Archive for October, 2009

Engaging Event Participants to Generate Bottom-line Results

October 27, 2009

It’s time for a new approach to meeting design.

Companies today are typically speaking to a new generation of tech-savvy participants who demand a different approach. Audiences today want to be engaged participants, not passive recipients of information. Adept at using social networking sites such as Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, meeting attendees are accustomed to receiving information in real-time and engaging in two-way dialogue.  As a result, they have now come to expect the same level of intimacy in their business interactions.

Here’s an example of what I mean.

Earlier this summer, I was retained by Sun Healthcare Group and challenged by senior management to “shake up the agenda.” We were asked to provide a venue and environment that would be more interactive and engaging for the participants.  The goal was to create a learning experience to teach 430 Sun Healthcare managers how to build a more collaborative organizational culture and implement new ideas more quickly.

I decided to work with Facilitate.com and Disney Institute (DI), two innovative organizations I would highly recommend.  DI gave the participants an inside-out look at Epcot and talked about how to foster innovation. Using FacilitatePro collaborative meeting software, DI then led several 90-minute brainstorming sessions.  Questions posed included how to build a more collaborative culture and how to implement new ideas more rapidly. The intent was to generate fresh ideas that did not require lengthy approval cycles and the business lines could begin to implement within 72 hours.

A whopping 800 ideas were generated, consolidated, and prioritized using FacilitatePro.

The top eight ideas were handed to each business line and another round of brainstorming and prioritizing took place.  Each business line then selected two ideas and developed an action plan for implementation.

In two days the management team generated a huge number of creative ideas, surfaced the most promising ones, and began the planning process. Not only did they develop creative solutions, but the level of engagement and overall experience was a catalyst for cultural transformation.

Connecting the Dots

Although Sun Healthcare meetings were always well received, the 2009 survey responses showed significant improvement.  Several dozen participants said it was the best and most productive conference they ever attended.

What made the difference? I compared the time spent in one-way presentations versus two-way engagement from one year to the next. Compelling results included:

  • Time allotted to one way PowerPoint presentations was cut in half from 50.6% to 24.0%.
  • Number of interactive presentation methods such as brainstorming, a field trip outside the hotel, and active participation in general session presentations more than doubled from 26% to 58%.

It’s clear that the Sun Healthcare audience enjoyed the increased number of participatory activities. Equally important, however, is we were able to surpass the executives’ expectations and provide an environment where managers produced ideas they could readily implement.

The Bottom Line

First and foremost, today’s audiences want to be engaged. They want to actively participate and be part of the conversation. They want more time to meet people face-to-face. And they want to have a voice in deciding the future of their organization.

Meeting attendees have spoken:  As meeting planners we need to step up  and deliver what they are asking for.

Other Thoughts

Has increased interaction and participation translated to more productive meetings and events for your organization?  Tell me your thoughts.

For more ideas on designing high-tech high-touch meeting events, read  A New Approach to Meeting Design: Engaging Event Participants to Generate Bottom-line Results.

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