Who are we representing when we attend a conference: the company we are employed by and are loyal to, or ourselves? Patrik Hall, a professor in political science, has been investigating the nature of work meetings, from the subtle and diplomatic, to the seductive and flirtatious.

The findings have been published in the newly-translated book, Why Meetings Matter, in which Hall, and his academic colleagues, dive into the inner machinations of work meetings, arguing that they are an integral feature of organisations and contrary to popular belief, are what define, represent and maintain organisations.

I think it shows something important about these more relaxed meetings, that you have to be there, show your personality.

Patrik Hall

One of the chapters looks into the event industry, and Hall and his colleague Erika Andersson Cederholm, have investigated how corporate events are portrayed:

”I started to watch YouTube films made by event organisers, there are a lot of similar films from Tel Aviv, Oslo, the entire world, and every film looked almost identical; they were all around two minutes with pretty much the same music, showing people together; the interesting thing was that there was little focus on the actual speakers, the researchers or the entrepreneurs speaking, the focus was on the mingles.

“They showed happy people mingling together, but when you look at the number of views, no one actually watches them. That led me to think about: ‘What are these films about?’, ‘What is it they want to show the world which doesn’t seem that bothered about it?’.”

Hall describes the mingle as a kind of meeting but not in the classical sense in that they have a concept of networking and sociality and require social competence skills. Skills that are not the same as those required for traditional meetings, such as being punctual and sticking to an agenda. At mingles, it is a bit more about being able, as Hall says, to be a bit of a flirt during brief encounters.

“It’s the ‘side activities’ which are the really important. In the first few seconds of one of the videos promoting an event, you see a man with a glass of wine, a woman passes, and they exchanged a look. Why would they start with that? It suggests something about loose liaisons.

“I think it shows something important about these more relaxed meetings, that you have to be there, show your personality.”

One important thing Hall looked at is that in such situations the delegates don’t really appear as a representative of their organisation, but a representative of themself.

“So the promotional material for these events is often about personality, and how you ‘perform’ – that goes beyond the mingle. This can lead to problems with responsibility and accountability,” adds Hall.


Through an in-depth analysis of ethnographic case studies, Patrik Hall, Malin Åkerström and Erika Andersson Cederholm illustrate the inner workings of meetings, exploring phenomena such as meeting chains, meeting escapes, the digitalisation of meetings, subtle meeting diplomacy, and seductive business events. The book emphasises how negotiations, collaborations and power dynamics are performed during meetings, making meetings the most fundamental working map of organisational hierarchies. Why Meetings Matter highlights the crucial importance of meetings in an increasingly collaborative professional working landscape.

Read more about Why Meetings Matter on the publisher's website