You’ve been planning this conference-style meeting for months. Maybe it’s a project kick-off meeting between your team and your client’s or perhaps you want to get your department heads together to come up with new goals for the next quarter.
Whichever kind of meeting you’re organising, you’ve sent out invites and received all the RSVPs you could have hoped for. Catering has been booked, and you’ve got the best venue hire in London. Finally, you’ll have all the people you’ve wanted to get in a room together gathered in one place. Now, it’s time to get down to business.
You’ve spent ages organising a meeting between a group of people you truly believe will work well together to serve your clients best or come up with new ideas to increase business.
There’s only one problem: these people don’t know all that much about each other. Moreover, that is the single thing that could prevent your meeting from being a complete success. So, how do you build that trust among meeting participants?
Be transparent about the guest list from day one
Once you know exactly who will be attending your meeting, let everyone know by emailing a copy of the guest list. This way, people can do their research from the get-go. If you want to build trust between people, let them do some online research. It’s that simple.
If they have any questions, they can ask the almighty search engine and have their answers in no time. By the time they pitch up to the meeting, they’ll be familiar with the faces around them, even if only from Google Images.
Use ice-breakers, even if it feels a little over-done
After all, the only reason ice-breakers may feel overdone is that they’re so often used. Also, they’re so often used because they work. The trick when it comes to ice breakers is to make them interesting. Forcing everyone to sit and listen while you go around the room and everyone says what type of fruit they’d be if they were a fruit is not going to work. Make the ice-breaker specific to the meeting rather than the result of a Buzzfeed quiz.
A good example of an ice-breaker is to have each person explain what they want to gain from the meeting. People attend conference meetings for a variety of reasons, so have each attendee give theirs. This will help everyone understand each other’s motives, which will ultimately help build trust.
Encourage everyone to have their say
There will always be one or two people who try to do all the talking in these meetings. And it’s good to have those people there because at least you won’t be sitting in a room filled with that awful, awkward silence. However, if you want this conference meeting to be successful, you need to ensure that every person there has their say. You invited them because you believed they would have valuable input, so make sure they voice their ideas and solutions.
One way to do this is to identify the people who take up all the verbal space first. Once you can tell who will be speaking their mind first and foremost, you can distract them by asking them to write up ideas on a whiteboard or give feedback on someone else’s idea.
When you notice that one person is quieter than the others, make a point of asking their opinion on something someone else has just said. This encourages them to join the conversation and lets them know that you value what they have to say.
Allow time for idle chit-chat
It may seem counter-intuitive, but it helps build trust. When people can get to know each other over a cup of coffee or a delicious doughnut, they can make character assessments and decide, ultimately, whether or not they agree with someone’s outlook on life and business. Allowing for breaks where people can converse freely will allow meeting participants to get to know each other and therefore speak more freely around one another.
So, schedule regular breaks during your conference meeting to give people a chance to get to know each other as well as take a deep breath. It will also help make sure that everyone can fully pay attention when they sit back down again.
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Trust is so important in every aspect of business. This is why it makes sense that you need to foster trust as much as respect when you’re facilitating a conference-style meeting. If you want to gain the desired results and have everyone leave at the end of the meeting feeling as though they’ve spent their time in the most productive way possible, building trust should be right up at the top of your checklist, along with finding the best venue.