Written by Nick Gold, Managing Director of Speakers Corner and President of the International Association of Speakers Bureaus
The role of an internal meeting has never really been discussed. It was just an accepted part of our working culture, where we used it as a reporting tool to the management, disseminated information to the team, helped us get us away from our desks so we could collaborate without prying ears, and perhaps it’s been used to instil the culture of the business into our employees.
Moreover, the internal meeting seemed to be the chance to formalise the conversations and ideas that have taken place around people’s desks or while having a coffee break, a chance to bring more people into the conversation but at the same time an understanding that the meeting is a process reporting meeting rather than where the magic of ideas actually happen.
Over the last six months the role of the internal meeting and its effectiveness has come to the forefront as the workforce became home based, the slow return to the office and with the potential conclusion of a flexible working location based on an individual’s preference and the needs of the business.
There are clear differences between a virtual and a physical meeting. Virtual meetings require focus and clear aims which results in a much more regimented conversation. Side discussions are naturally impossible, but we find the less people that are in a meeting, the more productive it is.
Building relationships, forming ideas, freewheeling discussions, up to this point, remain the providence of the physical meeting. It is worth highlighting this might change as society gets more used to the virtual environment (and the technology delivers a more engaging experience rather than the service provided at the moment by the virtual platform) but for the foreseeable future, physical internal meetings provide a completely different dynamic to the virtual meeting.
As such, the internal meeting needs to be curated closer than ever before. The aim of the meeting is absolutely critical, but the style and flow required to deliver success will determine whether the meeting could be held digitally or physically. With both social distancing in mind for a physical meeting or if the meeting needs to be conducted virtually, the participant list needs to be targeted and on a necessity basis. All participants however need to understand the rule of engagement, the agenda and the desired outcomes. This will enable buy in from all the delegates and create a higher degree of chance of a successful outcome.
It is important to remember an employee’s time is at a premium as they are empowered to manage their working practices and output. As such, the internal meeting can be seen as an imposition on this new found liberty and therefore needs to encourage a buy-in process as opposed to the mandatory perception of the internal meeting being imposed on an individual. This comes through clarity of purpose and focussed on an outcome which gives us direction and purpose for all those attending.
If the internal meeting is to build culture, form bonds and create a team, whether digitally or physically, this should still be curated and the team bought into the purpose of the meeting. Where historically, these perceived side effects were achieved by osmosis within the wider context of the business focussed agenda of the meeting, this now should be explicit goals in their own right. This means the owner(s) of the internal meeting aiming to achieve this have to focus on activities which facilitate this. Again whether this be a physical or virtual meeting, the owner will need to ensure the medium being used for the meeting is suited to the activities and the goals.
The role of the internal meeting has come to the forefront with the new dynamic of working practices. Requiring planning and focus which maybe had been overlooked in the past as familiarity bred comfort, there is an opportunity to ensure the meetings are productive, focussed and deliver to both the business and the individuals who are part of it.