variations of the electronic tools listed in the lesson that you can use. You can have your company purchase these programs or use a pay-as-you-go product from an online vendor. Choosing the type of electronic tool depends on the audience, distance and technological capabilities of the meeting place.

Things to Consider

The most important thing to consider when dealing with electronic meeting tools is your ability to use and troubleshoot them. Many things could affect the performance of the tools. You must be comfortable enough with the technology to deal with the unexpected. In order to avoid embarrassing issues during the meeting, you should test all systems and make sure your Information Technology (IT) department supports them. In fact, you should always run your technology plans with your IT. They may need to do some backend things to help support your video or web conferencing tool. Before you try using a new tool, get some training and practice. Understanding your electronic tool could take some reading and practice. Test the program with someone you know. Practice using the tool in smaller, more personal meetings before you decide to do it in a larger meeting with outside guests.

Avoid using technology just for the sake of using it. Use it only when it is necessary. Make sure that the participants who will need to use the tools to participate are capable of using it themselves. The last thing you want is someone telling you in the middle of the meeting that they do not know how to launch the program. Here is a quick list of things to consider if you plan to use technology:

Is the complexity of adding the technology outweighing the potential glitches?

Are you capable enough to handle any issues that may arise during your meeting?

Is your audience capable of handing the technology?

Will you have adequate support from your IT department?

Are there any costs that you have to consider?

In any case, using technology requires knowledge. If you desire to use technology in your meetings, learn the system and practice, practice, practice. Finally, do not get carried away with technology. It becomes obvious when technology is being used just to dazzle the audience. This is distracting and reduces the effectiveness of your meeting.

Making a Final Decision

This assessment allows you to determine quickly if you need to use technology or not. When making a decision determines the following:

Am I proficient with the technology?

Am I able to acquire someone who is proficient and can assist me with the technology?

Will there be people connecting to my meeting from remote locations?

Is there a large number of graphics that will be presented?

Are the participants capable of using the technology?

Does the meeting room support technology?

Do you have IT support available?

Do you have the budget to support the technology?

If you answer “no” to any of these questions, determine the risk of going ahead with the technology. If it is too risky, avoid using the technology, unless you must like in the case of remote conferencing. Just make sure you get the training you need well in advance or get someone to be there as a technical helper if technology is unavoidable.

How to Set Up the Meeting Space

There are many things to consider that will determine what needs to be included in your setup. Although this may seem like a trivial step, you should not take it for granted. The difference from an okay meeting to a remarkable meeting could be the small details. Let us begin with the basics.

The Basic Essentials

Having a predefined list for setting up your meeting is a useful tool and we are going to discuss the setup of your meeting using a handout over the next three lessons. In the first section, you will see a simple list of items comprising of the basic essentials in setting up the meeting space. The list consists of the following items:

  • Sufficient number of tables and chairs
  • Power strips for laptops and other electronic devices
  • Audio and visual set up
  • Whiteboard with markers and eraser
  • Lectern
  • Water
  • Verify the room temperature is comfortable
  • Microphone for large meetings
  • Projector
  • Laptop
  • Verify room is located in quiet and private area

Make sure you get to the meeting place early enough, giving you time to set up the room without the participants seeing you do it. Getting “caught” setting up the room gives the impression that you are unprepared, which could affect your meeting environment.

The Extra Touches

Extra touches make your meeting more meaningful to your participants. Let’s review some of the extra touches:

  • Name tents already printed and set up on the tables
  • Table with name tags for each participant already printed
  • Projector on with a welcome message illuminating on the screen
  • Signage outside the meeting room professionally done
  • Keepsake or logo item at each place setting
  • Music before the meeting starts and during breaks
  • Folder with all meeting materials inside (i.e. agenda, handouts, etc.)
  • Candy or mints on the tables
  • Posters or visual aids posted around the meeting room (professionally done looks better)
  • Video playing relevant materials on the screen before the meeting starts
  • Coat rack during winter months

When it comes to adding the extra touches, be sure to gauge the audience and meeting purpose and plan accordingly. You do not want to create a celebratory experience when the meeting is about cutting costs, etc. Otherwise, going the extra mile helps to make your meeting more effective by creating a personalized environment.

Choosing a Physical Arrangement

The types of activities that are involved in your meeting could help you determine the physical setup. However, before you think further on this topic, let us review some basic setups.

Conference style seating: this is the basic long rectangular or oval shaped table. This type of setup is good for short meetings with less than 30 participants. You would use this for small training sessions and close interactions.

