ABCDEF: are people tools?

Are people tools in the hands meeting architects, to influence participants? It sounds a bit weird but on the other side, it is about time we see professionals (and volunteers or staff) of all sorts as a category of tools in designing better meetings. Our participants are people and consciously deploying ‘non participant’ people to assist, facilitate, inspire, motivate and even drive meeting objectives is probably the most logic and maybe even the most effective thing we can do. Through the right mix of Motivation, Networking and Learning (Manuel) our participants come to more and better aimed action that has more impact and leads to a higher return on investment.

man_E Entertainer_200h_0.png People can help people in many ways and there is an entire range of professionals we can work with: roughly 40 different professions in 6 categories: Architects, Builders, Communicators, Designers, Entertainers and Facilitators. The acronym to remember these is ABCDEF: the first letter of each category and the first 6 letters of the alphabet.
Each of these roughly 40 professionals has an own style and a set of languages and many have a specialism like medical, social, banking, automotive, etc. The toolbox of a Meeting Architect therefore potentially contains many hundreds of individuals.

Some individuals will be able to perform different tasks and sometimes a company that brings in technology has their own facilitators, etc.
Sometimes a facilitator can be a Motivator by making sure everyone gets a say an no-one dominates a round-table-discussion.
Sometimes the same facilitator is a Network driver by introducing (lone) individuals to each other.
Sometimes the facilitator focusses on the Learning processes by clarifying tasks or discussion topics. We can deploy professionals before, during and after the meeting, letting them do things that support Motivation, Networking and Learning objectives.
To create a better understanding about what the 6 categories mean, here is list the professionals in a bit more detail. Some professions could fit in two or three categories but - for simplicity - are only mentioned once. Some of the distinct professions may be seen as one profession and some readers will miss a crucial profession in this list.
I’m fine with some debate around these topics but the essence is to agree on the increased effort to consider ALL possible professions based on the objectives, to improve the impact of a meeting. And to do this in a structured way, so we look a-in all possible directions and don’t forget about any group.

A Architect: Meeting Architects, meeting designers, event creators, organisational development profs, …
B Builders: Stage & set construction, AV, technicians, venue set-up team, stagehands, …
C Communicators: Content Experts, speakers, trainers, copy writers, story makers, reporters, Key Opinion Leaders, …
D Design: creative, lay-out, illustrators, show producers, video producers, presentation improvement, speaker training, composers, …
E Entertainers: Musicians, actors, performing artists, magicians, singers, key-note speakers, comedians, …
F Facilitator: Facilitators, moderators, MC's (master of ceremony), conference chairs, event hosts, group psychologists, ...

Architects are those professionals that analyse needs and design the meeting, including the use of below categories. They have a mandate to lead or facilitate the group that works on the project.

Builders are those individuals that use their hands to build and construct the right environment. Although these individuals not often get the due respect and attention, they too play a key role in the impact of meetings. Some of them master an art and a technique and many occupy positions that can make or break en event. A good relation with them is crucial. And as we start to be more and more creative in our session design, we will need more help than ever form the venue staff moving furniture in and out..

Content professionals are those with topical expertise, They know the topic of the conference or even the specific content of one session or one debate. Sometimes they are content creators and sometimes they are reporters. They can be backstage or on stage but in any case they contribute to the story, the messages the topical content of the conference.

Designers is the are those creative people that make it look and sound right. The ‘look and feel’ as we said in the nineties. Producers create a ‘show’ on stage with video, light, sound, props and much more, all based on a creative script that confirms the main messages. Presentation designers work with illustrators to make the best possible presentations while the ghost-writer wordsmiths the brilliant closing speech.

Entertainers or alternatively EDU-trainers or enter-TRAINERS are those that perform on stage and make the main messages memorable, encourage networking and create fun, energy, a sense of community, etc.

Facilitators are those with focus on the Motivational, Networking and learning processes amongst all people present. Some may be simply funny or loud to connect one presenter to another, but some can also be deeply caring about the individuals that seem to be alone at a conference and help connection happen.

manwo_planner 200h_0.pngHowever incomplete and imperfect this overview may be, it is essential we move forward in the taxonomy of meeting architecture so we can understand each other when we talk about meeting design. Creating some fundamental structure and clarity in the HUMAN section of the meeting design toolbox is a good start.

So YES, people are an essential section in the toolbox for meeting design and this is why the FRESH14 conference will dedicate a large chunk of its program just to that topic. The conference theme is ‘present people’ as in the people section in the toolbox that FRESH14 is presenting, but also people as a present, a gift to the meeting designers that know of them, about them and deploy them to make meetings better.
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