A Slight Case of Miscommunication

Meetings“I think this is all a communication problem and a misunderstanding that can be resolved.” Byron Potts

Last month, at a conference about designing effective meetings, I attended an engaging presentation entitled “Dissecting the Meeting Owner.” The facilitator, doing his best medical examiner impersonation, wheeled out the conference’s host on a slab, covered in a white sheet. We were then challenged to “dissect” this meeting owner by breaking into groups and determining what barrier or “disease” was preventing us from helping him achieve his objectives. The facilitator would then work with us to determine the cure.

My group consisted of several incredibly smart people from across the globe with different backgrounds in the meetings industry. We discussed the many barriers we’ve all faced, and the common theme we found was simply that our role was misunderstood.

As I listened to the other groups report-out, I started to recall the thousands of times I’d been identified as an event planner or party planner or the person who orders food for a meeting or books hotels and really cool venues. That couldn’t be further from my actual role and responsibilities at Ketchum. As Vice President/Meeting Design, I shape the content and design of a meeting so it will deliver on our strategic objectives. I initially wasn’t sure why that was misunderstood. But then it dawned on me – it’s easy to misunderstand anything that isn’t properly communicated.

I realized that, in order to be an effective counselor, I can’t just assume my clients understand what meeting design is and what my role in their meeting planning process will be – I need to communicate how I will help them align their meeting objectives with their business objectives. I thought about all of the time I wasted being frustrated through a planning process or slighted because I was only called upon to discuss logistics. But, if I never educated them on the experience and education I have in the meeting design arena and the role I would play in their process, how could I expect them to truly understand my role? In the process of diagnosing our fictional meeting owner, I recognized my own disease: miscommunication.

Luckily, I can cure that particular disease by educating everyone on the Art of Meeting Design. According to Boone Associates, Meeting Design is the purposeful shaping of the form and content of a meeting to deliver on crucial organizational objectives. Meeting Design focuses on content and human interaction, is performed by someone with a business and human interaction background and aligns meeting objectives with business objectives.

Though the session’s time ran out before the facilitator reached our little group, I left that session with a prescription of my own: clear communication. I’m starting to feel better already!

Kimberle Adkins is Vice President/Meeting Design based in Ketchum’s New York office. She specializes in designing the content and experience for all large agency meetings. She’s a born and bred Jersey girl, a New Orleanian at heart, an intense music fan and adores her new puppy, a toy poodle named Nikki.