By Beth Buehler
There are three categories regarding people and meetings: enjoy, don’t mind and strongly dislike. Why do people hate meetings? I fall into the first two categories due to working out of a home office in the mountains of Colorado and wanting interaction with people and not just my black Lab, Sasha, who hangs out with me most of the day.
So I’m not going to be the “problem child” in the room when it comes to convincing me meetings are worthwhile unless they are poorly organized, run way over or have no purpose, which are among the reasons why people hate meetings.
This topic reminds me of a conversation with Tami Forero, CEO/owner of Colorado Springs-based Forté Events, when interviewing her for a feature story about meeting and event branding for Colorado Meetings + Events magazine. She noted the importance of letting attendees know what to expect when giving them information about an upcoming meeting or event and to make it worthwhile and fun for them to attend. Corporate event attendees are the toughest to convince and win over, she noted.
The dialogue with Tami, who has served on my editorial advisory board and the International Live Events Association Denver Board of Directors is a good segue into four reasons that discover why do people hate meetings.
They have to attend. This was Tami’s main point when suggesting that corporate meetings and events should have a brand, theme and a clear plan for what will be accomplished at the gathering. Keep attendees in the loop as the itinerary unfolds. Demonstrate why it will be worthwhile to attend by mentioning keynote speakers; providing a list of breakout sessions and making sure they have catchy names and will incorporate timely content; offering time to network; and mixing in some fun happenings. Consider offering a progressive dine-around in a downtown or neighborhood district or activating The Alley at Dairy Block adjacent to The Maven in Denver or Firehouse Alley next to The Elizabeth Hotel in Fort Collins for receptions and live entertainment. Or how about a food truck rally?
It takes time away from work, family and other obligations. Everyone seems so busy today, that sometimes fitting in three days of being out of town (or even in town) can seem like a burden. However, if it’s a chance to meet people you only get to communicate with over the phone or via email, it can be attractive to meet in person. If the family angle is a big issue, allow families or a spouse/significant other to attend and include them in receptions, dinners and fun activities like skiing, horseback riding, hiking, food and beverage tours, and more. Or work with the local destination marketing organization to make it easy for attendees to arrange for post-meeting stays.
They are just plain boring and serve no purpose. Perhaps the #1 reason for why do people hate meetings so much…This is where an experienced planner, meeting planning company or destination marketing company (DMC) working in tandem with those who are presenting the meeting can help change the minds of even the biggest meetings cynics. Meetings don’t have to be boring when there are engaging speakers, valuable topics, new products to introduce and chances to build relationships within an organization that has offices spread out across the country or world. Also important is selecting destinations and venues that energize and fit the personality of the company. Colorado has a huge variety of options ranging from ranch resorts, Five Diamond and Five Star hotels and boutique properties to convention centers in the city and the mountains, places you have to ride a chairlift or snowshoe into, and music venues that double as meeting spaces. Who likes to be confined within the walls of one hotel or venue, especially one with no windows?
The travel is a pain. There isn’t a whole lot planners can do with this one other than make it as smooth as possible by hiring top-notch ground transportation suppliers, booking the best flights possible, utilizing RTD’s A Line train to easily transport attendees from Denver International Airport to downtown, and mixing in fun ways to get around like pedicab transfers to a professional sporting event or a sleigh ride to dinner.
Just because it’s a meeting or conference doesn’t mean it has to be blah. Consider reasons why people might not want to attend and change the “I hate” to “I look forward to” attending this meeting every quarter or year.
Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.