Designing meaningful content for executive meetings and events can be challenging. By the time most professionals reach the executive suite, they have just about seen it all. They have attended a range of conferences, executive and management development programs. As a result of this experience, it is tough for meeting planners, facilitators and keynote speakers to blow the executive crowd away.
Here are a few strategies to help insure that content is not dismissed as repetitive or too basic:
Find out what they already know.
With executives, crowdsourcing is essential. It is important to find out what content they have already covered and what approaches they find most appealing. Skip this step and you may as well fire an arrow at a target blind-folded. (Some of the strategies we discussed in our 3 part series about Catering to Diverse Learning Styles can be particularly helpful with executives.
Help them know themselves (and each other better).
Most individuals will welcome an opportunity for more self-awareness and understanding. As a result, tools like style inventories and 360-degree feedback are generally well received by executives.
Set the context.
Ensure that the most senior executive is on board and fully supportive of the meeting, team building or executive development programmed. Have him or her kick off the session with a targeted presentation, highlighting how content dovetails with organizational issues, challenges and realities.
Swing into high gear with a simulation.
People tend to believe what they experience directly and see with their own eyes. A short simulation can help the team perceive areas for growth and become more open to content.
- For group exercises and simulations, assign roles that give participants experiences outside their area of functional expertise.
When possible, make executive development sessions multi-functional and multi-generational.
Executives will benefit from perspectives from outside their own industry. Bringing interns or high school students into the session for some exercises will provide an excellent opportunity for honing coaching skills and reverse-mentoring (e.g. social media projects would be ideal for this).
Keep Things Moving.
Especially if learners are highly analytical, shake things up a bit to give attendees an opportunity to stretch, move outside their zone of comfort and become more skilled at "learning on the fly."
- Build in some downtime to give the group a chance to relax and bond.
Never short circuit the debriefing or business application exercises.
It's where the rubber meets the road and it will ensure that everyone leaves the session with some practical take-away that they can apply immediately at work.
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