New meeting formats: Are we really ready for them?
I was recently reading the cover story of this monthâ€™s Association Now, Meetings Remix, by Jeff Waddle and it got me thinking. I truly see the value in having less structured and less podium driven meetings but in some way I am skeptical of whether most audiences are truly ready for it. I ask this because of what I see in various situations within ASAE itself.
At ASAE Annual in SD Karen Bresson of the Society of Actuaries, Barry Pilson of Americans for the Arts and I conducted a session on creating a sales culture within your organization. We wanted the session to be truly interactive and wanted most of the content to be audience generated. Not one of us had done this type of session before but we thought the expertise of the audience was much grander than just that of the 3 of us so we went for it. When we first arrived in the room it was set up primarily theatre style, with a few rounds. With the help of Mike Skiados we moved more chairs to the tables and asked people as they entered to please go to a table. It was a busy job since most people migrated right to the back of the room. Eventually we had most people seated around tables and then we described that this was going to be a highly interactive session where they would work with their table mates to come up with solutions to a challenge which they would then present to the room. At that point an amazing number of people walked out. Was it because they didnâ€™t want to participate and only wanted to be spoken at? Or was it because the seminar was not marketed to be as interactive and participatory as it in fact was going to be? Or was it a combination of both?
I also attend a large number of ASAE Idea Swaps on various topics. The Idea Swaps are designed to be interactive forums where people share information, ideas and challenges around a particular topic. I am always amazed at how many people come and do not say a word. All they want to do is listen and take notes. There are always plenty of people to speak but one would think that if you know that it is designed to be interactive you would be prepared to participate when you get there.
I understand that not everyone is as vocal or cares to share their thoughts as openly as I do. However, if you take the shy people out of the equation I still see that a lot of meeting attendees do not want to work to get solutions. Instead they would rather have someone at the podium telling them the right way to do something. Am I hanging out at the wrong meetings? Or is this type of approach not quite right for a certain portion of the meeting population at this time? I look forward to hearing your thoughts.