Meetings No 01
This is no ordinary meeting magazine.
Cover Story
Johan Johansson
encourages us to challenge our thought patterns.
Psychological Meetings
Meeting People
Gordon slowly opens the door just a little bit.
Ecological Breakfast
A great success.
Richard Gatarski
Gatarski Questions the Myth of Total Presence
Please turn on your mobile phones!
Shari Swan
Swan on New Ways of Working
and an ever present focus on the street.
Take a Break with Cottam
Excerpts from Mothers Pearls: 27 short autobiographical chapters of aha moments of realization.
Business Meetings Management
A five part masters programme.
Jonas Bodin
Meeting With Meaning
CSR in practice
Jan Rollof
On Creativity
and its impact on meetings.
Mind Check
The Significance of Colours
Tomas Dalström picks the brain of Karl Rydberg.
Business Intelligence
Four Years Before the London Olympics
What's on, Barbara Jamison, at visit London?
Per Hörberg
Hidden Agendas
Affecting meetings everywhere.
Meeting Architecture
Dr Elling Hamso an the most significant book ever.
Spread the Message
Nature's Ten Best Tips
To suddenly become green in your meeting concept is not as easy as it sounds.
Meetings Industry Research
Lund University conducts research into the meetings industry.
A way of communicating.
Roger Kellerman
A Buyers' and Meetings Planners' Magazine
Why Meetings International goes international.
New knowledge
Brain research
shows added value live events.
BTM World 2020
transitions to virtual.
post-pandemic momentum
Dubai Tourism forms Business Events Stakeholders committee,
host first meeting as industry resumes activity.
hotel news
Scandic expects
occupancy of 30-35 percent for September.
Covid developer
Scandic Hotels
launches the largest network of coworking spaces in the Nordic countries.
planned for 16-17 Sep
Update on GIAF
- New dates set for 5-6 November 2020.
Sands Expo and Convention Centre
is now a carbon neutral venue.
positive impact
The Hague webinar
celebrates partnerships and first anniversary of Ottawa MOU.
expanding network
ICCA Partners up
with Geneva International Associations Forum (GIAF).
Sponsored Content
Taiwan Ready to Reopen to the World
Over 80 events taking place in Taipei now.
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Gatarski Questions the Myth of Total Presence
“Hello, and welcome to the meeting. A practical detail before we begin, please turn on your mobile phones. If any of you have a cute ringtone that you think we ought to hear then leave the sound on. Feel free to use your computers during the meeting. Thank you very much. We can now begin, unless somebody has an objection?”

Get used to it in that case, because this could be the introduction from a meeting based on Svenska Möten’s new Online meeting model, which is available to all their members. As the name implies, the Online model entails participants being able to search for information, fetch material and communicate with other people during the course of a meeting using their own choice of information technology. It is not limited to the content of the meeting either, but gives participants the opportunity to email and blog on completely different subjects than that being discussed at the meeting.

The founder of the meeting model, researcher and consultant Richard Gatarski, has run into many disciples of meeting discipline who regard it as disrespectful not to listen to the person speaking at a meeting.

“It depends on how you look at it. Ten years ago I always began meetings by opening my laptop and writing. People looked askance at me. But nobody reacts if I sit and write with paper and pen because we’re used to it.”

With this model Richard Gatarski challenges the myth of the importance of total mental presence during a meeting in the physical space. Many strive to ensure that meeting participants are as active as possible, that they do not just sit and cost a lot of money with their skills and ideas falling by the wayside. Online offers the complete opposite. Or?

“You could call it an alternative strategy. Sometimes it’s futile, particularly at longer meetings, to expect everybody to be on top of things and be physically and mentally present the whole time. It’s an impossible scenario. It’s better to relax. Having all these people here is expensive, but not to worry, all those not present at the moment are doing other valuable things instead.”

Richard Gatarski singles out a meeting technique that has developed in the past ten years.

“Today during breaks people make phone calls. Ten years ago they mingled and spoke to each other. Nowadays people use the break to fix all the things they haven’t had time to do. So it’s a great opportunity to send all those emails during the meeting so you can talk to each other during the break.”

What effect could Online have on a meeting?

