Getting More From Leadership Meetings

Go Team! Wait...what are we cheering for?
Go Team! Wait…what are we cheering for?

Oh Joy!  Another Leadership Meeting where we’ll discuss big ideas like STRATEGY and CULTURE and GROWTH.  We’ll have breakouts, keynotes, and maybe even paint a local school.  Then we’ll head back to our offices, slowly forget the firehouse of information until the next meeting rolls around.

There must be a better way.

Fortunately, Bob Frish and Cary Greene, partners of the Strategic Offsites Group, have penned a great article in this month’s Harvard Business Review. Packed with practical recommendations, it’s a step-by-step template for a successful Leadership Summit, specifically:

  1. Assign clear roles that have real authority.
  2. Define a clear set of objectives for the conference.
  3. Start the conversation before the event (hint: pre-event surveys).
  4. Design the event around the objectives.
  5. Engage participants before they arrive onsite (think webcasts).
  6. Pay attention to pacing and rhythm (mix up presentations, tablework, etc.)
  7. Be flexible by using real-time feedback.
  8. Go for three-way communication (stage to audience, audience to stage, peer to peer).
  9. Use high and low tech to kickstart ideas.
  10. Be deliberate about connecting attendees to each other (uber-networking).
  11. Create succinct takeaways for post-event cascade.
  12. Follow up on promises made at the meeting.
  13. Keep the conversation going.

Included in the article are: a pre- and post-event calendar, a chart of tools to solicit attendee input, and a list conference of roles and responsibilities.

While I disagree with the relegation of meeting content to a mid-level strategy or communications person, the rest of the article rings true.  Any event should be part of an overall corporate communications calendar.  Without this context, companies risk over-communicating with employees and diminishing impact.  A webcast for one initiative may overlap with the kick-off presentation of another, or employees may receive several teasers, surveys and invitations – all on the same day.

With a Leadership Conference in particular, what is being said – and how – must 1) align with the communication strategy, 2) promote the internal brand, and 3) adhere to corporate brand standards – all 3 of which are driven by senior leadership within the corporate communications department.

That being said, it’s a well-written, thought-provoking article that will help you develop a leadership summit that actually produces results.