What makes a meeting great? What is the elusive quality, the special magic, that gives your attendees the feeling that something extraordinary is going on?
I believe the answer to that lies in committing to the fifth and final principle of meeting design – unity. In visual design, unity is defined as “the underlying principle that summarizes all of the principles and elements of design. It refers to the coherence of the whole, the sense that all of the parts are working together to achieve a common result.”
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Unity is the undercurrent that people will never be aware of, but that they sense; it’s the sensation that captures their imaginations and emotions. In practical terms, achieving unity is mostly about branding and messaging. To achieve unity, there are a few specific things you should do:
- Coordinate event marketing with content development to make sure that the theme of the meeting is the central element being used to promote the meeting.
- Make sure that all branding used to promote the event is carried through to the event itself. If a particular look and feel is used in promotional materials and communications, attendees should see the same elements when they get to the event. You don’t want to set an expectation that then goes unfulfilled.
- Prepare uniform, branded power-point templates for general sessions and for all breakout session speakers and require them to use at least the title slide.
- Make sure any third-party affiliates have access to your event branding for use in their approved specific promotions (i.e., if a sponsor is holding a private event for some of your attendees, your branding should be on their invitation).
- Look at all of the events — general sessions, breakouts, lunches, trade shows, parties, etc. — as a whole to see if anything looks like it doesn’t belong. If it does, conform or get rid of it.
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Achieving unity is the magic that the meeting designer brings to the planning process. Too often, the various groups involved with planning the meeting have differing goals and agendas. The meeting designer’s job is to keep all the pieces on the same board, and to get them all moving in the same direction. Achieving unity is a huge challenge, but for organizations that embrace it, the end result can be much greater than the sum of the parts.
A meeting that has successfully incorporates all five principles of design – balance, proportion, rhythm, emphasis and unity – is like looking at great art for your attendees. They might not know why it’s great, they just know it is.
READ MORE: The five principles of meeting design