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New Ideas For Old Meetings

It’s a new day in the association meetings industry. For the most part, gone are the 5-day gatherings, full-day presentations and lecture-only sessions. Replacing them are shorter meetings, shorter sessions within a conference, and participatory lectures.

It’s a new day in the association meetings industry. For the most part, gone are the 5-day gatherings, full-day presentations and lecture-only sessions. Replacing them are shorter meetings, shorter sessions within a conference, and participatory lectures.

Though all ages are enjoying these changes, if you’re planning meetings for younger members, consider the following:

Time is money.

It’s harder than ever for members to plan an extended stay away from the office. Though some associations have responded by shortening the length of conferences, many have done so simply by cramming in the same amount of programming in fewer days.

If you’re moving to a shorter conference, consider eliminating programming rather than starting earlier and ending later each day. Members who are exhausted at the end of your meeting won’t feel refreshed and may be less likely to repeat the experience in the future. Plus, members relish informal networking time which is often the first to go when scheduling gets tight.

A hybrid approach.

How can you add to the face-to-face aspect of your meeting? Many organizations are simulcasting all or a portion of their meetings online. This allows those who can’t attend to be a part of the event to get involved. If simulcasting is out of your budget, consider taping everything and making it available after the meeting—either in the form of edited TED-like videos or podcasts or full-length versions available through an online archive. These can be offered for free or fee. There’s room for experimenting until you get the mix just right.

Participatory event planning.

Online gaming has spawned spinoffs in the meetings world. Think about using team competitions and problem-solving exercises to encourage audience engagement. Options such as Polleverywhere and youbthere allow audience members to use their mobile devices for voting and presenter questions. Think audience participation rather than “lecture” and you’ll create a memorable experience for participants.

Micro sessions.

When I began speaking, it wasn’t unusual for me to present all-day or half day programs. I’m rarely asked to do that now. Recently, however, I was asked to do a 25-minute presentation! Though a challenge for me as the presenter, I can pretty much guarantee I won’t lose the audience since there’s simply no time to do so. If you decide to try micro sessions, be sure to work with your speakers and let them know what you expect (i.e. three to five main ideas and no more than a specific number of slides).

Peer-to-peer learning.

Consider brief roundtable sessions in which members are the facilitators and teachers. Ask presenters to provide specific topics such as “10 Travel Apps in 25 Minutes” or “What I learned by being embezzled.” Topics can be area-specific (i.e. all technology) or divided into various segments (i.e. practice management, personal growth, human resources, etc.). Since you’ll be working with volunteers rather than professional presenters, but sure to be specific about the format and suggested guidelines.

Though designed to appeal to younger audiences, the above ideas are often welcomed by more “seasoned” members as well, creating a win-win for all involved.

Take the first step towards your future.

Looking for a game changer at your next event or a strategy unique to your organization?