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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…

12 Nov

The Risk in Not Risking

Despite the discomfort, for meetings to positively change, WE need to change.   Copyright 2014, Andrea Driessen, Chief Boredom Buster Image courtesy of Meeting Professionals Int’l The meetings industry tends to view risk as a liability. We have (and need!) complex contractual clauses that address indemnity, force majeure and liability. We use carefully crafted check lists so meetings run perfectly. After all, who wants to risk it? Then we invite imperfect, novelty-seeking, easily bored guests whose input we can’t control; people who crave surprise, creativity and the extraordinary. We know eliciting change is an imperfect science at best. So how do we navigate the gap between staging safe, legal, well-run events—and designing live experiences that leave audiences changed and inspired? Putting aside insurable risk for a bit, let’s hear from planners who stuck their necks out with thoughtful event risks, and generated more value and impact. There’s an inherent—and crucial—boldness in trying something new and not knowing, for certain, whether it’ll work. For meetings to change positively, we need to change. And change doesn’t happen in the middle. It happens on the edge, where—frankly—it’s uncomfortable. Let’s step out and see what we find. Aligning meeting brands with public brands Lorie…

11 Sep

Behind the Scenes at TED & TEDActive 2014 in BC

by Andrea Driessen, Chief Boredom Buster, Copyright 2014 Photo by Trib via Flickr Reflect on a time when you felt truly understood, part of a meaningful community, with “your people.” Maybe a happy hour with close friends. A family reunion. A college fraternity experience. Such deep group affiliation isn’t common. So a few months ago, I went on an intentional search for it. And found a rarified, powerful level of connection that lasted five. Days. Straight. This is a behind-the-scenes look at that experience to help us design more intentional, game-changing meetings. When I learned that TED and TEDActive would be held respectively in Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia this last spring, just a few hours north of my home-base of Seattle, I yearned to see what all the fuss was about. What happens at TED events that has the world in general, and the meetings industry in particular, abuzz? Why are people across cultures and professions drawn to a long, not-inexpensive, industry-agnostic event—one that is, in part, available for free online, and that may have no direct career dividend? You’re likely familiar with TED. Perhaps you’ve integrated some TED-ness into meetings. Maybe favorite some online TED Talks. Or attended…