In my last post I introduced you to Mike van der Vijver, the Dutch meeting designer and co-author of the book Into the Heart of Meetings. After we explored how meeting design can improve the outcome of your meetings, we want to attend to the people who came up with the idea of having the meeting in the first place – the meeting owner. How can we translate the meeting owner’s purposes into a programme that satisfies both, him (the owner) and the participants?
Mike, meeting planners know how hard it can be to unite the objectives of the meeting owner and the participants. How is it for the meeting designer?
Indeed, it can be hard to organize a meeting that meets the goals of the meeting owner and the expectations of the participants. But they are like Yin and Yang, influencing the meeting like two parts of a mould in which some plastic component is formed. If one half is missing, the product will be useless. Therefore it is the job of the meeting designer to find a balance between their interests. We work closely together with the meeting owner on the explicit assumption that the participant is the most important person.
How can you achieve that both parties will be satisfied in the end?
It helps when the meeting owner understands that his meeting involves people and that it depends on these people whether he will reach his goals or not. If you bring people together in a place they will have physical and emotional experiences in response to your program, which influence how they will perceive and process the content and the entire meeting. If they perceive your meeting as boring, unpleasant and a waste of time you will not only fail to reach your goal.
Their experiences will also label their attitude towards your company. You can compare this to a birthday party: if the host fails to amuse his guests they will leave (and probably not come a second time). So, if the meeting owner wants his meeting to be successful he has to put the participant in the first place.
How can you help the meeting owner to produce content which is attractive and meaningful for your participants?
When you design content for a meeting you must not only focus on the content itself. Your first concern has to be how the participant will process this content during the meeting when it enters their heads and encounters their individual expectations and experiences. So first you have to ask yourself: what do you want to happen to your content?
The second step is to create content which is appealing to your participants. We handle for criteria for ‘hot’ content. First, good content is sticky, which means that it arouses basic human feelings like pain, fear or pleasure. Second, the content must have a certain impact on participant’s life. A story becomes much more interesting when you play a role in it. Third, hot content includes a conflict, a dilemma that has the capacity to trigger a discussion. Fourth: make them curious. Choose an angle of the topic that makes participants want to learn more.
Do you have more questions on meeting design?
Would you like to learn more about meeting design? I will continue this interview with Mike next week. 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?