I am constantly amazed at what oftentimes seems to be a profound lack of strategic thought and approach when it comes to how meetings get planned. It truly blows me away when I ask a meeting planner what the purpose or objective of their meeting is and they don’t know. Sometime I’ll ask the ultimate trick question. “How important is alignment?” The replies I get are staggering and begs the question, isn’t that the ONLY thing that matters for a meeting? If your client/organization is going to spend precious dollars and effort flying people in, planning and coordinating, shouldn’t there be an expectation of at least one important result in the way of “getting everyone playing from the same sheet of music?”
I realize some of you reading this might view that as one tall order. Perhaps. But there are certainly some things that can be done and it requires a different type of thinking. Here are a few ideas to think about:
- Understand The Why Behind The Meeting. Whatever business owner is responsible for that meeting and the results of the business, has some idea of what they want to accomplish in terms of a result. It’s the job of the meeting professional to get it out of them, even if it means challenging them as to why they are having a meeting. This means conversations and discovery. If there isn’t a compelling reason to get together beyond “it’s time” then maybe you should tell them to save their budget.
- Don’t just check the “boxes” of keynote, team building, awards, entertainment etc. I always know when a planner is doing this when they ask, “what can you do in 2 hours?” This is after I ask about the overall agenda, content and business objectives.
- Look at the event holistically. If you don’t, how can you possibly architect a meeting experience that takes people on a journey that connects them to each other and back to the organization. People want continuity and meaning and want to feel like there is purpose behind what they are being asked to do at meetings.
- Be open to what’s possible. There are lots of great speakers and content providers who can be a tremendous resource in providing content that helps educate, motivate and align in ways that transcend business. Your attendees don’t want to just drink the kool-aid and be better workers. They want to be better people as a result of the meeting. The challenge is that planners often fall back into “safe” choices for content that are popular, but not effective or the right thing for the business.
- Have clear actionable next steps after the meeting. Attendees rarely believe that anything will be different after a meeting when it comes to learning or new initiatives. Allow the content providers you work with the right access to the business owners in the planning stage so they can help create a sustainability plan. This enables the meeting to serve as a springboard when everyone is aligned around what happens post meeting.
I passionately believe that a meeting should be the ultimate platform for igniting that ever elusive spark. Unfortunately, it won’t happen by itself. Game changing solutions require different open minded approaches to how we think about the same old things. As always feel free to email me with any thoughts or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org