U-shape seating: this is a setup where the tables form a U shape. This is effective where face-to-face interaction is desired. This set up also accommodates larger groups.

T-Shape seating: this design sets up the tables in a T shape. This is also used for face-to-face and large group meetings; however, this shape allows for a leader to sit at the cross point.

Classroom style seating: this type of seating is best when learning is going to take place and the participants need to take notes. This style can be used for both large and small groups.

Knowing the various styles of seating arrangements helps to determine which to use based on the activity. Below are some suggestions:

  • Planning meeting: conference style seating
  • Product sales training: classroom style seating
  • Strategy sharing meeting: T-shape style seating
  • Project update meeting: U-shape style seating

The physical arrangement of the meeting room should always focus on providing a comfortable set up where all participants are able to view the presenter, other participants, screens, and flipchart and whiteboards.

Planning and Preparing for Meetings

The first step in making your meeting effective begins with your planning and preparation activity. Determining the purpose of your meeting, the people who should attend, and the place of the meeting will form the foundation on which you will build your agenda, decide what materials you need, and identify the roles each attendee hold in the meeting. In addition, planning and preparing for your meeting helps to reduce the stress that may result from managing a meeting, because you will avoid unexpected incidents and issues that could derail your meeting.

Identifying the Participants

Determining your meeting participants is an important planning step. You should not approach this casually. Who attends your meeting could help or hinder the meeting dynamics. There is a tendency to invite everyone you know in an effort to cover all angles. This is overkill. Before you think about whom to invite, think about the purpose of the meeting. This will help you determine who should be invited. Be specific when determining the purpose of the meeting. For example, if you are meeting to resolve a problem, invite only those who are capable of providing solutions to the problem. Avoid inviting a high-ranking manager, who could thwart solutions before they are developed.

On the other hand, if your meeting is to come to a decision on a policy or product, do not invite people who do not have the power to enact those changes. Having people who cannot contribute to the meeting will exclude them and affect the meeting environment. Identifying the purpose of your meeting first will help to determine who should attend. Here are some common reasons to call a meeting:

Problem solving

Decision making

Conflict resolution

Project initiation

Planning

Brainstorming

Once you determine your meeting purpose, you can list all the names of the participants you wish to attend. Once this list is created, then determine what each participant will contribute to the meeting. If a participant is deemed a non-contributor, they should be removed from the list. When all non-contributors are removed, you should have a good list of participants for your meeting.

Choosing the Time and Place

There are several considerations you must address when planning the time and place of your meeting. For instance, the time of day is essential if your meeting is meant to be a brainstorming session or problem-solving meeting. Setting these types of meetings right after lunch or late in the day could be a frustrating experience. Humans after lunch are usually lethargic and meetings at the end of the day are plagued with participants looking at the clock in anticipation to leave work and go home.

Meetings that require energy and high level of participation are best scheduled between 8 and 9 AM in the morning. Most workers are not engaged in their daily work yet so you will have their attention and energy for use in your meeting. The next best time for a meeting is around 3 PM. This gives your participants enough time to recuperate from their lunchtime meal. It also gives you at least an hour of cushion before your participants start thinking about going home. Meetings that are low key could be scheduled anytime during the day. Just remember not to schedule them to close to lunch or the end of the workday.

The location is also important to your meeting dynamics. Try to schedule your meeting in a well-lit spacious room. If you can get a room with windows, do so. Dark and cramped rooms will bog down your meeting. Some people get claustrophobic and are distracted by their surroundings. A couple of other things to consider are the need for privacy or if you intend to have an outside visitor attend. If the meeting topic is of a sensitive nature, then getting a meeting room with more privacy will make participants more comfortable to discuss the issue. Furthermore, if you plan to have an outside visitor attend your meeting, get a room that is closes to the main entrance. This way your visitor does not have to search the halls of your organization in search of your meeting.

Creating the Agenda

Creating the agenda can be easy if you know what to do in advance. The SOAP technique helps to collect the topics, organize them, and select the ones that will contribute the most to your meeting.

Seek topics from your participants: send an email to the list of participants you created, asking for agenda topics. Give a brief explanation of the purpose of the meeting and an idea of what you are looking for in terms of topics. Do not make this the formal invitation. When you make the request, make sure you ask the participants for the time they need to discuss their topic, and provide a deadline to get their topic to you so it can be included on the agenda.

