Great Meetings 101
Give your imagination a kick-start to make your corporate events memorable, engaging and effective
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.
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