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September 23, 2009

Anatomy of a meeting:Who Danes wins!


Martin Lewis looks at a revolutionary, new approach in the conference business that puts objectives at the forefront for the first time

How is it now? You look for a venue, imagine how you might fit your event into it and then work against it, right?

Now imagine a world where you state your objective for an event, a venue suggests a clever, creative meeting concept as a solution, they have staff who are trained in the murky arts of meeting planning and who have been trained to act as consultants to you, the event organiser, to deliver.

Pipe dream? No, it isn’t. It’s happening already in that clever little country called Denmark. They have called it “Meetovation” – and the Danes’ new web site www.meetovation.com is a revelation. Instead of listing venues by geography or size or price, they offer them by concept or objective under headings like Start-up & Commitment, Learning & Play, Strategy & Decision, Sales & Communication and others. Click through the latter button, for example, and you will find offerings like:


  • ‘Return on Music’ - an innovative kick-off event where participants define the message of a given product using lyrics and music, which they highlight in a professionally produced music video during the meeting.
  • ‘Meeting Universe’ at Hotel Legoland where innovation, commitment and new initiatives are the concept keywords. The concept supports kick-off meetings geared at product launches, new strategies, collaborations or a new year of business. Participants use Lego’s facilities and toy bricks to achieve the goals set out for the meeting.

These are just a couple of examples, but you can see the emphasis is on objective, concept, theme, structure and solution, rather than venue. The venue is almost the afterthought.  This might be anathema to venue specialists reading this - “I’m in venue sales, not meeting planning”, I hear them shriek - but Danish venue managers have bought into this idea because it gives them unique selling points through their own creativity. At the moment, it gives Denmark a unique selling point as a meeting destination.

This project has been driven by Lars Blicher-Hansen of VisitDenmark. “It has been my baby”, he says, “in that I am the father, but Ann Hansen of Eventing Solutions has been working with us on the project for the past two years and is definitely the mother.” Blicher-Hansen is quick to point out that the almost shared surname is purely coincidental: “In Denmark, Hansen is a disease, not a name!”

He brought in his namesake to manage the development of the project after a lot of academic research had been carried out a couple of years ago by - among others - Ib Ravn, a lecturer at “The Learning Lab” at Aarhus University. Lars wanted to turn a lot of excellent blue sky thinking into something tangible and Meetovation is the result or, at least, the point he has reached thus far.

“It has been a long process but a great one”, says Lars. “The planning and the ‘story board’ alone took six months. We received extra funding from the government to start this and we succeeded in involving 67 companies with 140 people taking part in 10 training modules, Then we devised parallel training for venue managers. It was difficult to get them to change otherwise – we did that through Meeting Professionals International and included meeting planners in the process. This persuaded the managers to change not just their venues, but also their attitude to dealing with clients.

“The new web site is the beginning – we want to snowball from here – we have 30 concepts from venues and we are adding more and we have a new round of training for staff beginning. The vision from VistDenmark is that Meetovation must be the thing that gives content to the brand and underpins the idea is that Denmark is the most innovative destination in which to hold your meeting.

“Fitting the venue to the objective is to turn things upside down. Instead of starting with the venue we are forcing people to consider what the objective is and then we find them a venue. Billions of minutes and dollars are spent on meetings but the whole basis for the change initiative comes from focusing on the objective. The first project that included experts like Ib Ravn and his colleague Nina Tange drove the academic development of the ideas about “the learning meeting” but we decided to take the ideas and do something practical, concrete and bookable.

“We want to give people different ideas and approaches and make our industry more able to act as consultants to the client. After all, most corporate meeting planners have no background in meeting planning. Just because I change a light bulb it doesn’t make me an electrician. The fine line is not to interfere in the content but to advise on the flow and format of the meeting. We have to remember that the new generation of delegates will not listen to eight hours of lectures and meetings when people are sleeping are not good use of money”.

Reproduced by kind permission of Meetings & Incentive Travel magazine, copyright CAT Publications Ltd 2009.


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