Buzzword: Meeting Design

Welcome back! I hope you had a nice summer and are ready for all of the exciting events that fall will bring? Though my summer vacation just ended, I’m already working on several events that will take place later on this year.

Getting ready for going back to work got me thinking of some of the words/terms we use in the meetings industry – and if everybody knows what they mean? The first term that pops up in my head is MEETING DESIGN.

When I attended the CMM (Certificate in Meeting Management) classes in Canada a few years ago, my teacher, Mary E. Boone, owner of Boone Associates, told us this very accurate description of the term:

Meeting design is the purposeful shaping of the form and content of a meeting to achieve desired results’ while ‘meeting planning focuses primarily on the logistics of the meeting’.

But what does that mean outside of the classroom? It means that we look beyond logistics, where we concentrate on the venue, food, etc., and focus on the coherence between the meeting purpose and the way we build it (=the time ratio between speeches, networking sessions, breaks, and downtime).

A meeting designer is responsible for fitting the meeting’s objectives to the overall strategy of the company and designing the meeting’s elements accordingly. Usually, that will raise questions such as ‘What is the purpose of the meeting?’, ‘What results do you want from the meeting?’, ‘What kind of experience do you want your attendees to have?’, and ‘How will you make sure they achieve this experience?’.

When you plan a meeting, it is a good idea to start your work with looking at the meeting design as the design is the basis of the meeting. The logistics will have to be adjusted to fit the design – not the other way around. In fact, I’ll argue that the logistics can ruin good meeting design if not fitted properly.

Many meeting owners get overwhelmed when they decide to have a meeting and so focus on logistics as this is usually more tangible (find a venue, book catering and transportation, invite speakers). Moreover, I believe that it’s easier to find an event planning company to take care of the logistics than it is to find one who starts your partnership with the ‘hard questions’ and base the design of the meeting on your answers.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not advocating for not taking the logistics into consideration! Logistics are exactly as important as meeting design, and there’s a both-and link between meeting design and logistics – not an either-or. Without logistics you have no event at all.

So, how do you start your meeting planning process?

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