Several weeks back, curtain on the school year about to fall, my wife and I sat down to brainstorm and plan a great summer full of camps and activities for our two kids, aged seven and nine. After nine months of wake-up alarms, classrooms and homework, they’d earned it and it was time for an exciting change of pace.
With nearly three months to fill, Mary and I are typically pro-active about this and like to keep the young ones busy and away from idle boredom that afflicts too many school-aged children.
They, in turn, keep us busy as we split summer driving duties – Mary masquerading as Super UberGal and me as a Yellow Cab hack. At times last summer, it seemed we spent more time schlepping the young ones across God’s happy acre than they actually spent at their activities!
Then something happened.
Ashlyn, our oldest, and Aidan, our mini-Kenneth, called the equivalent of a family meeting to address their cherished summer months. Quite surprisingly, while we were planning to take the reins on June, July and August, they were interested in wresting those very reins from our hands.
“We want to find some things we’d like to do,” they told us.
OK, this was different.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised since they’re growing up in the epicenter of an on-demand world, and are becoming increasingly comfortable identifying what they need and when they want it. Plus, it never hurts for a child to learn how to take charge. We agreed, perhaps a bit smug in the knowing we’d probably be able to predict 99% of what they’d come back to us with.
Well, it didn’t quite happen that way.
Instead of the all-play, all-day, free-for-all we’d expected, they actually came back to us with an impressive list that was, of course, part-fun but it was also equal parts fresh, new, mind-expanding and educational.
We were impressed!
Among the dozen or so items on their Summer of ’17 Bucket List were: Visit World of Coca-Cola, Fernbank Museum of Natural History, Zoo Atlanta, Tellus Science Museum, Atlanta History Center, and the College Football Hall of Fame (guess which one suggested the last).
In retrospect, most (if not all) of those would seem like obvious stops for curious little minds. But these are different times. As parents, we sometimes move at such an accelerated pace, the obvious only becomes obvious when we trip over it. I have learned, despite the popularity of the mid-century TV series Father Knows Best that, apparently, father doesn’t always know best. Or Mom, either, for that matter.
Play is most certainly an important part of youth development and, all too often, seemingly well-meaning parents quash this instinctive desire in a failed attempt to rocket their kids to the forefront of academia, athleticism or the arts (all, of course, to satisfy some adult-ego-driven agenda).
But curiosity comes naturally for young minds and we were reminded so. As an added benefit, I was able to revisit a valuable lesson-within-this-lesson. Read on …
Eschew your agenda when it comes to agenda and content development!
You’ve heard me bang this drum before, and you’ll likely hear me bang it again because it’s timeless and important, and, sadly, too easily forgotten or readily dismissed.
The curious minds of children and the curious minds of adults differ only by topic and priority. Keep this in mind when you launch into content development for your next corporate meeting or event.
Whereas a child might want to learn more about dinosaurs or how a chameleon changes colors, adults want to better understand the “whys and hows” of politics, technology, zoning plans or how to bake the perfect soufflé. Curiosity may have killed the unfortunate cat but it never “offed” a person’s innate desire to discover, learn and grow.
Young or old (or in between), people want to learn. People have a need to learn. And people have a right to learn. Write this backwards on a card, laminate it, and stick it to your forehead so you’re reminded every time you look in the mirror!
Business professionals who take genuine pride in their chosen pursuit are always inquisitive and eager to expand horizons, intellectually or otherwise. They also know they need to keep learning to grow personally and professionally, and to help advance the goals and objectives of their employer.
As the ultimate gatekeeper for your company’s tone and messaging, it’s important to face this truism, and avoid mindlessly whistling past it. Make sure your next corporate meeting or event agenda is loaded with topics and sessions that will deliver to your audience’s stated needs and desires.
Just as Ashlyn and Aidan took charge of their summer activities so, too, should we allow our audiences to share in the development of meeting and event agendas, and content. Let them identify what matters most to them and how long sessions should be. Let them tell you what’s important and necessary, and what’s just so much pablum.
Reach out to your meeting and event invitees. Ask for input, poll them, put aside preconceived notions and allow yourself to be surprised. Then design, plan and execute your corporate meeting or event from the audience outward – not the inverse. The thoughtful planning and design of your agenda is just as important as managing your room block, selecting your keynote, and executing flawlessly onsite.
Pomp & Circumstance (and clarity, please)
I’m reminded of a story a friend once shared with me about his grandfather and a high school graduation.
The old man, there to see his grandson walk the stage and turn his tassel, sat on the hard bleachers of the school gymnasium with his proud son, listening to the class valedictorian drone on and on — railing against the norm, pridefully pounding his chest and declaring his classmates unique, special and unlike all others, and demanding the world meet them on their terms.
“Never settle!” …“No fear!” … “You only live once!” … “Seize the day!” … “We are the future!”
Blah, blah, blah … all the prattle and blather that excites young minds but offers little of actionable substance. Or real-world application.
“If he’d just tell me what the hell he needs me to do,” whispered the old man to his son. “I might be able to help him.”
Point is: Our audiences need info. Specific info. And we don’t always understand what that need is because we don’t walk in their proverbial shoes nor see through their proverbial lenses. Share the reins and let them play a role in the development of your meeting agenda. Poll them. Ask questions. Get in their minds and their daily operations and allow their perspectives to help shape the creation of your content. Then go off and design, plan and execute your presentation, according to the audience-as-info-architect’s specifications.
Do this, and your post-event meeting SurveyMonkey® scores might just surprise you next time … much like our kids surprised us!
The best corporate meeting or event agenda and content is one driven by those who sit in the audience!