This post is inspired by Mike Monteiro’s LeWeb 2012 presentation How Designers Destroyed The World which has application to all professions.
Meeting planner, you are responsible for the work you put into that meeting.
And you are responsible for the effects that work has upon that meeting.
Meeting Planners Are Gate Keepers Of Conferences
Meeting planners are gate keepers of meetings and conferences. What goes on at that meeting goes through us. We stand in the doorway of what is possible to build and not build.
It’s time for us to take responsibility for those actions when we build or chose not to build. It’s time for us to take responsibility for the outcomes of our actions.
We should not just take orders from others. We should take responsibility for the effectiveness of the solutions we’re providing and what effects they will have. We’ve got to use our meeting planner power responsibly.
It’s time for us to think about the responsibility to ourselves, our clients, their customers and ultimately the world and meetings profession at large. It’s time for us to be responsible for solutions we provide!
Meet Joe Speaker
Think about the following scenario.
Joe Speaker has been hired to lead a three-hour conference workshop. The education director hired Joe to facilitate a specific type of learning experience.
Joe knows that his success is also dependent upon a specific room set and av. He has given his room and AV requirements to his client who forwarded them on to the meeting professional. He’s been told that 322 people will be attending his session.
On the day of Joe’s presentation, he walks into his room only to find that it is not set according to his requirements. The meeting planner has set the room in rows in theater style to accommodate all of the people. To reduce expenses, she has given him a wired lavaliere microphone and he is tethered to a small two foot area in the front of the room.
What has suddenly happened to this learning experience? What has the meeting planner inadvertently done to the learning opportunity for the 322 people? What has the meeting planner done to the speaker?
A Bad Business Decision
The meeting planner’s decision may have started as a business decision. Unfortunately, it has lessened the value of the education experience. Basically, this meeting planner devalued the learning and the attendees’ needs.
When a meeting professional puts efficiency above effectiveness, it’s a bad business decision. When a meeting professional makes a decision about room sets, audio visual and other logistics without thinking about the consequences of that decision, it’s a bad decision.
In the above scenario, the meeting professional decided that theater room set with a wired lavaliere was good enough. It would suffice.
There were no malicious intentions on the meeting planner’s part. There were just not any intentions.
Why Do Meeting Professionals Work This Way?
Why do we meeting professionals approach the job this way aiming for efficiency over effectiveness? Why do we default to lessening the user’s experience? Why do we allow “good enough” to be our standard operating procedure?
We are mired in a meeting professional culture that either doesn’t understand its responsibility to the customer or worse, doesn’t care. It doesn’t take malice to bring bad meeting logistics to a conference, it just takes carelessness.
Meeting planners do nothing more and nothing less than an attempt to manipulate our environment. Meeting logistics are not just about how something works and looks; it is also about how something affects something. It’s about how the logistics affect an individual, a conference of people and ultimately all the organizations involved in the meeting. When meeting planners disregard the affect bad decisions have on that meeting, they are at best negligent and at worse, culpable.
When meeting planners practice without forethought to consequences, without responsibility, what we get is not an effective meeting but destruction.
Meeting professionals have an ethical responsibility to establish logistics that are beneficial to their users. Just as importantly they have an ethical responsibility to not create logistics that are not beneficial to their users.
We as meeting professionals must understand the costs of what happens when we settle for second and third best. It’s time for us to be held accountability for the effectiveness of the solutions we provide.
Why do so many meeting professionals default to standard capacity charts instead of effective room sets that foster learning? Who is responsible for speaking up when a meeting’s logistic decision is one that will negatively affect the user?
Traci Browne says
Hoping even one or two people will take this post to heart. I just experienced this at a recent speaking gig…asked for rounds for an interactive session and showed up to classroom seating. Also had two hour session cut to 1.5. I’ve gotten to the point where I see the AV/seating requirement form as a wish list and something that doesn’t really mean anything as far as the planner is concerned.
Tahira Endean CMP says
Great post and there are so many factors that make it de facto not so good when budget overrides thoughtful experience creation. When the two are not done hand in hand… ie draw your floor plans and then get av quotes based on desired outcomes which have led to these meeting room designs… nothing great comes of it. How many planners are truly starting with objectives and then ensuring that the program committee and stakeholders responsible for the budgets are on board and in agreement with these?
Are meeting planners judged on final evaluations of overall experience or on the budget they achieved? How often are evaluations not really done or not that effective – I have done several sessions in the past two years that have 50 – 100 in the session room and have never seen more than 10 evaluations from any session completed. BUT you know the stakeholders are looking at the budgets and yes, wired vs wireless is about a $100 difference on average. Does wired make an effective presentation – we all know “not usually”. Do classroom sets work for more than just taking notes? Not really. How many planners are involved in both strategy and logistics? Not enough would be the apparent answer.
Why not is also a great question, and as much work as we see being done on meeting design (or architecture) and on the neuroscience behind meetings and the people who bring their brains to meetings, on the food we serve and on the way we design sessions to create relevance and learning it does sometimes feel all a bit uphill. We know what happens when we create authentic learning environments that deliver key messages and allow people to make them relevant to their own situations through discussion and reflection time – we have people who leave meetings making a difference, defining new collaborations and improving personally and professionally. Just keep sharing your great ideas and one meeting at a time, changing the world.