WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST MEETING TRENDS FOR 2014? From what we hear, they’re streamlining, going back to basics and creating fun, relevant experiences. It’s no longer about what’s new, it’s about what works and what truly makes meetings better — and that means planners have be creative.
At our PYM LIVE Houston event in mid-November, we asked meeting planners and suppliers to answer these questions: “What would make meetings better? What are some fun things you’ve seen or done that worked?”
Here’s what they said.
- Graphic storytelling. If “a picture is worth 1,000 words,” a drawing inspired by a session surely beats class notes. Graphic storytellers (like Stephanie Crowley of TheChyrsalisSolution.com, above) recap the content of a keynote or breakout session using images and key phrases. Displayed in common areas afterward, the images become an effective way for attendees to see what they may have missed or spark conversations about big ideas.
- People as game pieces. Encourage attendees to exchange ideas in playful ways. One example: Use human whiteboards on which attendees can write or stick Post-it Notes. Much like a human chessboard, the “notes” can be moved and arranged so people can see and adjust the patterns of thought that develop.
- Maximize shuttle time. In many destinations, shuttles to and from airports or off-site venues are a necessary evil. Make transportation time useful by sending a team-builder, local historian or entertainer along with your guests.
- Customize the experience. Use pre-event surveys to gather data you can use to personalize the experience for each of your guests. One example: Ask the what they’d do on a day off? Use the information to customize an itinerary or group outing. Knowing favorite foods and dietary restrictions lets you customize snack breaks. At one event, a company printed the image of every employee onto its own piece of Lucite and used those images to create a chandelier that hung in the middle of the ballroom. Each office then took home the images of their employees to create a mosaic.
- Give traditional culinary team-building a twist. Did attendees catch anything during a fly-fishing trip? Teach them how to clean and cook their fish. Want attendees to work in teams to prepare lunch or dinner? Send them to a farmers’ market with the meal budget. They buy what they want and are taught how to prepare dishes “Iron Chef”-style.
- Incorporate local color. What is your meeting destination known for? Use that in your menus, meeting themes and activities. At RoamingHunger.com, you can find and book local food trucks to cater functions. Venues with ties to local farmers can help arrange tastings and buffets where attendees meet and mingle with the people who provided their food. Convention and visitors bureaus are a meeting planners’ best resource for recommendations of local vendors and charities with which to engage.
- Make it easy to connect. Print double-sided name badges, so if they flip over, the wearer’s identity isn’t concealed. Give attendees something to talk about: Include just the name, not the title or company, and let them choose their own avatar or identifying information to share on the badge. Include their Twitter name so people can find them on social media. Let them download digital business cards by providing them with scannable QR codes on the badge or handheld devices like Poken.
- Give people tools to express themselves. Building, painting, doodling, writing, posting Instagram pics — however you encourage people to share, make it easy and nonthreatening. Corporate painting parties use a template so it’s easy for anyone to follow along even while personal embellishments are encouraged. Interactive graffiti walls are finally affordable enough that they’ll be popular this year. And everyone is carrying personal production studios in their pockets — it’s called a phone. So make sure to give attendees a hashtag they can use to share content during your event. Don’t forget to track, share and display what they create in a prominent place, both online and post-event.
Do you have anything to add to this list? Share with us by posting in the comments below.