Great Meet­ings 101

Give your imag­i­na­tion a kick-start to make your cor­po­rate events mem­o­rable, en­gag­ing and ef­fec­tive

Business Traveler (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Dan Booth

No one knows for sure when the first trade show was held, that his­toric mo­ment when busi­ness people gath­ered in one place to shake hands, ex­am­ine mer­chan­dise and swap tales of their craft. Doubt­less it pre­dates me­dieval fairs and an­cient car­a­vans on the Silk Road and may go all the way back to cave­man days. One thing is cer­tain, how­ever, when­ever the sec­ond trade show was held, some­body said,“Hey, we need to make it bet­ter than the last one.”

That’s been the ral­ly­ing cry of meet­ing pro­fes­sion­als ever since. From small groups to huge con­ven­tions, meet­ings and events are rec­og­nized as pow­er­ful tools to man­age, mo­ti­vate, train and ex­pand cor­po­rate hori­zons. But the trick is al­ways how to en­gage at­ten­dees so they get the most out of the time, the ef­fort and the dol­lars ex­pended on the event.

There are four key el­e­ments that play into the suc­cess of any meet­ing: Con­tent, Venue, Menu and Ex­pe­ri­ences. The role each one plays in a given meet­ing or event de­pends on the goal of the get-to­gether, the au­di­ence and, of course, the budget. For ex­am­ple, a two-day in­ter­nal meet­ing for mid-level man­agers nagers re­quires a dif­fer­ent touch than a high-level h-level ex­ec­u­tive weekend strat­egy re­treat. But that’s not to say that there aren’t ways to make both mem­o­rable, and yes, even fun. n.

Con­tent is King ing

First things first – don’t over­look the fun­da­men­tal im­por­tance of cre­ative and mem­o­rable meet­ing con­tent. The start­ing point goes back to an even more ba­sic ques­tion: Why are we meet­ing in the first place? And that re­ally comes down to defin­ing the com­pany’s busi­ness ob­jec­tives and how your in­vest­ment in a meet­ing or event fits into those ob­jec­tives.

Great con­tent be­gins with the con­cept of en­gag­ing par­tic­i­pants, clearly es­tab­lish­ing the rel­e­vance and im­por­tance of the meet­ing’s sub­stance. In other words, be­fore spe­cific con­tent can be de­vel­oped and pro­moted to at­ten­dees, its pur­pose must be clearly un­der­stood.

Thus, meet­ing plan­ners ad­vise tak­ing more time to look at the busi­ness case for the meet­ing, its goals and ob­jec­tives, and the makeup of the au­di­ence be­fore you start de­vel­op­ing con­tent. Then cre­ate a rea­son for at­ten­dees to en­gage. Look at the event through your par­tic­i­pant’s eyes, and ask yourself the ques­tion they’re prob­a­bly ask­ing: “What’s in it for me?”

An­swer­ing that ques­tion will give your meet­ing more mean­ing mean­ing, not only dur­ing the event, but be­fore and af­ter as well. The ap­peal and draw­ing power of the meet­ing’s con­tent – and aware­ness of and enthusiasm for it be­fore­hand – is es­sen­tial to the suc­cess of the meet­ing, And these days, it’s tech­nol­ogy that drives en­gage­ment, and en­gage­ment that drives suc­cess.

Read­ily avail­able tools such as ded­i­cated web­sites, event-spe­cific apps for mo­bile de­vices, videos, and even tried-andtrue e-mail can build your meet­ing’s mo­men­tum, aware­ness and ef­fec­tive­ness in three im­por­tant ar­eas. One is sharper fo­cus be­fore the meet­ing on the sub­ject mat­ter and its busi­ness pur­pose. A sec­ond im­proves re­ten­tion of key in­for­ma­tion af­ter the event. And fi­nally is the abil­ity to deliver a con­sist mes­sage.

