The popular misconception that meeting design is neither the most complicated part of a meeting, nor is it anything other than common sense ignores that fact that it may be the key to decide whether the meeting is a success. What is the purpose of the meeting? What do we aim to achieve? What are the takeaways and for whom?
A convention that wishes to include only a company’s executives and uses a meeting for greater bonding and understanding of its goals and plans, will need to use social media to draw the participants together. The meeting design should foster greater interface among colleagues and nurture the feeling of being a community. The task of a meeting designer, in tandem with the meeting organizer, is to create the best possible event programme resulting in the best possible outcome. Easier said than done.
In designing the best possible programme for a meeting, one must determine the objectives. The meeting designer must identify the meeting’s overt and intrinsic objectives with the help of the meeting planner and decide what the meeting needs to produce. A new and aligned perspective on a specific area of content? A decision on a core issue or a major policy change? If the meeting limits itself to a series of speakers disseminating information about a section’s achievement, mostly backed by statistical data and rhetoric, what learning is eventually taken away by the attendees? Consequently, what is the impact and resultant gain from the meeting? How can one be sure that anything meaningful will emanate from the information disseminated?
Once the meeting’s objectives have been established, the meeting designer needs to address the ‘how’ quotient – the triangulation of objectives, participants and content. Given the diverse group of participants, how must the content of the event develop, change, grow, and flow? The meeting designer assumes a remarkably unique position as the meeting planner is more concerned with the logistical and organizational aspect while the client is deeply involved with the content.
I believe the dilemma for the meeting designer is to control the communications dynamics of a large group of people to ensure the content is driven in the right direction on the right vehicle so that it engages the right people. The meeting designer must ensure that the content moves through a productive exchange of ideas, a mobilisation of the inputs of the participants, the alignment of positions, decision-making, networking and all that it takes to produce the desired impact and thought change in the participants, leading to a targeted behaviour and cognitive pattern.
A basic question that the meeting designer must deal with is what experience will the meeting offer to its participants and what is the learning that they must take away. A powerful and an unforgettable experience is what all meeting clients aim for.
A good meeting design must ensure the meeting owner knows what each participant is doing with the content, keep the flow of events in a manner that satisfies each participant with their participation as well as the outcome of the meeting. Easier said than done, indeed…
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