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Category: Meeting Design

18 Sep

Balancing Careful with Creative: A Case Study in Event Risk

By Andrea Driessen This post is excerpted from my forthcoming book, “The Non-Obvious Guide to Event Planning: For Kick-Ass Gatherings that Inspire People,” available later this fall. The events industry tends to view risk as a danger to be avoided. We have (and need!) complex contractual clauses that address indemnity, force majeure and liability. We use carefully crafted checklists, so events run effectively. After all, who wants to risk it? Then we invite imperfect, easily bored guests whose attention spans we cannot control. We host folks who crave novelty, surprise, creativity and cutting-edge ideas. As we consider risk on a continuum, I believe there’s an inherent—and crucial—boldness in trying something new with our programming design and not knowing, for certain, whether it’ll work. For us to truly raise the bar on and positively change the overall event experience, we need to change. And change doesn’t happen in the middle. It happens on the edge, where it’s uncomfortable.

23 May

A Powerful Story of a Quadruple Win

Don’t we all love success stories?! See how a nonprofit succeeded in spades–four times over–as they: Drastically increased live and virtual event attendees Boosted overall event revenue Secured more sponsorship dollars AND Showcased a cutting-edge event technology When a nonprofit tackles such a difficult issue as childhood trauma, you had better believe that there are truly passionate people behind that effort. For Victoria Peattie Helm, Executive Director at NW Children’s Foundation (NWCF) and Kelly Lynch Reimer, NWCF Program Manager, uniting people to end child abuse and neglect is part of their day job. And they will do everything that they can to fulfill this mission. Their signature event, The NWCF Forum, plays a big role in helping to raise both awareness and engage the community in their mission. THE PROBLEM: When the 2018 Forum sold out with over a month to go before the event, they realized they had a demand from people who wanted to engage, but they had no more room at the venue. Victoria and Kelly had a goal to bring together as many people as possible for a community conversation on early childhood trauma and resiliency, and they were determined not to let venue constraints limit participation. That’s when they reached out…

16 Jan

Why you Need an Event Producer

By Cynthia Bishop, who is a freelance event producer and project manager with over 22 years’ experience producing live, broadcast, and virtual events for corporations, non-profits and creative agencies in over 11 countries, in venues ranging from hotel ballrooms to stadiums. Whether it’s an executive keynote, product launch, press event, multi-day conference, world tour, or all of the above, she ensures your events are successful and memorable. We all want to create the very best meetings possible, so audience have a great experience. So, what do you gain by hiring a producer to augment your team? A producer provides the success infrastructure so participants can consume the information your presenters deliver with all the attention they can give it. Producers ensure all the required equipment and supporting staff are in place; that the audience can fully see and hear the information; that presentation flow is seamless. That the atmosphere onsite is calm, cool, confident and collected—not chaotic. And that you are free to focus on networking, logistics, important partner meetings, and PR—not trying to run presentations at the same time. Current strategy behind presentation development recommends changing up the content every eight minutes to help keep the audience’s attention. People…

03 Jan

9 critical ways to transform meeting uncertainty into event success

By Andrea Driessen The new year often fosters lots of possibility—and plenty of uncertainty. One area where none of us want to experience uncertainty is our speaker line up. So I’ve codified 9 critical steps we at No More Boring Meetings use to eliminate as many elements of uncertainty as possible. While we can’t control the weather or the actions of global political leaders, we can and I believe must do the following to control the controllable and ensure our events sizzle. 1-Offer up: When you’re making offers to speakers, do you ask for everything you need? A content conference call, media interview(s), social media posts, post-event follow up? You’ll avoid disappointment and gain conference buzz when these points are covered in the offer and therefore are part of your planning and execution. Better to over-ask than to forget a key request, as you may be out of luck if you inquire after the contract’s been signed. 2-Easy strategy: On the conference call, discuss: why was this particular speaker chosen? How does he or she fit into meeting goals and the organizational mission? Better to over-communicate here than leave out key info. 3-Do you know who I am? Be sure…

17 Sep

ACK! Q&A is NOT engagement

© 2017 Andrea Driessen You likely have had this experience: You ask speakers how they’ll interact with attendees, and some say, “I’ll add Q&A at the end.” As if that will solve the problem. It will NOT. It’s a LAZY solution. Audience engagement does NOT equal Q&A. Sure…a handful of folks may feel engaged when the speaker answers their questions. But the rest? They’re often tuned out, as the Q is frequently irrelevant at worst, moderately interesting at best. So what CAN you do to boost engagement? A few easy-to-roll-out formats:  1-Post-Program Pair-Up This is a simple, powerful exercise I’ve designed to increase networking and the likelihood of positive change. Whether you have 5 or 5,000 attendees, near the end of your program or event, have participants find partners. Each dyad discusses new goals they want to reach in the next 60 days. They record their objectives—plus each other’s contact information—and together commit to reaching these milestones. Smaller audience? Take commitments to a higher level: invite everyone to state their goals before the whole group; sharing publicly means you’re more likely to succeed. 2-Solve the “unsolvable” with Cricking Think of historical figures, celebrities or someone outside your industry. Then talk…

11 Jul

7 obsessions of the most successful meeting professionals

© 2018 Andrea Driessen At home, maybe you binge-watch House of Cards. At work, you face an entirely different set of preoccupations. So what should you obsess about as a savvy meeting professional, if you are to produce best-in-class events? My most successful clients do the following: 1-Ditch the platitudes and gratitudes. Right out of the gate, you make—or break—the success of an event. In the initial moments of a meeting, audiences’ attention spans are at their highest levels. And what almost always comes first in a show script? What I call platitudes and gratitudes: over-the-top thanking of people and sharing often-meaningless content. What top meeting strategist Brian Walter calls “emphatitudes: platitudes stated emphatically.” Attending a large, mission-critical 90-minute meeting not long ago was akin to witnessing a slow-motion train wreck. I painfully sat through the opening speaker’s first 10 minutes. It felt, and likely was, unscripted and seemingly without intent: “Good morning. I didn’t hear you. GOOD MORNING! We are so excited you’re here. Thank you. We appreciate you. We’re here with our stakeholders. We’re thrilled you’re here. I want to thank our commissioners. We are excited about the work our CEO is doing…” That’s 10% of the meeting…

17 May

7 Ways to Drastically Reduce your Event Risks

By Andrea Driessen, Chief Boredom Buster As a meeting professional, you know that events bring inherent risks: security lapses, food-borne illness, lackluster presenters…to name a few. Some we can control. Some we can lessen. A few we can even eliminate. Others may look like as hazards—but with the right level of support, you can reduce or even eliminate them. At No More Boring Meetings, we’re ferociously dedicated to lessening 7 key risks in the talent and content realms: 1-Speaker cancellation. In nearly 20 years, we’ve had one speaker cancel. If that happens on your watch, No More Boring Meetings will act immediately to tap a deep network of supremely qualified speakers who can fill in.  Bam: problem solved. 2-Speaker delay. Why worry that your presenter will arrive late? Our speakers are required to choose flights to your event with at least one back up in case of airline delay or cancellation. Voila: you’re covered. 3-Trying to find a needle in a haystack of 80,000,000. Google “customer service speaker,” and you’ll get 80 million results. So you could either take the risk—and the time!—to sort through these yourself. Or have a short conversation with us, and break free from such crushing…

13 Mar

Your “great” idea? Great only if you can communicate its value

Copyright 2017 Andrea Driessen, Chief Boredom Buster, No More Boring Meetings, and Creator of Mixing Chamber TM You and your team surely have game-changing ideas. But what if you don’t know how to effectively communicate their value so others will take notice—and take action? Individual business leaders and entire organizations are undoubtedly leaving money and opportunity on the table without realizing it. That’s because most professionals don’t understand how to package their best ideas. They don’t know how to communicate their value in ways that audiences want to hear. Plus, most meetings aren’t designed to make the most of the collective intelligence in the room. The sad result? The very best ideas may go unnoticed or unfunded. But a powerful force is disrupting how presentations are delivered and consumed. That force is TED Talks. Their global prevalence and popularity have shown us a new way to communicate spreadable, viral-worthy ideas. The TED Talk phenomenon has critical implications for those who want to share their ideas. It forces organizations and their leaders to drastically improve presentation skills to stand out in a sea of sameness. To communicate their best ideas quickly and effectively. To drive more innovation and revenue within an organization….

30 Jan

How Can Event Q&A Become Unquestionably Better?

