Our President and Co-Founder, Chris Kelly, sat down with John Federico of EventHero to discuss meetings at Techsytalk 2014. Watch them talk about all things meetings and how to turn the “Conference Center” upside down.

Convene’s goal is to be the easiest place in the world to host a great meeting. But peeling the onion back a couple layers, when we started the company in 2009 it wasn’t the product of being industry insiders. In fact, it was the exact opposite. I was very far away from this industry and I took a macro view at the world with my business partner [Ryan Simonetti], and we were looking for an industry that was really in need of drastic improvement. What we observed was that while the nature of work, resources, and technology that surrounded work had evolved so much even in the past 5, but especially 10 and 15 years that the nature of physical space and services was still stuck in the era of typewriters and the industrial revolution.

The first thing we [noticed] is that good conference centers at least tend to be suburban or retreat type destinations. We brought our locations to where our clients are. We understand that people want to travel less and they want to work more as it relates to workplace. We brought our physical spaces closer and then we started developing our product which we see as being a combination of physical space and services.

We started developing a product where every single detail of the physical space, the service and the style of the service, the food service, and like very relevant here, the technology. We’re completely reimagined to help to materially produce a better meeting.


A Meeting Is Not A Meeting

We dared to ask, “So what do you do inside the meeting room when we close the door?”

What we found is that there are three distinct meeting types:

  1. Evaluative Meetings-where decisions are made
  2. Generative Meetings-where ideas are created through the process of inspiring the participants, extracting their ideas, combining and synthesizing them into some more important outcome, which is the goal of the meeting
  3. Informative Meetings– where there is a predetermined set of information that’s being shared with an audience (i.e. sales training)

“Once we understood those three different meeting types, we were able to design around them and physically improve those outcomes. Not every meeting is exclusively one or the other, but typically there is a dominant purpose of the meeting. And all you have to do is ask and people will tell you. They know real quickly.”

 

Understanding the Role of the Meeting Planner

“The first step in understanding how to serve stakeholders better and how to serve meetings better, is to break down the different stakeholders and the different meetings into their finest parts, and then understand the nuances and proprietary needs that each one of those categories has. We don’t look at our client as being a singular demographic. We look at our client and say, “Well, there is a meeting planner who has different needs and preferences, and concerns, and aspirations than the lead facilitator or delegate, or executive who has different priorities from the general participants.” We understand that within those demographics that each industry might have a different dynamic that a sales conference where networking is happening is different than an internal training program.

“I think people just need to really appreciate the role of a meeting planner. I don’t even think a lot of meeting planners understand their strategic relevance to the companies and organizations that they work for, that this is not about logistics and moving tables and chairs, and selecting what’s for lunch. This is about being the orchestrator of intellectual capital.”

 

A lot of people focus on the aesthetic or kind of catchy, ‘eventsy’ type things. If you’re really a meeting planner or you’re really organizing the intellectual capital of the organization, you need to fully embrace that role and need to help within the executives and within the other people of the organizations. We really need to collectively as a community and industry work toward creating better awareness of the strategic importance of meeting planning and hosted events because there’s a real big opportunity out there and we all have an obligation to satisfy it.

 

 

 

 


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