…Don’t have to produce mini results
By Mark Black, CSP
The economic crisis of 2008 dramatically altered businesses across all sectors. The meetings industry was no different. As belts were tightened and budgets restricted, so were the number and size of meetings. A Canadian Economic Impact Study shows that the number of meetings held in Canada in 2008 was 3.4 per cent less than in 2007. The number of participants in meetings in 2008 shrunk by 2.1 per cent and the overall spending on meetings declined by 0.1 per cent.
Fortunately, the economy and the meeting industry have both recovered significantly. In fact, according to MPI, the number of meetings as well as meeting budgets, are both on the rise. The news is not all good. Hotel costs are increasing and, while meeting budgets are on the rise, those increases are not keeping up with the increase in costs.
As belts have tightened, the need for measurable ROI on every expense has increased and a new trend has arisen known as “mini meetings.”
According to a study conducted by ACTIVE Network, a company that supplies event management technology, same-day and one-day events now represent 35 per cent of electronic request for proposals (up 14 per cent from 2008), showing a clear migration by companies to cut costs by shortening events.
So What are Mini Meetings?
Mini meetings are simply meetings that are smaller than a conventional gathering in at least one of three ways:
Time. Mini meetings are shorter than a typical AGM or convention. Rather than being held over several days or a week, a mini meeting may take place in one day or even in a period of a few hours.
Participants. Rather than having the entire company or association attending the same event, a series of mini meetings may take place with specific divisions or regions. Another tactic is to include only senior-level management in some meetings to be more effective and efficient.
Scope. Mini meetings are limited in time, which can mean that less material is covered than in longer meetings. However, by strategically breaking up material into smaller chunks, having people review materials before attending the meeting, and doing follow up discussions after the meeting, a lot can be accomplished in a small amount of time.
It’s easy to see how mini meetings may be attractive when considering cost. Smaller, shorter meetings save money. When organizations choose to hold their annual meeting in the same city as their headquarters, for example, they can save thousands on airfare and hotel costs for people who don’t have to travel to the meeting. Holding a shorter meeting means less days in hotels, while fewer participants in a meeting means lower meeting costs, as well as lowering the opportunity cost.
David Gouthro, CSP, president of The Consulting Edge, points out that for many organizations, the most significant costs of a meeting are not the hotel space, airfare, or food, but the cost of having people away from the office not getting work done.
“The opportunity cost of having people out of the office is very high. Companies have to be able to justify that cost,” says Gouthro. Mini meetings solve this problem because they ensure that the fewest number of participants are there and for the least amount of time possible.
While mini meetings are growing in popularity the logical question is – are they as effective? It would seem common sense to assume that a meeting that has fewer participants for less time together can’t compete with one in which everyone is involved and there are several days to accomplish the goals. But is that an accurate assumption?
Do Mini Meetings Mean Mini Results?
While logic seems to dictate that more time to work results in more work getting done, some experts suggest that the opposite is often true. With the right approach a mini meeting can accomplish as much, and even more, than a regular two- or three-day event.
After speaking with experts who attend, design and speak at hundreds of meetings a year, six key factors emerged as the keys to ensuring an effective mini meeting.
Clearly Define the Objectives
The biggest flaw with most meetings is a lack of clearly defined objectives. What is it that you are hoping to achieve with this meeting? Is it a budget meeting meant to find an extra $25,000 for a special project? If so, that should be the only topic of conversation. According to all three of the experts I spoke with, meetings often get off course or fail to accomplish anything significant simply because the objectives are either too vague or are not shared with everyone at the meeting.
Design the Meeting to Meet Those Objectives
A meeting should follow a plan designed to achieve the desired result. The most important thing you can do when holding a meeting is to put the time into planning and designing the meeting to be effective before the event begins.
Ravi Tangri, CSP, is a facilitator, speaker and CEO at Chrysalis Strategies Inc. He is also the co-chair for the 2015 CAPS Convention. Tangri shared that he and his co-chair are designing their convention to ensure that they help their attendees achieve their desired results. “We know that our attendees want to learn how to grow their businesses and they also want to learn from each other,” says Tangri. “We’ve designed our meeting so that there is ample opportunity for formal learning in sessions as well as more casual discussions with peers.”
Ensure the Right People are There
To be effective, people attending a meeting have to be empowered to achieve its desired results. There is little point in having a marketing meeting without key members of the marketing team in attendance. If the key decision makers aren’t there, time is wasted.
Similarly, all of the experts interviewed agreed that having people in attendance who do not need to be there is counterproductive. Not only are those people not engaged in what is happening at the meeting, they are also pulled away from doing their most important work. To ensure successful meetings, make sure you have the right people, and only the right people, in attendance.
We’ve all attended a meeting where minutes or assigned talks that come out of that meeting are not sent out for days or even weeks. According to Gouthro, delayed reporting has a significant negative impact on the effectiveness of a meeting. Send out the report from a meeting as quickly as possible upon its completion. This helps people stay focused and get tasks accomplished before other things get in the way.
Smart phones and social media have caused us to grow accustomed to being continuously connected and interactive. Today’s meeting attendee simply won’t tolerate being passive listeners. Thanks to the use of smart phones and social media, younger meeting attendees are accustomed to continuous interaction. Tangri emphasized the importance of being cognizant of this new reality and including plenty of opportunities for interaction to keep attendees engaged.
With tighter timelines of mini meetings, efficiency becomes a requirement, but efficiency has more benefits than just saving time. Michael Kerr, CSP, HoF, is known as one of North America’s leading authorities on how to create inspiring workplace environments. Having attended hundreds of meetings, Kerr says that efficiency is critical to meeting success. Ensure your presenters and participants are aware of the items that must be discussed and plan to keep them at the forefront of the discussion. When an item is resolved have a pre-planned way to move on to the next point.
So, do mini meetings mean mini impact? Not if you plan strategically and ensure that you are aware of the desired outcomes in advance. Done well, mini meetings can not only realize the same kind of impact that a regular meeting does, but it can do so while using less money and time.
Mark Black, CSP, is a resilience expert, coach and author. A heart and double-lung transplant recipient turned four-time marathon runner, Mark shares his strategies for building individual resilience with associations and corporations. www.markblack.ca
Appeared in Speaking of IMPACT, Summer 2015 Edition