1. Create a storyline.
A storyline is a thread running through the whole meeting. It can be a theme, a metaphor, or a task that has to be solved (for example, making a strategy or an action plan).
2. Create a hook.
In any movie or good story, there is a conflict between what the hero desperately wants and how things really are. The rest of the story is about solving that conflict. The conflict, usually present in the beginning of the story, is called the “hook” because its purpose is to catch your attention and make you curious to see what happens next. Translated into a meeting context, this involves starting the meeting by presenting the big question to be solved or the discrepancy between what we really want and where we are now.
3. Create turning points.
In a Hollywood blockbuster, the story has different turning points, where the story takes new directions. In a screenplay, you have at least three turning points (one of them called the “point of no return”). Meeting designers should change the format of the meeting at least three times.
4. Create surprises.
Have you ever seen a movie where you always can predict what happens? It sucks, and you will probably leave before the end. Likewise, most meetings are way too predictable. (Up next: yet another PowerPoint.) Avoid that by creating positive surprises that break the patterns or go against expectations. Good experiences are usually those that positively exceed our expectations. It’s difficult to exceed participants’ expectations by giving them better food than last time or by having a better speaker. It’s much easier (and less expensive) to give the participants something meaningful, but different and unexpected.
5. Create a climax.
Make everything come together at the end. Reintroduce the big question or the main conflict, and present the solution (if it exists) that has occurred during the meeting. Find a creative way to summarize what has been going on during the whole meeting.
6. Create a happy ending.
From psychology we know that the final experience colors the whole experience. A bad ending can give an overall bad impression of a meeting that was actually good. Make sure the participant leaves the meeting with a good final experience. The best happy endings are shared by all — for example, a song, an energizer, a non-competitive game, standing ovations, etc.