Organizations spend a lot of time, money, and energy getting their people together face-to-face for meetings, conferences, offsites, retreats, summits, boondoggles, trainings, and the like. Although there is a lot more teleconferencing, video conferencing, webinaring, etc. these days, most see the value of the in person connections, and when they do get their people together they want to get the most out of the time together to accomplish whatever the objectives of the gathering may be.
One common error (in my opinion) is mistaking getting the most out of that time by cramming agendas full of activities-keynotes, speeches by leaders, conceptual training, product introductions, plenary sessions, working lunches, breakout sessions, themed dinners, early morning calls, required cocktail hours, etc. Savvy organizers and planners recognize that less is more, and put together agendas that have room to breath while providing activities that address the issues at hand and give participants the opportunity to participate, and even co-create what happens.
Some of the interesting trends we've seen in meetings lately:
Meetings as Experiences
If there's one thing that all the experts agree on, it's that meetings today aren't just face-to-face gatherings for the sole purpose of exchanging business information. Rather, they're enriching, one-of-a-kind experiences that attendees will treasure forever.
It's less about, "I'm going to a conference," and more about, "I'm going to have an experience." There's a lot of 'been there, done that,' among experienced conference goers, and it's important to ask, "What can attendees do here that they could not do on their own, or on a web conference?"
"Loved that the songs created during the breakout session were presented later to the entire conference delegation at our closing dinner. They added a very fun element to the event both for the participants as well as the audience. In fact, I heard many comments that people had wished they had attended the session vs. taking the afternoon off. Your program was definitely a 10!"
Denise Stenzel International Coach Federation
"Before the event, since this was my first time using you, I was concerned about how the evening was going to flow and whether everyone would participate. But this was truly a "team event" since everyone played a key part, whether they wrote the words, sang the words or was responsible for the choreography. "
Gaye Shields Lockheed Martin
"We were so pleased with both days and the great outcomes! I really felt that the participants truly enjoyed themselves, especially when we broke into dance mode toward the end of the evening on Friday; mosh pit and conga line! SO FUN."
Jessica De Blasi Cytec Industries
"We loved every aspect of the FTM event. The setup and coordination was easy and seamless, the event was beautifully facilitated and done in a way that engaged even the ones who were nervous, and the end result had participants speaking positively for days."
Gisele Eve Garcia The Conference Board
One way to support this is by providing unique venues where people don't feel like they could be anywhere at a hotel of conference center. (For a quick video on some of Face The Music's favorites click here.) A unique setting can encourage innovative thought and interactions, and facilitate connecting in new and different ways. Many of these sites lend themselves well to outdoor activities that can include team activities, awe-inspiring views, time in nature, and one-of-a-kind meals.
Another trend in "meetings as experiences" is designing meetings to be multi-sensory experiences, using multi-media production, music (including custom music made especially for the event), unique room design, use of social media technology for updates and participant interaction, and getting out into the city or area surrounding the venue, facilitating a "sense of place" that helps make this event stand out.
There is a growing popularity of incorporating local elements into the meeting or event - giving attendees a taste of the locale they're in. Gone are the days of business professionals being holed up in a large convention hall in a nameless, faceless city. Attendees today want and expect to experience the culture of their meeting destination. Food is a no brainer here, incorporating local cuisine, and farm to table dining experiences.
Face The Music client, FedEx, has a leadership development program that takes people to five different destinations worldwide, one week at a time, supporting their objective to familiarize rising leaders with the global nature of their business, going to locations in China, Central America, Europe, and ending up in their unique and historic headquarter city, Memphis.
Perhaps you've been drafted to be on the "committee" to help organize your next event. As you think about what is going to happen there, consider how you can make this an experience to remember.
Team Building 2041-Part 1
Chicago, September 9, 2041. In the spirit of inclusion, the leaders here at work decided that it would be empowering for our team (affectionately known at the office as "the minions") to choose the destination for this year's retreat. We're skeptical and a group of us go to the closet to debrief. Instead of brainstorming the endless options for our retreat we theorize what this could mean: Was it a test, or the beginning of some elaborate team building exercise? After a brief discussion the most intriguing conclusion we all agree on is: the "Hawthorne Effect"-the term referring to the very fact that people are under study, observation or investigation can have an effect on them and the results.
Suddenly we receive a group message and are to stand by for a conference. We scoot out of the closet, and scatter so as not to be seen congregating there together. The call begins, and after a brief introduction we're prompted to choose one of three destinations for our company meeting. We go off line to discuss. In our shock or relief (we still aren't sure), we find that we weren't suppose to be finding the perfect getaway but simply choosing a 1, 2 or 3 option handed down from the front office. There's a black hole of silence.
Oddly there's really only one choice that anyone of us or anyone in the universe would pick and it's off the charts. The planet Kepler-69c. Back in 2021 this planet started to be inhabited by humans. The New York Times called it "The Garden of Eden". Clean air, water and clear skies. It has a natural beauty unsurpassed by any earthly standards. Then the UNEPC (United Nations Environmental Peace Keepers) got in on the ground floor and in militant sort of way preserved the natural beauty of the planet. Now it's the hang for the rich and famous. This is a no brainer for us or so we think...
Tune in next month for the exciting conclusion/continuation as the minion team explores the possibilities of Eden...
What event, initiative or challenge do you have coming up that Face The Music can add value to?