European meeting model vs. American meeting model

meeting model

How SixSteps Encourages Collaboration

We are frequently asked how the usage of the European meeting model makes SixSteps® unique when compared to other meeting tools such as Cisco Webex, Adobe Connect or Microsoft Skype for Business.The answer is somewhat complex. The reason for this is that lots of Europeans are familiar with the well-known meeting tools of the leading suppliers and they are also familiar with the various features of these meeting tools because they have used them themselves. So when different meeting tools are analyzed, the various features of these aforementioned tools are then compared. However, there is a fundamental difference between SixSteps® and the meeting tools mentioned above. SixSteps® reflects the European meeting culture, while Cisco Webex, etc. reflect the American meeting culture.


The difference that makes a difference

If one compares meeting cultures, i.e., the expectations that people in different cultures have of meetings, their contents, procedures, as well as the approach and manner of working in meetings in America and Europe, it becomes clear that there is a fundamentally differing approach to meetings. As strange as it might sound, even Asia’s meeting culture (more specifically Japan), is more similar to European meetings than American meetings are.

Meetings in the USA are frequently held in order to inform other participants of something, i.e., to share information with others, or to convince the other participants of something. Therefore, meetings frequently take the form of presentations. In contrast, meetings in Europe (and in parts of Asia) are held in order to identify problems and find solutions as a team.

Managers in Europe frequently complain that less and less collaboration takes place in meetings. In my opinion this is caused by the fact that the American meeting culture has found its way to Europe. In online meetings, one frequently is forced to use American style tools because of the lack of options. European managers and moderators in Europe try to apply WebEx and Co. to their European meeting model. However, this is frequently difficult or impossible because WebEx and Co. simply do not supply the required tools.

To get to the point, the major difference between SixSteps® and tools from the USA is that the American meeting software concentrates on presentations and discussions, while the tools used in SixSteps® encourage participant collaboration to identify challenges and find solutions.


The American Meeting Model

Viewed from the outside, meetings in the USA can frequently be described as “aggressive”. The participants in American meetings sometimes seem to be attacking each other when discussing specific issues. It is viewed positively if all relevant topics are openly and directly addressed, even if this sometimes threatens personal relationships. This has an unsettling effect in cultures that wish meetings to be as harmonious and diplomatic as possible. In these latter culture groups, the American approach can be viewed as a malicious, personal attack – which is, of course, a misinterpretation. Rather, in America, this directness is deemed to be the correct manner in which to approach important topics.

When American businesspeople are pressed for time, they have no patience with the vague, diplomatic formulations which would be typical of meetings in England or Japan.

In American meetings, presentations are common. These presentations are not just supposed to be relevant and well researched, but they are also supposed to be convincing and committed and positively presented. Meetings in general, and especially presentations, are seen as opportunities for people to make an impression on others. This is especially important for those wishing to further their own careers.

If one looks at the functions of American software for meetings, one notices that sophisticated tools are available to present information to participants – such as screen sharing, application sharing or the uploading of data in the most varying formats, ranging from video to PowerPoint to PDF and simple documents. However, there are hardly any tools for the collaboration of participants.


The European Meeting Model

European meetings seem to be very formal when compared with American meetings. For the participants in European meetings, it is important that their contributions to meetings be valued and rank equally with the contributions of others. Everyone wishes to be included in what is happening at the meeting. The meeting leader thus attempts to include all of the participants in the meeting. Thus, in moderated meetings, the input of “normal employees” plays as important a role as the contributions of invited experts on the subject – although the views of the latter might totally differ from the views of the former. However, when everyone has his say, some participants talk too much and others lose track of the subject being discussed. This can cause meetings to progress slowly and in the worst case, it might prevent the meeting from achieving any results. In a nutshell: the meeting would be a waste of time.

This can make for rough going for a moderator in meetings in which the participants are involved. The moderator is responsible for keeping the meeting flowing and has to make sure the participants stick to the given topic, especially if everyone is to be given the chance to speak – and all participants should be given an equal opportunity to speak their minds. Furthermore, it is extremely important to have visualizations of important points so that the contributions and decisions can be understood by everyone. The moderator should always collaborate with the group in order to achieve optimal results. Thus, even if the problems dealt with are complex, if the group works together, results can be achieved which reflect the concerns of all of the participants.

This approach sounds as if it might be as exhausting as high performance sports. And this can, in fact, if the moderator does not have access to appropriate tools.


The SixSteps Facilitation

SixSteps® Facilitation offers a simple but effective model to turn apparent chaos into a logical work structure by taking one step at a time. It divides meetings into six steps. In each of the steps, suitable methods are made available to simplify collaboration. If a moderator uses this approach and applies the different tools and techniques, he/she has access to a meta model that makes it possible for him to keep his eye on the entire course of the meeting.

The six steps that the moderator goes through in meetings are 1. the introduction, 2. gathering topics, 3. selecting topics, 4. handling, 5. planning measures to be taken and 6. the conclusion. Each of these 6 steps has a specific purpose. The point of the introduction is to open the session, create a positive working climate, and provide orientation for working together. In the second step, “gathering topics”, either the agenda is presented or the participants work together to set the agenda. In the third step, “selecting topics”, the participants decide which topics should be given priority. After the topics that need to be worked on have been identified, they are dealt with or discussed in the next step, which is “handling”. The results are used to decide upon “measures to be taken” or noted on the task board. In the “conclusion” the insights gained by the group are reflected on and acknowledged before the meeting is ended.

The approach can be applied either by using traditional media such as flip charts and presentation boards or digitally, with help of the moderation software SixSteps®. If you would like to get to know this approach, then go to MODERATIO or SixSteps®. We would love to hear from you!

We wish you successful meetings!
Your, David Seifert
(efa GmbH, Software-Development-Team)