Midori Connolly (@AVGirlMidori), chief AV girl — yes, that’s an official title — at AVGirl Productions, loves demystifying technology, and creating engaging and interactive educational experiences for meeting professionals. But people don’t naturally latch on to new things, she says, and traditionally follow a formula for their events. “When you’re doing something new, you’re asking them to get a little uncomfortable,” Connolly says. “So prepare people to be uncomfortable, make it a fun experience.” Here are six ways to do that.
- Give them a chance to play a game. Games let people step outside who they are every day in the office. Start with something simple like a name badge. That’s an identity card. What if we could choose our identity? Give attendees a funny avatar. There’s sociological safety in associating yourself with an avatar.
- Remember the goal is to participate, not win. Games shouldn’t be about racking up points. Create little ways to reward and acknowledge each person who shares and contributes to the game or the overall event experience.
- Make the space as comfortable and homey as possible. If people can physically relax, they’ll be able to let down their mental and emotional guards. Work to design spaces that are welcoming and feel like safe spaces in which to play and share, if that’s what you’ll be asking people to do.
- Remember that collaboration can be uncomfortable. Not everyone works well on a team. Many people don’t like their peers. There should always be an option for someone to opt out. Connolly likes to create separate activities, like a scenario or case study or puzzles for individuals who want to work on their own.
- Educate attendees about their learning styles. Connolly likes to have attendees take learning-style quizzes before starting so she can give them tools to help them learn better at the event. Examples: Tell those who want to that they can walk around the back of the room for 10 minutes every so often; remind them they might need to repeat back what they just heard; or that they should take notes and read them out loud to themselves.
- Train your exhibitors and sponsors. If you’re using a new format or style of show, have a mandatory 20-minute training session so everyone knows how to maximize their time at the event. Get testimonials from people who are good at it. Get input and advice from suppliers who crush it, so everyone knows what to expect going in.
If you’ve tried these techniques, how have they worked for you? What else can you suggest? Please leave your comments in the space below. We want to hear from you.