We’ve all left large (100+ people) meetings scratching our heads, wondering what was accomplished. A “Dilbertesque” waste of resources does little to boost morale. The cost of people, production, and perhaps travel adds up. Attendees have work “to do” lists, sacrifice family time, and “just want a little respect.” People expect and deserve positive meeting experiences.
Successful meetings require a focus on the basics. Then, after core components of the meeting are established, consider improving audience participation and retention by matching meeting goals with technical support.
Meeting Plan Basics:
- Determine the meeting purpose with clear attainable goals.
- Set a concise agenda. Send the agenda to participants with backup material at least one week prior to the meeting.
- Know what attendees need to learn and what needs to be learned from attendees. Plan how that will be accomplished.
- Involve participants in the process.
- Mix it up. Schedule time for structured conversation and unstructured activities.
- Stay on track of time.
- Get feedback.
- Follow through on meeting action steps.
Technical support might further accomplish meeting goals. Today there are a variety of hand held devices and APPs for meetings that enable participants to text answers, questions, and new ideas. Texts can be shared, either confidentially or with the writer’s name included. For participants who have innovative ideas and prefer not to speak in a microphone, texting captures their thoughts – a valuable advantage.
For those who are comfortable using microphones, some devices have built-in microphones that enable people to talk to the group without waiting for or walking to the nearest microphone. Some devices have a timer so participants get equal talking time. Unusually outspoken attendees are prevented from monopolizing the conversation.
Susan Warren Abrams, Director of Business Development, East, at iml, knows firsthand how a hand held device or APP can significantly improve audience retention and participation. Susan’s company, iml, provides a variety of hand held devices and APPS that enable meeting planners to find the best device or APP fit for particular meeting goals.
Susan knows that if attendees are participating, they are more likely to pay attention. If for example a speaker asks questions to audience members, and audience members can immediately respond with hand held devices, the audience is likely to remain alert. And, if audience members are handed a device to use at the meeting, they are likely to use it (as opposed to asking participants to use their smart phones). Rather than getting talked at, attendees are part of the conversation. They’re engaged and leave remembering what they’ve heard. They feel a sense of accomplishment.
Incorporating the best fit technology, Susan emphasizes, requires asking, “What is your measure of meeting success?” Establishing the meeting goal is critical – as well as staying within budget and attendance. For example, do you want to hear others’ opinions about a project? Are you interested in gathering information about attendees’ greatest challenges? Can you improve communication by asking for feedback? Are you managing a focus group and want open-ended or structured responses? In short, what information do you want to gain, and what is the most efficient way to get it?
When deciding on the best device or APP, Susan cautions that it’s important to know if the meeting venue is set up for “simultaneous use,” for all attendees to be on Wi-Fi at the same time. Ask the venue for the brand name of their Wi-Fi and the model number for the routers. Test on site. Not all venues are equipped for all devices. Some devices and APPs do not require a lot of Wi-Fi; some do. Additional Wi-Fi might be needed. Wi-Fi capacity affects the kind of device or APP choice, as well as budget considerations.
Susan also recommends finding out if the meeting attendees are comfortable using technology. Will the participants appreciate the benefits or feel frustrated by unfamiliar demands? The need for efficiency and inclusion needs to be weighed with audience acceptance.
Meetings, like all events, present opportunities. Opportunities are maximized with optimal planning and technology. When technology complements how communication is shared, the organization and attendees benefit. “Dilberts” disappear. Attendees feel validated. Management conveys important information and gets valuable feedback.
Susan says, The next time you attend a meeting, ask yourself:
- What did you learn?
- What did you accomplish?
- What did you do?
- If attendee participation was not aided by hand held devices or Apps, would that technology have improved the experience?
Consider technical possibilities. Thank you, Susan Warren Abrams!
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