Today employees are devoting more and more time to team meetings. Such meetings are often labour intensive and inefficient in achieving measurable goals. The lack of investment in planning and the use of inappropriate software are usually the two fundamental reasons for failure. By adopting better planning techniques, and using the most appropriate software for the tasks involved, participants can greatly improve the positive impact of their meetings.

The member of staff who is acting as the meeting's planner should have a clear focus of what is to be covered in the agenda, who the participants are, and the anticipated outcomes of the meeting. To assist the planner in delivering the agenda and steering the meeting, Microsoft PowerPoint provides an excellent graphical approach to assist in the presentation of the agenda whilst keeping the audience focused and engaged.

The planner can assign a co-worker to lead the presentation using a series of useful slideshows. Pre-work content can be included in the PowerPoint presentation in the form of charts, graphs, photos and text which can be shared with all participants before the event. This will allow all attending the meeting the opportunity to prepare questions and have an idea of what will be covered in the agenda. The PowerPoint presentation reduces the need for large photocopied documents, as key information can be presented in an accessible way to facilitate discussions and decision-making.

It is becoming increasingly popular that meetings are scheduled to track and provide feedback on important projects. Tracking projects with a lack of measurable documentation often leads to inefficiencies with project planning and ownership of tasks. How can the meeting planner assist in this tracking process in an accessible and effective way?

Microsoft Project can aid in the creation of task lists, tracking projects, developing and analysing schedules and in assigning ownership for individual modules in a project. All participants of the meeting have the ability to check an up-to-date view of a project. This helps in the effective communication between project members and also assists in critical milestones being met.

Once appropriate preparation and planning has been made, it is important to address all involved, ensuring that they can attend the proposed meeting. This is where Microsoft Outlook can really help in the management of information in the most timely and effective way possible.

Outlook provides easy access for everyone to view each others calendar views, another extremely helpful feature for scheduling and planning meetings. Outlook also allows the checking of the availability of employees and resources, including equipment and meeting rooms - so no double bookings to worry about! Co-workers can access each others calendars to see a breakdown of appointments scheduled for the week.

The combination of core Microsoft applications, such as PowerPoint, Project and Outlook with careful project management for team meetings can really pay dividends in achieving goal accomplishments and the timely progression of critical projects.