The Meeting Design is the pure technical design of the meeting, any meeting, to achieve the best results and reach the desired goals.
1. Plan to achieve
Let’s presume: the KP Inc. is organizing a corporate conference on how to use the social media to create stronger relationships among the employees. The theme is “Linking People”, in other words: link people and think about the company as a community. Question: what gives a stronger idea of community? Listening to a social media expert or to supply each participant with materials to decorate together the conference location (such as balloons, paper chains, etc.)? And why not to create, before the conference, a group on Facebook, where to decide on who will bring what? In the improbable case of being presented with these two options, on which criteria will KP Inc. decide?
Meetings and conferences are a unique and extremely powerful instrument of communication. The job of a Meeting Designer is to help the organizer to create the best possible program to reach the desired goals. Many other forms of communication can be helped by a specific professional, such as the graphic or the web designer.
In our sector, the Meeting Designer has been a recognized professional category for about 10 years. A Meeting Designer works for any kind of organization (companies, public institutions, no profit organizations, etc.) using analytic models, techniques and applications to manage the communicative dynamics between the “contents suppliers” (such as speakers and authors) and the participants.
2. What to obtain?
Realize the best possible program in order to reach the desired goals is a praiseworthy mission, but it immediately raises a number of fundamental questions.
The first one is: what are the aims of the meeting and how will we know if we reached them?
Our experience taught us that only a handful of organizers (we can call them Meeting Owners) have a precise idea before starting to deal with the organizational steps.
Also, only a few of them go beyond a superficial description of the success/failure of the event such as “We can be satisfied” or “I think people liked it”. These are the most common comments.
A Meeting Designer explores the aims of the Meeting Owner (especially the hidden ones) and they decide together what can be expected from the meeting: a certain number of new contacts? a new perspective on the contents? a mere lecture of pre-produced contents? (That’s an exceedingly expensive form of distribution!!!)
How can we prove that the money spent to organize a meeting is not wasted?
3. The contents seen by the Audience
The Meeting Designer analyzes the triangle “participants – aims – contents”. The perspective is the one of the audience. What should happen? How should the content be developed?
In this sense, the Meeting Designer’s task is different from that of the Meeting Planner, who mainly deals with the logistics and organizational aspects of the meeting and not with the contents.
The Meeting Owners know very well the contents of their meetings, of course, but they may not be experts on the communication dynamics that are necessary to divulgate and develop the contents, for example in the managing the participants, that have to exchange their ideas; in the decisional stages; in the networking.
4. The experience that lasts
Another fundamental aspect is: what experience has to be offered to the participants? The meeting will unavoidably generate an experience both physical and didactic for the participants.
Each Meeting Owner wishes for it to be an unforgettable experience, but the reality is that generally the meetings don’t offer much inspiration.
In the majority of the cases, the opportunities offered by the simultaneous presence of the participants in a single location are poorly capitalized on. Often there is too much speaking; often there aren’t enough speakers; often the efforts to create an emotional response are not functional to the desired goals and aren’t related to the contents. They become an objective in themselves. When a meeting turns into a show that has no connection to the goals and the contents, that’s a good example of poor Meeting Design.
In a nutshell, a good design of the meeting program will allow to know precisely what the participant x will be doing at the moment y with the content z and to make it happen. This will allow to reach the goals of the organized and to satisfy (or even to exceed!) the participants’ expectations.