"Another meeting to attend….ho hum. How can I get out of it? "
Don't let that be the response to one of your meetings!
Planning a memorable meeting can be easy and with a little thought and planning, you can arrange a meeting that is the talk of the town. We all know someone who complains of being bored at meetings and conventions, and many of us go just for the golf and galas.
Well, you can help turn that trend around and here are some tips to get the ball rolling on your next meeting, conference, training session, off-site, team-building event.
Location, Location, Location
Your venue sets the stage for your event. Consider a venue that offers the right atmosphere for your meeting or event.
Consider alternative venues such as:
• Museums and galleries
• College and school campuses
• Estates or mansions
• Country clubs, lodges
• Summer camps and campgrounds
• Ski lodges and retreats
• Wineries and Restaurants
• Bed and breakfasts and Inns
The Broad Street Ballroom (above right) in NYC features majestic columns and a mural creating a magnificent ambiance for your corporate meeting, seminar or event.
Not only can alternate venues create a memorable event destination, but these facilities often represent a very affordable alternative to traditional hotels and conference centers. You will find the venue managers to be flexible and accomodating in helping you create just the right meeting or event at their venue. Many have a list of preferred vendors they can recommend to help cater and organize your meeting or event.
In Chicago, the U.S. Cellular Field – Home of the Chicago White Sox offers an auditorium, boardrooms and suites for your corporate meeting and social events (below left)
Galleria Marchetti will be happy to host your corporate or private social event at their elegant restaurant and courtyards (below).
Atmosphere and ambience go a long way in creating relaxing, open environments.
In Miami, Florida International University's Wolfe University Center has flexible meeting space (left).
The Duke Mansion in Charlotte NC has all the grace and charm of Southern history combined with state-of-the art amenities for your meeting (right and below left).
B&B owners and Innkeepers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of generating off-season revenue through booking business meetings.
Many owners have converted a room in their B&Bs or Inns to a small meeting or conference room, offering wireless Internet access and custom catering options.
The Meeting House Bed & Breakfast Frankfort KY, New Hope 1870 Wedgewood Inn New Hope PA, The Wayside Inn and Meeting Center Greenfield NY, Anderson Creek Lodge Bellingham WA,Sand Rock Farm Bed and Breakfast Aptos CA.
Museums and Ranches are another great venue choice – Avoca Museum Altavista VA, Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium Fort Myers FL, Autry National Center Los Angeles CA, Ghost Ranch Abiquiu NM, Garrett Creek Ranch Paradise TX, Mayacamas Ranch Calistoga CA, Westerbeke Ranch Sonoma CA.
The Seattle Art Museum offers several meeting and event space options for your corporate or social event (below left).
Destination is an integral part of your memorable meeting plan. Not only do you want a destination with appeal and charm, but easy access and attendee draw must be part of the equation.
Location to major transportation is vital, less than 30 minutes is optimal, 45 min ride to your destination maximum. Take traffic into consideration when planning your destination.
Places with exciting downtown activities are always a safe bet.
Many attendees may bring family for pre- or post-event fun and this must be taken into consideration for your meeting destination.
• Tap into local resources at the cities you are considering. See if they can help with value-added offers at local restaurants, shops and attractions for your attendees.
• Consider bilingual staff options with multicultural guests. Take into account local language students as a viable resource. Guests will remember any time you go above and beyond.
• Think of your attendees and their needs and preferences and organize the event accordingly. Small details can make a world of difference. Vegetarian menu choices, nutritious snacks, gym passes for evening or morning workouts, tickets to an evening show.
• Catering – keep it creative and fun and fresh. Offer choices for everyone. Remember healthy food will help your attendees avoid a mid-afternoon slump. Go slow on the sugar! Work with a caterer who can focus on flavor and presentation to entice your attendees.
• Recycling options for a memorable green meeting will definitely put your meeting on the map.
Session Topics – Don't Put Them To Sleep
Your meeting should be an exciting, knowledeable event. Attendees should feel that they are really missing out on an opportunity if they skip the meeting.
How do you accomplish that?
Think about a Big Idea that is the main draw – maybe a new hot topic or idea that will be unveiled for the first time, a new product that will be launched, a new popular speaker, a great giveaway….the buzz generated should help make your meeting a 'must attend'.
Here are some other ideas to consider when planning the sessions in your meeting:
• Choose a unifying theme and communicate meeting goals and objectives clearly to all attendees.
• Select topics that are relevant to the attendees and their job functions and growth. Pick topics that you know will be well attended. Remember the buzz factor.
• Avoid over-stimulating attendees with too many sessions that are repetitive or content heavy
• Limit sessions to three per day with a keynote or entertaining session
• Choose topics you can offer at different times on different days.
• Allow ample time for each session – an hour minimum. Allow ten to fifteen minutes between sessions
• Interaction and emotional involvement are great tools to combat boredom. Keep sessions interactive and short. Keep attendee participation and involvement in sessions high through interactive activities, role-playing where appripriate, and feedback loops.
• Find your subject matter and the process in which it is best delivered
• Engage attendees in problem- solving activities
• Host a game show – participants answer questions based on session content – give out fun prizes!
• Meeting rooms – as random as this sounds, comfort level is very important. Ensure the rooms maintain a comfortable climate. Pre-arrange a set temperature – check it often. Body heat can make a room stuffy in no time. The optimum learning temperature is 64 degrees.
It's a Wrap!
• Provide a fun event to wrap things up. Reinforce the goals of the meeting. Incorporate ideas and threads that attendees learnt through out the event to help them retain goals and information.
•Publish an event summary (within 24 hrs) in an interesting format such as a newsletter with photos and an evaluation.
• If you event is social – publish photos on a web page or CD to distribute to guests
• Gather feedback. Survey attendees to provide the value they placed on the sessions, content, location, presenters, etc.
• Provide surveys at each session, allowing attendees to complete a brief evaluation form and drop it on their way out .
• Have speakers hand out surveys or have it in the materials. Ask that attendees take a minute or two before leaving the room to complete.
• Provide a well marked ‘box’ to collect forms – if they get to the back of the room and have to look, they’ll keep on walking.
Activities, Adventures and Attractions
For a multi-day meeting, conference, seminar or meeting, make sure there are plenty of exciting options for everyone.
Check the availability and prices of interesting tours and activities for spouses and/or guests. Consider children’s activities for family-oriented events.
Some unique options include (geography specific of course):
• Fishing/ lobstering adventures
• Sailing and boat trips
• Museum , historical buildings, and gallery tours
• Walking tours of historical sections of the city
• Botanical gardens and nature hikes
• Stargazing – local observatories have programs
• Wine / beer tastings at wineries/ breweries
• Lighthouse tours in coastal regions
• Local factory tours
• Sporting events
• Outdoor adventures, jeep tours, hot air ballooning, skiing
• Casino nights
• Railway adventures
• Public and local farmer's markets
• Shopping at outlet stores
• Browsing flea markets and antique stores
Providing the right environment for learning will not only help attendees and guests get the most out of the meeting/event, but the uniqueness of your event/atmosphere will keep them talking about the event and coming back for more!