Change hurts; go slowly

Dana’s Meeting Minutes is based on the Meeting Planning Triangle. Click here for a link.


Meeting planners are thinkers and doers. Let’s get those good ideas in place so participants can benefit from them, pronto. Members are not always so eager. Even with reluctant leaders, change can happen, but it may need to happen slowly. (Patience, dear planner…)



Tip #1

Respect their reluctance.

  • Acknowledge their hesitation.

  • Ask questions that unveil their fears. They may not even know what they are.

Tip #2

Initiate change in phases.

  • Don’t fight slow adapters, plan for it by proposing changes in bite-sized pieces.

  • For example, you think the (long, boring, tired) Annual Awards Banquet needs to retire. Instead of wiping it off the agenda at once, consider the following:

    • Year 1—Hold the banquet, but downsize the ceremony; recognize the honorees in other ways, e.g. Wall of Fame, meet the winners, publish winners’ profiles

    • Year 2—Design an event on the same night that is less banquet-y and more fun for your participants (you’ll have to determine what that would look like); introduce honorees and continue to recognize them in other ways

    • Year 3—Based on feedback from the past two years, determine if giving awards is still necessary. Might it be wise to invest time and resources into a different, more meaningful celebration of industry excellence?

Tip #3

Give them lots of details.

  • Be prepared to answer questions you didn’t even think of. You know that one person who will ask, right?

  • Present the pros and cons. Be honest about the cons, even though you’d rather not.

  • Include proof of the benefits and/or examples of the change successfully integrated at other meetings.


Use a design-driven model, where you create innovations customers don’t expect, but come to love.

I interpret this concept from the corporate world to mean that when possible, slip in a change or two you are confident will be accepted, perhaps loved, if only given a chance. In my experience, I find that volunteers over-think and under-try. The other way to describe this is to ask forgiveness, not permission.


Want More?

Design-Driven Innovation—


There is an association for everything, including change management. I wonder how often the Association of Change Management Professionals changes its convention?





Dana L. Saal, CMP, CAE, has been planning meetings for associations for more than 30 years. She recently decided that coaching meeting planners is now more fun than proofing BEOs, counting coffee cups and writing scripts. If you think a bit of coaching could improve your meeting, send a message via her website!

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