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Into the Heart of Meetings: Basic Principles of Meeting Design Paperback – February 20, 2013
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About the Author
Mike van der Vijver is a consultant, trainer and facilitator, working with people and processes. He has over 20 years’ experience in the meeting industry, initially as conference interpreter and subsequently as meeting designer through MindMeeting, the company he co-founded. In addition, he is an executive consultant and coach on national and organisational culture with Itim International. Mike regularly provides content at international conferences. He lives both in Italy and the Netherlands. Eric de Groot is one of the first Meeting Designers. His pioneering work started in 1992; now he caters to the national (Dutch) market in De Wet van Thomas and internationally in MindMeeting. Thanks to his background in drama he takes a broad, human perspective to meetings and meeting processes. Eric regularly conducts workshops and learning sessions for professionals in the meeting industry as well as in other educational contexts. He lives in the Netherlands.
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There’s a wonderful chapter here on international meetings, where you have different attitudes on what to expect. The authors tell me something I never thought of; Italians will not stop just because their time is up. They will keep on going, and tempters will flair. To Scandinavians, however, this is grossly unacceptable. Another example of a culture clash is a meeting where the mayor is late, then calls to say she’ll be later, then calls to say she probably won’t make it. This might not seem like problem; after all, just start anyway, and the mayor can speak at the end. The problem is that in some countries, they can’t start until they get a “greeting from the authorities.” In Korea and Japan, showing up late is not acceptable at all. It’s the equivalent of picking your nose in public.
The authors give advice on how to arrange the seats, the tables, and the schedule. Some meetings do well as round table discussions, and others, especially when you have visual presentations, need a long table where everyone can see ahead. Then we get to the role of the host (or facilitator) who’s in charge of making sure everyone has their turn to speak. You don’t want a meeting turning into a free-for-all or a shouting match, especially when you’re on a deadline.
The funniest thing in this book was in the chapter on international meetings. A conference goes overtime, and everything’s late, but Italian attendants all walk out when it’s time for their free pasta lunch. You can waste time, cheat, and be rude in Italy, but the mealtimes are sacrosanct!
This book is more than a guide to structuring a meeting. It’s a funny book on the way different peoples communicate.
But to me, the highlight of the book is how Eric and Mike conceive meetings: not as a means for people to meet, but as a tool to solve a business challenge. As I kept reading the book, I realized how unconventional and remarkable is their approach: to me, they are almost like psychologists or doctors, who with their work diagnose a company's problem or illness and then design a meeting to cure it! So I encourage all meeting planners to read this book and change the way they conceive meetings. I believe it is a much more meaningful and interesting job!!