Deal with the Devil and Other Meeting Details

by | Feb 1, 2010 | Blog | 0 comments

Strategic meeting designer Mary Boone continues her earlier conversation with The LEAN COMMUNICATOR about the four elements of the strategic value framework for successful meetings: portfolio management, meeting design, advanced logistics, and measurement.

Liz: In this issue, we’re going to cover the last two elements, advanced logistics and measurement. In the October issue , you presented your framework and talked about portfolio management. In the November issue, we focused on meeting design, which is your specialty.

Now what do LEAN COMMUNICATOR readers need to know about advanced logistics?

Mary: If the execution of your design falls flat, then you’re not going to achieve the results you’re seeking. You can come up with the best meeting design in the world, but the devil is in the details.

For example, I was using Open Space methodology for a meeting I designed. I had explicitly asked that the main meeting room be empty of tables. I arrived the night before to discover that 50 tables in the room with no plans to remove them. I ended up helping break those tables down until late in the evening.

Other common logistics problems are getting the right size or shape of tables, issues with audio, room sight lines, etc. Many things go into making the meeting logistics work correctly. It’s a whole profession in itself.

Liz: I have experienced many logistical letdowns, as explained in 5 Tips for Rearranging Rooms for Better Communication. When you’re planning a meeting, what should you do to ensure good follow-through on logistics?

Mary: You should establish a good relationship with the meeting professionals in your organization, if you have internal people for that. If you don’t, I strongly suggest you use a credentialed meeting professional. There are professional organizations such as MPI (Meeting Professionals International) and PCMA (Professional Convention Management Association) that can help you identify these people.

Liz: Let’s now talk about measurement, which as we all know can be challenging to do when the benefits are often intangible and in the eyes of the participants. What about measurement for meetings?

Mary: Measurement is always a tricky issue when you’re looking at the impact on a corporate culture, building engagement, or other broad goals. Yet you can measure these. One of the best measurement frameworks I’ve seen for meetings comes from Jack and Patti Phillips of The ROI Institute. They look at five levels of measurement:

1. Reaction and Perceived Value: Measure reaction to, and satisfaction with, the experience, ambiance, contents, and value of meeting. (The LEAN COMMUNICATOR’S Meeting Feedback Form is an example of this.)

2. Learning: Measure what participants learned in the meeting, such as information, knowledge, skills, and contacts (take-aways from the meeting).

3. Application and Implementation: Measure progress after the meeting, such as the use of information, knowledge, skills, and contacts.

4. Impact and Consequences: Measure changes in business impact variables such as output, quality, time, and cost-linked to the meeting.

5. ROI: Compare the monetary benefits of the business impact measures to the costs of the meeting.

You’re not going to measure every single meeting all the way to the ROI level, but it’s critically important that we measure meetings to the appropriate degree both before and after a meeting. We need to estimate the impact of certain meeting activities before we invest in them and we need to determine what value the meetings have provided after the meeting. And measurement is integrally connected to meeting design. We need to design the meeting to deliver the results we’re measuring.

Liz: Great measurement framework! Any final words on the importance of meetings?

Mary: I firmly believe that the complexities associated with globalization, technological advancement, and economic shifts are not going away and they will continue to challenge leaders as well as the rest of us. Leaders are going to have to completely rethink the way they connect to the people they are leading. (Bear in mind, as well, that they are leading a diverse range of stakeholders instead of just employees.) Well-designed and executed meetings provide the best opportunity – both now and in the future – for leaders to connect, inform, and engage these stakeholders.

Liz: Thank you, Mary!


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