Many meetings fall short in their ability to fully engage their attendees. Some meeting planners get so wrapped up in taking care of the logistics of the meeting that they lose sight of the bigger picture: i.e., making sure the participants are—and remain—actively engaged throughout the meeting process. This is partially due to the fact that meeting organizers do not think of attendee engagement as a key success factor. Speakers are often preoccupied with the delivery of their content to the point that providing an outlet for the attendees to interact seems to take the back seat—or is entirely neglected. Here are the golden rules of success in enhancing meeting attendee engagement:
Rule 1: Make time for interaction
Whether it is an academic speech or an exciting presentation, attendee engagement adds considerably to the success of the meeting—with the side benefit of making the event more lively and rewarding for all. To accomplish this, meeting planners must help speakers and meeting leaders define how participants can get involved and interact—with the speakers and with one another. Today, with all our mobile gadgets, it is very easy to create an interactive “community” of a meeting participants. Whether it is using the contemporary technologies or the old fashion methods, the success of a meeting rests with how lasting its impact is on participants. Keeping your attendees engages is a sure way to succeed in accomplishing that goal. In addition to routine Q&A component within the meeting, regular breaks to allow for interaction among attendees and with meeting principals will considerably enhance the value of a meeting.
Rule 2: Define engagement
Keeping attendees engaged means a different thing to different people. Is a simple Q&A session sufficient for attendee engagements? Should an event have a formal segment for attendee interaction? Should interaction be with the meeting leader(s) only or should participants be allowed/encouraged to interact with one another? To achieve the optimum engagement, help meeting leaders define various roles for everyone by visualizing the meeting in advance and thinking through the roles everyone can play. Using mobile devices, meeting principals can benefit from significant value-adds in real-time.
Rule 3: Take a break
No matter how interesting or important the topic, attendees need a break to interact with one another. This is just as critical to the success of the meeting as is the subject matter. Allow ample time for attendee interaction with one another and with meeting leaders in a less formal setting than the meeting room. Making use of all available social media platforms, these breaks can become important part of creating an enlightening meeting sphere. In fact, the value of such interaction can multiply if the purpose-made social media for the event are publicized to the participants—which will allow for increased engagement even before the event takes place. Make every effort to transform the traditional coffee breaks to forums for lively interaction sessions—which will greatly contribute to the success of your meeting.
Rule 4: Pride of authorship
There is a little self-aggrandization in all of us. It is a human nature to want to be recognized. As meeting planners, it is incumbent on us to “coach” the speakers and meeting leaders in acknowledging contributions—especially in rather scientific settings. The success of high-stakes meetings rests not only on the topic involved, but also in the engagement of stakeholders in the form of peer reviews. Much like the role social media play in propagating current social subjects, formal acknowledgement of attendee contributions enhances the long-term value of the meeting to the community to which it is directed. Make sure the contributors to any thought process or meeting content are widely recognized and their contributions duly acknowledged.
Rule 5: Sharing is caring
To create an engaged “community” out of your meeting, it is paramount that everyone’s contributions be formally and widely acknowledged. In scientific circles peer reviews are an important tool to attain recognition and to advance the field in question. As meeting planners, we can institute simple measures to ensure that everyone’s contributions are carved in the proverbial stone. For example, recording of meeting proceedings and distributing them to attendees and other stakeholders ensure that important contributions are not lost. Even in rather stolid corporate settings such as the budgeting process, important contributions should be recorded—even if they are not being incorporated into the final document. This becomes even more important in strategy development or product innovation. Incremental steps often lead to important discoveries or breakthroughs.
Let the professionals at GMS Meetings help you to transform your next meeting into a dynamically-engaged event.