You are getting more and more experience in meeting planning. You’ve booked the venue, the catering, the A/V, and maybe the production company and keynote speakers. You’ve helped set the agenda and timing of events. You’ve written, revised and re-revised the meeting resume and daily operating guide. You’ve got this meeting planning thing down.
There will come a day when you must lead others. For me, it was leading my co-workers who were attending and presenting at our annual user conference of around 750 client attendees. It could be an awkward position to be in, since none of these people really reported to me. Plus, we were a software company with annual product releases, and there were times when upper management decided it needed some of the conference participants more than I did.
I was fortunate in that I had access to several people who didn’t have to present and who attended primarily to work registration and other areas behind the scenes. What I learned quickly was that each person needed to have a specific job with specific instruction/training on that job. What I observed was nothing short of miraculous.
By giving each person the specifics of the job—and empowering them to be able to do it—they were more inclined to excel at it. They blew me away! Rather than needing my input on every tiny detail, they would make things happen on their own. If there was a big obstacle or question, they knew we’d figure out the solution together. It was beautiful. I didn’t have to worry about handouts, or giveaways, or the executives or registration. I could concentrate on getting the multitude of computers and sessions ready to present.
Yes, I did have to relinquish a lot of the details that were crammed in my head and on my spreadsheets. And I worried that my role in this event would be diminished by giving away all this “data.” Just the opposite occurred. The team made sure everything hummed along, because it was their conference, too, and they knew the benefits it would bring for them and the users.
Then, one year, things took an amazing turn. Our software had to be usable on every kind of hardware and sometimes it got cranky. Many of our presenters wanted to use their own laptops for their presentations, so now we had to keep those units happy, too. Zone Teams were born!
For every three to five session rooms, a Zone Team was there to oversee the change of presenters and any hiccups that might occur. The threeperson team consisted of a software person, a hardware person and an A/V specialist. Any emergencies were handled by the team. Unless they needed me to approve an added cost to the master, the Zone Team did what it needed to do to correct the problem. Issues became nearly nonexistent and our add-on costs were practically nill.
Give people the chance to help, but make sure they have the tools and permission to do the job well. The outcome will be remarkable.