By Nick Gold, Managing Director of Speakers Corner and President of the International Association of Speakers Bureaus
The role of an internal meeting is just an accepted part of work culture and is not something that has been discussed. It is used as a reporting tool for 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.
Beyond this, is the chance to formalise the conversations and ideas that take place at deaks or during coffee breaks. Internal meetings 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.
The role of the internal meeting has come to the forefront in the last six months 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.
Virtual meetings compared to physical meetings do have clear differences. 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 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.
Because of this, internal meetings need to be curated closer than ever before. The goal 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.
An employee’s time is premium as they are now empowered to manage their working practices and output, therefore, the internal meeting could be viewed as an imposition to this new liberty. Consequently the internal meeting 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.
Where historical the perceived side effects (culture building and forming bonds) of a meeting were achieved through osmosis within the wider focused agenda of the meeting, they now need to be an explicit goal. 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 new dynamic working practice has pushed the role of the internal meeting to the forefront. 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.