Make meetings work for you, not waste your money

Feb. 4, 2004
If you're going to do one, at least be efficient about it

Meetings are expensive. Put 10 people in a conference room for four hours and you'll burn up no less than $1,200 in direct wages alone. Add benefits and a lunch, and the cost rises to $1,500. Repeat this routine twice a week, and you'll spend more than $150,000 a year. Top it off with the value-add of the useful work these people were unable to perform because of the meetings and the grand total is anybody's guess.

There's got to be a more efficient way to run a business. That's why, this month, we dive into the Web morass looking for zero-cost, non-commercial, registration-free resources aimed at providing you with practical information about getting the most out of these expensive events. Remember, we search the Web so you don't have to.

The meeting portal

The greatest Web concept is a single-interest portal that collects into one place everything known to mankind about a given topic. Because meetings are generally recognized as a costly activity, there is, as you would expect, a portal dedicated to everything you ever wanted to know about them.

This portal is the brainchild of Smart Technologies Inc., Calgary, Alberta, a manufacturer of interactive whiteboards, multimedia furniture, whiteboard capture systems and software. As the company grew, it struggled with meetings that became more numerous and difficult. The portal content captures everything Smart Technologies learned about making meetings more effective. Topics include meeting basics, meeting planning, teams, technology, presenting, productivity, design, quizzes and interactive features to test your meeting expertise and guest columnists. Each topic has several links, which reveal more links, and so on. If you're serious about making meetings work for you, put on your agenda. This site is definitely worth your time.

Here's to Hank

With no governing code to guide them, meetings often degrade into something pretty chaotic. We've all seen that happen. And modern business tends to be rather civilized compared with what went on at a typical meeting on the American western frontier in the mid-1800s. A person could get terminal lead poisoning.

When he became fed up with that nonsense, Maj. Henry M. Robert, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, developed his namesake "Rules of Order," a document that's gone through several revisions during the past 140 years. It's been moved and seconded that your mouse is to go to, where you'll find your very own copy of this literary classic.

Public speaking

A meeting features face-to-face contact and an opportunity for cogent, convincing oral communication. Making that good impression requires a modicum of skill at public speaking. This column covered public speaking Web resources in the June 2000 issue.

Persuade your mouse to go to: and fetch the article for you.

Dress for success

There are times when first appearances are important. Some business-to-business meetings are a perfect example. When there's cash on the line, it never hurts to err on the side of conservatism. After all, you want to look like you actually deserve all the money someone is leaving on the table.

"Dress for success," an article by Karen Kelly, offers three pointers that can help both men and women achieve the sartorial splendor that captures share of mind and pocketbook. Point your browser to:, where you'll find a quick read that can make a difference.


In the Stone Age, relatively speaking, our presentations relied on an easel to display poster-sized graphics and to support flip charts. Nowadays, not many people use those archaic devices for presenting their talks, prepared or otherwise. Instead, the current standard is a PowerPoint show projected on a screen or blank wall. Although one doesn't have much choice of PowerPoint software, there are many choices for those projectors that make the show possible. Selecting a good light source can be a chore if you're in the dark about such things. In the interest of shedding some light in the general direction of the scribbling on the wall, I offer you How to buy an LCD projector, a brief tutorial that discusses resolution, brightness, ports and inputs, portability and warranty. Alas, now your mouse won't need to grope its way to where the information resides.

Speaking of PowerPoint, you probably ought to learn to use it. One never knows when such skills will come in handy and most computers have a copy loaded on the hard drive. If nothing else, consider it another software skill to be listed on your resume. Get started with the very concise text-based tutorial the Department of Computer Science at the University of Rhode Island posted at

After you develop some skill, read the longer tutorial posted by Florida Gulf Coast University at

office2000/ppt/. Still another by Oregon State University is found at

For jet setters

Some meetings take place in exotic locales that can be reached conveniently only by plane. Arranging the flight is the easy part. It starts getting difficult when you need to travel more than one or two time zones away from home. Long trips increase the risk of being bogged down by jet lag at the destination. As a result of his studies in animal biorhythms, Dr. Charles F. Ehret of Argonne National Laboratory's Division of Biological and Medical Research developed what is now called the the Argonne Anti-Jet-Lag-Diet. It's a special diet that's designed to help travelers reset their internal clocks. Of course, simply eating won't cut the mustard. There's a matter of timing involved. Speaking from personal experience on trips eight time zones to the east, this diet works. Check out the details at

Packing your duffle

Sooner or later, you'll need to stay overnight so as to be ready to knock 'em dead bright and early the next morning. When you find this is your lot in life, no doubt there'll be a suitcase involved. Packing it is a two-fold problem. First, there's the issue of how much of what to bring. Keep in mind that airlines have been known to lose luggage. Second, there's the matter of having to pack your selection into that teeny, tiny suitcase when dressing for success doesn't include wrinkles.

Many mishaps can befall you between the time you arrive and the start of the meeting. Consider for a moment the catastrophes Jayne O'Donnell lists in her article, You can't dress for success without packing for it, and the creative measures the hapless victims took to overcome adversity. Aim your sartorial mouse at: and then reflect a moment before selecting a wardrobe all willy-nilly.

So, let's start by gathering your clothing into the staging area. When that's done, it's time to learn a bit about the art and science of getting it all into your shipping container. How to pack a suitcase the right way, an article by Ben Webb, offers tips designed to minimize the damage from the crushing forces you'll use when sitting on the suitcase, trying to get the latches closed. Check out the article by aiming your browser at:

A little help helps

When you're rushed and it becomes way too much of a hassle to select successful-looking clothing, pack it all into suitcases, make travel plans and gather audiovisual equipment for the big day, it's time to get a little help from your friends.

Even better would be your own butler. If you can afford one, your life becomes immeasurably easier. Before you hire a butler, consult with the International Guild Of Professional Butlers, the organization that tries to ensure you get value for your money. The organization's Web site can tell you everything you wanted to know about these employees and what services they provide. Even if you're not ready to add staff yet, check out the site for a seemingly endless supply of tips that will make your future entertaining easy and maximally elegant. Send your mouse to to learn more.

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