Live experiences are core to every business, and many companies are choosing to increase the number of events they produce for their audiences each year. People want more face-to-face experiences. They crave real, live interactions and learning in physical environments, but their expectations are also high.
We can’t recreate the same experience again and again and expect to produce the same results. Attendees want the new, the now, the fresh and the inspiring. We need to change up the set design, location, education piece, networking opportunities and more. It’s how they determine the value of an event, and whether they will return.
This leads me to the key learning I took away from Connect 2019 in Louisville, Kentucky, an event that arms us with the latest tools, insights and inspirations to do our jobs better: meeting architecture.
From Process to Strategic-Level Planning
A successful event—one that engages audiences and produces ROI for the organizer or brand—requires more than a nuts and bolts approach. We need to research, consult and strategize. We need a consistent framework. A planner needs to think like an architect.
This was the premise of Cabrin Kelly-Hale’s “A Blueprint to Building Better Meetings” session, which provided tips for both understanding and incorporating meeting architecture into events. While the term has been around for a while now—in 2008, Maarten Vanneste, CMM and president of the Meeting Design Institute authored a book, “Meeting Architecture, a manifesto,” which is dedicated to the process—it’s still important today.
Why? Because it emphasizes the value of content and networking and their impact on event ROI. These two elements can be carefully strategized to engage the busier, more distracted attendees who expect everything they consume to be personalized to them.
The Two Key Pieces of the Event Puzzle
Connect urged the audience to pay more attention to their content offerings, and it highlighted the benefits of a robust content program, one where topics and speakers are specially curated for the audience.
For example, keynotes are great, but it’s important to offer different tracks for people to engage with depending on their job function or interests, and a combination of different formats. Breakouts, roundtables and campfires are key. We all learn in different ways and events must acknowledge that. Interactivity is another important consideration.
Second, screen technologies where audience members can ask questions in real time, or using VR tech so that they can don a headset during a session, are great ways to create memorable, content-driven experiences.
The same can be said for the networking piece. It’s one thing to host post-event drinks for all attendees, but it’s another to curate smaller-scale experiences—perhaps even themed—for them at different times throughout the day, based on their demographics and preferences. It’s these types of tailored meetups where more meaningful connections are made.
When there’s a strong education piece woven throughout combined with a range of niche and wider networking opportunities available, an event will deliver greater value. Attendees’ takeaways will be plentiful, they’ll probably attend again, and with that, we have measurable ROI.
From the show floor, it was refreshing to see various content tracks and networking configurations and education integrated via different zones where attendees wore headphones to listen to the presenters. With this setup, Connect advocates for meeting architecture and the organizers embrace it, too. It’s safe to say I’ll be looking to attend next year in New Orleans.