Forward Thinking

10 More Ways to Remake Your ‘Annual Meeting’

More ways to make sure your events are relevant and engaging.

Last month, we outlined the first 10 things you need to kill — including calling it your “annual meeting” — to meet today’s attendee expectations. Here are the next 10 elements to revisit.

11. Your distinguished-lecture series does not engage.

Many associations have awards or honorary lectures named after a pioneer. For most conference committees (and next-gen participants), they’re a snore. Put the lecture online and take 60 seconds to recognize the honoree.

12. Ceremonies, processions, and pageantry are old school.

We have much less of an appetite for association governance, rituals, and bureaucracy today. Scale back on your parliamentary procedures, prayers, anthems, and remembering those who have passed.

13. Lose the PowerPoint templates.

Everyone knows what meeting they’re attending, and those templates tend to contribute to more blah decks. We’re all visual learners. Encourage image-rich, text-light visuals.

14. Receptions or symposia named after or hosted by your president or chair lack appeal.

Elements of your conference should always put the participants and the profession ahead of the volunteer leaders. Boards and volunteer leaders are there to serve, not to be the focus of attention.

15. Speaking of which, “symposia,” “lectures,” and “seminars” are outdated, non-progressive meeting terms.

Call them “learning tracks” or “labs,” “master series,” and “keynotes” instead.

16. Print advertising is waning.

Still printing an ad-heavy program book, show guide, or show daily? You’re likely only doing it out of fear of losing ad revenue. Better to move to an integrated print/digital strategy.

17. Which means that you need to put the 60-plus-page final program or show guide on a diet. 

Thick, heavy program guides are not only cumbersome for attendees to carry, they’re outdated the minute that they come off the presses. If you must print programs, pare them back by printing schedules-at-a-glance for the conference, and exhibitor listings — organized alphabetically and by product category — for the show. Point attendees to your website or, better yet, to your mobile app.

18. From speakers to facilitators of learning.

The leaning value of a lecture format is about the same as reading an article or watching a video. Speakers should no longer be the sage on the stage, but rather the guide on the side.

19. State-of-the-industry or year-in-review general sessions look in the wrong direction.

This information-based content is best shared in other formats. Sessions should focus on preparing your professional participants for their future, not on revisiting the past.

20. Welcoming receptions that aren’t.

Hosting an opening reception in the expo hall puts exhibitors’ desires ahead of attendees’. Opening on a high note is an important part of setting the tone for a successful conference. When making a decision, the rule of thumb is to ask if it’s in the best interest of the attendee — without them, there is no expo.

Dave Lutz, CMP

Dave Lutz, CMP, is managing director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting.