Adding Vitality to Your Meeting’s Agenda
Attendees are again expecting an experience with their conferences beyond just content dissemination.
By David Gabri
There’s a welcome return to the “business of doing business” with the improving economy, indications are that the demand for face-to-face meetings will continue to grow in from now through 2017, improving on the significant gains of 2012, 2013 and the first half of this year.
While this demand trend for corporate and association meetings and programs reflects good news for our economy, it can provide challenges to the planners of meetings and incentive/recognition programs within the franchise community.
First, finding precise availability might be more difficult. Prudence says to act soon to secure the venues, dates, rates and terms that you are seeking. The planning, securing processes and schedules to complete these activities may need modification to best protect your franchise’s interest.
Meanwhile, attendees are again expecting an experience with their conferences beyond just content dissemination. This is a shift from recent years when scaled-down programs were more acceptable to attendees, but it’s no longer the norm, nor the expectation.
This does not mean that each program needs to be extravagant. While extravagance is still out, luxury and quality are definitely back. This contributes significantly to attendees again expecting an experience with an environment and content that is motivating, rich and compelling.
Whether you are planning a large convention or a smaller meeting for your franchise, it is very important to add vitality to your agenda so your franchise and attendees get the most out of each program. Vitality is life, and attendees look for what enriches theirs.
While some may consider an agenda simply a checklist of things to be discussed or done at the meeting, it is truly much more involved than that.
In outlining agenda topics, it is often best to identify:
What are the goals of the program? (What do we wish to accomplish? What results are we seeking?)
- What messages do we wish to convey?
- Are we addressing the needs of the potential attendees?
- Are we addressing connectivity with the distinctive needs and desires of different generations in attendance?
- What is the best way to directly and indirectly communicate with the attendees?
Not surprisingly it can be easy to fall into the trap of sticking to the same or similar agenda of meetings past. But if your team takes the initiative to compose a compelling agenda with purpose, it can serve as a great foundation for a successful program.
Another important way to add anticipation and excitement to the program is through the selection of the hotel or resort at which the meeting or convention will take place.
A helpful exercise is to ask questions such as:
- Motivation Meter: Does the hotel or resort provide the right environment that will serve to accentuate our brand and market positioning? Does it meet and exceed the expectations of the caliber of the attendees? Is it a place where our personnel will get excited and really want to go? Will it contribute to attendance and prepare the attendees for message reception?
- Focus Meter: Does the hotel or resort specialize in hosting meetings and programs? Is the hotel or resort recognized for a high level of service, such as a Four- or Five-Diamond rating? These are key considerations for a much more positive attendee experience.
- Wow Meter: Will the venue help to provide a memorable experience that will engage and motivate the team? Will the team look forward to the program and return with good commentary and eagerness to participate again?
- Creative Meter: Is the venue distinctive? Does it provide unique opportunities to integrate into our program? In today’s marketplace, it if lacks creativity, it is boring.
In selecting your venue, one of the decisions is determining if a city hotel or a resort will work best for a particular program. Certainly, each has its advantages and can elevate the energy and positive anticipation for different reasons.
City hotels can enable attendees to experience the vast entertainment, dining, cultural and business offerings of a vibrant city.
Hotels or resorts in suburban locations or in resort destinations can provide an inspiring atmosphere, in a picturesque location, with appealing on-site recreational options, and may offer more confined networking opportunities for attendees.
As you can imagine, venue selection is crucial for important meetings, as it can make a very positive impact on the program and your organization.
Along with selecting the ideal destination and hotel or resort, another way to add vitality to your meeting is by conducting receptions, activities, and meals in unique venues that provide a memorable experience.
Resorts typically have scenic settings with incredible backdrops that can provide a “wow” factor for attendees. For example, there are exceptional resorts in southern California that feature dramatic Pacific Ocean views. Or consider extraordinary mountaintop resorts with their inspiring settings. Other examples include taking advantage of a resort’s lush vineyard or picturesque wine cellar.
City hotels can provide access to enticing venues on-site or off-site. For example, a beautiful terrace providing panoramic views of Chicago’s famed Magnificent Mile. Or think about arranging for your meeting participants to walk the world-famous red carpet at the Dolby Theatre, home to the Academy Awards.
Historic hotels also can provide memorable settings. This can include hosting events where the founding fathers, or heads of state, have been. Conducting a festive function in a historic bar, such as those offered in New Orleans’ renowned French Quarter, could be an excellent choice.
These are just a few examples of how appealing venues can really enhance the program.
Incorporating “special lifetime experiences” into the meeting also can reap big benefits, and add to the effectiveness of the program. An event with spectacular fountains in the background comes to mind. Or, meeting where world-champion golfers play and PGA tournaments have been conducted, can invigorate your team.
Fun meeting breaks, such as Zumba, yoga stretching, golf-putting challenges or breaks outside can also enhance the experience and elevate the energy level.
This is also true for uplifting team-building activities, such as those that incorporate teambuilding apps.
Inspiring speakers − particularly those that incorporate laughter − and creative cuisine are yet other ways to break out of the mold.
Providing a forum where attendees can make valuable connections and share an enriching experience within a community with a common goal can also energize the organization.
It is important to make a concerted effort to add vitality to your agenda and meeting. Doing so will ensure a quality program which will be remembered in a positive light for years to come.
David Gabri, CFE, is CEO of Associated Luxury Hotels International with more than 160 Four- and Five-Diamond quality hotels and resorts worldwide which specialize in meetings and conventions. Find him at fransocial.franchise.org.