Get in the Design Business
This is the first of a series of preview blogs for Collaborate Marketplace educational sessions. Find out more about Collaborate Marketplace, which takes place April 25-27 in Las Vegas, and look out for more blogs from educational presenters in the coming weeks.
“To say that something is designed means it has intentions that go beyond its function. Otherwise
it’s just planning.” —Industrial Designer Ayse Birsel
The design community, which encompasses an ever-increasing array of disciplines, knows something that the meetings and events industry doesn’t: The opposite of good design isn’t no design, it’s bad design. And bad design exists all around us, especially at meetings and events.
For far too long, meeting professionals have been in the planning business. We plan on inviting the same people to the same meeting to discuss the same issues, yet we expect different results. There’s a term for that.
What if we designed an experience that captured people’s imaginations, challenged their thinking, inspired them to dream about what’s possible and then empowered them accordingly?
I imagine Steve Jobs didn’t plan on building one of the first commercially successful lines of personal computers. If he had, he would have been working for IBM. Instead, like many of his innovations to follow, he designed a product that would influence how we relate to the world around us. Is it surprising what he accomplished given what he intended from the start?
Designing a product as Apple does is very much like designing a relationship. Apple products are essentially content platforms. Their products determine, in many ways, how we consume information, how we experience the world around us. More and more, they represent our technology interface to the world.
Meetings, by definition, are all about the human interface. They are all about relationship. While technology plays an increasing role in face-to-face meetings, nobody’s predicting the demise of face-to-face relationship building. The top two reasons people attend meetings—all others reasons pale in comparison—are for the educational programs and the networking.
In the design world, programs and networking are called formal and informal learning. Informal learning trumps formal learning in terms of knowledge retention and transfer. If you’re not retaining the knowledge you gain at meetings and applying it to your job, you are wasting your time.
So why don’t we spend more time designing informal learning at meetings? Why do we leave relationships to chance encounter or the random coffee break? Is it because meetings are designed for the benefit of meeting professionals and not the most important stakeholders, attendees?
The time has come for meeting professionals to start incorporating more intention into our meeting plans. It’s time we start designing meetings that matter.
John Nawn is founder of experience design firm The Perfect Meeting, which focuses on optimizing the meeting attendee experience. He is leading two educational sessions at Collaborate Marketplace: Meeting Design and the Participant-Centric Event and Meeting Design: The Walking Tour. See the complete list of educational sessions, times and descriptions for Marketplace here.