Us­ing tech­nol­ogy en­sures that your con­tent is be­ing de­liv­ered the same way

ev­ery time it’s heard, be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter the meet­ing. Keep­ing mes­sag­ing con­sis­tent through­out the ex­tended life cy­cle of an event helps re­in­force your key points, en­hances ef­fec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion and gives your meet­ing event more bang for the buck.

Where Do We Go from Here?

Now that you’ve de­cided the pur­pose of your meet­ing, and started to de­velop its con­tent, it’s a good time to think about where to hold the event. Again fac­tors of the meet­ing’s busi­ness ob­jec­tives, au­di­ence com­po­si­tion and budget are the driv­ing con­sid­er­a­tions. But now you’ve added a fourth el­e­ment, con­tent, to the mix.

Let’s say you’re do­ing a prod­uct roll-out of your lat­est high-tech gizmo. The last place on earth you want to pick as your meet­ing venue is a ho­tel with slow WiFi con­nec­tiv­ity. Or you’ve de­vel­oped a fu­tur­is­tic, reach-forthe-stars theme for your event; why not con­sider hold­ing your open­ing re­cep­tion in a plan­e­tar­ium? One thing about meet­ing venues: venu size mat­ters. Se­lect­ing a right-siz right-size venue in the right lo­ca­tion can go a long way to­ward cre­at­ing a suc­cess­ful ev event within a suc­cess­ful budget – or at least elim­i­nat­ing many of the co com­mon pit­falls of a site that’s t too big, too small, too remo re­mote, too ex­pen­sive.

Al­most A ev­ery ma­jor city in the t world has at least one, on of­ten many, cav­ernous meet­ings me and con­ven­tion venues. ven For ex­am­ple, in Mex­ico Me City, the largest of these thes is the Cen­tro Banamex. It boa boasts a ca­pac­ity of more than 50 50,000 people and a park­ing area that t their brochure claims is larger than th the big­gest sta­dium in Latin Amer­ica.

Now clearly ev events host­ing tens of thou­sands of peo people are rel­a­tively rare. So to cater to sm smaller groups, or per­haps sev­eral groups si­mul­ta­ne­ously, these fa­cil­i­ties of­fer flex­i­ble space – big halls that can be sec­tioned off to cre­ate more rea­son­ably sized rooms. The Cen­tro Banamex, for in­stance, has 25 rooms that can host large-scale or in­ti­mate events. Make sure the venue of­fers sup­port ser­vices for tech­nol­ogy, ad­ver­tis­ing, multimedia and telecommunication.

For events in­tended to host a great num­ber of people, it’s hard to beat a re­ally well laid out and equipped con­ven­tion cen­ter. But per­haps your oc­ca­sion needs a space with a bit more char­ac­ter. Here’s where meet­ing plan­ners turn to venues that have day-jobs as a dif­fer­ent kind of des­ti­na­tion.

Mu­se­ums, art gal­leries and sci­ence cen­ters can pro­vide your guests with truly amaz­ing sights while they sip wine and munch con­tent­edly on canapés. Ev­ery­thing from a gi­ant Tyran­nosaurus Rex fos­sil to a liv­ing un­der­wa­ter aquar­ium ex­pe­ri­ence to Andy Warhol orig­i­nals can be found in top meet­ings cities around the world. Here are some sam­ples:

One of many such venues in Am­s­ter­dam is the Het Scheep­vaart­mu­seum. Lo­cated on Oos­ter­dock, the Na­tional Mar­itime Mu­seum is housed in the grand Lands Zeemagaz­ijn (the Ar­se­nal), built in the 17th century as a store­house for the Ad­mi­ralty of Am­s­ter­dam.

Fol­low­ing a ma­jor ren­o­va­tion in Oc­to­ber 2011, one of the most strik­ing ad­di­tions is the glass-and-steel ceil­ing that cov­ers the in­ner court­yard. In­spired by the com­pass lines of old sea maps and lit by 868 LED lights at night, it has trans­formed the court­yard into a spec­tac­u­lar venue for din­ners and par­ties (for 700 and 1,000 guests re­spec­tively, evenings only).