“Satisfied participants, more effective meetings. Imagine a workgroup of seven deciding on an issue then going online for a quarter of an hour. They check all the things they have to do and then link up again without anybody having left the room.”

We meet during a break at an IT conference in the heart of Stockholm. On the way I text Richard Gatarski to see if he practices what he preaches. He does. A minute or so later I get a reply straight from the ongoing meeting, which appears to give Richard Gatarski plenty of legroom to converse with the outside world.

“A couple of times at least during the meeting I’ve had the ‘I’ve heard this before, I could be doing something more constructive’ feeling. I can then send some emails, blog or read a paper,” he says. “I was at another meeting yesterday that had no wireless network. It was very frustrating because I wanted to blog about the meeting to avoid doing it later. I wrote it on my laptop instead with the intention of sending later, but I still haven’t had time.”

The new technology and wireless internet has greatly improved Richard Gatarski’s meeting habits.

“I attend more meetings now. I’m here today, for example, because I know I can do other things as well. I’ve sat through so many meetings thinking this is just not for me. After a few such meetings you begin to cut down on attending because you don’t want to continue in that vein. I now feel the opposite. It could be interesting, I’ll go along and see. Otherwise I could always do something else,” he continues.

Prior to a meeting, the functionary should always resolve the issue of how the online connection can best serve the meeting’s goals and objectives. The main aim is not only to allow participants to be online. There are no specific rules for how the technology should be utilised during a meeting, but Richard Gatarski has set a level: participants could be encouraged to take a more active part if required. Or the functionary could make it clear that ‘everything does not appeal to everybody, use your time to do something else if you so wish’.

Today during breaks people make phone calls. Ten years ago they mingled and spoke to each other.”

The new meeting model puts demands on the meeting functionary.

“Previously, functionaries assumed they had a good idea of who was actively present at a meeting. It’s common knowledge that people relax and stop taking an active part in a meeting if it’s not interesting. But it’s not possible to see when we’re thinking of something else. Nowadays it’s more obvious because we look down as we use the keyboard. But that doesn’t necessarily indicate a lack of presence.

“Young people of today are genuine multitaskers who can do several things at once. I’ve tried it on my 12-year-old son. Sometimes I get the impression that he’s not listening when he actually is. I’m the same when I’m using my laptop at a meeting. I know that I hear what’s being said, but others don’t realise that and give me a surly look.”

Food for thought: do not assume that people are absent just because they appear to be doing something else. Or for that matter that they do not hear just because they are writing.

Is it possible to train multitasking?

“Quite a lot of people text messages while listening, it’s not at all unusual. But writing notes on the computer while listening is a good thing to train. It’s difficult at first, but I can now write, think, converse and listen simultaneously. I couldn’t from the beginning.”

How long will we have to put up with the surly looks?

“It’ll probably take up to five years before it’s an accepted custom, but quite a few organisations have already adopted it. In my experience, increasingly more people are using computers during meetings.”

Who is guiding the process?

“We who want to utilise the new possibilities. If people do it and think it’s worthwhile then it’ll become standard procedure. The price of equipment also plays a large part. Ten years ago laptops were very expensive.”

Richard Gatarski recalls an incident from when he was a conference announcer. After an appearance he received a message from a colleague in the audience telling him his microphone was still on.

“I’d been half whispering to the person next to me. All the sound had gone out. If I’d not been online it could have proved really embarrassing.”

Which tools should one use?

“The ones you already have is the simplest solution. Your mobile and laptop. It’s a personal thing, connected people connect as they wish. If somebody wants to blog or even podcast it’s up to them. There already exists a meeting concept based on participants being connected to a system that facilitates discussion and question-asking. It’s a closed system. That model is more expensive and requires more structure than mine. My model is more individual. Set it free, encourage people to test it and see what happens. The premises must naturally provide a mobile network and internet.”

Many conference facilities, whose technology Richard Gatarski regards as being sub-standard, choose not to provide wireless internet for security reasons.

“Hole in head,” says Richard Gatarski, who mumbles at having to log on with a username and password in the meeting hall we find ourselves in. “I can access the internet on my mobile phone. Of course they can fix it if they really want to.”