Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Role of Meetings in Corporate Strategy - MPI Webinar

On May 15, Ken Kirsh and the boys at Pfizer gave a great little webinar on how to connect meetings to corporate strategy. Top take-aways for me:
  1. Become a Meeting Consultant - ask about business issues & propose solutions
  2. Define Objectives - a happy coincidence that is was also my last post
  3. Measure Results - work with executives to define metrics that matter
  4. Multi-Modal Meetings - do your presentations online, meetings are for interaction! (Also a passion of mine)

Below you'll find my notes on the discussion.

The talk started with Doug Amann telling planners to focus on driving efficiency. Especially in this economy, find the places in your planning process that take the most time, and focus your streamlining efforts there.

Technology can play a role in driving down costs. Use technology when it will support the kind of meeting you want to have. You need to understand all of the technology options out there so that you can provide the right solution for each challenge that your clients or executives present to you.

Now, how can you align your events with the corporate strategy? Ask the executive behind the event what the motivations are behind the meeting. Listen to the words the executives use. Are they focused on innovation? On efficiency? On compliance? Tailor your messages and your solutions to the business challenges surrounding the particular meeting you're involved with.
Measuring Return on Investment is the nirvana of the planning world. It's more often simpler to measure "return on objectives". This does require a lot of time and effort up front to define (with the executives) what measurable, concrete objectives they might have for the meeting. And when you think you're done with the meeting, you're not -- you need to be diligent about measuring results long after the euphoria of the event has faded.

Tom White, also of Pfizer, talked about the "Return on Innovation" - he is normally asked to provide that "something different" or "something extra" to take meetings over the top. He recommends that planners ask three questions. First, what kinds of conversations drive the most value for a company? Internal department discussions? Cross-functional discussions? Conversations with customers? The company should invest in meetings that support the most impactful conversations. Second, how does this meeting make our business faster or more efficient? Maybe you SHOULDN'T wait until the annual meeting for a big discussion or announcement. Don't let meetings slow you down, either. Third, what should be done outside the meeting (before and especially after) to leverage the value of the meeting itself?
Tom discussed three different meeting formats. The traditional "broadcast" meeting involves one person giving a presentation to many people. Technology today is very effective at this kind of interaction -- put it on a DVD or a webinar! Many clients want this kind of meeting, but it's our job as planners to help them think differently.

The second format is a more linear meeting. This kind of meeting normally involves different departments working together to solve particular issues and challenges. These meetings tend to be highly engineered.

Finally, there are the "networking meetings". These meetings are the most difficult to manage, but they can create the most value. Doug said something like "If we're going to invest the time and resources to bring people together, let's maximize the interaction!" (As an aside, this is exactly the focus of Illumination Galleries) The best take-aways from meetings normally happen in the "water cooler conversations", not in the lecture halls. Let's build meetings that focus on those conversations!

The speakers then gave some recommendations on Going the Extra Mile, Managing Cash, and Partner Alignment.
Finally, the speakers wrapped up by emphasizing the new role and skills that are being required of meeting planners. Become a meeting consultant. Learn about the challenges your clients are experiencing, outside of the meeting. Develop new solutions that reflect your new understanding of the client's business. And communicate with executives using language (and data) that matters to them!

Here is the complete marker board. Click on this to see the larger image:

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