There is an adage in corporate America that says the average executive will spend 75% of her time in meetings. In my own experience, I have found this to be true. As the president of a marketing consulting firm with many Fortune 500 clients, I am called upon to constantly design effective meetings for them.
Unfortunately there is no set formula on the appropriate way to design the “perfect meeting” for a Fortune 500 company. However, there are certainly key factors to keep in mind.
Set Objectives & Direct Audience Mood
The most obvious is having a clear meeting objective and being able to connect that objective to the everyday performance metrics, challenges and aspirations of your audience. One unspoken but important challenge in accomplishing your meeting’s objective is the ability to pre-assess the attendees’ likely mood. If the anticipated mood of participants is one of resignation or “no matter what I do, nothing is really going to fix this business problem”, your job includes the challenge of shifting the group to a mood of possibility or “there may well be new solutions that will work here”. Identifying and addressing moods requires the ability to observe a company’s culture as well as individual’s interpersonal interactions – something you can develop with time and experience. Success truly begins when you can tap into the unspoken concerns of your attendees and address them directly.
Go from Good to Great
As importantly, every company is unique. Having a solid understanding of a company’s culture, personality and capabilities are the most essential preparatory component; insomuch as they guide the organization. A simple way to begin is to ascertain the company’s traditional definition of a “good” or “bad” internal meeting. Talk to your contacts (and maybe their assistants) to get a sound idea of the company’s barometer of successful meetings (short and sweet, awesome PowerPoint, highly interactive, open forum/idea generation, etc) – then use that as your benchmark. Once you fully understand the components of the company’s best meeting then your challenge is to do it better! In many cases this may mean adding a new element. For example, I have brought in noted guest speakers, formulated innovative workshop sessions, utilized online meeting technologies and hosted interactive sessions with generally inaccessible high level executives. Of course, there can be many meeting differentiators but the key is honing in on what can make the meeting stellar.
There is finesse involved in wow-ing Fortune 500 companies, but the key takeaway should always be that you are prepared, articulate and concise. If we are all spending 75% of time in meetings, you want yours to stand out.