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Category: Meeting Formats

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…

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 http://bit.ly/TYOq6b 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.

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…

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…

22 Jan

5 new & un-boring ways to open your event

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 this is going to be the same old, same old meeting. They tune out before you 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! Have a custom song written for and about your organization. You’ll create a one-of-a-kind moment in time that will be remembered long after the last verse. Need resources? Click here. Invite a marching band or drummers to usher attendees to and through your room. Your local high school or university will likely come at no or a low cost. Or hire the exceptionally talented Drum Café. In advance of your event, hold a contest for the best “year-in-review” commemorative video (or some other category that fits for your event). Then announce the winner by showing his or her video as the opening…

02 Nov

ATTENTION: Why you need to gamify your next meeting

By Andrea Driessen, Chief Boredom Buster, No More Boring Meetings What is your organization’s most valuable asset: Employees? Customers? Intellectual property? Leadership? Brand? I believe your most valuable asset is none of the above. Your ace in the hole is actually something more intangible, yet invaluable: The attention of employees, customers and meeting attendees. After all, to successfully recruit an executive, sell a product or stage a meeting, you must first capture someone’s attention. (Doubt it? Have you made it to this part of the magazine without thinking about checking your email, whether to have more coffee or what might be Tweet-worthy?) Getting—and keeping—the attention of audiences is the holy grail of our industry. And when you’ve captured people’s attention, they will be more focused, more able to learn, more likely to have the mental bandwidth and social willingness to collaborate and solve pressing challenges. So, what’s an exceptionally powerful way to create meeting content that’s worth participants’ attention? There’s actually an “app” for that: a well-designed game aligned with your meeting objectives. Participatory games, like meetings, teach us that we are all connected—and in the language of this publication, that we are all One+. Going it alone, playing “solitaire,”…