The good news is by this time you’ve done your homework.  You know why you’re meeting and what you want to accomplish by meeting’s end.    So now you just need to figure out whom to invite, simple right?  Not always, sometimes this part is worse than asking someone to the dance!  You don’t know if they’re interested, if they will reject you or if you’ll be stood up at the last minute.

Let your purpose and desired outcome guide you to the right mix of impacted parties, subject matter experts, influencers, and decision makers.

Impacted Parties are those people and groups who are strongly affected by the reason you are meeting or what you are meeting about.  If you’re discussing a change to the way managers approve time sheets of their employees the managers would be impacted parties.

Subject Matter Experts, also known as SMEs, are the people who understand the topic being discussed or the project being presented at the meeting better than anyone else.  The ones who can explain the details if needed, both the how’s and the why’s.

Influencers are people or groups who may not ultimately make the decision but carry weight with those who do.  Don’t underestimate who can be an influencer, they aren’t always at the top of an organization.

Decision Makers are necessary at every meeting.  You may not be viewing your desired outcome as requiring a decision but if you are looking for something to happen you are looking for a decision.  This holds true whether you want the team to sell more, adopt a change in process, or understand the business plan.  The key players need to decide to sell more, change the process, and understand / support the business plan.

Once you’ve settled on the right mix of participants (one person can fall into multiple categories) you need to determine the right size of your group.  Again, what you want to accomplish will help you choose the size that meets your needs best.  I fall back on my accounting education when I say make the size of your audience both adequate and appropriate.  Meaning, make it big enough to reach the groups you should but small enough that you can have meaningful interactions and be able to keep the focus.

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