Any meeting or negotiation can be won or lost before you even step foot inside the meeting room, by good forethought and planning.

To feel in control of any scenario, you must plan, this is the difference between success and failure.

Here are some tips on how to successfully plan a meeting:
1. Ask yourself if a meeting is really necessary
Often the same things can be accomplished via the phone or e-mail etc.

2. Pick someone to chair
If it’s not you then arrange for someone to chair the meeting.  Somebody has to be in charge of a meeting to ensure that it accomplishes what it’s meant to accomplish.  Agree this up front.

3. Have a plan
Create an agenda for the meeting and distribute it in advance, to everyone who is going to be present.  Then ask them to provide you with any changes or additions to the agenda, again, do this in advance of the meeting.

4. Have the meeting somewhere that is easy to find and get to
Pick common ground for most of the attendees.  If a meeting will be held off-site or involves getting clients to your location, always provide clear directions.

5. Arrange the meeting at an appropriate time
Too early in the morning and you risk people being late because of traffic.  Too close to lunch and they’re thinking of food.  Too close to the end of the day and they’re thinking of going home.  Normally in the mid-mornings/afternoons is best.

6. Stay with and follow the plan
You will have drawn up an agenda and everyone at the meeting has seen it, so stay with it.  If it’s not appropriate for the meeting, file it away for another time.

7. Stay focused
Anecdotes or irrelevant conversations will always crop up, especially as the number of the people attending increases.  Have the chairman stay in control of the meeting and keep everybody focused on what the outcome is.

8. Create an action box for other issues
Some issues may need to be dealt with but it may not be an appropriate time to do so.  When these issues come up, note them down and place in the action box and deal with them after the meeting.

9. Good time keeping is essential
Never let a meeting run on longer than anticipated.  Keep to your original plan.  If you find you can’t get everything done, simply schedule, there and then, another meeting.  If you don’t finish on time it’s either because you didn’t stick to your agenda (so why should the attendees suffer?) or the issue really needs the extra time and attention a second meeting will bring.

10. Make a quality action plan
There is nothing more frustrating than sitting through a meeting, hearing lot’s of good ideas and dealing with quality issues, only to find that nothing will be done about it.  Give the meeting the importance it deserves and make an action plan giving clear instructions of what is needed to complete the next steps and gain buy-in to these actions from those present.  Let the attendees know that what has been produced in the meeting was, indeed valuable, and worth their taking the time to attend.