Are you getting the best out of your meetings? Does the format of your meeting match with its content and the goals of the meeting owner? Meeting design is getting more important since the meeting industry aims for optimized cost efficiency and ROI. But what can a meeting designer actually contribute to your meetings? I talked to Mike van der Vijver, meeting designer and co-author of the book Into the Heart of Meetings, the first book about meeting design. My questions to the expert:
Mike, you call yourself a meeting designer. What does this actually mean?
It means I work on what happens “inside” the meeting room. Meetings can be a powerful form of communication between human beings. However, the success of meetings depends on how participants behave and interact with each other. The point is that you can influence these interactions, steer them. As a meeting designer I give shape to the programme, with the aim to make it as effective as possible and that means: facilitate the human interaction and make sure the goals of the meeting owner are achieved.
But what is wrong with the classical format of meetings as we are having them now?
In the ‘classical’ format of most meetings the power of human interaction is largely under-utilized and so, participants experience most meetings as flat and boring. They are hardly challenged as intelligent co-creators of the content and are pushed into a passive consumer role. The classical meeting fails to unleash the power of human interactions.
My experience, both as participant and as meeting designer, shows that sometimes even small changes in the format, the seating, the way in which content is shared, the tasks you give participants, can have a huge impact on the process and outcome of the meeting. That includes choices about the best physical setting.
In your book you often refer to meetings as a stage. Could you explain that?
I am convinced that the ‘centre of gravity’ of any meeting is somewhere else – not in the meeting itself. Suppose you have a conference about improvements to our healthcare system. These improvements won’t happen in the meeting room but somewhere in the outside world. As a consequence the meeting temporarily casts us into a different reality. That opens up a wealth of opportunities to re-create and re-present the ‘real’ world in any way you find useful in the temporary reality of the meeting room. You can tell or make any story there!
It allows you, for instance, to discuss subjects that are taboo in the world outside. Many things that characterize meetings confirm this idea: there are people performing on a stage, participants are seated in front of it and watching, the lighting, the sound etc. At the end, though, it is vital to re-connect the meeting world and the outside world.
Do you have more questions on meeting design?
Would you like to learn more about meeting design? I will continue this interview with Mike in the next 2 weeks. But you can also ask the expert himself. Mike will accompany me to IMEX in Frankfurt to answer all your questions. Please use the online scheduling tool to make an appointment with him.
Will you come and visit the two of us at IMEX?