When we are out talking to prospective new clients they often ask “what makes your meeting offering innovative?” Recently, the theme of some of our large meeting clients is in fact “Innovation”. And here is how we approach the topic:

  • First, we need to know exactly who makes up the audience. Demographics, size, and positions within the organization. Is this a new subject for them or is it part of an overarching focus?
  • Often the venue for the meeting has already been chosen. If nothing’s been chosen, we like to be part of that decision as well because the size of rooms and even the location of the venue could help bring the “Innovation” theme to life.
  • We like our meetings to be interactive – no matter how large or small. People do not like being talked at and they don’t like sitting in the back row of a cavernous ballroom. We have accomplished this by:
    • Creating a meeting environment that encapsulates the room. It could include an in-the round setup; or could use the length of the room as the front for staging to bring people closer to the screen; or stages could be built throughout the room where presenters appear within the audience. It may be more interactive if the space is right and presentations are broken into multiple smaller hands-on activities and exhibits, rotating the audience through the spaces.
    • Once we have agreed on the space setup, we focus on content. How will the subject of Innovation be presented? What are the desired outcomes? If there are multiple days should there be a sub-theme for each day? Innovation through Leadership; Innovation in the Market, etc.? Who from the organization should and will present the information? From all of this information we build an agenda.
    • Presentations should be fun and captivating. Graphics should only support the presentation and not reiterate every word. Save the complex charts and graphs for a follow-up white paper. An effective time is around 20 minutes and should include humor and heart felt information. Breaking up presentations with video, polling, and table activities will engage your audience. Panel discussions or interviews with a professional moderator help vary the types of presentations and help less polished speakers have stage presence without having to carry the whole topic.
  • Use technology. There are apps available to create many types of interaction and generate innovative thinking:
    • Meeting apps that deliver basic information but can also facilitate polling and sharing.
    • Crowd sourcing apps that set up innovation discussions prior to the meeting that may be sources of further live discussions and individual input during the meeting and even help develop breakthroughs that carry beyond the meeting.
    • White board apps that deliver doodles and drawings to the big screen. Instead of tuning out or turning off your devices we like to incorporate them into meeting content.
  • Open the meeting with a giant WOW! This can be accomplished by amazing performers, surprising and impactful video, lighting and projection, and introducing people or products through holograms or laser shows. The opening must support the overall direction of the meeting to have a lasting impact.
  • Everything in the meeting should be consistent with the theme – and if it is Innovation – the food, the agenda, the breakouts, the awards, networking and the off-site activities should support it. Challenge the audience to contribute to this in every way. Maybe the whole meeting starts with a story that could have several different endings. The audience divides up to play out the scenarios offered and each presents their own ending on the last day.
  • End the meeting with something memorable. What has been learned, what were the important messages that were gathered, and what should you do when you get back to work? This could be portrayed in a video – delivered by the host or incorporated with a guest speaker who can visually, physically and emotionally deliver that message.
  • Have a communications plan for taking those messages out to the rest of the organization. Reuse appropriate materials; videos, presentations, apps, and make an Innovative impact that creates results.