Meetings is oftentimes a misunderstood discipline as far as industry is concerned. In large part, this responsibility lies in the industry itself. The scope and impact of this thing called “meetings” that happen everyday in human society rarely enjoys a distinct definition in the industry’s organizations and literatures, and as a result, many meeting professionals are seen by clients as merely the help for coordinating logistics.
Happily, Into the Heart of Meetings is a step in the right direction. It is less another book that preaches the logistical details of what goes into meetings, and more of an enlightened exploration into the potential and power of a well designed meeting.
Meetings is of course — as we explored earlier this month with Meeting Architecture — a branch within the umbrella of the Event Management. There are many many different types of planned events that happen in this world. Meetings is one of those types. Because it is such a crucial function for most companies, meetings have to a large extent taken its own niche filled by its own professionals, who like to call themselves meeting professionals. Just as wedding planners have chosen their own eponymous job title to define their specialty within the events industry, meeting professionals focus on corporate clients and helping them plan conferences, workshops, trade shows, board conventions, product launches, and other such functions.
Eric and Mike explore through their book what they defined as the concept of “meetings with soul”. Though the book does offer a rich variety of case studies from the authors’ own careers, what makes the book most interesting is the overriding perspective from which it is written. The authors explore the meetings discipline through the lens of the humanities. It takes an anthropological, sociological, psychological, and sometimes even philosophical view of what human gatherings can create and how these interactions can impact individuals. It stresses the importance of strategic communication as the essence of any meeting, and its thesis is that the heart of any meeting is in the contents communicated to be used somewhere else. By far the most unique and profound thesis I have ever come across in this industry.
The book is written in 3 parts. The first part is called “Looking at Meetings”, and is a broad overview of the elements of meetings. Part two is called “The Meeting Owner”, is an overview on the function of meetings with more specificity on execution. For the most part though, the execution of meetings is the focus only by the third and last part, called “The Design”. Here, Eric and Mike talk about the stakeholders of meetings, and what the various design factors can influence in the perceptions created by the meeting. In the epilogue of the book, the authors deplore the meetings community to explore a number of deeper questions that still need defining in this field. They “pass the baton”, as they put it, to future meeting scholars and meeting professionals to pioneer and study these topics as the industry continues to evolve.
Into the Heart of Meetings serves a very unique purpose in the range of literatures available to the events industry. It is not a handbook. There are no checklists, no action steps, and really nothing that can be referenced by keeping this book on your desk. Rather, it is a book of profound contextualization of what the meetings industry is. What meetings mean to humanity, and how it has changed, is changing, and will continue to change the world. It is a book that I believe can intrigue both those of us passionate about the events industry and those who know nothing about it. It is book that enlightens and inspires us on the purpose of meetings and events, and as such I believe it can be useful for anybody to explore. Most importantly, it is a book that very openly admits the youth of research available yet in this field, and encourages the next generation of event professionals to take the study even further.
See you at the next exploration!