With the increased demand for face-to-face meetings and interactions, having the right conference tools and elements can help transform your event into one that attendees want to and need to travel to each year. Citing noted industry experts, The National Conference Center exposes five elements that can help you create a conference that engages the audience and creates word-of-mouth marketing from their mind-opening experience.
Develop a deeper understanding for what supports an active learning environment. Dr. Lennie Scott-Webber, who researches design in the academic community, spends her time overseeing research for the development of Steelcase design products in education facilities. She defines active learning as a huge paradigm shift from passive learning in the past 15 years. Scott-Webber is an advocate of peer conferences and active learning environments, where she says each “student” is able to develop the content by working in groups and migrate with their feet to what’s of interest to them. At conferences, Scott- Webber explains, “People want to be engaged in learning and to be able to tell their ‘boss’ what they learned. Millennial and Generation Y aren’t willing to come into a [school or conference] classroom where it’s ‘chalk and talk’…” As a result, this is forcing the academic and conference community to do something different.
Have longer conference breaks and ample space
Tom Condon, who specializes in designing meeting experiences for Steelcase, the world’s largest office environments manufacturer, explains, “People want to connect to speakers or other colleagues at a conference. Conference organizers are listening and reacting by creating more opportunities for engagement.” For example, conference innovators are creating longer lunch breaks, building space where individuals can hang out and a designated lounge area with time-slots for attendees to have conversations with presenters, all of which promote face time and one-on-one interaction.
Pair Gen Y with Baby Boomers
According to Jeff Hurt, Vice President of Education and Engagement at Velvet Chainsaw, there are significant differences in training experiences between Generation Y and Baby Boomers late to adopt technology. He explains, “Technology is a part of the training experience and Baby Boomers that refuse to adapt technology are not utilizing training tools at their disposal. However, the perfect mix for training is to pair Generation Y with Baby Boomers.” Studies reveal that Generation Y enjoys being in the company of Baby Boomers to ask questions and learn about their past experiences, while Baby Boomers love coaching and mentoring. To build upon the ideal pair, Jeff adds, “Generation Y can offer Baby Boomers technology insight; this becomes peer-knowledge sharing, which is highly rated.
Put an end to mediocre hybrid events by catering to your virtual audience
Hybrid technology is the ability for users to watch and receive content from a conference without physically attending. Typically, an emcee will moderate the virtual experience. For example, at Event Camp Europe 2011 in London, the organizers established remote pods in Poland, Sweden and Amsterdam and had up to ten participants at each pod; plus, there were Google+ Hangouts where 20 additional people participated in the conference. For the remote audience, the organizers had a moderator to emcee, provide specific content and field their questions.
Since the virtual audience couldn’t partake in the evening social, the organizers closed the session with a virtual wine tasting for the three remote pods; they shipped wine to these different locations and had a sponsor describing each pour. Corbin Ball, an international technology speaker and a huge fan of the Event Camp conference series explains, “[The virtual attendees] saw it, smelled it, felt it, tasted it, they blogged or interacted and chatted about it. You can engage remote audiences with all five senses. It’s a clever, interesting idea and shows creativity using these tools.” At Event Camp, these tools gave attendees the ability to engage with the audience and have a unique experience that would occur at the real event.
All attendees want to voice their opinion
Instead of talking at your attendees, give them tools so they can contribute. Attendees can help you share your strategy by participating. How do you get them to participate? Simon Bryan with IML Worldwide recommends polling or text messaging as meeting tools for everyone to share their insight; then it becomes a meeting with actionable intelligence. You can also find out what all your audience is thinking. Employees can leave the meeting knowing goals were set and they can do their job better in the office, therefore increasing productivity and profitability for the company.
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More about The National Conference Center
Just 12 miles from Dulles International Airport and 45 minutes from Washington, DC, The National Conference Center, operated by ARAMARK Conference Centers, features a secure, distraction-free setting with self-contained buildings surrounded by 100 scenic acres in Leesburg, Virginia. One of the largest conference centers in the United States, the entire facility was purpose designed to accommodate larger meetings and conferences that concentrate on training.