Ping. A pop-up reminder notice appears on my computer. I react with a sick-in-the-stomach-feeling and a sense of dread. It is time to attend that regularly scheduled meeting.
I prepare myself for another wasted, boring, unproductive meeting. I feel like my hands are tied. It is another hour lost into the business black hole.
You have those feelings too, right?
Planning Boring, Unproductive Meetings And Conferences
I’ve planned some of those boring, unproductive meetings. You have too. Come on, admit it. It is easier to plan a boring meeting than un-boring one.
So, how do you know if the conference you are planning is going to be boring, barren of innovation and idle?
If you are a conference organizer or meeting professional, you might say that the content and conference experience is not in your job description. It belongs to another department.
I submit that spouting that excuse makes you a co-conspirator in planning unrewarding meetings. You are a partner in crime and will likely be sent to the slammer for putting on unproductive meetings.
As a professional, it is your job to ensure that the logistics align with the goals of the meeting. I suggest that it is in your job description to ask some pivotal questions for every meeting you plan.
Four Questions To Address To Create Productive Meetings
In the 1960s, Jack Gibb, Alan Drexler and Marvin Weisboard identified four questions everyone asks when attending meetings. Their research detected a predictable pattern of engagement, whether the meeting was face-to-face or virtual, that starts before people arrive at the meeting.
1. Why are we here?
Their research pinpointed the first question all people ask: “Why am I here?” Attendees want to identify why they are assembling together. A person’s understanding of why they are meeting is directly linked to their personal experience and level of involvement.
Does your marketing material identify why people are meeting? Does it include a list of outcomes? Does it suggest what is going to be discussed and why it is important?
If it does, people will formulate their own story about their role and participation in the meeting before they arrive. If it doesn’t, then it’s time to address this fundamental and basic question.
2. Who will be there?
Before anyone arrives, they ask, “Who is going to be there?” Upon arrival and every time they return from a break, they ask “Who is here?” and “Who are you?” These questions lead to another introspective inquiry: “What might that ask me to do?”
Prospective conference attendees want to identify the why and who of your meeting before they register. Your registrant list serves as a lure, providing credibility and trust about your conference.
As you can see purpose–why we are meeting–and trust–who will be there –come first in meetings.
Does your conference marketing material address these two questions?
3. What are we doing?
This question is about clarifying the goals of the meeting. People want to know what is going to be discussed.
Does your conference marketing material identify clear, integrated goals? Does it provide an opportunity for participants to align themselves with a shared vision?
4. How are we going to do it?
This question is about helping participants and potential attendees identify the level of commitment they will bring to the meeting. It is about addressing engagement and the level of dependence on the leadership versus interdependence of all meeting stakeholders.
Does your conference marketing material address how participants will be co-creators of the experience?
Progression Or Retreat: The Choice Is Yours
Gibb, Drexler and Wesibord’s research showed that people only progress in their meeting experience as these four questions are answered. If their questions are not answered, or if they don’t like the answers, they retreat from the process.
Our sociological and emotional makeup requires us to address these four meeting questions about meeting together before we can completely focus on the thinking and collaborating together.
Why are these questions important to conference and meeting organizers? How can your meeting design address these four questions?