What’s the point? Why are we here? What am I supposed to get out of this meeting?
These are questions that all meeting attendees have, whether they articulate them or not. People don’t want to have to look for clues to know why they’re at a meeting – the answer should be right in front of them, and it is your job as the meeting designer to get the message across. It’s all in knowing what to EMPHASIZE.
Use design to place the proper emphasis on the event experience
The emphasis is the principle that is most important to the organization holding the meeting. In visual design, emphasis is described as the “point of focus,” and it “marks the locations in a composition that most strongly draw the viewer’s attention.” The emphasis should match the major goal of the meeting.
Ask yourself some questions:
- Are you trying to generate a specific outcome, such as creating a position document as an output of the meeting?
- Is the goal of the meeting to communicate to attendees the new focus of their business efforts for the year?
- Is it to educate attendees on best practices and new thinking in their industry?
- Is it to facilitate networking? Is it to conduct internal company business?
Know what the goal is, and then communicate that goal over and over.
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Maintain the focus of the event
Planning should start with the emphasis and the emphasis should be kept front-of-mind during the entire planning process. Anything that doesn’t support the meeting’s emphasis should be questioned. Anything that detracts from, or competes with, the emphasis should be eliminated. Much of the emphasis will be communicated through the organization’s marketing efforts, so try to become involved in that process if at all possible. It will make for much clearer communication.
Keep in mind that the “meeting emphasis” and the “meeting theme” are not necessarily the same thing. The theme, if you have one, should support the emphasis. For example, the organization may decide that the meeting emphasis is to create a strong culture of innovation in the workplace. As a meeting designer, you would be responsible for creating a meeting that supports this emphasis in every detail – from the keynote speakers to the types of breakout sessions offered. The look and feel of the meeting – from the design of the on-site brochure to the signage, to the color of the napkins at dinner — should support the idea of innovation and creativity.
In this example, the meeting designer should look out for elements that detract from the emphasis and advocate strongly to remove them. It can be difficult to convince those inside the organization that four invitation-only cocktail parties with the board of directors are not only irrelevant to the emphasis but could potentially send a conflicting message to attendees.
Ultimately, keeping the emphasis front and center can help create a meeting that attendees and your client rave about. Attendees will know why they’re there, and that clarity, supported by value-driven content, will make everyone happy.
READ MORE: The five principles of meeting design