“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” – Professor Albus Dumbledore
If we apply this wise thinking to our event planning, would we change our approach? Certainly we are thorough, detailed, organized and creative as meeting managers/producers. But, do you feel every day that you are making the choices that will create that special combination of unique experiences and practical takeaways for our participants that clearly shows you have their needs front of mind?
Planners and producers have a toolkit of abilities to develop and coordinate the design and logistics of a meeting or event. It is sometimes the case where we make choices, and sometimes we guide our clients. Some of these choices may include venue selection, ideally offering space for providing the unexpected, as we know it is these moments that make the event memorable. “Unexpected” can range widely from something as simple as having natural light, or space to gather in a variety of seating for informal discussions over breaks, or as fun as a flash mob that moves your reception crowd into the dinner space, or as easy as adding networking options to the registration line so participants begin the meeting with a new connection made.
Are you making the choice to stay with the status quo, knowing what is already being done “is working just fine” or are you choosing to take small risks that have the possibility to engage your attendees more fully?
Ideas can be as simple as
- providing healthier food and hydration options,
- changing food and beverage service styles to enhance discussions,
- opting for sessions that are interactive instead of talking heads (ie: asking questions and inspiring discussion versus providing one perspective),
- adding a CSR element that brings people together to make a difference in the community (industry or local).
The ways you add new elements will be as unique as your organization or event, but can be inspired by the successes we are seeing across multiple styles of meetings, shows, festival and events and shared at industry events, in trade publications, both print and digital.
In programming, are you sticking to what is comfortable: education provided by presenters who have either delivered successfully in the past or submitted an interesting proposal? Alternately, have you tried cross-functional, cross-generational focus groups that will help you understand the key challenges your (potential) participants are facing in their roles – in spite of their own knowledge and abilities? These may range from economic factors, to changing demographics in their marketing landscape to a plethora of other obstacles. As the meeting or event planner, it is not typically our role to resolve their challenges, but you do have an opportunity to use your knowledge to suggest options for creating environments that will foster conversations. It is after all the reason we meet face-to-face – the conversations and connections.
If we are paying attention to the way the world is shifting, including the ubiquitous use of mobile and a hyper-connected global community, life-work time deficit realities, online learning options, and a desire for more authentic experiences, we must shift the choices we are both guiding and making to create the most relevant meeting experiences and highest degree of takeaways for our participants. When the meeting shines, when we use our creative design capabilities to their maximum effect, that is when everyone wins.