Tada! Here we are finalizing the JISS formula for global meeting success.
Before getting to the final step, let’s check in on what we’re trying to achieve. Success in global meetings requires broad engagement, cross-cultural mix and synergies. This doesn’t happen by accident – it needs to be designed, encouraged and practiced. JISS provides four clear and simple steps towards a wow! global interaction. We’ve gotten jargon out of the way (Jettison the Jargon), worked on inclusion (Inclusive Interactions) and slowed down (Slow the Speed). Now we’re at a final success element – split up the seating.
Here’s the challenge: getting groups to mix and sit with non-home-country colleagues
How often have you seen country groups or groups that stick together like glue in a meeting. They gravitate to the same table, talk amongst themselves at breaks and sit together at meals. The result is an environment of minimal interaction, which is the enemy of a productive and creative meeting. It’s also completely natural – we all are more comfortable with people we already know. Unless you have a small group where you can pre-set place cards to deliberately split up the seating, this requires a creative solution.
It’s time to mix it up. Don’t make people wrong for having chosen to sit together – simply create a fun change up. There are many ways to do this, but here’s one example: Suppose you have groups seated at ‘rounds’ and there are six rounds in the room. Everyone is seated and has, as usual, sorted themselves into country table groupings. After an opening presentation or discussion but before the first break, have each table count off one to six (and remember their number!). Then announce that “all ones go to this table, all twos to this next table” etc. As you give this direction, put a sheet of paper on the designated table with a great big number on it. Give people a few moments to get resettled – and voila, you now have a diverse group at each table. Do a quick introduction exercise with the new tablemates and move on, with a new energy and interactivity in the meeting. This approach can be scaled depending on audience size and setup; it’s the principle of deliberately cross-blending the group that is important.
Caveat! Sigh, there’s always an exception. If you have one or more participants with significant challenges understanding/speaking English, keep them seated alongside a country colleague whose fluency is good. Tell them both (on the side during a break) that you would appreciate their help, encouraging them to go ahead with side conversations for explanations whenever needed. This helps engage and assure understanding from the person with less fluency. If you do a table mix exercise (such as the above), have them move together or do a slight reorganization after the table change to place the two together.
Picture your next meeting – what can you do either in advance or during the program to enhance cross-country interactions?
Dorothy Erlanger is a meeting facilitator, speaker and trainer who has worked with Fortune 100 companies in over 25 countries across the globe. She is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese. For facilitation of global strategic planning, executive workshops or emcee for multi-country conferences, contact Dorothy at https://erlanger-inc.com 1-804-749-4100