What the guests see or experience when they attend a meeting – the tables, chairs, linens, centerpieces, speakers, band, AV, signage, etc. is the end result of months (or sometimes years) of work, as the stakeholders and meeting professionals have thoughtfully laid a foundation for the meeting to be successful based on the stated objectives.
If we begin with the end in mind, we can ask, “What do we want participants to walk away with? What feelings, what actions do we want them to take?” Then, we can begin to determine the flow, meeting design and technology to be used to support these key messages.
When I teach event planning (BCIT) many learners come in expecting to learn how to choose a menu, or do some cool marketing for their event, or learn about décor, and while they will learn a little about these elements, it is really about laying the groundwork for what will make a successful event. Goals, objectives, business plans, budgets, sponsorship, building grids for discussion with clients, risk management – these are all event building blocks. Anyone who has been through a home renovation knows that choosing flooring, fixtures, paint colours and cabinet styles is important (and fun), but if the structural, plumbing and electrical behind the scenes aren’t done up to the right standard, it will all quickly crumble, leaving you with a pretty façade but without appropriate support.
In meetings, this support comes from solid content presented well, and the supplier partners clearly understanding the points of differentiation in your meeting and what they are bringing that will support the outcome. A meeting/event/trade show/incentive travel program needs to support opportunities to build connections, opportunities for sponsors and hosts to be visible and build on the reasons they chose to participate, and ideally be unique to the organization. When we create environments to suit the purpose, when the foundation is strong, the décor and technology elements will end up being the “right” choice because the thinking behind each piece contributes to the cohesive whole.
Often as a DMC we are asked to propose “out of the box, creative ideas” for events, but without being given the information on what is truly wanted to achieve with these. When we understand if the event is about people connecting (teambuilding), or building loyalty through shared experience (meeting or evening event), or just knocking their socks off so they can’t imagine working somewhere that doesn’t offer such amazing travel rewards, then we are better positioned to support our agency and direct clients from the foundation level. This will lead to the participants and stakeholders leaving feeling great about their overall experience, and with a desire to participate again, which of course is something we all want to achieve. When you begin planning your next event, consider first how you will build the foundation, and who you need on your team to make each element fabulous!