Engage Event Participants to Generate Bottom-line Results
By Ron Springer

Posted September 07, 2009

It’s time for a new approach to meeting design.

Unfortunately, many companies assume that a well-polished PowerPoint presentation delivered from a beautifully-lit stage is all that’s required to get their message across. This once exciting medium, which is now 20 years old, has sucked the life and excitement out of many meetings.

Companies today are typically speaking to a new generation of tech-savvy participants who demand a different approach. Attendees today want to be engaged participants, not passive recipients of information. Adept at using social networking sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, meeting attendees are accustomed to receiving information real-time, and to engaging in continuing dialogue. Here’s an example of what I mean.

In June 2009, my event production company worked with Facilitate.com and Disney Institute (DI) to create a learning experience for 430 managers at Sun Healthcare Group, Inc. Sun wanted to figure out how to build a more collaborative organizational culture that implements new ideas more quickly. DI gave the participants an inside-out look at Epcot and talked about fostering innovation. Using FacilitatePro collaborative meeting software DI then lead several 90 minute brainstorming sessions.

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The questions posed were “how do we build a more collaborative culture?” and “how do we implement new ideas more rapidly?” The objective was to generate ideas that the various business lines could begin to implement within 72 hours without lengthy approval cycles. Almost 800 ideas were generated, then consolidated and prioritized using FacilitatePro. The top eight ideas that received the most votes for implementation were handed to each business line, where another process of brainstorming and prioritizing took place. Each business line selected two ideas and brainstormed the recommended action plan for implementation.

In two days, this management team was able generate a massive amount of creative ideas, surface the most promising ones and began to develop specific plans to achieve them. Not only did they develop creative solutions, but the experience and their increased active participation itself was a catalyst for cultural transformation.

Connecting The Dots

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Sun’s 2008 meeting was a very successful and perfectly executed meeting, but this year’s attendee survey responses were significantly improved and many felt it was the best conference they ever attended.

What made the difference? We compared the time spent in general sessions and breakouts and how the content was presented from each year. Here are the results in a nutshell:

  • The time allotted to one way PowerPoint presentations was cut in half (50.6% to 24.0%).
  • We increased the number of interactive presentation methods such as brainstorming, a field trip outside the hotel, and active participation in general session presentations from 26% to 58%.

The data clearly suggests that one-way presentations should be reduced in favor of more participatory activities.

The Bottom Line

First and foremost, today’s audiences want to be engaged. They want to participate and be part of the content flow and ideas. They want more time to meet more people face-to-face. They want to be part of the decision-making process and about the future of their organization. As meeting planners we need to step up to the plate and deliver.

For more ideas on designing high-tech high-touch meeting events, read A New Approach to Meeting Design: Engaging Event Participants to Generate Bottom-line Results.

posted by Ron Springer, Executive Producer Esprit Productions

Posted by Ron Springer