Are Meetings a Thing of the Past?

By Lain Ehmann

With the proliferation of Web conferencing options and the seemingly unavoidable stresses and inconveniences involved in travel, it’s natural that companies are questioning whether meetings are worth the time and effort. After all, no one cheers at the thought of attending yet another sales meeting. But don’t cash in your plane tickets just yet; according to a recent survey by Maritz Travel Company, the right kinds of meetings can be useful.

In a survey of more than 800 people who had just attended a large company-sponsored meeting or event, 92 percent of respondents said meetings or events are an effective way to communicate a company’s business message. Further, almost 90 percent of employees said the information they’d gained during company meetings would help expand or improve their job performance. In addition, more than 85 percent of those surveyed said meetings were a good way to network with their coworkers.

There are keys to making meetings successful, says Steve O’Malley, vice president of operations for Maritz Travel. Here are some suggestions.

  • Forget about the way things used to be. “Most of the rules for meetings and events in the past few years have changed,” says O’Malley. Start thinking out of the box in every area of meeting planning. “Try to freshen up the approach,” he suggests.
  • Invest in your people. Taking the team to an exotic location like Hawaii or the Caribbean is definitely a plus. But even if you can’t foot the bill for Waikiki, show your employees you care and you value them by selecting a premium property.
  • Go beyond the ordinary. O’Malley says there’s been a greater shift toward experiential meetings, rather than standard lecture-based events where attendees sit in a ballroom for three days straight.
  • Involve your employees in meeting planning. Ask them about presentation topics and formats, activities and entertainment. Get their feedback on objectives and find a way to weave together their goals with the company’s goals, says O’Malley.
  • Think about blended meetings. Maritz has planned popular events where entertainment and business are pulled together in a meaningful, inspiring or just plain fun way. For example, a major automotive manufacturer’s annual performance improvement kickoff event is always in the host city of the Super Bowl, allowing dealers to see and experience the new products and attend the big game. Other clients use high-visibility sports, business or entertainment personalities to address the team with a presentation that dovetails with the company’s business strategy.

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