Do you organize meetings or conferences? Here are 3 tips to increase effectiveness.

Practicum 2020, Estonia

In early February, meeting designers from 19 countries gathered in Estonia for a 48-hour meetathon Meeting Design Practicum 2020 to develop three recommendations for holding more effective meetings and conferences, using the example of UN COP Climate Conferences. 

The annual meeting took place in Viinistu on 6–8 February and was powered in Estonia by MySpotit, the platform for sharing meeting rooms, whose representative Hardi Kinnas said: “During the Practicum, we thoroughly analyzed climate conferences which are being held all over the world in impressive numbers, but these discussions do not often result in actual changes. Meetings in a number of other sectors run into the same problem: an enormous amount of time and money is spent, but the business goals set for the meetings do not often get achieved.” 

The recommendations on how to make meetings and conferences more efficient, devised during the Practicum, are listed below. These can be used by anyone who faces the organization of meetings or conferences. 

1.     Use the approaches typical of start-ups

Outdated project management methods do not work anymore in making major meetings and conferences happen: they should be replaced with the approach start-ups normally take. Starting work with wording the final goal is an outdated management method. What is more efficient is agile methods: working step by step by means of setting smaller interim objectives. The wording of the intended results should cover a timeframe of only a few weeks or months. When the interim objectives have been achieved, go on working, and another method that can be used then is, for example, sprint

Teams that constantly work together achieve the best results. The process expert monitors the team members’ communication and act as mediators whenever conflict obstructs progress. 

As far as the solution to climate problems is concerned, countries would benefit from collaboration. Two or three countries in the same region should be selected for it as they would be likely to have similar climate issues. They are to take action together in a specific field, for instance, planting trees, accelerating the energy transition, reforming the systems of household heating, etc. Celebrating the success they have achieved will give momentum to performance and facilitate starting collaboration in a larger group of countries. Holding annual large-scale conferences with a view to finding solutions to climate crises is not a good idea. As these conferences usually have a different organizer every time, knowledge fades, momentum is lost, and political goals come to the fore. In addition, the organization of large-scale conferences leaves a huge carbon footprint. 

2. Team up with organizations which hold similar values

Mass movements are the most efficient medium for influencing policymakers. For major changes to take place, cooperation with the social groups and organizations that are already highly influential is worth considering. The solutions for reaching the goal might sometimes be unexpected, for example, working with religious organizations that exercise a great deal of influence all over the world. 

One example of such collaboration is Greta Thunberg, who is on very friendly terms with Pope Francis. Until Greta Thunberg remained a symbol of the young, she was vulnerable, unimportant and could be easily ignored at elections, but not a single politician can ignore the movement she has initiated these days. 

The same principle applies to meetings: before summoning one, the goal should be set, potential partners for collaboration whose values could overlap with yours for achieving the goal should be mapped, and participants should be invited on the basis of the above. The distribution of roles depending on the goal of the meeting is very important and allows all the participants to do homework for the goal of the meeting to be achieved.

3.  Follow the example of successful companies

In the organization of meetings and conferences it is worth following the example of successful companies, for example, such a rapidly growing enterprise as Bolt, Transferwise, Pipedrive or Veriff, which aim to maximize the efficiency of all their activities. The internet is a good source of a great variety of meeting formats, and the option you choose must be based on the goal of your meeting. Some examples are provided below. 

Smart time management

Use the tips provided by start-ups and schedule the meeting for some other time than on the hour; for instance, choose 11:03, and a couple of minutes will be reserved for those who are late, but the uncommonly precise starting time will clearly signal all the participants that this is exactly when the meeting will start. 

Take the meeting out of your office

If the meeting room is inspiring, namely, there are various seating options, means for entertainment, coffee and healthy snacks and plenty of daylight, the discussions held in it will also be inspiring. Rent a meeting room somewhere else than your office and let its layout do half of the work for you. Other options good for collaboration are coworking spaces where one can rent a desk or meeting room. 

Use various formats and technologies

The Paris Climate Conference implemented the African meeting format known as Indaba, which implied inviting the countries to take part in the discussions they find interesting before the beginning of the conference.

Widespread technology-based engagement solutions are Kahoot and Mentimeter, and the Blackchannel method is used for taking part in conversations in real-time during conferences. There is a great variety of formats and smart applications available today, so make them work for you. 

The founder of the Dutch company MindMeeting, meeting designer Eric de Groot, cited an example of how 19 meeting designers of 12 nationalities working globally for a plethora of clients came up with an impressive number of recommendations in a relatively short time. “No fights, no misunderstanding, no mistrust. The Practicum itself is based on values and is a not-for-profit, independent, initiative. We prove the power of meetings. Use that power”.

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Practicum 2020, Estonia

Meeting Design Practicum 2020 comprised meeting designers from Spain, Taiwan, USA, Denmark, Ecuador, the Netherlands, India, Italy, and Austria. This years’ Guest Chief Designer was Lubo Tomko from Slowakia and the event was co-organized by the Estonian Convention Bureau and Estonian entrepreneurs Hardi Kinnas from and Tiina-Katrina Kaber from EnterTraining.

Hardi Kinnas

In this blog, I focus on MySpotit every day life and share tricks from telecommuting and meetings.