Great content, inspiring speakers, a beautiful location, perfect catering and of course the best suited moderator ... they are all useless if the programme is badly designed.
A good meeting design consists of a number of elements. In a series of articles we will deal with them one by one. This story is about: the structure.
If you look at the ideal structure of your programme, then each part should get the place in the programme where it has the most impact on the final result of the meeting. In doing so, you always look at the relation to the components before and after it. By constantly and deliberately taking the most effective step towards the end goal, a natural flow is created.
We always keep a few things in mind.
The end result
You can only come up with a good structure if you know what the end goal is.
Compare it to using Google Maps: it cannot tell you which turns to take, if you have not told it where you want to go. Once you have determined the goal, you can start thinking about what is needed to achieve it.
From the objective, you can work your way back and determine what intermediate steps are needed: between the starting point and the end point. Simple examples of such a route are:
First convince the participants that there is a problem, then look at possible solutions and finally agree on the approach to take.
Or first Assess how participants view a certain situation, then decide where the biggest profit opportunities lie and then decide together how to capitalise on them.
You see: each time, these are steps in a process on the way to a goal.
So each separate part of the programme should have its own function. This means that you should also make a dedicated design for each component: how do you get participants to participate and how do you achieve the final goal of this specific chapter in your programme?
You start working on this part, once the end result and route have been determined.
A construction can only be solid if it has cohesion; like stones in a wall overlapping each other. An effective programme also has this overlap: the end point of a section should also be the logical starting point for the next chapter in the programme.
If not, the programme lacks coherence and participants will loose their bearing.
A good programme is held together by creative cement: the transitions between the various components must therefore also be designed with care.
The moderator of the day and interactive working methods can play an important role here.
Only when the basic structure and objective have been determined you start thinking about the materials. Too often, people work the other way round: first they book speakers and think of cool workformats, then they try to cram this into a logical programme.
But actually, you should postpone the implementation until the programme has been worked out in terms of purpose, function and structure. Only then can you determine which speaker or workformat best helps to achieve this (partial) goal.
A building is rarely just practical; it can also be beautiful. After all, people also have to feel comfortable in it.
The same applies to meetings: Make it creative. Besides great content, allow room for fun and entertainment.
Too often we just design by default, throwing some random off-the-shelf component together. A programme only becomes really effective if we approach construction and content very strategically and step-by-step. Creativity and entertainment only make sense if they are embedded in a well thought-out plan.
Jan-Jaap In der Maur