How to make meeting dialogue open up? That was the critical question for the clients who had recently undergone a massive change in their leadership. When I met with the clients for the first time - 3 1/2 weeks before their meeting that involved 25 national GMs, they told me their main goal was to engage these GMs and have them clearly understand this was a new way of doing business. The leadership was going to be more open and transparent, they were all going to be more accountable. So I asked about their environment - what was their plan? It included a screen, a projector, everyone at rounds, and each department sharing their perspective. Perhaps Finance would even share their ppt they had prepared recently for the board! In my head, I thought "YAWN" - so what I asked was "What if you turned the entire meeting upside down?" They keenly asked what would this look like, and I talked about creating a living space feel, plasmas replacing screens, comfortable seating replacing tables, all day snacks so you didn't have everyone feeling the pressure of ten minute coffee breaks and how can I also check my blackberry and have a coffee? Make a space where they felt comfortable, taken care of and that visibly showed this meeting was going to be different.
Two days later, we met with the responsible VP who shared his vision, which fortunately matched our two rabid days of planning and what a success it was in getting people talking. The shortest ppt - 5 slides - the longest maybe 17... and the presenters came prepared to open it up, share their messages in a way that enticed dialogue and questions vs being an edict, and the GMs all returned to their own business units two days later ready to "drive the experience" internally and engage their own teams in creating the best product they can deliver. That is what a great environment can set the stage for - let's keep finding ways to bring messages alive!