First, the average. I won't name names.
Venue: large hotel in a convention city. Mobile app - average - it opens with an ad for the mobile ad company, it offers up basic functionality for finding my agenda, and one speaker has used the polling function that is available. The social activity is minimal, so my thirst for knowledge as to what is happening around us, coming up or is inspiring others is not sated. As I walk up to the registration desk, I am greeted warmly but told that my badge isn't ready since they haven't printed speaker badges yet, and plan to do that later in the day. I can go to the first session though if I like, and coffee is available. Coffee, scones and cookies. Yes, it is 8:30am and the brain-foodie in me shrivels a little. Enter the first session, set for 200+ in classroom seating facing directly to the front, stage is way on the left. So I sit on the left, and approximately 40 people join me, leaving the speakers to ask any questions across a relatively vast, dark space from their dimly lit stage. The session of course is on the future of meetings. The morning sessions have good speakers, followed by a boxed lunch available in the trade show area, with seating for a few at rounds at the end of the rows. Again, a sandwich or wrap, cookie and fruit, and a salad with some unfortunate small nut additions in an unlabeled container which cause my lips to go numb (first sign there is a nut in here for the allergic me), and enough packaging to make the sustainable me a little sad, but even more than this, the amount to be opened and consumed means people have to sit for a while, which means they are not visiting the exhibitors who await them. Here again, rows of pipe and drape, some exhibitors have very nice spaces, and as is typical in this type of show many leave up their black and white hanging sign the exhibit company used to id the space. The flow through the show is light, and the exhibitors offer up their cheery exuberance and overall the experience leaves me wanting more. It isn't that it is bad, it is just "same" and the declining numbers are to me an indication of a need to spice this baby up!
The better. Venue: large convention centre, in a space filled with natural light to begin. I walk up and give my name, am checked in by one of the plentiful staff on an iPad and my speaker badge generates on wireless printer in seconds. There is a small printed agenda available, and innovation is featured, and served up in a gorgeous room set with great lighting and interesting chairs and a nice stage draws people in. The app is likely full of good information, but no matter how socially able I dislike having to use facebook or linkedin to access any app - I know it is my own issue, but since it is a compact agenda I don't download it. Outside the trade show is a lounge open to all set with a variety of interesting furniture, and offering complimentary mimosas. Inside the trade show floor is abuzz with action, caterers serving up bite size samples, photo booths drawing people in, music overhead at a reasonable but energizing volume, mainstage presentations which allow more innovative ideas and suppliers to be showcased, and an engaged audience taking the time to speak with exhibitors, you feel as though participants will leave refreshed and with new ideas to take back to their clients.
My (personal) favorite so far of the last six weeks. BizBash Planathon, Toronto. Venue: Palais Royale, which really puts its best foot forward. QuickMobile is a sponsor, and I am
there to represent this, but even more so to be part of the mentor group, which leads tables full of eager planners through a fun, interactive and deep brainstorming to transform an existing event... into anything they can imagine in 30 minutes. These sessions are fun, fun, fun, and the reception which follows on the patio overlooking the lake could be dampened by the downpour, but the combination of the music enhanced with a figure skater moving across a teflon rink to the songs, fantastic food presented in a range from small plates and spoons, to a paella pan and chef to homemade popsicles in an ice and dry ice display and a selection of mojitos full of fresh ingredients - they really took the opportunity to showcase their abilities. This combined making the best of a venue, having a setup conducive to the objectives (at the last minute at the client's request all the tables were flipped from 6' rounds to 5' rounds for easier conversation to be had), allowing ample time for conversation and by the format, making those conversations easy to have. The learning comes from every group coming up with ideas that inspire other ideas and allow you to build on these, and sparks fly! BTW - the app is gorgeous, sparkling champagne bubbles invite you in to explore - you can connect to all the other attendees - and after the event is over, the videos of the awesome ideas will all be shared and easy to find for all who participated.