Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Show Me the Value - MPI Webinar

On June 10, Jamie McDonough of Fusion Productions presented his model for creating and demonstrating value in meetings. Jamie gave some tools and models that support the approach to "meeting consulting" that Pfizer presented in last week's post. Once again, here are the notes I took on the marker board in the office while listening to the webinar.

Key points for me:
  1. To be taken seriously, meeting planners need to embrace their role as business people, not logistics managers
  2. Find out what every stakeholder in your meeting wants to achieve at this meeting.
  3. Design an innovative meeting that will accomplish those goals.
  4. Measure the results and share the data.
The biggest value in this webinar was not only this framework, but also the concrete tools presented for each step of the process.

Jamie started with the question about the role of meeting planners. This debate raged in 1995 when the question of meeting ROI first reared its head. "Are we planners, or are we business people?" Then answer then and now is "business people". We manage huge events with huge budgets. Our profession is responsible for over 1 million jobs in this country. We need to be telling our CEOs about the value of meetings before they even ask. Our industry has been hammered by the AIG's and others who could not explain the value of a meeting in a 30-second sound byte. We have to tell the story of our value better.

Jamie presented his "Value Cubed" model. This three-sided model was the framework for the rest of the presentation - Moments of Truth, Value of One, and the Meeting Lifecycle.

A "Moment of Truth" is any opportunity to reinforce the brand promise of a meeting with any of the stakeholders. Look at every touch point to see how it can add greater value. Now, a lot of stakeholders hold a lot of sacred cows around these touch points. "We had two projects screens last year." Or, "I always get picked up by a limo." We have developed an impartial process to evaluate the benefits and costs of each touch point for each stakeholder. It is a huge matrix that includes often thousands of these "moments of truth". It is important to evaluate each one and decide -- rationally -- which ones should be included and excluded.

Which ones add the most value? The ones that predispose attendees to content. The ones that create memorable experiences. The ones that will give the conference life long after the closing session.

The best way to create value is to use a structured, proven process that identifies the priorities of each stakeholder and ensures that their definition of value has been met. Each stakeholder wants the meeting to deliver value to "me", and that value might look very different for different stakeholders. The five-stage process is to 1) identify the stakeholders and their needs, 2) establish measurable objectives for each need, 3) deliver an event that meets those objectives, 4) measure the results, and 5) share the results with all of your stakeholders. Jamie presented some tools and tips for each of those steps.
It is important to remember that C-level executives think differently about meetings than most planners do. They don't care very much about logistical results like attendance or incremental cost savings. They DO care about strategic results in terms of learning, customer impacts or sales results. Ask these executives up front which strategic objectives they want this meeting to impact and how. And when the meeting is over, present the results -- good, bad and indifferent -- back to them. Show them what went well. Show them what needs improvement. And show them how the results from this last meeting will help make the next meeting even better. Executives will be very unlikely to cancel or cut a meeting that is being managed in a strategic and thoughtful manner. Use tools and conversations like these to become a significant player at the executive table.

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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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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"Meetings Matter" Webinar 1

On April 29, Colleen Rickenbacher led the first in the "Meetings Matter" series of webinars for MPI. I was out of the country on a project at the time, but I just got the opportunity to see the webinar, and thought I'd share my notes.

This presentation was titled Lay-offs, Cutbacks and Closing Down: What are you Doing to Make a Difference? This is a good refresher course for professionals who are finding themselves back on the job market in this economy, and generally good reminders for professionals everywhere.

Colleen started by pointing out that in every crisis lies an opportunity. The challenge to all of us is "what are we doing to be prepared?" And none of us is safe. The experts predict that the meetings industry will start turning around in September. Do you have a plan in place to survive for the next five months on a reduced or nonexistent income?

We have to get prepared! Build your database of contacts and start working them, even if you haven't lost your job (yet). Reconnect with people who have helped you in the past. Go to meetings where potential clients and employers might be found. Take classes to learn new skills and abilities. Rebrand yourself! There are three rules: Be Visible, Be Social, Be Out There!

This crisis is an opportunity for REbirth. Relearn, retrain, rethink, regroup. Reexamine everything about your life, your career, and your future. And then get your plan moving!

You might have to go for an interview... again. Maybe for the first time in a very long time. Remember all the basis -- dress nicely, wear a suit and tie (gentlemen!), have 10 questions ready, and always write thank you notes! Get your resume ready -- maybe you'll need to change it slightly for each potential job. This is how you are selling yourself, so put the best material up front. Be truthful. Be concise!

Once you get a new job, even in the same company, you'll have to make a big transition. Learn what the new environment is all about. Do your research. Learn who the decision makers are. Avoid the gossips and back-stabbers and other negative people in your new office. Become a team player, but don't be obnoxious about it! Join teams or committees, but be dependable in the tasks you take on.

And in this new world, there are some things to remember. Maybe you were the boss before, but not anymore. Your decision may no longer be final. You might find yourself reporting to people who used to report to you. Change is constant -- how you handle it will make the difference in your career.Finally, now that you're heading back into the flood of job-seekers out there, remember that your first impression is the most important impression that you will make. Colleen described in detail her tips on dress, nonverbal communication, handshakes, introductions, business cards, thank you notes, connecting (networking) and meetings. The key is to get noticed -- make a big impression, be social and active, and surround yourself with leaders.

You might meet your next big client or employer at any time. Always be present and focused on the conversation you are having now. Avoid distractions like email and texting when you're on the phone or in a conversation with someone. Be professional, act professional, and make sure that every communication you have with others is professional.

That's my recap of Colleen Rickenbacher's presentation. I've got a few more to go in the Meetings Matter webinar series. If you'd like to see the notes from any of them in particular, please drop me a note!

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