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The Architecture of a Perfect Meeting

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You know the frustration that comes with poorly organized meetings.

Many issues can be resolved by an email, phone call, or a simple conversation between two people. Still, meetings are a necessary part of doing business. They’re a way for people to discuss ideas and share information in a collaborative environment.

But meetings can be better. Much better.

With some tips from Eric Bates, general manager of Wingspread, you can learn how to make your meetings more effective, efficient, and valuable for everyone involved.

How to Design and Run More Effective Meetings

Determine the Outcome

First things first, what do you want to accomplish with this meeting? Every meeting should have a purpose, and that purpose should be made clear to everyone involved before the meeting.

Eric says, "for us, and a handful of similarly elite meeting venues, we are really concerned about the outcome, about crafting an experience. We call the details, the architecture of a meeting."

The architecture of a meeting is not just about finding a date and putting people in a room. It's about making something meaningful out of the gathering. It's about delivering something impactful. Maybe the point of your meeting is to get everybody rejuvenated and recharged and set for personal and professional growth. Not every planner knows how to do that. Wingspread planners have a "toolbox" of resources and ideas to help a planner get to the goal of the meeting.

Consider the Setting

The setting of a meeting is just as important as its purpose. The environment can have a big impact on the way people interact and engage with each other.

You should consider where you will house your attendees. Will they stay at the meeting facility, or will you need to transport them?  Here at Wingspread, we built our conference center and our guest house specifically to house the folks that attend our meetings.

Eric says, "And there's an important reason for that. When people tend to come from divergent perspectives and they're trying to build a relationship during the day, the last thing you want to do is take them elsewhere where they go their own ways." He goes on to say, "that's because they connect back with the people that they're comfortable with, and they don't get to connect with the people that they might really benefit from."

Here at Wingspread, participants have multiple opportunities to socialize after the meeting. By hosting your meeting at a facility that offers ways for connection beyond the boardroom, they can learn from each other differently. Here they will open up to someone else's opinion or someone else's view and they can find some commonality.

Every connection made is an opportunity for growth; personal growth, professional growth, and business growth.

That's part of the architecture of a meeting.

Set the Agenda

All successful meetings have a clear purpose, and an agenda acts as a compass to help you meet the purpose. Meetings are goal-oriented business events and should be approached as such. And this starts with determining who meets when and why.

As a meeting planner, the stakes are higher. You're expected to provide value and enhance participant engagement and satisfaction while delivering a return on investment. Your agenda should provide attendees with something of value for large events like conferences and trade shows. Use pre-event surveys to determine what your delegates are interested in learning and incorporate interactive sessions throughout the event.

Yet, Still, Consider the "White Space"

While an agenda can provide a clear intention, it's the "white space" where the magic happens. Those unplanned moments where connections are made and fresh ideas are generated.

Eric says, "you want to give them space so that you're not constantly talking at them. They can take a bike ride, take a walk, or gather in a small group have some personal reflective time. If you cram too much into someone's head, they leave and it all kind of spills out."

The goal is for your attendees to absorb what you're delivering.

At Wingspread, we think meetings should be relatively organic. Of course, you should uncover your purpose and have topics, but during the meeting, you really have to let these things develop independently.

Invite Fewer People

Office meetings, in particular, are legendary for devolving into a series of 1:1 updates between team members. It’s easy for meetings to feel like a waste of time when some attendees are left out of the conversations.

The purpose of many meetings is to make or inform decisions, not to simply share information. Make sure you're inviting individuals who can actually make decisions or impact the issue at hand. Smaller meetings allow for quicker decisions and ensure that only the right people are invited.

At the same time, ensure you have enough participants for a productive discussion. Invite people from different teams and those who are bound to have diverse perspectives.

"It is a mistake to invite a bunch of people who think the same way. You don't want an echo chamber." Eric says, "I think part of crafting purposeful meetings is to really respect the diverse perspectives everybody brings. We encourage planners to craft the right attendee list so the right people are in the room."

Create a Safe Space for Collaboration

Work meetings can feel overwhelming for a lot of people.

Establish guidelines to ensure participants feel included and comfortable sharing their ideas. It’s also a good idea to encourage balanced participation. You don’t want one person dominating the conversation while the rest of the team sits on the sidelines.

High-performing teams are characterized by trust, confidence, and curiosity. Don't foster an environment that promotes punishment for mistakes. A truly great meeting generates a feeling of safety – it welcomes new ideas and eliminates the fear of public criticism.

Great Meetings Create Great Opportunities

A productive meeting is a breeding ground for new opportunities. It's where relationships are built and strengthened, where fresh ideas are generated, and where important decisions are made.

They create opportunities to connect both from a business and a personal perspective so that the meeting lives longer than just the time they're here at Wingspead or in any conference facility.

Eric says, "Attendees can go back home having made new connections. Then, they connect with those folks when they're back in their offices and the learning, development, and growth continues.

That's the kind of outcome that any planner would want.

In Conclusion

When asking attendees to come to a meeting, we want them to have fun, learn, engage, have great food, and then leave and do something with what they learn.

Scientifically, we're finding out that people are more willing to try different things open up during the meeting if they're enjoying it, so you've got to create an environment that makes it comfortable for them to want to open up.

Work with a Meeting Architect

At the Wingspread Retreat and Executive Conference Center, we take the guesswork out of meeting design. Our meeting architects are experts at weaving together key elements of human interaction and engagement to create measurable results. We've got everything from innovative programming to onsite dining and entertainment options.

Get in touch with our team to see how we can custom craft a meeting for you and transform your organization’s next session into one everyone remembers.