In the world of meeting design, distractions are the enemy. For an event to achieve an effortless flow, you want to keep attendees focused on what the hosting organization wants them focused on. The goal of minimizing distractions, then, forms the heart of the next principle of meeting design: Proportion.
In visual design terms, proportion is defined as “the relative size and scale of the various elements in a design. The issue is the relationship between objects, or parts, of a whole.”
RELATED STORY: How to improve your meeting’s outcomes
This principle can be one of the most difficult to implement, as it requires a bird’s-eye view of all of the elements of the meeting to ensure all of the facets are in appropriate relationship to each other. It comes down to what you want people to remember about your meeting. All too often, something “stands out” more than you intended, and that becomes all anyone remembers afterwards.
For example, has someone on the planning team ever come up with an idea for some small element — say a really inventive centerpiece for the tables at dinner — that becomes the talk of the meeting? As you walk down the halls the next day, did you keep overhearing conversations about that “crazy” centerpiece at dinner last night? Things like that capture an inappropriate amount of people’s attention because they are out of proportion with everything else that’s going on. This is not a good thing! People should have been focused on their companions; they should have been guided to think about what happened in the general sessions or breakouts during the day. Good décor supports the message the organization is trying to send — it should set a mood and become a backdrop. The only thing people should remember is an overall impression, for example, that “dinner was lovely” or “dinner was fun”. It should all blend together into a happy memory. This is the goal of proportion.
RELATED STORY: Creating memorable experiences focusing on peak and end
The inherent challenge of maintaining event proportions
The challenge of proportion is in knowing how to set things up so that the way each element relates to all the others makes sense. This is not easy to do, and it is truly only in retrospect that you discover when something is seriously out of whack. As a meeting designer, you must think all the way around every new initiative and suggestion. When evaluating all the elements of a meeting, ask yourself the following questions:
- If it is implemented, will it detract from the meeting’s objectives?
- Will it stop people in their tracks and compel them to say “What the hell is that?” (And not in a good way?)
- Is the potential impact so small that it will likely be drowned out by everything else going on around it, making the time and effort invested probably better used somewhere else?
- Does it support the overall message, or is it a misguided attempt to keep things “fresh”?
If all of the elements of the meeting make sense, if they all seem to go together and nothing “sticks out” inappropriately, then you have done a good job keeping things in proportion. And attendees will get a general sense of how they themselves relate to the meeting.
READ MORE: The five principles of meeting design