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!

1 comment:

  1. Menu planning is also one of those basics we apparently haven't managed judging by the number of all carb and sugar morning and afternoon breaks I've experienced at conferences this year.