Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

March 17 2014

This Is The Most Valuable Tool For The 21st Century Meeting Planner

By Michelle Crowley
Tools for Meeting Planners

Everyone in the meetings industry is focused on what’s ahead — what trends will impact attendees tomorrow, which issues will shape the next generation of experiences and how they can prepare for the new wave of meetings and events. At COCAL 2014 in Guatemala, I had a chance to hear some of the most respected thinkers in the meetings industry discuss what they think will guide the future.

Now, I know what most meeting professionals expect to read on the next line: technology. Don’t worry, though. This is not another piece on leveraging big data to predict your attendees’ wants and needs or harnessing a new social media platform to communicate with them.

Instead, it’s about the one tool that Mike McCauley, vice president and director of experience at Williams Gerard Productions, believes matters above all else for meeting professionals: creativity.

“Creativity is the currency of the twenty-first century,” McCauley said. “Computers can’t empathize, and they can’t create.”

SEE ALSO: How Creativity Generates Economic Value

McCauley’s perspective is especially powerful because he focuses on the intangible element of being a meeting planner: the ability to understand your attendees emotions and feelings. That ability is an essential piece of figuring out how to design an experience that will make them disconnect from their smartphones and tablets and solely focus on what’s happening at your meeting.

“Your job is to take people out of reality,” McCauley said. “If someone loses themselves in the experience for a second, that stays with them. It makes a mark that will stay forever.”

So how do you stay creative while juggling all of your responsibilities and managing your team? Here’s a look at three key tips McCauley shared with the audience at COCAL.

1) Seek Your Daily Inspirations.

It’s easy to get buried beneath the day-to-day weight of emails and calendar appointment reminders. However, McCauley reminded everyone at COCAL to find new sources to unlock their imaginations everyday. Oftentimes, that means giving yourself the time to not think about work.

SEE ALSO: 3 Ideas To Inspire You In 2014

2) Aspire To Authenticity.

Creativity may be the currency of the 21st century, but authenticity certainly helps to increase its value. McCauley reminded meeting planners that they must work to create one-of-a-kind environments. He cited one example of his own work during his time at Freeman to help a foundation that was aiming to raise funds for needy children in Africa. Rather than simply talking to attendees about why they should donate money, McCauley and his team traveled to Africa for a week to truly understand how the children lived. They returned and built an immersive environment that recreated the dire living situation. They even tried to pipe in the smells.

3) Create Community.

In addition to being creative, meeting planning is about actually creating a community. As you think about your meeting and your attendees, think about what can bring them closer together. How can you plan a program that helps attendees get to know each other on a deeper level than the here’s-my-business-card connection?

I’ve been staying busy over the past few months as PCMA contributes education at events around the world. Click here to read my thoughts from the Asia-Pacific Incentives & Meetings Expo in Melbourne.

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