During the recent MPI WEC 2010 in Vancouver I thought a lot about meeting design, what works, what doesn't and why, why, why?
Why do we put people in moderately comfortable chairs, all facing front, with a speaker pacing, or speakers perched somewhat uncomfortably on stools, or hidden behind a table, put a large projector in the sightline of a good portion of the room, and then assume this is an environment conducive to learning?
I had the opportunity to have a short discussion with the MC of the week, Glenn Thayer whose perspective hit home with me. We have an audience that is a generation of tv watchers. We engage with a "show" for about five minutes, then we have two minutes of commercials, then we have another five minutes and we might get up and go to the fridge... but when we put people into a learning environment, we feel that one person can engage them for an hour or more, and that the learnings will be retained. There are ways to improve this, starting with making it fun, interesting and relevant.
Having a great MC helps keep it all in line, excellent speakers (a personal highlight was Emmanuel Gobillot) who understand communication as well as moments of silence, and sometimes it might be just about bringing it home with a game show.
Below are two events created in years past with other clients who were open to trying new ideas, and were successful for doing so. On the top, Jeopardy and on the bottom, Family Feud, both with questions that were all about the organization, with an actor / MC who kept it moving along quite nicely!