When I tell people I’m a meeting designer the same question always comes back – “What does that mean?” Even seasoned meeting planners sometimes don’t really know what a meeting designer is supposed to do. There’s an idea that meeting design is all about up-lighting and napkin colors. Sometimes that’s true, but the real benefit of thoughtful meeting design is, at its heart, entirely strategic.
All businesses exist to achieve their goals. For public companies it’s all about market share and stock price. For nonprofits it’s about fulfilling their mission. For associations it’s about serving the needs of their members. Whatever their focus, all well-run organizations weigh everything they do against their overall goals. Does this new product/offering/initiative move us forward or not? Asking these types of questions is the heart of the meeting designer’s purpose. Every meeting is an opportunity to grow the mission of the organization, and should be viewed as such.
So how do you align meeting design with a business’ strategic goals? There are several things you should do to ensure that your meeting provides strategic value to the organization:
- KNOW what is important to the organization you’re working with. This means you need to educate yourself about the business of the business (or association) to make sure that your meeting is not only in sync with the priorities of the organization, but is also effectively communicating those priorities.
- FOCUS the messaging on the company’s desired outcomes. Keeping the communication direct and clear will help attendees know why they’re there and what the company wants to get out of the meeting. Too often, meetings are held with no clear endgame in mind, and companies start wondering if they’re worth the time and money.
- CREATE an atmosphere that supports the company’s goals for the meeting. If the purpose of the meeting is to enhance team-building, that calls for a lighter touch. For a get-down-to-business board meeting, the setting should be functional and free from distractions. This is where your knowledge of visual design and technology come in. Know how to use the right tools for the right occasions.
- ENABLE attendees to get the most out of their time. This is all about operational efficiency – knowing how to get the meeting to run so smoothly, it’s unnoticed.
- SELL the value of the meeting to the stakeholders. Show them how the meeting (or conference or party or event) furthers the mission of the organization, or contributes to the productivity of the employees, or advances the company’s brand and mission. If you create a compelling case, you won’t have to convince them to keep investing their time and money. They can see the return.