Don’t be afraid of meeting design!

Have you met my friend Mike van der Vijver at IMEX in Frankfurt? He is meeting designer and co-author of the book Into the Heart of Meetings. During the last weeks I dived into his book and was fascinated about the power and impact of well organized meetings. In my previous posts Mike told us a lot about the the importance and advantages of meeting design and I strongly believe that it belongs to the future of our industry. But why are so few people using this power? Why does the majority of meetings still resemble the atmosphere of a lecture room? Here are the main reasons why meeting design is not booming yet.

Blog Holland Meeting design Mike van der Vijver IMEX Frankfurt 2013

1. Meeting planners see no other options

Did you know that even small changes, like the way people are seated or the venue you choose can influence the outcome of your meeting? Many meeting planners think that their meeting would not allow dramatical changes. Planners who organize scientific conferences for instance are convinced that this type of meetings allows no other options. Mike tells us that there are enough alternatives that won’t change the character of the meeting but can improve the outcome and increase participant satisfaction.

2. Meeting owners are better safe then sorry

The meeting owner often pursues several goals when planning a meeting. One of them is maintaining the company’s identity and tradition. Therefore many meeting owner would not want to change their settings, since a failed experiment could harm the company’s good reputation. Better safe than sorry. But according to Mike, there is no need to worry. In most cases, participants will be glad if you present them something new.

Holland EIBTM Dutch Education

3. Speakers lack the courage

Speakers are content providers and therefore a crucial factor for meetings. But many of them like to see themselves in the role of an expert who transmits knowledge to a uniform audience. In the best case, the audience will be too polite to fall alseep. If you want to provide more exciting and engaging content you need speakers who are willing to leave the familiar powerpoint pathway and abandon their expert role. This requires an open attitude and courage to face a discussion without a predetermined story.

4. PCMO’s and DMC’s forget about the content

Many meeting organisers among the PCMOS and DMCs focus too much on the logistics of a meetings – destination, venue, time, date and suppliers. We often forget about the meeting itself, the content and the format. We accept the standard lecture room model without exploring possible alternatives and variations. “There are several organizations who understand the value of meeting design,” says Mike, “but most of them refuse it because they are afraid that design experiments could damage their relationship with the meeting owner.”

So, do you dare to try something new?

If we want better and more effective meetings we need to remove the traditional lecture room idea of meetings from our heads and be open for change. Your attendees will be happy if you try something new and satisifed participants are likely to come back for another meeting.

But how can you do that? What are your experiences with meeting design? Please share them with me.