The Answer: With these 7 Best Practices Copyright 2018 Andrea Driessen, Chief Boredom Buster, No More Boring Meetings Question-and-answer sessions at business meetings and conferences can engage and inform—or they can fall flat and careen off the rails. Savvy event professionals know not to leave such programming to chance. Let’s explore best practices for Q&A so that with intention and attention, all your future sessions sizzle. When you use my easy-to-implement process, you’ll find your audiences, your presenters and your fellow organizers will have a more positive, impactful experience. Lay the groundwork: First, let presenters who will be taking Q&A know you stage “Best Practice Q&A” and as such, you don’t want to end the entire program with Q&A. Instead, ask them—in advance of the event so they can thoughtfully prepare—to close with a final, short and relevant point, anecdote, or big-picture insight.Think of it as a content sandwich: Main program, Q&A, short closing segment. This three-part package unites all the remarks in a memorable, positive way. If you end with Q&A, you have no control over how your events end, how attendees depart, and the last emotions and thoughts you leave with audiences.After all, what if the last question…

05 Jan

What if attendees remember nothing from your meetings?

Andrea Driessen is Chief Boredom Buster for No More Boring Meetings in Seattle, Washington. © Andrea Driessen 2017 Given the amount of time we spend surrounded by computers—at work, at home, during commutes and yes, in meetings—it’s natural to think we humans are a lot like Pentium chips. We believe we can keep adding data and everything will be automatically saved on the “hard drives” in our heads. If only. While the human brain is indeed powerful, it is not capable of remembering—much less recalling—all we try to cram into it. The meetings world is particularly vulnerable to this overload. Let’s take a closer look at what happens to our minds in meetings, explore how to boost recall and memory, and in the process, the impact of all our events. Most meetings are often overloaded with so much material that learning may be hurt more than it’s enhanced. In fact, attendees may not remember anything from our meetings. What do you remember from the last meeting you attended? If you recall only one element of this article, may it be this: Less is more. As Jeff Hurt, EVP of education and engagement at conference consultancy Velvet Chainsaw, explains: “Forgetting is…

13 Sep

5 Ways to Maximize Investments in all your Meeting Presenters

By Andrea Driessen Whether you invite external keynoters, subject matter experts, breakout session presenters or a combination of these speakers to your meetings, you invest a great deal of time, effort and money to involve others in delivering actionable content. And with over 2.7 million people worldwide watching TED talks every day, audiences everywhere have come to expect speakers to be exceptionally compelling, engaging and memorable. So how can you make the most of all speakers’ time and talent? Five easy ways: SCHEDULE A MESSAGE CONTINUITY CONFERENCE CALL This one phone call can take your meetings from mediocre to memorable. How it works: invite to a conference call all your meeting-message stakeholders who play significant roles in sharing expertise. Your goals are to air and then reinforce the most important “meta-message” take aways for your audience. Invariably—in the simple act of conversation—otherwise unknown themes and patterns emerge. Connections and common ground are found that boost each speaker’s impact. This call also ensures that any content redundancies and contradictions are revealed and removed in advance, so you can make the most of every minute. Trying to convey too many messages can mean very little sticks. Often, we communicate more—and more is remembered—when…

02 Jun

How to get behind the scenes of TED conference design

Unless you’ve just returned from a 5-year sabbatical in a remote section of the Amazon jungle, you’re likely familiar with TED talks. And you may have a few favorites. Indeed, TED—with all its innovation and captivation—has taken the world by storm. I attended my first TED event—TEDxRainier in Seattle—6 years ago. Since then, I’ve been to nearly a dozen different TED-branded events, helped organize 5, and will gleefully attend TEDSummit next month in Banff. When with fellow TEDsters, I am at my most alive. Surrounded by fresh ideas, other people committed to giving those ideas the light of day, and the means to turn these ideas into new realities that make the world better. I can think of few more meaningful and engaging ways to spend time. That’s in great part why I developed and deliver a live workshop to help meeting professionals get behind the scenes of TED events to integrate TED-style elements to make their gatherings more captivating and unmissable. It’s called 5 Actionable Conference Design Insights from TED Events, and it’s an interactive, experiential workshop. Through the end of next year, I’m available in most regions of the US, Canada and Mexico to present this content at…