by Terry Matthews-Lombardo, CMP
Szzzlip! Did you hear that? It was the sound of planners everywhere using their favorite tool, the box cutter, to slash through the stone tablet of meeting rules (you know the ones that begin with phrases like, “Thou Shalt Not Provide Any Fun During a Business Convention”) that’s been handed down over the ages and adhered to until, well, we’re all just ready to explode. In fact, from the sounds of recent planner discussions, the industry has reached spontaneous combustion. Suddenly it’s really cool to be a rebel with your conference planning. Perhaps it was sparked first by the introduction of TED talks in 1984, or maybe it is just a sign of an industry that has reached critical mass after years of offering the same old, same old. Whatever the reasons, there’s never been a better time for you out-of-the-box thinkers to try fresh ideas that can breathe new life into ordinary events and annual programs.
- All meal functions must have speakers
- All meeting spaces must be set in perfectly measured rows
- All breaks must offer coffee, and last no more than 15 minutes so people can get back to the business of learning
- All presentations must have handouts, PowerPoints®, and complete agendas to follow along
- All multi-day conferences must begin with a networking session and end with a formal banquet
- Etc., etc., etc.
You get the picture, right? If you’ve been a planner for any length of time, you are familiar with the ‘stone tablet’ rules, but sometimes don’t you just want to, as they say, ‘bust a move’ and turn things upside down for your next program? Here are some currently trending ideas that we applaud and think merit consideration during your next conference brainstorming session:
With terms like ‘flip meetings’ (attendees view the speaker’s presentation in advance so that upon arrival a Q & A session takes place with the speaker and informed audience members) and new expressions like ‘unconferences’ (allowing for more person-to-person time via the use of conference social times/spaces or, to put it bluntly, more than a cocktail hour but less than a planned activity) showing up in agendas all over the country, it’s no wonder rebellious planners are finally having some fun in areas of program development. And according to many of them, it’s about time!