Today's meeting executive is a communications expert. His or her purpose is not so much to plan a meeting as to shape and deliver experiences that cause changes in attendees' behavior--changes that support the objectives of the company.
I have identified 10 areas that I believe form the foundation of the planning process, which we'll explore in the next few columns. This month: systems thinking, philosophy, and design.
Systems Thinking: How Does the Meeting Fit Into the Bigger Picture? The most effective meetings reflect the company's mission, values, culture, and practices. Also, each meeting should build on previous ones.
Often, especially when companies are in trouble, they endow meetings with illusionary power. Meetings can be turning points, but can't by themselves make systemic problems disappear. Good sales meetings don't fix bad products. Effective management meetings can't compensate for ineffective practices.
Before every meeting or event, ask yourself: How does the meeting fit into the organization as a whole? How does each element relate to what the company has been, what it is now, what it wants to become? How can the meeting move the company forward?
Philosophy: How Do Meetings Reflect Beliefs? What does philosophy have to do with meetings? Everything. We all operate on a specific philosophy, whether it's a consciously chosen one or not. Our personal philosophies are at the root of all of our choices.
Similarly, a corporate philosophy drives your organization--and should be clearly communicated through meetings. It's your responsibility to prevent conflicting messages from diluting this philosophy.
If you still doubt the relevance of philosophy to meetings, consider this: The vice president of a division of a Fortune 10 company, after hearing my views, said, "I didn't realize that a director of meetings and events could also serve . . . as the conscience of a company. I would like to have that here. We need it."
Design: How Do Visual Elements Meet Your Objectives? An understanding of design is important in order to manage the visual elements of meetings and events.
Remember, the measure of whether or not to approve a creative element is not a matter of personal preference. An obvious example: the executive who insists on a kind of entertainment just because he likes it--without regard for the demographic or psychographic profile of the audience or the event's purpose.
Meetings should reflect the rules of effective design: clarity, consistency, congruity, and alignment. Not adhering to these rules causes design disconnects, which the average attendee will experience as a breach of credibility. Just stand in the back of a meeting where the principles of design have been ignored and listen to the attendees complain, "Can you believe what they're saying up there?"
1. Systems Thinking
4. The Psychology of Human Performance
6. Adult Learning (training and development)
8. Management and Leadership