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08 Aug

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

Engaging meeting attendees—live and in person—is challenging enough. Engaging participants we can’t even see—the virtual attendee—may appear even harder. And given how distracted meeting goers are these days, you’d think everyone is “invisible,” with heads buried in their phones and tablet screens rather than engaged in content on the large screen at the front of the room! Know this: the better we are as meeting professionals at connecting with “invisible” attendees, the more our meetings engage everyone, whether they participate in person or virtually. A surprising inspiration for “winning over” the invisible attendee? Television. With smart phones and tablets becoming as common as TVs, we’ve entered the era of “social television.” And I am not referring here to reruns of “Friends.” In fact, you have socialized with your TV if you’ve ever watched a favorite show, sporting event, video game or political event while Tweeting, Facebooking or texting to share the experience with others. This shift demands that meeting designers pay close attention to how we engage now with broadcasted content. Moreover, since high-quality meetings offer TV-caliber storylines as well as suspenseful, you-gotta-be-there experiences, the best company events must also be as compelling as anything offered on HBO, at your…

01 Jul

Unplugged, & Meeting Ourselves Beyond the Matrix

I recently returned from a long-awaited vacation. Ever since I saw a slide show of some crazy guys who biked around Iceland many years ago, this country has been on my short list of must-sees. I intentionally chose to be off the grid and outside the matrix for the vast majority of my trip. Not only to unplug, but to also be much more focused on the vibrant, out-of-this-world world around me. I soon noticed I was more open to serendipity. To connecting to others. To connecting to myself. To not always relying on a GPS to get somewhere. To letting life unfold rather than trying to “make it” unfold and trying to bend reality to my wishes—as we entrepreneurs are inclined to do. When I returned to the office, in the large stack of mail was the current issue of Fast Company, its beckoning cover story entitled “#unplug.” About the importance of disconnecting every now and then from our digital lives. Author Baratunde Thurson’s experience—his 25 days unplugged to my measly 10—deeply resonated and affirmed my travel experience. He wisely notes, “In choosing to digitally enhance, hyperconnect, and constantly share our lives, we risk not living them.” And of…

30 Apr

6 more fresh meeting formats to powerfully engage participants

(A continuation of the blog posted immediately below) To generate ground-breaking ideas for meetings, I first ask: “How will we engage meeting participants in ways that could never be experienced outside of this event? This one question elevates and disciplines event design. It also generates engagement tools that are exceptionally suited for building more meaningful connections among participants and delivering content that makes long-term impacts. Whether your time slot is five minutes or five days, what makes meeting formats fresh and effective? To expand on ideas for meeting formats, I reached out to author, speaker and cutting-edge event designer Jim Gilmore. In producing unique meeting formats, Gilmore, co-author of The Experience Economy, draws from a rich mix of footprints and techniques. Regiception: Participants typically use receptions to just connect with those they already know. Foster fresh energy and easy networking with a “Regiception”—a mash-up of your registration and opening reception at which attendees mingle and register to experience something truly new. Include food, drink—and a variety of themed activities, such as throwback board games, so multi-generations can play with and learn from each other. Small group? Savor a Lunch of One. Feed them both physically and mentally with a “lunch of one” as you…

23 Apr

7 fresh meeting formats to powerfully engage participants

To generate ground-breaking ideas for meetings, I first ask: “How will we engage meeting participants in ways that could never be experienced outside of this event?” This one question elevates and disciplines event design. It also generates engagement tools that are exceptionally suited for building more meaningful connections among participants and delivering content that makes long-term impacts. Whether your time slot is five minutes or five days, what makes meeting formats fresh and effective? Focused: apply it to a specific subject to boost takeaways Flexible: caters to a range of skill levels, ages, audiences, topics Functional: Can stand alone or be integrated into the larger event. (The 20-minute TED format is crazy-popular because it can be inserted anywhere in an agenda. Or you can string together 20-minute segments to form the entire meeting.) Fun: people want to engage and participate, and the learning environment is relaxed to stimulate creativity With these “Four F’s” in mind, let’s consider meeting formats that engage attendees in innovative ways. What’s cutting edge today, in the same way that TED, Pecha Kucha and Open Space were once novel? Seven great options: Post-Program Pair-Up is a simple, powerful exercise I’ve designed to increase networking and the…

29 Jan

5 MORE un-boring ways to open your event

As we discussed in my last blog below, boring meetings begin predictably: Thank yous to sponsors, announcements of new leadership, a hello from the host city’s mayor. Of course, we all love sponsors, leaders and mayors. But what’s your audience thinking and feeling? That your event is going to be the same old, same old. They tune out before the program can even get going. On the other hand, non-boring, engaging meetings begin with unexpected approaches that immediately gain people’s positive attention, build buy-in for your entire event and create unprecedented event buzz. Try these simple, affordable ways to open your event—and then let the Tweeting begin! Consider: what is your organizational equivalent of the iPad release? Then announce this milestone or achievement as your opener. Plant and spread what infotainer Brian Walter calls a “verbally viral” idea. These are concepts that take hold quickly, as they positively build buzz and boost learning. A literally fascinating speaker and author of the book “Fascinate,” Sally Hogshead offers audiences a tool for opening her keynotes in a distinct way that builds buzz and buy-in weeks before people even get to the room. As a benefit to registration, attendees have access to a…