What Are Your Company Meetings Like?

When your organisation has a “company day” are you excited by the prospect or do you groan at the thought of hours of death by powerpoint (DBPP) and tedious presentations from people who seem to say the same things over and over again (often whilst they are looking at the screen with their backs to you)?

Now I know that happens a lot because every day there are probably thousands of company or departmental get togethers around the world full of people ready to get their blackberry out under the table so they can get some work done.

Unfortunately this is almost the norm these days and even if the company splash out to bring in an external speaker, it is still likely to be a tedious day.

Now this doesn’t mean it is not an important or even vital day, it is just that it can be such a backside-numbing experience that any real value is lost.

The challenge with these sorts of events is that they are set up to be primarily one way communications.

Even if there are break out sessions to “workshop” various issues, all we really have are fairly mundane round table discussions with someone taking a few notes.

Now am I painting a rather bleak and distorted picture of these sorts of events or is there some truth in what I have described?

Well as someone who worked in a rather large government organisation for 5 years before I started out as a professional speaker, I can tell you that my description comes from personal experience.

And now as a person who is brought into meetings like these as the external speaker, it is not really very difficult to make a lasting impact on an audience who have been stupified by masses of graphs and slides with far too much information on them.

I have been aware of this problem for these sorts of meetings for a while and a couple of years ago I was invited to speak to a company day in Brussels.

It was actually a departmental gathering for a very large multinational company and they wanted a speaker to break up the day.

As all good speakers do, I grilled my client on the day, the set up, the organisation, their objectives, the other speakers and the programme.

And it became very clear it was going to be a death by powerpoint day punctuated by my session.

[I should stress here that I am not against Powerpoint, in fact I use it extensively in my sessions, I am just against the poor use of Powerpoint which is the problem – don’t blame the message or its medium, just blame the idiot who puts it up word for word on powerpoint slides]

I pointed this out to my client and explained what was likely to happen in terms of lack of attention, loss of engagement and overall boredom threshold.

To cut a long story short, I managed to turn my one hour keynote into a consultative design and facilitation package that created a memorable day that was inspiring, insightful and far exceeded their expectations in terms of the value they got (their words not mine).

Well last year I was asked back to do the same, this time a 2 day event and in October I will be returning for the third time to design and facilitate a one day organisational get together.

So what do I do?

Well the first thing to get absolutely clear with the client is to identify what their objectives are and what outcomes they expect.

This is the most important part of this consultative process and often the hardest to get them to define.

Meetings and get togethers like this always happen, have always happened and probably will continue to happen so to have them challenged on it is something they are not used to.

Asking “How will you know you have met your objective?” and “What evidence will tell you that?” helps clarify their thought processes and forces them to get clarity on what a successful event looks like.

Once I have that information, the rest is relatively straightforward.

It is just about choosing the right sort of activity from my accelerated learning toolkit to use to get the desired objective in a way that is engaging, interactive and fun.

And than with lashings of the right sort of facilitation sauce we have an enjoyable and productive day where the client achieves the objectives they want, the people attending enjoy the day, feel they have contributed and have been heard and I have a professionally stimulating and career enhancing experience.

So if you are of the old school and are having your people sit down to listen to lots of presentations on your company day then you are really missing out on an opportunity to not only tap into the creativity and energy of your people but also to get a good handle on the underlying feelings and thoughts of what is happening on the coal face.

At last years event, I was wandering around with my client, looking at the output of one of the exercises from his organisation and he suddenly realised that his understanding of the way his people were perceiving the issues surrounding the changes they were going through was very different from reality.

The right sort of environment, coupled with the right sort of exercises, facilitated by the right sort of person can make more progress in couple of hours than a whole day of “old school” presentations.

So if your organisation is heading down the DBPP route for your next meeting, get in touch and I will give you some pointers on how to revitalise this tired old format.

You can find out more about this type of facilitation by clicking here