Do your annual meetings have an afterlife?

Meeting Idea Sharing

If you want to see a great feeding frenzy of Google image searches, look no further than the week before your upcoming national management meeting. Thousands of page views and “Save Image As” right clicks of charts and graphs supporting the commentary on heavily bulleted PowerPoint presentations.

I’ve admittedly been guilty of this for years as both a business practitioner and a graduate professor.  I now teach the fine are of typing “PPT” after keywords in the search box so that only other presenters’ PowerPoint decks come up in the results for review.

Charts and graphs are the currency of the professional presenter. For those who perform only during large company meetings, they become even more important in reinforcing one’s personal value within the organization.

As you read this blog, someone somewhere in the world is likely in a large conference room asking: “will we be able to get these slides after the meeting?”

This is all too common.

The challenge for the meeting planner and senior management is rarely getting enough content and visuals to stuff into the agenda slots at the meeting. In fact, my seasoned event planner wife has had years of experience serving as the “slide Nazi” forcing unsuspecting presenters to prune their presentations down to the allocated time.  To think: all that work on image searches, only to have the deck slashed by someone who has no appreciation for “compelling” content.

Having organized and participated in dozens of these management meetings in my time, there is the euphoria of the final presentation and the closing remarks. Everyone heads to the airport and goes on with their normal personal and business lives after a short rehab period. After a month, the planning for next year’s meeting begins.

After evaluating the steep investment made for these meetings the question that needs to be asked is how does senior management assure continuity of knowledge sharing after the meetings and well beyond just posting the slides on the internal web site.

Just like some erroneously regard the purchase as the end of the sales cycle, many HR and C-Suite managers regard the corporate meeting as the culmination of the annual learning experience. In reality, both the sale and the sales meeting are a fulcrum that should project employees to the next level of selling or, in this case ,of learning throughout the year.

So what are some techniques for extending the annual meeting another 360 days so that the next meeting is essentially an annual face-to-face waypoint for what occurs throughout the year? Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Sales meetings should be storytelling experiences. Arguably the best sessions have the best narratives that go well beyond reading bullets on slides. Attendees should be incentivized to contribute to a yearlong “let me tell you a story” exercise crowdsourced from around the world.
  2. While the corporate portal should include the complete proceedings of the annual meeting, it should be expanded to include ongoing examples of work done in various sales regions and geographies. Most of the annual meetings I’ve attended or presented at have consistently had attendees that say: “if I only knew you were doing that in territory/country ABC, I could have saved a ton of money doing it myself”. This is true of identifying best practices as well as avoiding worst practices. I’ve run a number of panels, for example, that were entitled “I’ll never do that again.” Everyone slows down for a car wreck!
  3. Show what a real live buyer looks and sounds like. Having just run a major healthcare marketing conference, it was not surprising that the most highly rated sessions were ones where I had attendees “Meet the buying Personas.” We overestimate how much corporate management knows about its buyers and how little the service organizations that service the businesses have a chance to hear buyers concerns from the horse’s mouth. What was scheduled for 60 minutes could have gone 3 hours. More importantly, the audience was forceful about demanding more of these buyer insights throughout the rest of the year in a virtual or digital format.

How does your company add legs to annual conference content, so that the meeting becomes simply a waypoint for 360 days of continuous idea sharing?



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  1. […] literally needed me, the author, to make them meaningful. This boded well for my later career, when slide larceny became an art form for many professional presenters looking for great […]

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