conference,] and I think the whole social aspect also helps. It is called social media, but we like to be real social, in both. So we try to have [the parties] in locations where the entire group is together and they are there for a purpose for a few hours both nights.
[For an off-site party at McKelligon Canyon outside of El Paso,] when I got up there to do the site visit, cell service was a little shaky and there was no Internet, and I thought: “This is going to be a big plus for us.” Now of course we had complaints, because you cannot take Internet away from these people. It is like … well, you know. But the whole idea was, if they got there and they were on the top of a mountain with some cocktails and some food and they could not use their device, they would have to talk to each other.
KA There are three important themes in any in-person experience. If you think about a movie, it's the opening scene, the closing scene, and the climactic moment in between. Ironically, the scene that's most important in shaping how I feel about the meeting is the one that's usually most neglected, and that is the closing scene.
As I'm leaving the scene, do you give me something? Do people shake hands? Do we see along the hallway, projected on the walls or on butcher paper along the walls or [on] banners, quotes that we heard? Does someone walk up to me with a video camera — it doesn't have to be perfect or even professional, but there's a squad of 30 of them — and they're saying, “What is the specific tip that you found most helpful, just a sentence or two?” And it focuses the attendee on what they most enjoyed.
Don't Be Afraid to Be Yourself
GF The most engaging events (or organizations, or people) stand for something that matters, articulate their values clearly and persuasively, and aren't afraid of polarizing people who don't stand with them. If you're bland and inoffensive, nobody will hate you. But nobody will love you either.
You, the planner, also need to be willing to put your passion and personality out there. People aren't drawn to things that feel corporate. They're drawn to things that feel human. Laurie Coots, chief marketing officer of TBWA\Chiat\ Day, puts it this way: “A good product is not enough; consumers today are also looking for soul — and soul is one thing you cannot invent. It has to be authentic.”
Whatever organization you're with, whatever industry you're in, there's something at the heart of it that gives your work meaning and purpose. Find that, ideate around it, and build upon it. You won't create something engaging if you're not engaged.
Tap the Collective Conscious
At this moment I knew it was not going to be a boring conference: It happened just before I was to go on stage to deliver a keynote. I was so moved to tears by the prior program that mascara dripped on my lavender blouse. And I didn't care. I wasn't alone. For the first time in the conference, many of the 3,000 nurse executives in the audience were up on their feet cheering and hugging each other.
The serious-looking nurse I'd sat down next to was now blowing kisses to the diminutive, elderly woman standing on stage who was being honored by the conference president. Our honoree looked like the proverbial deer caught in headlights.
What had happened? Two months before the conference, at my suggestion, every member received an email that read, “If you send us the name of the book that has most influenced your work as a nurse and the author by Sept. 30, you will get a peek preview, by email, of the Top 10 list from the collective submissions from you and your colleagues.”
It turns out that the woman on stage was the long-admired, surviving co-author of a required textbook for nurses training. Only when the members received their peek preview email of results did they realize how many of their peers felt as strongly as they did about the usefulness of that book in their career. Thus, they were primed to cheer when the author appeared on stage to be honored.
The conferences that best leverage shared learning and relationship-building will thrive, whilst others will wilt away or lose their attendees to competition. — Kare Anderson
Excerpted from “Make Your Conference the Centerpiece for a Tight-Knit Community,” at Forbes.com. Read the full post at convn.org/anderson-community.
Earn Your CEU Hour
Here's how to earn your CEU hour. Once you finish reading this CMP Series article, read these two blog posts by Kare Anderson:
“Come Back to Our Senses: How to Create More Meaningful and Memorable Meetings,” at convn.org/anderson-memorable
“Like a Movie Director, Storyboard the Experience for Us,” at convn.org/anderson-storyboard
To earn one hour of CEU credit, visit pcma.org/convenecmp to answer questions about the information contained in this CMP Series article and the additional material.
To earn additional credit, you can take more more tests in our series here: pcma.co/ConveneCEUs
The Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) is a registered trademark of the Convention Industry Council.
For more information about Kare Anderson, visit sayitbetter.com.
Watch a presentation by Dave Serino that includes the SoMeT story at slideshare.net/DaveSerino.
Find Greg Fuson's writing at thevinespeaks.com.