As a Meeting and Event Planner, how many times have you heard a client say this?
“Y’know, last year’s program was great and all but I really want to do something different this year, something ‘out of the box’.”
(Ugh … overused phrase alert!)
As human beings, we’re pre-wired to relish new and different experiences. If we woke up each day and stuck to the same schedule, eating the same food at the same times, performing the same tasks and interacting with the same people in the same environment, our Moose Tracks lives would quickly melt into vanilla.
Even those who claim they don’t like the unfamiliar or any deviation from the routine, must admit a well-designed, well-executed corporate meeting experience is extremely stimulating and invigorating. (Curiously, it seems those most resistant to change are often the ones who appreciate it the most when all is said and done, and the corporate meeting or event has adjourned.)
A well-crafted program can have a long-lasting residual effect. An infusion of energy, driven by a fresh and unique experience, can help propel attendees to higher levels of performance, increased sales, a re-dedication to the business, greater ROI, etc. (The more years you spend in the meeting planning biz, the more you know this to be true.)
So … getting back to that client who wants to shake things up a bit this year.
To begin with, remind him or her they said the same thing a year ago (and likely the year before that) but pulled back and defaulted to the same-ol’-same-ol’. Encourage them to move beyond mere intention and take tangible steps towards the design, planning and execution of a corporate meeting and event that will remain in the minds of attendees long after they return home.
HERE ARE SEVEN TIPS FOR BETTER CORPORATE MEETINGS AND EVENTS
- PLAN TO DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT – When it comes time for your kickoff planning session, hold it somewhere different. Break away from the typical office or conference room setting to set the tone of “new & different” for your team right from the get-go.
- MAKE EVERYTHING OLD NEW AGAIN – Be creative and rethink everything! Look at last year’s line-items in the budget and brainstorm new and better ways to approach those items — pre-event communiques, badges, cities, venues, dress code, agenda, activities, season, days of the week meeting rotation, motivational speakers, follow-up materials, etc. Cull the list where possible and build in new items that best suit your current needs.
- SCRATCH THAT ITCH – If you’ve always dreamed of holding a sunrise general session al fresco or gathering at dawn on a beach for a pre-breakfast business session, suggest it to your client (if appropriate). It’s amazing how an early start to the day can spur noticeably higher levels of productivity. Your attendees may moan and groan when they first see the “up-with-the-roosters” start on the agenda but you can bet the energy level will rise as quickly as the sun. Here’s an example: I have a friend who had a generous budget so he had a 20-foot conference table and chairs airlifted by helicopter onto a level area of a ski slope one summer, overlooking the village of Park City, UT. It was a sunrise breakfast brainstorming session that produced tremendous results and those attending said it was one of the most memorable meeting experiences they’d ever had.
- ASK YOUR ATTENDEES WHERE THEY WOULD LIKE TO MEET – Poll your invitees in the early planning stages and discover what destinations would get their juices flowing. A major international company based in Atlanta recently polled its youngish Americas Sales Team and asked them to state their preference. Options included a dude ranch, chartered motor yacht, Panama City, Panama, or somewhere in the Caribbean. Cool options, for sure. Also, consider offshore destinations that can help broaden the horizons of your attendees.
- LOOK BEYOND THE OBVIOUS WHEN IT COMES TO CITIES & VENUES – There are times, due to sheer size of program, that cities like Las Vegas and Orlando are your obvious and sometimes only options. In other major cities, competition for meeting space and hotel rooms is fierce as ever, and venues are booking 2-3 years in advance, sometimes longer. Consider a road less traveled, something off the beaten path. There are many great second-tier, smaller-market locations and venues you may never have thought of in the past. You may have to deal with flight connections and longer ground transfers but the upside is Sales Reps and Conference Services Managers usually have more flexibility to tailor their facility and service offerings to meet your needs. Plus, you are often able to negotiate a more attractive group rate and you’ll likely have run-of-the-house.
- (I’LL SAY IT AGAIN), KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE! – I know, I know. This is as obvious as water feeling wet. But if you haven’t taken a fresh look at your attendees lately, you may not have noticed they’re younger, more diverse and acting more “Millennial-ish”. They crave technology, they’re typically unwilling to sit for extended periods in the manner of traditional business meetings, and they demand experiences. So, give it to them! Millennials catch a lot of heat but, as a group, they’re bustin’ the mold in many ways which opens the door to new, novel and unique. Remind your middle-aged client to look anew and re-assess his or her audience. It can be a real eye-opener!
- JUST BREATHE – Declutter that jam-packed agenda that got that way because you allowed 10 pounds of “stuff” to be put in your five-pound bag. If there are topics that can be addressed in pre-event communiques, do it. Ask yourself if you need to carry forth all topics from last year’s event. Build in sufficient time between sessions so everyone can catch their breath, return messages, network a bit, and gear up for the next session. Studies have shown for decades that, at best, your audience will only retain about 10% of what they hear and see so be selective when designing your agenda. No fluff or unnecessary items!
Those are just a few suggestions from my bucket of a zillion ideas. Try ‘em out and let me know what you think!
When your client calls for something “new and different” for an upcoming corporate meeting or event, rethink everything; from the way you go about the kickoff planning session to agenda design and execution … and everything in between.