JUN 2012

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2012 Sneak Peek Directory Subscribe Advertise Contact COVER STORY: Enough of the "When it comes to organizing successful meet- ings, most fall short," said Charlie Hawkins, au- thor of "Make Meetings Matter." Wow! Did he really say that? Yes, and he said it in an interview with ConventionSouth, know- ing that meeting planners like you would be reading this. He explains, "Most planners are skilled at how to put together a meeting but need more tools for getting the group to buy in to the message. Many times, meeting planners focus on Fluff everything but the content of the meeting. They make sure it's a nice venue, that the staff is atten- tive to attendees' needs, that the programs run on time, that the catering is right—all of this is highly important and it's almost like theater. Yet, many are boring, rambling and unproductive— energy is low, frustration high and results non- existent." Bottom line, he said, "the meetings industry doesn't focus enough on the sessions themselves—what's going on in the meeting rooms." If that's not true for you, don't bother reading on, but if you're somewhat guilty of not being 100 percent concerned with the content, then you may be missing out on opportunities to increase your meetings return on investment, according to Hawkins. His book, "Make Meetings Matter," is a re- source for planning and running high-impact events that achieve real results. And he's not just writing books, but working with organizations on how to make their meetings really count through www.con v "The meetings industry doesnʼt focus enough on the sessions themselves—whatʼs going on in the meeting rooms." the when and not enough with the what. And if that's the case with you, maybe a little shift in focus will help bring back the real reason for meetings—the content. Charlie explained, "We all go to meetings for different reasons and have different agendas for attending, but very few people look forward to attending a meeting. And today, there are a lot of things that will pull people away from meetings such as text messaging, website connectivity, vir- tual meetings and so on. But there's nothing bet- ter than human interaction. So, if meetings can be dynamic, time productive and fun—this changes everything." In order to make meetings stimulating, where ideas flow, everyone participates and much is accomplished, planners should use the four "F" words: focus, facilitation, fellowship and feedback. Here's why he thinks the four Fs are critical: Todayʼs effective planners focus on engaging content By Marlane Bundock his company, Seahawk Associates. And he has a long track record of being successful at what he does as he's worked with some of high-level companies such as Procter and Gamble. We sat down with Charlie to discuss what he thinks planners can do to make their meetings matter. And yes, out of the gate, he stunned us a little by the statements about falling short. But we think he has a valid point. Maybe we are all guilty of being too concerned with the where and Focus: Productive meetings must be focused around a single purpose or objective. Focus the meeting by ranking agenda items in order of im- portance, and setting time goals. Facilitation: Effective meetings must have a neutral facilitator run the process, which frees participants to focus on content. Fellowship: Attendees should share more than just information, ideas and opinions. They should share information about themselves and relate to one another on a human level. The bet- ter participants know each other, the better they'll understand how and why their "meeting mates" respond the way they do. Feedback: Participants must be aware of how tasks are getting accomplished. They should be given feedback on the message and encour- aged to give constructive feedback. As Hawkins said, "The nice location is well and good, and that's a great way to reward atten- dees and entice them to come by getting them away from their routine. But the content, the communication, the arguments, the decisions to be acted upon—that's more important than the break from their routine." He also encourages planners to organize ses- sions that are exciting and fun and to bring in speakers that "effectively communicate, en- lighten and even change minds." And if need be, he said, consider eliminating or combining meet- ings as we don't need more meetings, but ones that work well. ■ Read more about what Charlie Hawkins, author of "Make Meetings Matter," says planners can do to produce effective events: Yes, the excessive frills are yesterdayʼs news! JUNE 2012 ConventionSouth 11

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