On breakfast, lunch, and tea

There are a number of ways in which information and knowledge can be disseminated and exchanged, including breakfast, lunchtime or evening meetings. These meetings can be internally or externally based. Organisations, like the Society for Organisational Learning Australia (SOLA) for example, have run morning information sessions for members featuring a special guest speaker. I first heard Dave Snowden at such a breakfast in Sydney a few years ago. There are plenty of examples across a range of businesses and professional associations.

At Rabobank I organised a number of lunchtime meetings featuring a guest speaker to discuss a topic of interest. The last one I organised dealt with water infrastructure and the speaker was a friend of mine from a leading law firm. The lunch and discussion afterwards were a great success. I hope to arrange similar sessions in a different organisational context in the future.

Having been both an attendee and organiser of such functions, it is often difficult to gauge how successful these meetings will be and what size of audience will actually turn up. Breakfast and lunchtimes are often busy times for people too, even if outside the official working day. And worst of all, sometimes the quality of the presentations are marginal, causing a major rethink as to the value of these types of sessions.

So what is it that makes these events a success?

From my experience, and from the example of the Dow Jones Factiva breakfast session I attended this morning (and the previous session last year), there are five key dimensions:

1) the speaker/s MUST be of good quality with something interesting to say (they don’t have to be famous but they need to be able to speak to a group of people in a relaxed style and have something relevant to say)

2) the speaker MUST be able to present in a professional but informal manner

3) the session should not be too long (1-1.5 hours is sufficient) and timing must be tightly controlled to avoid wasting time

4) a good mix of people in the audience widens appeal and scope for questions and post-session conversation

5) the venue MUST be comfortable and able to fit the number of people attending

The Dow Jones Factiva session this morning had three speakers: Chris Pash from Dow Jones Factiva and his self-advertised blog, Hugh Martin from APN Online, and Martin Quadroy from Telstra). All three speakers in their individual ways provided interesting, entertaining, and relatively short presentations covering content, online marketing, and competitive intelligence.

Well done (again) Dow Jones Factiva!

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