There is a lot of change in the air right now. With change comes uncertainty, and with uncertainty comes fear and stress. Meeting attendees are always stressed, but that stress has elevated and expanded to new levels in light of today’s uncharted times.
While this may not be front-of-mind for meeting planners, it should be. Participants who are feeling stressed and overwhelmed aren’t going to be able to fully take in the information and experiences you are creating. Meeting planners must consciously plan environments that will make participants feel safe so they can learn and grow. Meetings must create certainty in these times of uncertainty.
Time to Dam Up the Deluge
Attendees don’t need or want another meeting—they want an experience that connects them to the information they have and teaches them how to apply it in their lives. In many cases, they also need to know what information they can let go of.
What this means for planners: Choose to shift away from planning meetings that are a deluge of experiences and information and toward meetings that provide a flow of two-way idea exchanges and time to process information. Participants need to feel safe to agree—and disagree—so they can create a common ground that enables them to move forward. Meetings can provide that connection and community, but planners must build in time for it to happen.
Create a Safe Space for Connection
Meetings also are the place where humans can come together to connect emotionally with one another. No matter how good our technology gets, there is still a magic that happens when two or more people gather in person that cannot be felt via email, Zoom, or Skype. Planners must create opportunities for participants to connect their energy, to deepen connections that may have been made initially via a phone call or email in the way that can only happen when people are face to face.
Business is done at the speed of feeling trusted, safe, and secure in working with one another.
Practical Ways to Make Meetings More Effective
Meeting planners who can influence the C-suite decision makers and advocate for meetings that are two-way idea exchanges and collaboration-friendly will have more success than those who simply build meetings as a one-way communication channel.
Here are some elements you can add or highlight in your upcoming meetings to make them meet the needs of participants during uncertain times:
- Meditation to bring participants fully into the meeting
- Visioning to provide time for participants to think creatively about the future of themselves and the organization
- White space to allow time for learning to take root
- Open space to allow people to connect on their own terms
- Speakers who are conversation conductors, not just “talking heads,” to facilitate connection, idea exchange, and community