Like me, you may spend an enormous part of your life in meetings and business events. Whether they are conferences, internal WIPs (work in progress), or boardroom sessions.
I have literally spent my life in conferences and meetings, it’s what I do, and face-to-face meetings and events are very hard to replace. But they can also be non-efficient and costly when done wrong. Fortunately, they are certain pitfalls which can easily be overcome.
So here’s a simple checklist of things to avoid because we if eliminate the bad what we are left with is the good.
Too many things.
Like a good movie where there is a very clear plot with a very clear problem for the hero to solve, a meeting (whether a one on one, business event or a conference of 4000) needs to have a clear objective. Not many, just one. Again, like a movie, once there are too many story-lines it gets hard to follow, and sure there may be subplots involved but they support the main story.
Meetings are no different. As soon as you try cover too many objectives and solve too many problems your participants will become unclear as to why they are there, and what you want them to achieve and worse still, they will then start to dis-engage.
You need to have a clear meeting objective.
Here’s a simple rule. One meeting, one objective.
Buy-in instead of ownership at your business event.
One of the biggest challenges with a meeting is getting people engaged and staying engaged. Part of the reason that fails is because meeting holders go for buy-in and not ownership. The difference is that you can thrust buy-in onto someone. For example, stating that ‘if you’re not there you are sacked’ will get people buying in to going but it won’t get them engaged. Ownership however is when you find a way for them to want to be involved and to take ownership of the objective and outcomes.
So get them involved early, communicate well, ask for their input and listen.
Squirrel Chasing at meetings
Remember the movie ‘Up’ where the dogs have voice translators on their collars so they can talk to you. However every so often they get distracted and yell out ‘Squirrel!’. When people in meetings get sidetracked and chase squirrels nothing will get resolved. Maybe if you are having a ‘Think Tank’ or ‘Ideation Session’ then squirrel chasing can be advantageous BUT only if it’s directed and structured properly.
The antidotes for squirrel chasing are having a clear objective (one, not many), and designing the right structure and agenda.
Not having a good facilitator
There is an art to facilitating, and yes I am bias. A good facilitator talks less and listens more. They pick up on trends and the flow of conversations, they find open doors of conversation to go through and explore, they ask provocative questions and are prepared to take a hit for the team. And most importantly they are unbiased.
I believe every meeting needs a good, or professional facilitator because they ensure everything that occurs serves the objective and the purpose of the meeting or business event itself.
Some meetings and events end up as dictatorships where the chair or the holder of the meeting doesn’t just drive it, they won’t let anyone else in the car. Yes meetings need to have someone take the lead, to direct things but that is very different from being bombastic, failing to listen to participants and not being open to ideas.
A great meeting or event is where communication doesn’t flow one way but is multi-directional.
Also check out How to get the most out of your conference facilitator or MC