ENGAGE THE PARTICIPANTS MUCH MORE TO MAKE THE MEETING CREATIVE AND POWERFUL
WAY TO BETTER MEETINGS
Q: What is meeting design and why we need to rethink the way we organise our events?
Many meeting professionals try to create better meetings by improving the logistics of the meeting, but the truth is that the gains on better food, nicer rooms and printed brochures are very limited. We can maybe improve our meetings by 10% by focusing on its “hardware”. Moreover, the competitive advantage is minimal, as everyone else in the industry is having the same focus.
The cheapest and easiest way to improve meetings, by up to 80%, is by focusing on the content and the format of the meetings, its “software”. In many meetings the content is too poor and the format (how we meet) is ineffective in terms of creating learning, innovation, networking, motivation and high quality decisions – all the cool stuff that are the real reasons why we’re having the meeting after all.
This is why we have Meeting Design. Meeting design is about improving the quality of both the format and the content of the meeting, and at the same time making sure the logistics are working. Both the “software” and “hardware” should be great, the very same way Apple revolutionized the computer and phone industry by making amazing software integrated into a cool physical design.
In order to create better meeting formats and content, we need to have a deeper understanding of how humans learn, co-create and are motivated. There is a lot of research in these areas, within social science, psychology and pedagogy, that everyone in the meeting industry could learn from. And I can assure you that the research doesn’t show that loads of Powerpoint presentations, boring panel discussions and plenary discussions with the same four people talking all the time are the best way to motivate and learn.
We live in a hyper-complex, accelerating world, where Pokemon Go can conquer the world in a few weeks and political changes like Brexit and the American election can change the world overnight. In a world like this, participants don’t have time to sit heavily in a chair and wait for an academic expert or the management to find solutions to the challenges they are facing. They have to get on their feet, engage and start finding their own solutions together with other participants. But how do you do that? That’s the question meeting design tries to answer.
Q: What is wrong with the format of meetings as we have them now?
They are too uniform; we do the same thing all the time. That’s boring and doesn’t reflect the complexity of the challenges we are facing every day. If you were a craftsman and only had one tool, you would probably be really poor at your job. Why should meetings be any different? How can plenary discussions, Powerpoints and a few Q&As solve all our problems?
Q: What would you do to make a meeting creative and powerful?
The simple answer is – ENGAGE the participants much more. In most meetings you only engage one person at a time (the lucky one, who has the word). If you look at it from a strictly logical point of view, this means that only one idea or thought is shared at a time. Why not use meeting formats that engage everyone’s knowledge and creativity at the same time? Imagine how much more innovation and knowledge sharing it would create if 10 people or even 1,000 people were sharing their thoughts and ideas at the same time.
Q: How can venues support meeting design?
Start by asking the clients what the objectives of the meeting are instead of starting by asking when they want to eat lunch. When you know their objectives, you can explore how you can support them in achieving them. Maybe they need a different physical setup to make it easy to engage the participants.
If you are more ambitious you can introduce a meeting designer to help design a meeting that creates maximum value. The venue can train their own staff to become meeting designers, or they can cooperate with an external meeting designer.
Q: What’s the best way to implement meeting design for your next event?
Start with something easy, for example ask the participants to stand up and have a short 5-minute conversation with someone in the room they don’t already know. The topic could for example be: “What inspired you in the presentation you just heard?” or “How can we find a solution to the challenge we are facing?” This format is called ‘Mini Meetings’ and research has shown that it’s effective in increasing learning and motivation.
There are also a lot of good sources from where you can get inspiration. I have described different engaging formats on my homepage: www.movingminds.dk. The Meeting Design Institute has an enormous knowledge base from where you can draw ideas.
Q: Give us an example of one of you favourite and best-designed meetings?
Last February in Copenhagen I designed and facilitated, together with Ann Hansen, Meeting Professionals International’s (MPI) signature annual European event, EMEC (European Meetings & Events Conference). More than 400 delegates, mostly Europeans, attended. We used the Danish Meeting Design concept – Meetovation – and lots of engaging formats with great success. The evaluation showed that 97% of the delegates found that the conference was more engaging than ever before and 90% found that meeting design definitely increased the Return on Investment on their participation.