Monday, July 25, 2011

Back to Meeting Basics

The girls - ready for a three day hot load in
First let me state categorially how much I LOVE MEETINGS AND EVENTS!!

Now, not every day and at every minute because what we do is often undervalued and underrated and EVERYONE I know in this industry gives it 110% with varying amounts of appreciation... but when it all comes together, and especially when we have surmounted some major challenges - well there is simply nothing more satisfying.

Now, this world of social media has really opened us as planners and producers up to it all - the good, the great, and the truly petty. Here is my beef though - we seem to be doing a pretty good job of figuring most of it out - but sometimes the basics, and many of those basics set by the venue, by agreed-to and much-needed sponsorships or by simply not focusing on the right things, well these seem to be the little things that seem to be the areas people notice... (ps they are noticing them because they affect their comfort!!)

So here is my list - and please, feel free to comment, agree / add, disagree - a discussion about how we can keep getting better is surely beneficial!
  1. Room temperature. So here is the thing, I am a Producer married to a Facilities Manager. I know much more about HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) than your average planner. But still getting a room temperature that is comfortable is always a challenge, and people always complain. So here is an idea. Start 1/2 a degree below comfortable. When all those 98.6 degree people come in it gets to comfortable. Keep it regulated to room temperature.
  2. Room temperature fact. Men and pregnant women will always be warmer than all other women. My best tip - bring a pashmina. They are small and fold up smaller. They are like wearing a blanket (don't tell the men), but pick a flattering color and now you are warm and you look "mahhhhveous"!
  3. Sound. The biggest challenge I have ever had selling is selling sound. Here is the thing - we don't notice good sound - where you can hear everything clearly as the proper delays have been built in, the room acoustics and session design considered, and techs who know what they are doing have set up the room. You do notice bad sound. Enough said.
  4. Where's the beef? Ok seriously, how about we start serving lunch like we would eat at home - and just a little tiny bite of dessert to get us through... Salad, whole grains, lean protein, hold back the simple carbs - please, please set the participants up to participate in the afternoon. (full disclosure: nutritious, sustainable, brain-friendly food is a passion shared with many, but especially with Andrea Sullivan aka @brainstrength)
  5. Tables, chairs, couches, balls - we don't mind, we even like mixing up our seating, but please think about what people will be doing in that session - would tables aid them in note-taking making the session more memorable / engaging? There is not a right or wrong, it is just about making people comfortable.
  6. To mobile or not to mobile? Now, I love a good mobile app as much as or maybe even more than most people - but what if you (gasp!) don't have a smartphone, or what if (like me) it is at the end of its now usable life and just won't quite happily load that app? Provide options - a handout, a link emailed to them they can go to later, anything to help navigating the meeting easily!
  7. Readerboards and mobile signage - I know - it seems an impossible task to keep these up to date sometimes - if we can schedule our tweets (Ok I suck at that) why can't we have just one person in charge of making sure our signs (paper and electronic) have been flipped to the right day?
  8. My Technology doesn't work! Again, apparenly this is simply a matter of inputs and outputs - yet we still see it fail. Really, unless there is a major power outage and we can see our speakers respond positively to the crisis at hand, I don't think these are failures that are necessary. Set, test, set, test the speaker's data - pay attention during the whole show, and much can be avoided (we ALL have stories!)
  9. No hybrid monitoring. If you open the world up to a live stream - have a live stream host. We have some superstars in our indstry that simply make this seamless - invite them to be part of the success.
  10. Unsustainable. Again - we know how to bring sustainability into our meetings. We have publishd standards, but it doesn't need to be complex and if you start at the beginning, working with suppliers who share your values, examining the supply chain and integrating this into your overall planning, well, voila, we are taking small steps together - this is all good.
  11. Have a backup plan and communicate it to your staff. Running out of _____; a particpant needs to make a change; a true risk management scenario presents itself - you need to have had the discussion with staff, vendors, volunteers before the event - then the response is manageable and controlled - not always easy, but possible to do with the least amount of guest impact.
  12. Smile. You know at the end of the day we are there to make sure that everyone else has a good time. It is easier when you can do it with a sense of humour and share some joy with your team.  During one of our hardest meetings what my team remembered "every time you passed music playing you danced a little". Why not?
Don't get me wrong - I am all about trying new things - the things that scare the heck out of you when you try them - and weeping with joy when they succeed, and examining them to death when they don't... but the basics - we know how to avoid these. Work with your vendor team - all of them - set the expectations, and let them all collaborate with you to success!

Please - share your stories and thoughts!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Events with Intent - Looking forward to Event Camps!

Events with Intent. That sounds so deceptively simple.

The bigger question is why would we do events withOUT intent? 

How many events have you been to that you left feeling nourished? Events where you feel as if your needs have all been considered in the planning?
  • physical (through movement, food provided, other)
  • emotional / connection
  • intellectual / knowledge / engagement
Where you return feeling rewarded and ready to make an impact at work or in your life?

If you haven't left feeling that way, then do you think all our participants have? Now I realize we all have different roles from planner to producer; logistics to content; and everything in between, but if the beginning is always that you have an intention - a goal to reach - then the middle should logically be that we are working with intent towards that goal(s) and the end is that your participants all leave feeling that this event was worth their time.

What are the roadblocks we face?
  1. Is it challenges getting information from the stakeholders so we understand their goals from the beginning and can work towards alignment all the way down the event details?
  2. Is it that the information is funneled through many channels? (this is certainly the case as the Producer at a DMC - we often only have information only via the agency)
  3. Is it budget driven - where what they want simply cannot be achieved within the set budget?
What are the roadblocks you face?
How have you surpassed these on the road to great events?

Event Camp = Good Intent
One of my favorite things about working with the amazing team surrounding us for Event Camp (Vancouver and those coming up in Twin Cities and London and ALL the on-line participant pods and inclusions) is that we have the opportunity to plan events where we can seek out what participants want to learn about and then we can take risks that push the boundaries - and through collaboration and participation and thoughtful planning we can create events with intent and have participants,in the words of Kiki L'Italien leaving having "filled the well" and returning to work reinvigorated. Events with intent. Please.

We look forward to hearing what you want!