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What's Your Meeting Brand?

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Co-authored by HuffPost Blogger Renee Cullinan

Are you the Motel 6 or the Four Seasons of meetings? Whether you know it or not, your meetings have a brand and the people in your organization know what to expect when they "check in" to one of them.

A shoestring meeting has little preparation, poor service and no attention to detail. Participants avoid it if possible. And failing that, they want to get in and out as quickly as they can. Luxurious meetings are highly intentional, well designed and pay attention to every detail. They leave participants feeling engaged and energized.

Many leaders operate as if their meeting brand doesn't directly affect their professional brand. We're here to argue that in fact, they are one in the same. Most professionals spend the majority of their work day in meetings. Consequently, their perceptions of one another are based on what they see during these interactions.

Which brand attributes would you rather represent?

Budget
Random
Unpredictable
Sloppy
Unproductive
Boring
Uncomfortable

Luxury
Well-planned
Consistent
Attentive
Effective
Engaging
Energizing

Imagine if you could actively shape how other people experience you (and by extension, your reputation) simply by investing a little time, focus and intention on the nature of the conversations you lead. Wouldn't it be worth it?

Seth Godin defines a brand as: "The set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer's decision to choose one product or service over another."

Using that definition, let's look at what your meeting brand says about you.

Expectations: What do people expect from your meetings? You can infer their expectations from their behavior. Do they show up promptly and prepared? Or do they wander in 10 minutes late because they figure you'll just be getting rolling? Do they make and keep action commitments? Or do they develop action amnesia because they assume you'll let them off the hook or forget to even ask? Do they participate to move the conversation forward or do they indulge in tangents and rat holes because low-quality dialogue has become the norm?

Memories and Stories: If we convened a focus group of your frequent meeting attendees, what are the memories and stories they would share about your meetings -- and you? Would they talk about breakthrough innovation or mind-numbing boredom? Would they show us pictures of snarky IM chats or point to major accomplishments that couldn't otherwise occur?

Relationships: Every conversation is an opportunity to strengthen or diminish relationships. Think about the experience you create for your meeting guests. Do you listen carefully? Give others the space to contribute? Manage conflict well? Or do you create more "transactional" relationships by cutting others off, behaving passive-aggressively or making others do all the work?

In the modern networked organization, perceptions of your worth are everything. Meeting brand management is a discipline that few bother to adopt. Those who do, however, are rewarded with feedback like our client Sophia. At the end of a recent meeting, the most senior executive in the room turned to her and said, "If all my meetings were as effective as the one you just ran, it would literally change my life." Sophia's brand went way up in an instant because of her focus on creating a high-quality experience for the people in her meeting. In the case of a meeting brand, a little investment goes a long way.