Capturing your attendees’ heads and their hearts:
If you have read my previous articles, you know I talk a lot about the emotional aspect of the meeting industry. Sharing experiences about audience engagement is a logical continuation of the same theme. What are the ingredients of a meeting that captures the attendees’ attention? What makes meetings transformational for their attendees, what makes it their life-enriching experience? Relevant content, professional speakers, great venue, cutting-edge technology? All of this, of course. And much more.
Picture yourself at the meeting of your dreams – an ancient picturesque town close to an international airport, a long sandy beach a few steps from your chic conference hotel, a surprising cultural venue for networking events… These are certainly very good steps to make a meeting memorable. Would it be enough also for effective education and networking? Would it be a worthwhile investment of your time and money? We can add some shared slides from an educational programme and a pocket full of business cards. It is also good – in short term thinking. Do you really remember who’s behind the slides, behind the business cards? What did you talk to these people about? How relevant is this really to you and your business in the long-term?
We must redesign meetings for an experience that lasts in the memory from pre- to post-event by constantly looking for new ways to capture attendees’ attention. In order to develop meaningful programmes meeting planners and meeting designers need to work closely on their attendees’ needs and interests in today’s ever-changing marketplace.
SOCIAL MEDIA ENHANCING THE MEETING EXPERIENCE:
Redesigning the meetings by improving the engagement is the movement that’s changing the face of meetings by repositioning them within creative industry.
Meetings connect like-minded people and inspire them to personally engage and commit. That way we all learn together what does or does not work and how we can improve on traditional meeting experiences. No more barriers for innovative thinkers to bring their innovative ideas to life. However, it is a process and requires engagement before, at and after the meeting. Here we are back again to social media as such a powerful tool to enhance the meeting experience:
- Before the meeting starts, participants can learn about the programme in a more fun way and easily interact with others who are planning to attend. This can also help presenters to refine their lectures and collect data to use at the meeting. Audience-generated content could be incorporated in the programme.
- At the meeting, attendees can personally engage and commit, bringing added value to the programme. They aren’t hearing about the programme content for the first time at the event and therefore feel more comfortable to ask questions and interact in general. They can also share their experiences with friends and colleagues who are not attending.
- After the meeting, the learning process can be extended and networking kept alive. The online community should be kept alive by providing fresh content on a regular basis giving them more reasons to stay in touch. You don’t have to create all the content. Curate topics and moderate discussions from the community. This also goes to the goal of having year-round engagement.
MAKING SPEAKERS ACCESSIBLE:
Meetings are the source of expertise and knowledge provided (primarily) by programme designers and speakers. Keynotes are the stars of the programme, or at least they have been before. Today’s attendees expect an overall feeling that is more free and still full of content. We can give them that feeling by being less rigid about the programme format without compromising on its content. No more talking heads on stage. Even keynotes should “open up”, they should talk with attendees in informal settings like networking events, stay a day longer at the meeting.
THINKING OUTSIDE THE AGENDA:
Meeting content is increasingly user-generated both online and offline. New experiental and participatory meeting formats like unconferencing, speed geeking, fishbowl conversations, world cafes and similar “open” formats are generating more and more innovative and fresh ideas.
Not only that we have moved from the world of monologues to dialogues, but with new medias and “cool” technologies to the world of polylogues.
But don’t forget – unconventional meetings fit in unconventional, unique venues:
Meetings are no longer about sitting back, listening, and leaving. True meeting potential is realised when you fully “activate” an audience, making it a community. It may be fierce action, but the results could be phenomenal.