- New Lingo
- New Formats
- New Confusion?
“We not only run the same meetings each year, but many times we have the same audiences that qualify to attend these programs,” one incentive planner told me recently. “So, I’m constantly challenged to keep things fresh by trying new ideas, sometimes in baby steps, because repeat attendees - especially in the age group I represent - can be resistant to change.”
On the flip side, there are plenty of forward-thinking groups out there as well as creative, risk-
taking planners willing to try just about anything to not only gain attendance but to enhance the learning experience and maintain audience engagement.
Peek at any number of current meeting programs and you’ll find a refreshing (and sometimes confusing) list of inventive names and formats that planners are trying: inspiration centers, net-walking (comfy shoes required), shirtsleeve sessions, campfire sessions (s’mores, anyone?), flash assemblies, mob meetings, deep dives, and every variation on Ted Talks and speed-dating-for-meetings that you can imagine are out there begging for assignation. But, are they working?
According to Christy, “There are many benefits to learning/networking/transferring knowledge in this fashion. Sessions are fast and to-the-point, about 20 minutes each, and rotate around the clock so that people can move between sessions to catch as much content as they choose. Networking is made easy since the set is so fluid.”
Speaking of fluid, how about shaking your group up by offering a ‘net-walking’ session during your next program? Carly Underwood, CMP and Event Manager for the Institute for Healthcare Improvement is working on including this element at IHI’s National Forum. “Since IHI’s mission is to improve health and healthcare worldwide, we feel it is vitally important to include healthy options for our meeting attendees. [For our annual meeting] we will include ‘net-walking’ to allow participants to network while on a walking path outdoors but within the hotel’s property. Our hope is that attendees will realize they don’t have to stay inside and be sedentary to work and learn. IHI also encourages ‘walking meetings’ back at our offices in Cambridge, MA, so this is a natural extension of what we already preach.”
Carly says they are also going one step further (pun intended) at that same conference by placing treadmills and yoga mats in an overflow room adjacent to the main hall. “Participants will be able to walk and stretch while watching a live stream of all our plenary talks.”
Other groups have turned to ‘drop-in mini seminars’ strategically scheduled between main educational sessions. Think of these as bonus offerings to your carefully constructed overall agenda that usually run in conjunction with coffee breaks. In fact, offering refreshments inside these auxiliary rooms helps to encourage attendance. Topics can be more in-depth continuations of something that has already been started within your earlier programs or trendy, unique topics that are just for fun like basket weaving (think about a series of summer camp activities), culinary demonstrations (promoting health and wellness), or tech-themed providing quick lessons on how to use Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter to support your event.
Just remember that whatever you call your creatively named and trendy learning opportunities, make sure you explain the purpose as well as the amount of attendee involvement required. We’re guessing that no one should walk into a drum circle without the knowledge and understanding that there will be some sort of noise (duh!) and rhythm-making involved. Oh, and one more thing. If you’re considering a session using the word ‘campfire,’ regardless of the discussion topic, might I suggest some marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate be involved?!