20 Ways to Remake Your Annual Meeting – Part 2

We outlined the first 10 things you need to kill — from making your annual business meeting part of your general session to promoting invitation-only events — in order to bring your meeting up to speed. Here are the next 10 elements to knock off.

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.

Association governance and bureaucracy were de rigueur a quarter of a century ago, but we have much less of an appetite for rituals today. You need to cut back on parliamentary procedures, prayers, anthems, and remembering those who have passed on.

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 Speaking of which, “symposia,” “lectures,” and “seminars” are outdated, non-progressive meeting terms.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

If your organization is 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 embrace digital-first or move to an integrated print/digital strategy.

17. Which contributes to the fact that the 60-plus-page final program or show guide needs to go on a diet.

See sidebar at bottom.

18. Speakers to facilitators-of-learning.

The learning value of the lecture format is about the same as reading an article or watching a video. It’s a one-way trip. 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 be geared to helping your professional participants prepare for their future, not revisit the past.

20. Welcoming receptions that aren’t.

Many associations host an opening reception in their expo hall, which puts their exhibitors’ desires ahead of their 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.

Print Has Its Place

Thick, heavy program guides are not only cumbersome for attendees to carry, they’re old-fashioned. In fact, they’re outdated the minute 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 for full session descriptions, speaker bios and booth profiles.

What other ways could you breathe new life into your conference?

Adapted from Dave’s Forward Thinking column in PCMA’s Convene. Reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. ©2017.

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  1. 21. Add Pizzazz to Your Panel Discussions. 95% of all conferences have a panel – and it’s a fifty-fifty proposition that they are any good at all! If you ARE going to have a panel….do your due diligence – just like you do with your mainstage speakers. Have an interesting topic, a skilled moderator, diverse panelists AND an engaging format. Don’t make your audience just sit there! Make it interesting, lively and informative!

    1. Dave Lutz says:

      Thanks for the addition Kristin! At PCMA 2017, a few of us were chatting about the panel model and how we need to be better. I attended a couple that had top notch leaders in our industry, but ended up hitting generalities more than forward leaning strategies.

      1. Dave, would have loved to be part of that conversation! What ideas did y’all come up with?

  2. As a professional planner event, everything I can say is that “It’s all about the details” No one could make it better than a Professional, they all know your needs and will be on top of every single piece of the puzzle in order to accomplish the entire event.

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