Thanks to Tim Brown, CEO of Meeting Sites Resource, for this amazing blog post.
He reminds us that "managing meeting stakeholder expectations" is a critical part of our job description. On the surface, this topic seems like a no-brainer, since most meeting planners' core skills are meeting planning, execution and logistics. But often, that is the problem: with a complete focus on being "efficient," many meetings today are not "effective."
Now don't get me wrong, meeting logistics and implementation excellence is a must in our rapidly expanding Strategic Meeting Management (SMM) environment, but equally important is a meeting needs assessment process that identifies all stakeholder goals, objectives, and results in a specific plan to deliver and measure success.
The need for measurable meeting ROI and expanded collaboration to achieve big picture meeting goals has increased the number of people with their hands, or fingerprints, on the overall meeting management process. The key is to identify each stakeholder, understand his role and specific contribution, and then become a resource to him to assure quality outcomes. Think of yourself as a general contractor working with many internal and external sub-contractors to build a magnificent house (in this case, a meeting).
In the SMM world, managing expectations is called Return on Objectives (ROO). Simply put, this is making meeting visions a reality. Here is my quick overview regarding Return on Objectives: “The ability to identify meeting stakeholder(s) objectives for each meeting and create meeting design, content and communications that address each objective. This includes post-meeting analysis that measures results and validates that meeting objectives are achieved.”
To assess the scope and complexity of stakeholder communications, an interesting exercise is to create a stakeholder communications chart, “connecting the dots” to the many internal and external people, services and support essential to assure a highly successful meeting.
• Human Resources
• Corporate Communications
Strategic meeting objectives go beyond meeting budgets and cost savings, and this requires both collaboration and value-based thinking to achieve maximum results. When you meet or have a phone interview with a key stakeholder and identify specific goals and objectives for a meeting, it is important to present your recommendations and plan to assure that you are on the right track. Your post-meeting analysis of each defined objective, as well as measurement of the actual outcome, validates your success -- just making it happen is not enough, so “keep score” and report results.
• Hotel Departments
• Conference Services
• Business Center
• Audio Visual
• Registration & Housing
• Exhibits / Trade Show
• Cruise Ship
With your meeting stakeholder goals and objectives in hand, it is critical to evaluate and select suppliers and partners who will understand and embrace these essential visions and be part of the team that will deliver predictable and high-impact outcomes. Keep in mind there may be multiple suppliers to deliver on one objective, so the planning, communications, and collaboration processes are critical.
Meetings are big investments and today meeting planners must get in to the heads -- and hearts -- of meeting stakeholders at all levels to orchestrate a total meeting experience that raises the bar on meeting value, attendee interaction, and ROI.
During times when budgets are tight and return on investment is at the top of everyone's list of goals, meeting planners are urged to be more 'strategic' and not to focus so much on 'tactics.' The origin of this seeming dicotomy is "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu, and when these ideas were codified more than 2,000 year ago, the focus wasn't on meetings and events. When these terms are used today in our industry, we all get the implication: strategy-good; tactics-whatever.
Strategy is important for the overall plan, for aligning goals, for creating meetings that meet organizational objectives. On the other hand, tactics in the meetings industry are often assumed to be mundane decisions about issues like rounds or squares. On the other hand, those of us in the industry know that tactics are critical to the success of any meeting and to driving the meeting strategy.
While a strategy is a carefully constructed plan to achieve corporate goals, tactics are necessary to execute strategy. Smart tactics. If tactics are not carefully implemented, the meeting can be a disaster and no amount of strategic thinking can save it. They are the tools that help build the strategy. There is no good vs. bad in the discussion of strategy vs. tactics, no matter what you might read in the business press. Tactics are too important to be described as a lesser endeavor. Strategy and tactics are interdependent to the success of any initiative, and especially meetings.
Elizabeth Zielinski says it well: "The best meetings probably lie somewhere between tactical and strategic, but with a strong command of both. The tactics have to be successfully designed and executed in order for the strategy to succeed, but the strategy is the guiding principle and common goal. In other words, there's no point announcing the next iPad to an audience of thousands if the giant screen behind the speaker isn't displaying the product, but there's also no point in having the screen without a product to show on it." To read more of her thoughts on this issue, click here: