The Negotiator Magazine

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On a broader perspective, however, you are correct that although much is written about the techniques and strategies of the negotiating process, there is little attention to the logistical facilitation of negotiations. In part, that is simply because logistics play a minimal role in most negotiations.

Most negotiations are casual affairs involving a small number of people, often only two persons. They are often conducted in places such as a noisy garage with a mechanic working on an engine, over a kitchen table with the television in the background or over a telephone. In this day to day negotiation process, logistics often boil down to finding the right person or locating the correct telephone number. The skills, however, still apply.

Logistics, site location decisions and a variety of other concerns usually come into play in negotiations in which the number of participants transforms them into meetings. Here, logistical concerns well may require careful preliminary negotiations to prepare for the substantive negotiations to follow. At its most complex, many of us recall inter-governmental negotiations over seating protocols and table shapes that have dragged on for weeks and months while serious and vexing substantive issues lay waiting for action.

Logistical issues must be one of the negotiatorís foremost concerns as the numbers of parties moves from two to larger and larger numbers of participants. As the size of the group increases, successful negotiations demand skilled logistical planning and performance. It now has to be a priority matter and someone with authority must be in charge.

If you are the host, someone on your team must be the designated person for this element of the process. That person needs to be identified and empowered as the single point of contact for all logistical matters. Your contact person also needs an identified counter-part for every other participating party.

If you have a staff person who sets up meetings, your contact person is fortunate. You are, after-all, running an important meeting. You need a room suitable for the size of the group, lockable so that it is secure when the parties have left for meals or the evening. You also need everything required for a complex business meeting: communications, presentation equipment, office support services, transportation and meal support, and security.

To facilitate the sessions, you and the other parties will need to address several matters prior to the meetings. Among these would be the sharing of the names and titles of team members so each of you will know what skill sets will be represented, the joint development of an agenda, and the formulation of the ground rules for the participants. Agreements about smoking, the use of cell phones, the operation of pagers, breaks for business calls, and the host of seemingly small, but important rules of the session need to be handled by mutual agreement. Without this preliminary work, you will be negotiating behavioral matters throughout the sessions.

I hope this assists in helping to clarify one of the negotiatorís critical, but often merely assumed and undefined roles.

Good luck,

John Baker

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