David Pointon considers the survival imperative of running productive meetings at a time when business focus is on costs and productivity.

It’s no secret that most corporate service providers in the conference and meetings industry are finding business tough. At a time when businesses are watching their costs like low flying hawks, productivity becomes critical.

Productivity is the ability to maximise outputs for a given input. That means getting maximum business impact from the time, effort and ingenuity of staff. It means extracting bottom line value from meetings and conferences.

If we in the MICE industry are not talking about helping our clients run highly productive meetings right now, it is likely that our service is not relevant. Productive meetings help us survive and thrive.

So what is a productive meeting, and how can you deliver one for your client? Here are three things to focus on:

1. Feeling productivity

In our industry, we want people to feel good as they leave meetings. But in tight times, the feel good factor is influenced by different factors.

The cheque signer of your next conference may be smiling on the outside, but are they leaving the meeting feeling that it was genuinely productive? More importantly, do you know what they want to see achieved in order for the meeting to be productive?

An insurance sales team client told us of a conference they held that was like a McDonalds meal. At the time, it felt great and they left smiling. However soon after it was over, they felt empty and wondered what of any substance had been achieved.

  • What would it take for your client to feel that their meeting was highly productive?
  • Have you helped the meeting cheque signer crystallise clearly the business impact they want?

2. Seeing productivity

Most outcomes achieved from meetings are intangible. What is a decision but some voices saying ‘yes’. What is a strategy but words on a white-board?

It is vital in your meetings that you make the intangible tangible. The feeling of a productive meeting quickly evaporates if it is not seen in print, as a product, or as actions being taken.

Following a highly productive government agency conference, we returned a documented outputs pack within 48 hours. However, the client then took a month to forward on to delegates. Without seeing this pack, the feeling of productivity had diminished and action in follow up waned quickly.

To remove this road-block the following year, we arranged to have an outputs document in the hands of delegates as they left the building.

  • How are you converting the outputs of your next meeting into a tangible product?
  • How can you turn out meeting products efficiently and fast?

3. Realising productivity

Feeling good, and holding meeting outputs in your client’s hands delivers zero productivity unless they follow through in earnest over the proceeding months.

Part of your promise in running productive meetings for your clients should be a review of business impact some time afterwards.

This means that in the planning stage, you will establish a clear picture of what productive outcomes the client really wants, as well as how and when they will measure this with you. Your service offering becomes more consultative, and closely tied to their business performance.

A client held a conference in July with 150 of their people to drive through a new customer service strategy. They reviewed the business impact four months later, allowing enough time for the true impact to show up. Measures included revenue and customer value numbers, as well as intangible behaviour indicators revealing whether service at key points in the customer lifecycle had improved.

  • Have you established how you will measure the business impact of your next client meeting?
  • Do you have the skills and confidence to consult around business impact? If not, who could you partner with who has these skills?

Productive meetings make good business sense. In tough times, they become a business imperative and a matter of survival for those working in the MICE industry. Focussing on delivering highly productive meetings will make you a valuable business partner and help you to survive and thrive. m

David Pointon is the managing director of FAST Meetings Co., an Australian based organisation who works with industries, associations and government to design and facilitate highly productive meetings. To learn more about FAST Meetings visit www.fastmeetings.com.au