Another question at last week’s conference was on getting reluctant people to participate in strategic thinking efforts if they don’t want to spend the time or are skeptical about its value. Barring a management directive, you can’t force participation. Instead, consider two other approaches.

First is the Wednesday “Change Your Character” exercise. Professional event planners face similar challenges. They’re under the gun to produce great events and make sure that people want to show up for them. They accomplish this with their event by:

  • Having multiple events of different sizes at different times to attract different groups
  • Planning the event’s timing so it doesn’t conflict with other priorities
  • Tying the event to an already scheduled activity
  • Holding the event someplace new – in a more convenient or a unique location
  • Broadening the invitation list with new participants and guests who usually wouldn’t be invited
  • Confirming well-known guests personally and communicating their participation to others
  • Creating a compelling invitation – ensuring invitees know all event details and the benefits of attending
  • Inviting people in sufficient time for them to commit
  • Making it easy to RSVP in the affirmative
  • Calling invitees to confirm attendance and reminding them about the event a week before
  • Creating attractive networking and relationship building opportunities for attendees
  • Giving certain invitees specific roles to perform at the event

As usual, come up with 3 new ideas for each event planner technique to get people to come to a strategic thinking session.

Here’s the bonus on this challenge - Five approaches that we’ve used to secure participation from people reluctant to invest time on strategy:

  • Collect strategic input with online exercises – Allow people to participate without a meeting. Use this for SWOT exercises, gauging opinions, and soliciting perceptions on future industry dynamics.
  • Secure a little bit of time with a clear objective – If you can get 45 minutes of a group’s time, select an exercise and a prioritization approach that will fit the time. Make sure you’re clearly moving toward your objective within the session.
  • Do strategic thinking for non-participants – Find out what non-participating stakeholders want to accomplish and do the strategic thinking for them. Package the outcome in a recommendation or executive summary, pitching the results to demonstrate strategic thinking’s benefits.
  • Work with who you can get – If you have a small but diverse group interested in strategic thinking, hold a session with them. Ensure that you clearly deliver results and create a buzz about it afterward.
  • Reference sell – If someone senior has seen beneficial results from strategy efforts, ask them to contact your reluctant thinkers, recommending they find time because it’s worth it.

Use these five approaches and the event planner techniques to get your foot in the door for more strategic thinking within your business. And to gain a better perspective on the advantage of thinking about even small business presentations as events, check out tomorrow’s post.

Check out a compilation of "Change Your Character" creative thinking exercises and information on its use.  – Mike Brown


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