Concept of Creative business idea with colorful lightbulbJohn Fisher suggests there may be more than one way to present conference and meetings content.

You know all about waste operatives (bin men) and talent managers (HR), now please welcome ‘meeting architects’. But it’s not as daft as it sounds. A book by Maarten Vanneste called Meeting Architecture – A Manifesto sets out a vision for a new way of looking at meetings content.

He argues, rightly, that the vast majority of meeting planners do not actually plan the meeting messages or have any influence at all over the content/creative style of a meeting. The role of the new meeting architect is to respond to the meeting objectives by employing a combination of learning, networking and motivation techniques in the formulation of the content to maximise the overall return of investment.

Some people may argue that this is actually what real conference producers do, given enough access to the initiators of the meeting,  so nothing new there. In general it has to be said that the content of most conferences is usually handed down to the meeting planner without much thought as to how to engage the audience, apart from a perfunctory slice of creative theming, so it’s no wonder that the overwhelming majority of events are pretty formulaic and predictable.

BREAK THE MOULD
If your conference supplier is a logistics company, you are likely to get an event that runs like clockwork but perhaps lacks creativity in the delivery of the message. If you employ a ‘creative agency’, you get lots of fizzy ideas but the coffee is always late and, although everyone enjoyed the production gimmicks, no one can remember the main point of the meeting.

Below are sure ways to ensure that your conference content is well received:

MOTIVATION is only one part of conference content. Many meetings of over, say, 200 delegates rely on some ‘wow’ factor such as a celebrity speaker or a new product, with the idea that revealing such detail is sufficient for a successful meeting.

NETWORKING is often squeezed in but many delegates say that this is often the real reason they wanted to attend. If speakers run on and logistics require delegates to cut short their chance to talk to other delegates, you will have wasted a big opportunity and disappointed your delegates.

LEARNING means collaborating or sharing ideas with experts in your industry. Using special contact software in an open forum set-up can vastly improve the so-called ‘take-aways’ from meeting with trade or organisational colleagues.

CHATT is an acronymic guide to ensuring you use the technology of meetings effectively when planning a conference: C is for the concept around which the meeting is built; H is for a human element such as actors; A is for artistic design of the presentation; T is for technical tools that are not electronic, such as flip charts; and the last T is for technological items that are computer-based.

This article is reproduced by kind permission of Meetings & Incentive Travel magazine (copyright CAT Publications. John Fisher is a director of FMI Group. He has 30 years’ business experience, as both client and consultant. He has also written a number of business books, speaks French and German, and spends most of his leisure time in Italy.