Free Crash Course in Meeting Improvement

By Julie Sturgeon

Congratulations – you’ve just been promoted to sales manager. And your first job? Plan the next sales meeting. Now, what?

If the famous “I’m going to Disney World” ad pops to mind, it’s a bit premature. Eventually your team could end up wearing mouse ears to celebrate quotas met, but today, you’re merely one of thousands of ordinary Joes who find themselves in charge of hundreds of daily meetings, powwows and collaborative sessions along the route to the ultimate goal.

For guidance through the daily grind, many sales managers type in to access the 3M Visual Systems Division’s fountain of help. Michael Begeman, manager of this 3M Meeting Network, admits that the sponsor is “clearly in the business of selling products, and sometimes when there’s a product tie-in, we do that.” But don’t write this site off as glorified advertising. For starters, the information in the article archive reflects 40 years’ worth of 3M’s focus groups, end-user studies and university research on meetings it’s funded.

“In the three years since we started the Meeting Network, we’ve surveyed 10,000 people on their meeting habits: how much time they spend in meetings, the average size of their meetings and their pet peeves,” says Begeman.

As a result, the site offers instant help via articles containing great meeting tips, effective activities and peer input. The Success Story and Nightmare Story sections of the site gather the lion’s share of hits, Begeman notes, as users thrive on vicariously spilling coffee in attendees’ laps, nervously clicking pens throughout a speech and bringing family slides instead of pie charts. The newest addition to the site: web conferencing powered by PlaceWare technology at no charge during a 30-day trial.

The underlying idea, of course, is to electronically model the same interactivity your meeting needs to make it effective, so participate in the click-throughs knowing you’re not piddling. You’re merely smoothing the way to the Magic Kingdom.