Clever Carly: Get in the Boardroom
Strategic meeting planning starts with gaining access to stakeholders
Hello, busy planners!
When it comes to meeting client goals, the first step is to—well, understand them. That is, you need a clear definition of what it is the client hopes the event will accomplish before moving forward to the finer details.
Sounds simple enough, right?
The problem is that clients aren’t always forthcoming with that key information. They might have an idea of what they want but have a hard time articulating it. Or, maybe they give you broad ambitions—“promoting a new product” or “increasing sales,” for instance—but don’t offer the context behind those goals.
Wherever the lack in communication lies, you’ll need to get to the bottom of it—which often requires talking with stakeholders directly. And that can only mean one thing: You have to get in the boardroom—or conference room, office, coffee shop. Wherever they meet, you need to get access.
The Right Way to Ask for Boardroom Permission
Because boards are held in such high regard, asking to be clued in to their meetings as an outsider can be an awkward, but necessary, discussion in and of itself. To ensure it goes smoothly, give the client insight into the kind of information you’re hoping to learn. From there, explain why those details will be helpful in the planning process and how it will help you meet the client’s end goals.
What to Do If You’re Told No
If you haven’t been invited to the boardroom, or the request was flat-out ignored, submit a list of questions that the client can bring to the table on your behalf. In some cases, you might also be able to get a transcription of the meeting.
During the Meeting
It’s important to listen in and take notes on what stakeholders are saying—but don’t forget that you’re a participant, too. Ask for clarification when necessary, and work with the meeting organizer to allot some Q&A time on the agenda where you can talk directly with stakeholders.
Prepare a list of questions beforehand, and don’t be afraid to delve into tough topics. Asking things like “What is holding you back?” will help you understand the client’s current and previous approaches to goals, why they didn’t work and areas where you can improve.
Once the agenda moves past discussions on the event, the meeting organizer might politely ask you to leave while the board moves on to confidential or irrelevant-to-you topics. But that’s OK—you got in there and received the intel you needed to produce a stellar event, and that’s all that matters.
Until next time.