Are too many company meetings (as planned by The Other Guy, of course) falling short of expectations these days? Have you wondered why? Were those failed meetings complete in their construction? Whether or not the vetting of agendas is a company policy now, it should be if the company values efficient and effective learning sessions and tools. It's likely that HR will need to lead the charge, if vetting is not already required.
Why do meetings still matter? Because, in its annual surveys of years past, "Training" magazine has found that the majority of its respondents still choose the meetings format for the majority of their communications events. That's the majority of the majority, even with distance-learning and collaboration available! And arithmetic's being what it is, that majority-majority represents at least 25% of all events. . .up to who-knows?
If meetings are properly constructed, then they must fulfill the same dictates as do any other learning/training programs--merely more briefly and not so stringently. Unfortunately, too many meeting agendas are comprised of topics hastily thrown together because the topics are needed or hot or otherwise favored by top management.
But such throw-together agendas are usually not complete, in the learning/training sense. Whether or not the educational principles are observed by your company's meeting-callers, principles exist and operate. . .if only on a failure basis.
Learning/training programs need to present clearly specified tasks that are do-able and measurable, with needed tools and practice provided so as to prove achievement at 'graduation' or at a specific time later. Meetings must provide a specific message or request that can logically be fulfilled with clear information and tools provided now, or within specific time and standards parameters for future measure. That's delivery for sometime in the future--but how and when will they be measured? Slippage seems built-in unless excluded by agenda planning in the original agenda.
Then relate that complete educational construct to the participants' most-coveted topic: themselves! Before it became ignored, the adage was WIIFMe (or "What's In It for Me?"). People act for their own reasons more than for yours. So how will they benefit as individuals, too, along with the company? And KITA (Kick in the Ash) should already be a dead concept: their jobs cannot be at stake every time they go into somebody's poorly-planned meeting.
Enter incentives. You can get people to expend extra energy for a short time in order to gain a specific item if they value it. That's an aspect of greed. Don't expect too much energy in exchange for ash trays. Any extra energy that's expended will probably disappear as soon as the prize is won. Incentives, by contrast--especially when used in contests (persons against self, team, company average) reflect internal values and motivations and will help to establish worthwhile new habits.
Good new habits will likely continue to be useful to some degree after the contest ends. Incentive houses themselves will tell you that any peak falls to a lower plateau that nevertheless is higher than the old plateau.
And, yes, prestige (like plaques and "employee of the month") does count. . .but it's not all-powerful to many persons, who value family or other personal values above peer opinions. Such persons really need a WIIFMe motive, not ash trays.
But that's not the end of the differences in agenda planning. All learning is divided into three domains: cognitive, psychomotor, and affective: that is, to know, to perform physically, or to comply outwardly with policy. Occasionally, two or more can be blended, but one is usually dominant in any given program.
Whereas training sessions can be attuned to any of the three domains, meetings tend to be limited to cognitive presentations: an auditorium full of people cannot "confer"; so lectern predominates. Practice is usually not possible in the main meetings rooms or auditoriums; but break-out sessions at any central meeting must provide for the needed practice with tools, which can be continued at their home offices before schedules testing. Competence, attitudes, and resulting compliance with demands for new psychomotor skills are often not measurable during the durations of the central meetings.
Those differences also point up the key problems that companies have when attempting to convert training materials into distance learning format. Computers deal best with cognitive learning tasks--things that can be presented complete as if in a book when on screen.
However, relatively few types of assignable tasks can be practiced on the computer: arithmetic, grammar, and matching-games, yes; bicycle riding, ice skating, or sales cold calling, no. Which types of tasks are yours--for which programs?
Now look back at a couple of those disappointing meetings. Do you see what was missing from a comprehensive format? If no discussion or assignment was needed, what was the purpose of that meeting? How could the participants know what was expected of them--if anything is specified--as a result? Confused participants will do nothing once outside the meeting room. And they will do nothing--ever--on today’s assignment if they don't feel confident about their newly-demanded presentation methods when made to their own peers or clients.
If ever the company makes inappropriate assumptions about any assignments based on incomplete meetings construct, the company--not the participant--is at fault. Failure is earned; nothing is random! Meetings concepts are paramount, but key concepts can't be sold or photographed--and that creates a problem for magazine editors. They need pictures of something . . . and that something needn't be related to your company's message or other needs.
Lavender widgets and glorified gadgets, hotel properties, and travel modes and destinations can all be photographed! But widgets and gadgets, no matter how pretty or glorious, will not make your meetings succeed beyond your wildest hopes. So give-away-magazine copy tends to be fluffy and fun and not related to reality. Current articles and topics speak breathlessly of "new" concepts by Sam the Savior that were already old in the 1970s.
Stories in the meetings/conventions industry magazines are often figments of the imagination of writers who lack experience in the meetings discipline, especially if their favorably-opinionated work has appeared often enough to be classified, by their editors, into "experienced" or "expert." That's not necessarily true in reality--if ever. Standards have no place in the repertoire of the meetings industry (distinct from the practicing professional field) and its several controlled-circulation magazines! Purveyor-members of at least one user-association have actually refused to let the topic of standards be bought to a vote. . .at a loss to its user-members!
But if failure is earned, then the industry says that any failure is your fault for choosing the wrong color of widget or wrong shape of gadget . . . because "everybody knows" that widgets and gadgets are the saviors of any meeting agenda. How does "everybody know" that? Because everybody was told that . . .by those freebie, controlled-circulation magazines. No proofs--no studies--just opinions.
Unfortunately, those press opinions usually run contrary to proofs that were delivered decades ago by the U.S. Military, many through the Human Resources and Research Organization (HumRRO). HUmRRO wrote many of the reports that examined various methods of teaching recalcitrant inductees to become productive within six weeks of training in their assigned military MOS.
Although the military findings were available to the public (and were summarized in meetings/training-related books and articles; this writer's among others), the controlled-circulation press of that industry have never acknowledged the fact of, or printed the findings of, those contrary military investigations and research. Together with an earlier, seed publications by civilians Dick & Carey, research results informed the world's first cohesive design program, known as ISD: Instructional Systems Development in the military appellation and Instructional Systems Design in the expensive private-service terminology.
Military ISD is easy to implement at any company. It just takes attention to detail, as stipulated by the step-by-step military procedure. The various services competed to design responsive programs, and the US Navy won the contest. Because it is do-able by individual companies, ISD has been denigrated in print by opinionated purveyor-writers who were serving the interests of themselves and the advertisers.
As a result of the fudging of facts by the meetings/conventions industry, the editors of mainstream magazines are now beginning to pick up the misinformation and disinformation because uncertain mainstream writers and editors both defer to the misinformation and disinformation that emanate from the freebie press.
For instance, INC Magazine ran an article in early 2008 that stated (on the cover, no less) that "Fun is now a core value." How, when Frederick Herzberg found that quality of supervision was the greatest dissatisfier among employees? Are persons who are looking for fun employment likely to be the most productive and committed employees over the long run? And this disinformation is offered at a time when employees' lack of loyalty is beginning to match the disloyalty of some top managers in sick companies. When this writer was young, we were taught that if the company didn't have problems, it also wouldn't have the jobs that should solve the problems.
If believed, the never-proved opinions from the meetings/conventions industry will severely damage well-intentioned but insecure managements!
If your budget permits you to out-source your meetings/training minutiae via consultants, then(with the military teachings in mind, you will do a better job of supervising those consultants. If you know ISD, then, together with your consultant (if you choose to out-source) you will thereby construct a better final-product program--whether meetings or training.
If failure is earned, so is success--via competent, comprehensive meeting agendas that achieve and measure stated objectives!