04 Nov

Are your Meetings Backward?

Better timing, better brains, better outcomes By Andrea Driessen, Chief Boredom Buster I’m so enjoying speaker / author / happiness researcher Shawn Achor’s compelling new book, “Before Happiness.” Here’s one of the many applications in the book for us as meeting professionals: how to structure meetings to maximize our brain power. Most meetings are designed in such a way that first, in a general session, broad comments are made, themes presented, courses for learning set. Then, we break out into smaller groups for deeper education and application. These breakouts often end right before lunch (and long after breakfast), with exercises that require heady integration and deep thinking of all we’ve been exposed to for the last few hours. Often, the same keynote/breakout/cram session is scheduled for the afternoon, ending just before dinner. (Whew—pass the margarita pitcher, please!) Yet, as Achor’s book and research point out, our brains are least able to handle full-on cognitive tasks at these pre-meal points in the day.  He explains how, given traditional meeting agendas, “…the most critical plans and decisions are made when our brain glucose is the most depleted [i.e. right before a meal]. We are doing our conferences backward! Instead, if you are…

28 Oct

Tapping Show Business for your Business Meetings

By Andrea Driessen, Chief Boredom Buster You’ve heard, “There’s no business like show business!” But did you know, “There should be no business meeting without a little show business!”? It’s as true as Daniel Day Lewis’ portrayal of Lincoln. For fun, engaging ways to help participants learn and remember critical content, look no further than television, movies and theater. Effective pacing, lighting, scripting, staging, gamefulness and buzz-worthy cultural references—all elements of TV shows, movies and theater—are integral to successful meetings. Indeed, show business offers a veritable Treasure Island for meeting professionals. Many of my clients’ events are more akin to shows than meetings. By experiencing custom songs, company-themed games, educational contests, movie parodies and hosted talk shows, these audiences become engaged in content that keeps their attention—often at unprecedented levels. Pop-culture references fast-track engagement because they act as contextual shorthand, making your content cool and relatable. Infotainer and Speaker Hall of Fame member Brian Walter has written, produced and performed hundreds of custom games and other engaging meeting elements for events worldwide. For example, Walter produces a combination of The Apprentice and Shark Tank TV shows—he calls it Apprentice Tank. Whacky name, sure. Yet it’s memorable, and—importantly—within the legal parameters…

30 Sep

All Hands OFF Deck: 3 Important Questions to Transform your Next Presentation

(Originally appears in the Sept. 2013 issue of The Meeting Professional) Martin Luther King didn’t have one. Neither did Winston Churchill. Elizabeth Gilbert, in her exceptionally popular TED talk on nurturing creative genius, went without. Three revolutionary presenters, and not one slide. We tend to think that for our meeting messages to make a difference, we must rely on data-rich slides on big screens. While slides can augment our ideas, audiences can be swayed—and the world even changed—when we make compelling points sans PowerPoint. I have the honor of working with some of the best speakers on the professional circuit. I see what resonates with audiences—and what makes them tune out. What bores and what roars. Whether you’re preparing a speech for five stakeholders in the C-Suite, 10 important prospects, or 1000 industry peers, you must know how to craft points with maximum impact, and without massive stress. And by occasionally “thinking outside the slide,” you can see what other means of communication come into view. So how do you get and keep audiences’ attention—without slides—in an era of palpable distraction? First ask yourself three crucial questions: What change do you want to elicit? Said another way, what problem does…

11 Sep

5 ways to book a speaker at no cost—or at a greatly reduced fee

By Andrea Driessen, Chief Boredom Buster As the economy grows, the supply of top-tier speakers can exceed demand. When your budget doesn’t quite cover the cost of your best-fit expert, consider this: by making some investments in research and strategic partnership, you can reap big dividends, secure top speaking talent and generate the impact you need without breaking the bank. Here’s how: 1.     Share the Wealth—and Raise YOUR Stature If your organization has multiple layers or departments, you’re likely sitting in the midst of a missed opportunity. Let’s say you work in customer service, hold an annual conference for your employees or your customers, and plan to invite a “name” keynote speaker. You can save money and spread the learning across the enterprise by teaming up with your cohort in, say, sales or HR. Offer this other department the chance to share the speaking talent you’ve invited by joining you at the event OR scheduling their own program on the same day. Cost splits could work in a number of ways: Offer to split expenses 50-50 Alternate years or quarters: for the first event, your departmental budget is tapped; then next quarter, or next year, your partnering department covers the…

14 Aug

Part II: Engaging the Invisible Attendee after an Event: How to communicate key messages—even when you’re not meeting face-to-face

Last week, I wrote about how to engage “invisible” attendees in virtual events–before and during the gathering. But we’re not done yet. There are actions you can take, and SHOULD take, after an event to continue the engagement and build value and buzz into the future. AFTER an event, keep the engagement going: Ensure results don’t end when the live event ends. Afterwards, hold virtual meet-ups online (via Google Hangouts, TweetUps, etc.), so real and virtual attendees continue to connect, learn and network. You’ll also boost in-person attendance over time as relationships crystallize. Need more “second-stage rocket fuel” to propel post-event engagement? Visit for eight more ideas. Implement one or more of these strategies, and you’ll see your meeting attendees become more focused on content that matters to them and to your bottom line.