Event Planning: Always Give Them a ShowMarch 1, 2014

March 1, 2014

Event Planning: Always Give Them a Show

Johnston,Andy-IdeaGroup-110x140Andy Johnston is president and creative director of The Idea Group and is a sought-after industry expert in developing ingenious ways to engage and motivate audiences. Andy has deep expertise in strategic planning, messaging, creative direction, marketing and events. He can be reached at andy@ideagroupatlanta.com or 404-213-4416.

Be honest. Why do people attend your conferences, training meetings and corporate events? Why do people take the incentive trips and respond to reward programs? You might think the top reasons are:

  1. Information and education.
  2. Network with old and new friends.
  3. Discuss common problems and solutions.
  4. Earn continuing education credits.
  5. It’s a company event, so I had to go.

The Real Answer

The answer isn’t the location, food, speeches, hotel rooms or content and activities. Everyone comes for personal, sharable experiences. It doesn’t matter if the attendees are attorneys, educators, CPAs or insurance executives — you have to give them compelling reasons to care about the objectives, content and speakers.

As a successful meeting consultant, I’m not a big believer in saying “always” and “never,” but generating attendance is the big exception. Under no circumstances should you ever violate this absolute rule:

Always Give Them a Show

How many times have you heard someone say, “This is business. I’m not here to put on a show?” Well, you are. It’s what your audience members expect, and they are entitled to it. Still, there are people and organizations that consider adding elements of entertainment, emotion and “active interest” trivial.

Here’s what I mean by “give them a show” in your event planning. Appeal to each person in ways that help convey content and messages so that it is valuable, acceptable, emotional and memorable.

Would You Attend Your Event?

People enjoy and respond to the feelings that experiences generate. When you give your audiences a show, you are giving them permission to react…to get involved on an emotional level.

Ask yourself, why would anyone want to invest their time and attention in anything that’s devoid of feelings and reactions? Then, look at your training, development, internal and external communication, meetings and incentive programs. Would you attend your own event if you didn’t have to?

The people who attend meetings today expect to participate and do things for themselves. They view being an attendee as an action word.

The people who attend meetings today expect to participate and do things for themselves. They view being an attendee as an action word. Attendees expect valuable experiences that are more than 12-hour marathons of folding chairs, dark rooms, PowerPoint presentations and managed activities. How do you create those experiences in your event planning?

A memorable experience isn’t based on the content; it’s based on how the attendees feel about the content.

Here’s your success strategy:

It’s Show Time

The good news is that in the history of the planet, there have never been more ways to make your events memorable. Think about all the techniques and technologies you can use. Take those tools and personalize your meeting in ways that are clear, simple and effective. The secrets are:

  • Powerful messages that focus on the individual needs of the organization and the audience.
  • Content with meaning that attendees can use immediately after the meeting to handle their individual requirements.
  • Active, interactive media to visualize the content and make it relevant and entertaining.
  • Music, staging and technology that showcase the content and demonstrate to the audience that you value their participation.

In 2014, there also is this cold reality: If what your audience can find on their smartphones or tablets is more interesting and relevant than what’s happening at the front of the room — you’ve wasted their time and the organization’s money. Here are some proven ways to sustain their attention and maximize the personalization.

Make the Audience the Show

A show is the audience’s reward for being there. It is the face of your event or workshop. How you handle the content and the ways you present it make people feel valued and special. Your goal is: “Wow, look what they did for me!”

Your task begins by not assuming that the attendees are interested or involved just because they are there.

10 Ways to Make It Real

  1. From the moment they arrive, give your attendees reasons to care. If people don’t care, the content doesn’t matter.
  2. Don’t assume that the location or the venue will do all the work. People can be bored in paradise.
  3. Understand what people really want and expect from the event or program. Don’t assume that everyone wants the same things.
  4. Then target your content to that particular audience. Speak using their vocabulary, terms and context.
  5. Invest more time on what the content means and why and less time explaining what it is.
  6. Tell stories and share experiences instead of just presenting information, data and details. Don’t tell attendees things they already know.
  7. Avoid the temptation to over-manage. People need downtime to process information, relax and reflect. Don’t program every minute of the day.
  8. Give people something to do and experience. If the day is little more than presentations you have a problem. Visualize and dramatize to make the content come alive. Even a training meeting can have movement, song and dance.
  9. Don’t be afraid to show and share emotions. Emotions are very powerful tools. Every experience doesn’t have to be upbeat and positive, but it has to be human.
  10. Use the event as an opportunity to reinforce how much you value every single person who attends.

Make It Entertaining — and Human

Think about the most memorable event you ever attended. It was a great experience. It was dynamic. You could see it, hear it and sense it. Something happened at that event. It was reflected in the faces, postures, enthusiasm, attitudes and actions of the people there. And it was reflected in the positive results the event generated.

I’ll bet it wasn’t just another workshop, meeting or program — it was a show. You left feeling energized, inspired and ready to act.

How to Boost Your Meeting’s Staying Power

According to Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, there are actually two experiences for every meeting, presentation, workshop, cruise or party. There is what we experienced as it happened…and the memory of the experience after it’s over.

The memory is what lasts. It’s the total of every thing and everyone. It’s like your memory is a storyteller and you need a happy ending. So, how do you create one? Give your audience:

  • Chances to feel — not just listen.
  • Engagement — not just interaction.
  • Personalized information — not just instruction.
  • Aha moments and insight — not just awareness.

How Will You Rate Next Time?

Long after everything is over, what kind of review will your audience give your next event?

Did the participants duck out early and head for the nearest bar, golf course or airport? Or did they sit up, take notice and participate in many diverse opportunities to experience powerful content that’s relevant to their specific needs. Did they find practical ways to use the information immediately and leave the event revved up for their next workday?

If you want to make sure that the people who attend your events give you glowing reviews and deliver the results you need, it’s that simple. Always give them a show. I&FMM


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