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20 Jan

No Joke: Humor as a Powerful Engagement Tool

What if you could add just one item to your meeting tool kit and…boost learning, attention, trust, energy, adaptability, memory, collaboration, optimism, circulation, and lifespan; lessen fear, stress and resistance to change; and help build safer, more inclusive communities? You’d hold in your hot little hands the Swiss army knife of meeting tools, wouldn’t you? But what could possibly do all that? Humor, my friend. Humor. Think I’m joking? Ask the researchers. Ask successful meeting planners who make a habit of incorporating humor into their events. Or just read on. “Humor” in this context refers to thoughtful, strategic content that engages audiences on an emotional level and makes them laugh because it surprises and delights—in relevant, contextual ways. It’s not on par with comedic joke-telling, which is pure entertainment with no take-away value. Indeed, the capacity of well-placed humor to improve meetings is no laughing matter. For starters, “Emotion drives attention and attention drives learning,” found Robert Sylwester, Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Oregon. Further, according to the nonprofit Information Age Education (IAE), humor increases memory and long-term retrieval, and can capture the attention of people who are easily bored and inattentive. It helps us be more…

13 Jan

4 brain-boosting tips for your next meeting

Guest Blog by Yvonne Szikla, founder of Events with a Purpose What’s the best way to harness all that brain power that shows up at your next meeting?  The folks over at Brain Research Advance Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) are trying to unravel this mystery, thanks to a $46 million federal grant. How we think, learn and remember provide the basics for optimizing brain power and maximizing a successful meeting. Brain-friendly meetings enhance learning by incorporating ergonomic principles from lighting (warm white light is best), to proper acoustics to comfortable chairs. 4 brain-boosting tips for your next meeting: Keep it simple The human brain has a limited amount of processing power.  Studies have shown that the average person can pay attention for approximately 20 minutes before starting to fade.  Something as simple as having participants stand and shake hands with each other allows the brain to take a break while increasing circulation and blood flow to the brain. Keep it Real Reconstructive learning allows participants to reconstruct, repeat, and recognize what they just heard – one of the best ways to learn something new. Keep it Brief Brain experts recommend a break after 1.5 hours of work to keep participants focused….

09 Jan

You CAN hear me now

Just one phone call separates status-quo meeting planners from exceptional meeting professionals. It’s what I call a Message Continuity Conference Call. And it’s a crucial component to events with multiple speakers. When you schedule this special call with all your outside speakers and your internal meeting message team, you get happier audiences and stronger meeting outcomes. Plus it’s simple, free and team-driven. How it works: Once you know who will take the stage at your event, particularly “outside” keynote and breakout session presenters, find a time when everyone can be on the phone together. (This often requires planning quite far ahead.) In advance, send everyone a short document in which you describe your meeting-message strategy. Don’t have a strategy? Call me and we can discuss how you can get one. During the call, your goals are to reinforce the most important concepts you want your audience to experience as a result of the meeting and ultimately create more message continuity. Give callers an opportunity to share their content plans, and ensure everyone’s on board with ways to unite and align messages for more impact. Invariably–in the simple act of conversation–themes and patterns emerge that you would not otherwise know about. Connections…

21 Dec

Presents vs. Presence: Which will you give?

By Andrea Driessen, Copyright 2014 For most of us, the holidays are joyous, festive—and stressful. Overflowing with abundance—and distractions. Few would call this time of year a series of boring meetings! In a Season of Big Celebrations, we may actually long for an occasional shot of boredom. Or at least stillness! In the midst of it all, consider the greatest gift you may be able to give. It’s priceless—but has no cost—except your time and attention. The gift, in fact, IS your time and attention. The present IS your presence. During these time-starved days and harried schedules, our willingness to slow down for meaningful, eye-to-eye engagement with those we love is rare. May we take a few extra moments to listen intently to people around us. Let’s ask questions of depth that show we are sincerely interested and mentally in synch…rather than distracted by our “smart” phones or thinking about the next soiree. Our full attention—when tuned to others, and offered  freely to acknowledge someone’s else’s presence and gifts—is a precious present. Let me know what you notice in these moments of connection. Share how it feels to give this cost-free, priceless gift. May you both give and receive an…

02 Dec

Mind This: Big Risk, Big Payoff for a Nonprofit

  (The content of this post complements the previous one on risk) Risk taking can be even more difficult when a nonprofit’s viability is on the line. Gilda’s Club Seattle took a big risk in how they solicited funds from prospective donors. They mailed invitations describing their upcoming fundraising ball: promising a 10-course dinner and a Champagne fountain! The inside read: “Never mind (a homage to Gilda’s own memorable line from Saturday Night Live)….We’re really not the type to throw a fancy party.” Instead, this organization—committed to supporting all aspects of cancer research and care—asked for direct donations in lieu of black-tie attendance. Risky for sure. And yet it generated a net GAIN, according to Anna Gottlieb, executive director of the organization. At one point, 68% of Gilda’s Club revenues were generated from events. They also ultimately eliminated an auction and other gatherings, which lessened marketing, event and staffing costs, yet didn’t affect the bottom line. The group’s new strategy “gives us more time to fulfill our mission and to get the services we provide into more communities,” Gottlieb said. “It all takes dollars, but I think our dollars are better spent on our programs that have direct impact on…