Lessons for Meeting Pros from “The Great British Baking Show”

The amateur baking competition is known for its tasty creations and likeable personalities. But the TV show also has lessons that can be applied to meeting planning.

“On your mark. Get set. Bake.”

Those are six words I look forward to hearing each week because they are said during one my favorite programs, The Great British Baking Show.

If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a British TV program where amateur bakers compete against each other. During every episode, they complete three bakes: a signature bake, a technical challenge, and a show-stopper. They run the gamut from bread and pastries to cakes and biscuits. At the end of each episode, one participant is named “star baker,” while another is sent home.

And the backdrop for the show is just as beautiful as the bakers’ creations: Contestants compete in a tent in the British countryside.

As much as I enjoy the show for its dreamy baked goods and picturesque setting, I recently started to realize there are lessons to be learned from it, some of which could apply directly to association execs in all sorts of roles. For the sake of this post, I’ll dive into three takeaways for meeting planners.

You Can Only Prepare So Much

For two rounds of the show, the contestants get advance notice of what they will be required to bake, so they can plan and practice at home. But for the technical challenge, they get an ingredient list, a few vague instructions, and a short amount of time to complete a complex bake on the spot. Often, the bakers have never seen or eaten the mystery bake—much less made one. That means they must rely on their baking knowledge and then improvise.

For meeting planners, you can have that best plan and strategy in place to execute a flawless conference or event, but then a speaker could get sick, severe weather could lead to a cancellation, or some other unexpected situation could arise. At those times, stay positive and rely on the knowledge and experience you have to course-correct and tackle the situation head on.

Criticism Can Be a Good Thing

The show’s judges, Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith, are tough. And they often make the contestants nervous as they walk around the tent observing the bakers at work, even questioning the ingredients and processes they’re using. But that criticism often results in contestants incorporating the judges’ suggestions and feedback into their future bakes. And those improvements often get rave reviews from Paul and Prue.

So, if you get negative feedback from an attendee or exhibitor, remember to receive it through a lens of learning. It may be difficult to hear in the moment, but keep it in mind as you consider how to improve future events. Also be thankful that that your critics were willing to tell you where something fell short. The outcome would probably be worse if they never said anything.

Remember to Have Fun

Even in the most stressful situations—when the icing is melting off a cake or someone’s dough didn’t rise—there are moments of humor among the contestants, hosts, and judges. Those moments often break the tension and help reduce the panic and anxiety contestants are experiencing.

As meeting planners, if you feel you’re at a breaking point, find a colleague who will make you laugh and take your mind off the situation. According to Harvard Business Review, “Laughter relieves stress and boredom, boosts engagement and well-being, and spurs not only creativity and collaboration but also analytic precision and productivity.”

With these lessons in hand, in the words of The Great British Baking Show, “On your mark. Get set. Plan.”


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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