Event Design

Meetings by Design

Skift Take

Having designed meetings since 1992, Eric de Groot is uniquely experienced in creating human gatherings. He believes that a collaborative approach is needed to create meetings that change behaviors and drive businesses forward.

Eric de Groot is managing partner and meeting designer at MindMeeting. His career path started by studying medicine for a short time before studying drama to become an educator. It was through acting that he came into contact with the meetings industry, when invited to perform on stage at conferences.

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Watching how these meetings operated, de Groot realized that meetings were both being organized and designed by the same people. This felt strange for de Groot who felt it was important to keep these roles separate. In his view the meeting planner should only handle the administrative organization of the meeting. The designer should focus on creating the meeting experience. It was the latter which drew de Groot into the meetings industry. Today he works with large organizations to create meetings that help help address their goals or challenges.

De Groot argues that meetings are a specific form of communication and should be for a specific and intentional purpose. He outlines six reasons to hold a meeting. These include; networking, motivation, learning, decision making, alignment of goals and direction, and rituals. While there are often more than one reason to hold a meeting, the reasons to hold a meeting should not be confused with the meeting’s objective. 

Understanding group dynamics is incredibly important to meeting design. Observing different types of interactions gives meeting designers clues about how people reach decisions. Meeting designers need to understand a group’s behaviors, reactions, actions and decisions in order to design an effective meeting. 

For de Groot, it is crucial to combine different ways of thinking to excel at meeting design. Training in each area in not strictly necessary, but a good understanding of different analytical and creative elements is needed. Ultimately, meeting designers must use their creativity to meet client goals while designing a great meeting for everyone.

Looking to the future, de Groot believes that meetings require an increased level of wellbeing and activity. The idea is not of relaxation but of providing opportunities for attendees to be physically active. Sitting for hours on end is bad for the health of the participants and the health of the organization. Attendees must instead be participants. They should play or sketch out solutions as alternative ways of sharing information, ways that they cannot experience online. Active meeting participation makes people happier, more resourceful and more valuable for the organization.

For meetings be effective, de Groot always involves people at the board level in the design process. He explains that often the board doesn’t realize that meetings are in themselves their own form of communication. For this reason most companies do not use a meeting designer, and stay focused on meeting logistics. By involving board members we enable them to play a part in design of meetings with purpose. 

Not only can you hear more from de Groot in this episode, but he will also be joining the Future of the Event Industry Summit on February 22nd. You can register here.

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