Although the economy is bouncing back and more companies are hosting meetings and conferences, the free-spending boom days of the past are gone. Savvy organizations still offer “wow” events, but they’re doing more with less when it comes to budgets.
Here are some ideas for planning must-attend events that leave a spectacular impression without overspending your budget. By infusing new ideas into your meetings, you’ll further engage attendees and set the stage for higher registration numbers going forward.
The competition for engagement of today’s meeting attendees is fierce. Between cell phones, tablets and other technology distractions, most people sitting in a classroom-style presentation often miss the point of the session. Add the diversity of generations at meetings and it’s a tough nut. Baby Boomers are accustomed to talking heads and PowerPoints, Generation Xers prefer discussion groups and Millennials are caught up in multimedia technology and social media.
How do you reach a middle ground? Start with your planning committee; ensure that each generation is represented from the start and truly encourage input across all ages. You may consider age-group tracks that target various presentation methods.
Don’t think you’ll be successful in having attendees turn off their cell or tablets Statistics show that the average person checks cell phone 50 times per day. Embrace this fact and plan with technology in mind. Investigate developing meeting-specific apps or presenters to support their programs with twitter feeds from the audience. Technology can allow , from participants and . Be engaging.
In addition to bringing interactive technology to the presentation floor, jump-start expectations by creating apps that can aid in on-site registration and check-in. Spring for high-tech name badges that use codes attendees can scan at trade-show booths or as they enter a session. Offer incentives for number of booths visited, sessions attended, etc., and publicize the results in a follow-up newsletter after everyone has returned home.
Return to Basics
Keep your functions simple by offering a limited number of menu options at meals: general menu, gluten-free and vegan, for example. Include a printed list of ingredients for each meal on a card at each table to assist those with food allergies or particular preferences. If you have multiple meal-centric functions, change it up at each one rather than creating a logistical challenge with who is eating what when. Consider buffet service that allows attendees to make personal choices for their meal.
Use table decorations with a purpose. Flowers are nice, but consider an interactive centerpiece, such as a white board, chalkboard, or magnetized board with pre-printed movable words. Attendees typically migrate toward sitting with their own associates during meals, so create a fun exercise that will challenge tablemates to learn more about each other. Pose a question as the meal is served, appoint a scribe and off you go.
Look for ways to treat participants to extras. A special check-in for those who have attended this meeting more than three years, an identifier on their badges or other recognition will encourage a sense of camaraderie and ownership.
Environmental considerations are at the forefront of nearly every industry and workplace, from creating sustainable workplaces with plenty of natural light and ergonomic seating to designating separate receptacles for plastics, paper and general waste.
Include a list of upbeat suggestions to promote sustainable and good health practices that can include:
- Share a ride to offsite locations if transportation is not provided.
- Use the stairs instead of the elevator at least 25 percent of the time.
- Use breaks wisely to stretch your legs and get some fresh air; you’ll be more alert throughout the day.
Make It Memorable
Plan meetings with an eye toward next year. Give participants reasons to anticipate subsequent meetings, with a rousing “send-off” session, regular updates as the next meeting planning unfolds, or even a special incentive for repeat attendees.
The key to the best meetings is to be inventive, stay mindful of participants’ needs, and keep focused on the overall objective for bringing people together away from the workplace. When you create a memorable meeting and send people home with a positive experience, you’ll increase your attendance and your participant’s enthusiasm and commitment.