How to Ace Your Annual Planning Meeting

Ah, annual planning. Everyone’s, uh, favorite time of year?

Right. We know it can be a drag. But your company’s—or your department’s or your business unit’s—annual meetup is important and should set the tone for the months ahead.

Don’t let the worst happen, where you waste half a day (or more) sitting in a conference room where nothing gets done.

Just accept our invite and read on—planning for your planning meeting starts now!

Clarify the agenda. If you’re in charge of setting the agenda, you shoulder the responsibility of ensuring things get done. So, make sure that you’re prepared and organized long before you get in the room.

Write a clear, comprehensive agenda that sets the right expectations for all who will attend your annual planning meeting. Set appropriate time slots for each item on the agenda, and be ready to stick to it. Bring a timer. Or an airhorn. A sure-fire way to hobble progress is to get stuck on a tangent.

And don’t forget to set (simple) goals. At the end of your meeting, everyone should be primed for progress. Think about what you want to accomplish and the action all parties should be able to take post-meeting. Spell this out before you get started, and reiterate key points at the end.

Gather up relevant documents. Committee reports, financial reports, statistics and metrics from the previous year. Maybe you’ve kept an email folder full of “wins” (if not, maybe it’s time to start!)

Part of your role is to get your objectives into the plan for the year. Want to make sure that happens? Bring proof that your ideas are winning ones.

Think about your calendar year. Things look different year-to-year for any company… but probably not all that different.

For instance: You know the tradeshows you always attend. You know when products are primed to launch. And pending any major business changes, you probably know about how much budget to expect.

Map out your knowns for the year, and then dive in. For instance: Tradeshow in Orlando in May? Maybe you’ve got a few customers in the same region you can visit on your way back home. Maximize those travel dollars! If you consider things like this far in advance, the more efficient you’ll be able to be with your overall budget for the year.

Plan something fun. The monotony of a strategic planning meeting can and should be interrupted occasionally. Build this into your agenda, on purpose. Something fun. Something engaging. It can be any number of things—maybe it’s roleplaying an interaction between a sales team member and a customer. Maybe it’s charades. Or Pictionary. Whatever it is, shaking things up when the malaise inevitably sets in—say, around 2 p.m. or so—is one way to help people sprint to the finish line of your meeting, instead of dragging.

Post planning. It’s just as important as preplanning. You did it! Great meeting! You got through the agenda; everyone’s feeling energized.

Now, it’s time to act—don’t just shove your annual plan in a desk drawer somewhere.

Just as you set parameters on what you wanted to accomplish during your meeting, you should do the same moving forward. Appoint members of your team as “owners” of certain initiatives. Establish some timelines and check-ins to regularly measure progress. Keep your plan in mind always; it can be a good idea to revisit objectives quarterly to account for any necessary adjustments. Remember that it should be a living document. The unexpected happens, and your team needs to be nimble enough to respond. Speaking of…

Planning for next year’s planning meeting starts now. Steering your team in the right direction is a constant challenge. Don’t wait until you’re reading this article next year to start making plans. Organizing your team starts with organizing yourself—and if you make it a part of your everyday, you’ll be more than prepared to act.

Have questions or thoughts? Reach out to to continue the conversation.