Choose an appropriate location
This may seem obvious, but there are some criteria to think about. When deciding on a venue, the number of participants and the size of the meeting rooms are, indeed, not the only things that matter. The venue must be able to provide all the elements necessary to transform ideas and engage participants: the reception, meeting rooms, auditorium, space to relax, catering, broadband networks, bedrooms, security, services, etc. All this logistical support must be available and suited to the specific needs of the company.
Organize the space to meet the objectives of the meeting
A good meeting needs more than a table and some chairs: the space must be entirely suited to the project concerned. Various set-ups can be envisaged: islands, tables in a U shape, a theater layout; there is no lack of possibilities. Attention must also be given to the acoustics in the room. For example, if it there is excessive echoing, too much light or no windows, this changes the working atmosphere completely.
Make sure you invite the right people
Why am I here? That’s what some participants can end up wondering when the organizers invite a whole department without asking themselves whether everyone has a contribution to make. “Having everyone attend” is well intentioned, but participants to whom the issue the meeting is discussing is not relevant will become bored, feel that they are wasting their time and may even demotivate others.
Adjust to the needs throughout the day
Being adaptable is the key to success: the ways in which the meeting can be organized to enable participants to move around must be determined in advance. There is nothing worse than spending the entire day sitting down on the same chair in the same place. How the space is organized reflects a way of working: a theater layout is for top-down messages; tables set up in a U shape encourage participation; a series of islands is for working in small groups. These three set-ups may be used to respond to the changing nature of the work throughout the day: a briefing and they key objectives, followed by collective exchanges and finally the generation of ideas in small groups.
Set the pace and establish milestones
After an hour, the rules must be changed; there must be breaks for re-energizing the brain and preserving motivation. The plan for the day must be established and announced from the start, and participants must be regularly reminded of the timing. By providing time markers, the various stages in the reflection process can take shape. In this regard, the context for the day must be created and maintained: reiteration of the objectives, highlighting of the progress made and announcement of what still needs to be done.
See the meeting as an experience
The space makes it possible to set the scene for the day. By changing the material organization, different scenarios are created. This is also a way of turning the meeting into an experience, in other words of providing participants with time when they are engaged, time in which to nurture conviviality and time for exchanges of views.
This means limiting the number of participants or, at a certain point in time, dividing the participants into teams to foster the voicing of opinions. It should be noted that this is not group therapy: there must be a facilitator to lead and focus the discussions. The objective is not necessarily to have everyone speak but to collect ideas and take them into account.
(This article was prepared with the help of Alexandra Fix, of Edge Work, a partner of LesFontaines in the facilitation of events).