Organize topics into a list: once you receive the topics, organize them into a list along with the time and the name of the presenter. This will give you the ability to scan through the list, narrowing it down to the topics you will select for the agenda.

Assess which topics are relevant to the meeting purpose: with your list organized, determine which topics are the most relevant to the purpose of the meeting. Scratch out those topics you do not intend to use.

Pick the number of relevant topics that will fit into your meeting time:  review the time of the remaining topics. Select the enough topics to fill the time of your meeting minus ten minutes. Give yourself ten minutes for meeting overrun. If you go over, you will end on time. If you do not, then you get to adjourn your meeting early, making everyone happy.

Remember to contact the presenter that had their topic removed from the agenda, explaining the reason why it was not put on the agenda and recommending that topic be saved for another meeting.

Gathering Materials

Each meeting you hold will require both basic and special materials. Your job as the meeting manager is to determine what you need and acquire them in advance, avoiding last minute surprises.

The SHOWS acronym stands for stationary, handouts, organizer, writing tools, and special requests. Let us break down each letter so you get a better understanding of what this means.

Stationary: this is all the paper you will need at the meeting. It includes, note pads, sticky notes, index cards, envelops, tape, paper clips, folders, and flip chart. Each meeting is different. You do not have to bring everything on this list. Determine what is going to take place at the meeting and materials needed for each activity or presentation. It is also wise to consult with the people on your agenda to see if they are going to facilitate activities that require stationary.

Handouts: many times you or your presenters will need to distribute handouts. There could be a worksheet or an outline from an electronic presentation. In any case, you should consult with your presenters and acquire any handouts they may use. Determine if the handout they are giving you will be the most up-to-date version. If not, have them send it to you when they finalize it.  Remember to set the expectation to have it a day or so in advance, giving you time to print and file it in your handout organizer.

Organizer: when it is time to meet, the last thing you want to do is show up with a stack of handouts. Using an organizer like a portable accordion file or Pendaflex is an easy way to file your handouts and other stationary materials in one container. The filing system will allow you to file the documents in an orderly fashion, making distribution of the materials more professional. You want to avoid shuffling handouts around in front of your participants when it comes time to distribute them.

Writing tools: this includes pens, markers, highlighters, and dry erase markers you may need for your meeting.

Special requests: from time to time, your presenters may make a special request. An example could be a poster. Ask your presenters ahead of time for special requests.

Sending Invitations

Many times invitations are sent without much thought. We figure the sending mechanism, whether it is Outlook or any other type of electronic program, will do the job effectively. It is wise to use an electronic tool for your invitation; however, there is more thought that should go into it. The three “P” approach gives a consistent and clear method of structuring your meeting invitation. Here is the breakdown:

Purpose: the purpose of your meeting must be stated up front. It is not enough to put in the subject line: “Planning Session.” The vagueness of your purpose could result in low attendance. Be specific with your purpose. Instead of “Planning Session,” you could state, “Planning our budget for the first quarter.” In addition, you should attach your agenda, which gives more detail of the discussion topics.

Place and Time: determine ahead of time where and when the meeting will take place. Avoid sending out invitations with a to-be-determine (TBD) message. The more effort you place on getting the details done in advance the more your attendees will take you seriously. In addition, provide clear instructions on the exact location.

Pact: create a sense of binding agreement by setting expectations so you get the most responses as soon as possible with a level of commitment. For example, state, “Please respond to this invitation within 48 hours.” Also, set a cancellation policy by stating, “If you need to cancel, please call, or email me as soon as possible.” You could also include a statement that states, “Upon acceptance of this invitation, you are expected to attend.” Finally, you could also include a statement like this, “This meeting is a planning session, and your participation and idea-sharing will be greatly appreciated.”

Structuring your invitation with clear and concise information and expectations sends the message that you are seriously managing this meeting. You do not want to be famous for holding boring and inefficient meetings. This is something that takes a long time to correct.

 

Lory Park Animal and Owl Sanctuary in Midrand

Lory Park Animal and Owl Sanctuary in Midrand

The Lory Park Animal and Owl Sanctuary is a place where animals can be appreciated up close and where human and animal interaction is welcomed. This little haven is situated in Midrand, between the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg and Pretoria.

The Lory Park Animal and Owl Sanctuary opened its gates for the first time in April 2000 as mainly a bird park. At this time Midrand was still reasonably unspoilt and consisted of much grassland which was still inhabited by animals such as Grass Owls, Marsh Owls, Barn Owls and Spotted Eagle Owls. Since then Midrand has become one of the fastest growing industrial and corporate areas in South Africa. The fast development of the area had a very negative effect on the plant and animal life and people started brining injured and trapped animals to Lory Park. The park became a safe haven for the animals where they could live out their lives in peace with love and care. The Lory Park soon became a sanctuary for all animals and not only a bird park.

The Lory Park Animal and Owl Sanctuary has grown to become an internationally acclaimed Zoo, which has established a successful combination of animal care, education and community recreation with the highest standards.

Cub encounters are available at Lory Park from 10:30am to 1pm and from 2pm to 4pm.  Over and above the encounters there are also ambassador animals doing their rounds through the park on Saturdays and Sundays as well as flying owls shows. Visitors are also able to join the bird keepers in feeding the Spotted Eagle Owls.

The Lory Park Animal and Owl Sanctuary also hosts kiddies parties. At Lory Park, kiddies parties are an exciting outdoor adventure, where kids are able to have fun and enjoy nature at the same time. The venue offers a jumping castle and play area for the kids. Animals such as snakes, bearded dragons, tortoises and hedgehogs, will be brought around the zoo throughout the day. Bunny food packets are available for the children to feed the bunnies.

Wedding Year Planner – Six to Twelve Months Before The Wedding

Wedding Planner Six to Twelve Months before the Wedding

So the big question was popped, you said yes – but what now? It is time to start planning the wedding! To help you with your planning, we have put together the following guide. This guide will assist in you in getting all the necessary things done in a suggested time frame to ease the stress that goes with planning a wedding.

Six to Twelve Months before the Wedding

  • Decide on the kind of wedding you want and at what time of the day the wedding will be. Will you be providing a meal for the guest or will it be a simple ceremony with cake and tea only? The time of day the wedding takes place will greatly influence the food choices.
  • Pick a date. Do this as soon as possible so that your bridal party and far away family can begin making arrangements for hotels and scheduling time away from their workplace.
  • Choose a location. Remember to take into consideration what the weather could be like on your wedding day. So keep an open mind. Set a budget. This is so important. Discuss it carefully between the two of you and your respective families.
  • Start planning the reception. Secure a hall, hotel, lodge, or whatever wedding venue suits you guys for your reception area.
  • Select the bridal party. It is important to do this as soon as possible so these special people can set aside some time away from work to fulfill their duties and roles in your wedding.
  • Secure the church and inquire about premarital counseling. Some churches require this for a marriage to be allowed.
  • Choose your colors. Your flowers, attire, linens, and cake will reflect your choice. Since you have to shop for these items fairly far in advance, it’s important that you are rock-solid on your color decision.
  • Choose and order the bridal gown, bridesmaids’ gowns and accessories.
  • Choose wisely and stay within your budget.
  • Start planning the honeymoon. The groom often takes the lead on this, but it should be a spot you will both enjoy.
  • Begin your bridal registry. Visit your favorite stores and choose items that you will need to start your life together.
  • Select and order wedding invitations and announcements.
  • Select the caterer, photographer, florist, and musicians. Keep their phone numbers handy in case you need something.
  • Choose and order the wedding rings.

The Benefits of Team Building Activities

Team-Building-Benefits

It is essential for the success of any organization that everyone works together as a team. Team building events will help unify and refresh the team, leading to increased performance and productivity. These team building activities teach the team members to work together and to depend on each other. Working as a team will help with the improvement of operations, finishing projects on time and efficiently satisfying the requirements of clients. Ongoing team building activities ensure a contented team devoted to the organization.

The following are some of the benefits of team building activities for your organization:

  • Enhancing communication within the team.
  • Making the work environment more enjoyable.
  • Helpful in motivating a team.
  • Team members get to know each other better.
  • Participants learn more about their own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Management can identify and utilize strengths in their team.
  • Helps improve team productivity.
  • Improves collaboration within a team.
  • Creates realistic experiences that empower team members to contribute to common goals.
  • Team building activities can be great entertainment providers and can be used to reward your team.
  • Can also benefit team members in their personal life such as enhanced communications skills, concentration, decision making, stress minimization and self-confidence.

Organizing a team building event should be focused around what you aim to achieve with the event. If there is a high correlation to everyday challenges the team faces, the lessons learned will be remembered longer and more readily applied.

At The Summit Venue, you can choose to have your team building event outdoors or indoors, or you can have a combination of outdoor and indoor activities. We utilize professional team building facilitators for all our team building events. Contact us now to arrange your next team building event.