For a dif­fer­ent ocean-go­ing theme, San Diego of­fers the USS Mid­way, one of the most cel­e­brated ships in the re­tired in the US Naval fleet. The Mid­way was on ac­tive duty for 47 years, longer than any other US Navy car­rier in the 20th century.

The Mid­way was de­com­mis­sioned in 1992, and is now docked in “Navy Town,” where, as the USS Mid­way Mu­seum, she pro­vides a im­pres­sive op­tion for meet­ings. Host­ing an aver­age of 700 an­nual events for up to 3,500 guests at a time, the wait­ing list can be three years in most cases.

In Vi­enna, an ap­pre­ci­a­tion for art runs as deep as the Danube. So it’s no sur­prise that there are fine mu­seum spa­ces aplenty, ready to host your event. The Belvedere is one. For­merly a Baroque palace, now split into two mu­se­ums, the Up­per and Lower Belvedere are con­nected by gar­dens. The Up­per Belvedere has two event spa­ces avail­able, al­low­ing you to com­bine a meet­ing with a pri­vate view­ing of the per­ma­nent collection in the evening. The Mar­ble Hall has a real sense of his­tory and can host a gala din­ner for 240 people, while the Oc­tagon is the only space avail­able to rent by day.

Many mu­se­ums and gal­leries are happy to in­clude tours of their col­lec­tions as part of the event pack­age – a spe­cial bonus for your event par­tic­i­pants.

In Cape Town, South Africa, na­ture pro­vides the grand back­drop with

dra­matic vis­tas of the city bowl and the Twelve Apos­tles moun­tain range at the Sum­mit Lounge. The space, man­aged by the Ta­ble Moun­tain Aerial Cable­way, can ac­com­mo­date as many as 120 people, boasts three bal­conies and is ideal for cock­tail re­cep­tions. All events are ac­cessed by Cable­way gon­do­las, which scale the 3,560-foot moun­tain in less than ten min­utes, slowly ro­tat­ing as they as­cend, mak­ing for a mem­o­rable en­trance.

If you are look­ing to throw a lively af­ter­party, prod­uct launch or themed night with pump­ing mu­sic, Club Hauss­mann is a sleek Parisian venue with space for 700 stand­ing. Open to the pub­lic on Fri­day and Satur­day nights only, it can be booked for pri­vate par­ties Sun­day to Thurs­day. Orig­i­nally a Swedish bank, the build­ing has a dance floor and bar with black walls and blue light­ing, over­looked by an ex­pan­sive mez­za­nine level fea­tur­ing wrought-iron bal­conies and leather ban­quettes.

Time to Eat

Com­pelling con­tent and a unique and en­gag­ing space are crit­i­cal to mak­ing meet­ings mem­o­rable. But it can all fall flat if the food doesn’t mea­sure up. Let’s face it, box lunches and rub­ber chicken din­ners just don’t cut it in to­day’s com­pet­i­tive meet­ing en­vi­ron­ment. Putti Putting to­gether a meet­ing team, whi which in­cludes the meet­ing pl plan­ner, the venue co­or­di­na­tor and the chef, is a re­la­tion­ship that must work hand in hand. The chef brings an un­der­stand­ing of the event con­cept and all menu re­lated re­quests, while con­sid­er­ing such vari­ables as what’s in­sea­son, what’s avail­able and what’s rea­son­able. With the right team, food be­comes part of a mem­o­rable ex ex­pe­ri­ence that fits with the ven venue and seam­lessly sup­ports the m meet­ing’s con­tent and ob­jec­tives. Meals ca can be de­signed to show­case the space, r re­in­force the mes­sage and en­cour­age com­pan­ion­able con­ver­sa­tion.

