19 Nov

What to Do About Self-Absorbed Meeting Attendees (pay attention to them, among other things)

By Andrea Driessen, Chief Boredom Buster You could stage the best meeting the world has ever seen. But if no one knows, or not enough of the “right” people attend, all your efforts are for naught. We tend to view meeting engagement as something that happens once everyone convenes. And yet for a meeting to be a true success, we must see engagement as an integrated process that starts when you first reach out to potential attendees with initial, registration-boosting messages. The most effective strategy? I like to rely on an old-school marketing technique: setting my communication dial to “What’s In It For Me,” AKA WII-FM on a radio (or iPod!) tuner. Applying this to the meetings realm: What’s In It for prospective attendees to invest time and money in your event?  People engage with what matters to them based on their own self-interest. Nothing more—and nothing less. You could stage the best meeting the world has ever seen. But if no one knows, or not enough of the “right” people attend, all your efforts are for naught. Sound obvious? Not so fast. Turn away from this blog for a moment—and read your latest event marketing content. Examine the approaches…

14 Nov

4 Top Meeting Trends: YOU Figure Prominently

By Andrea Driessen, Chief Boredom Buster When you think about the future of meetings, what word or emotion comes to mind? I, for one, am energized. In fact, that’s the first of four trends I see on the meeting horizon: Energized. Brain science and meeting design are finally catching up with each other. In short: we learn less when we sit, more when we move. The meme in social media: “Sitting is the new smoking.” Yet most meeting rooms (and classrooms) are designed for sedentary meeting attendees, not active participants. This is changing, as we learn that exercise brings more blood flow to the hippocampus, leading to more brain cell growth. When we move our bodies, our brains move new information from short- to long-term memory, and we absorb more in less time. Another reason to move while you think: the body produces more protein as a result of exercise, which doesn’t just build muscle. Movement is also thought to produce new cell growth as our brains get more of what they need to function effectively. Wish I’d had known that when cramming in college—hitting the gym each day  sure beats trying to sit still for hours in the library!…

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…