Mak­ing a all the culi­nary ef­fort come to­gether be be­gins with sched­ul­ing a tast­ing so that the event host and plan­ners know ex­actly wha what guests will ex­pe­ri­ence. Next, con­sider how the food is served; it’s crit­i­cally im­por­tant to the suc­cess of the meal. Sal­ads and other cour­ses that can be pre­sented at room tem­per­a­ture can eas­ily be served gang style. But be sure to have hot en­trees plated and served im­me­di­ately.

Since the din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence be­gins with how food looks, proper plat­ing is vi­tal. If it looks de­li­cious, chances are people will taste the dif­fer­ence. But equally im­por­tant, the food must also be de­li­cious. Op­tions are also im­por­tant; plan a menu that suits ev­ery­one in­clud­ing vege­tar­i­ans and guests with spe­cial di­etary needs.

Ex­pe­ri­ence This

If the pur­pose of your meet­ing is en­gage­ment, then se­lect­ing an un­for­get­table event ex­pe­ri­ence for your guests can be the per­fect fi­nale. From para­sail­ing to pasta mak­ing, there are event ex­pe­ri­ences that fit your com­pany’s style, mes­sage and pur­pose. Choos­ing the right one can‘ seal the deal’ with your par­tic­i­pants, keep­ing your event top of mind.

Use your imag­i­na­tion to ex­pand on these pos­si­bil­i­ties:

Guests at your Vi­en­nese event may find that learn­ing to waltz at one of the city’s dancing schools or ball venues is a re­ward­ing con­clu­sion to the day’s ac­tiv­i­ties. The banks of the New Danube host dragon boat rac­ing, while the Danube Canal district, on the fringe of the city’s first and sec­ond districts, of­fers group wake­board­ing classes. For thrill seek­ers, there’s a 100-foot bungee jump off of two cool­ing tow­ers near Jo­han­nes­burg.

Cruises are also part of the itin­er­ary on Osaka Bay, but event plan­ners in the Ja­panese city are in­creas­ingly in­clud­ing op­tions such as tea cer­e­monies, Ja­panese cook­ing classes, cy­cling tours and mu­seum vis­its, such as a trip to the Mo­mo­fuku Ando In­stant Ra­men Mu­seum, with noo­dle-mak­ing lessons and tast­ings.

Thanks to the coun­try’s ef­fi­cient net­work of shinkansen (bul­let trains), at­ten­dees in Osaka can make a day trip to Hiroshima. The somber Peace Me­mo­rial Park con­trasts with It­sukushima, a revered Shinto shrine built partly over wa­ter, one of Ja­pan’s most pho­tographed sites. The for­mer an­cient cap­i­tals of Nara and Ky­oto are also eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble. Nara of­fers a Na­tional Mu­seum filled with price­less Bud­dhist art, while Ky­oto is home to the Golden Pavil­ion and the Gion area which pro­vides a glimpse into a by­gone era in Ja­pan.

If Dubai is your meet­ing des­ti­na­tion, think about a desert venue that has all the lo­cal trim­mings. Sev­eral com­pa­nies can ar­range tra­di­tional Be­douin-style ex­cur­sions, but Net Tours owns and op­er­ates seven desert camps that can be per­son­al­ized for your event. Their Ex­ec­u­tive Camp site in the heart of the desert has a fully air con­di­tioned lounge, and is equipped with an au­dio-video pre­sen­ta­tions fa­cil­ity. They also can ar­range ice-carv­ing of cor­po­rate lo­gos, per­son­al­ized menus, li­mou­sine ser­vice for VIPs, camel rides, desert bikes, live Ara­bian mu­sic and fal­con shows.

Meet­ings and events of­fer a host of new ideas and new tech­nol­ogy tools to en­hance your at­ten­dees’ ex­pe­ri­ences. It all starts with the ba­sics. Un­der­stand your busi­ness, and what the busi­ness case is for your meet­ing. De­velop con­tent that matches your goals and meets your au­di­ence’s needs. Lever­age the right venues, menus and ex­pe­ri­ences.

Above all, be cre­ative. Let your imag­i­na­tion set the agenda. BT

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