20 Ways to Enhance Your Meeting Experiences
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20 ways to enhance your meeting experience

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By Kathie Pugaczewski, CAE, CMP, Vice President of Communication & Technology

It is easy for associations to fall into the trap of complacency with events — whether it be getting our direction from the same members on the planning committee, using same speakers and topics every year or repeating the same meeting format every year. Many associations do a perfunctory evaluation of an event... and then file the comments away, never using the insights and feedback to guide the next offering, especially if it makes us change the “tried and true” format.

It’s time to re-think and re-do our meetings to remain relevant.

20 Ways to Enhance Your Meeting Experiences

  1. Have a mission for the meeting and communicate it to all of the stakeholders – association leadership, members/nonmembers, sponsors, exhibitors, speakers, public, etc.
  2. Do some research: Know the profile of your attendees/audience – demographics, learning styles and preferences, social interaction preferences.
  3. Take the time to define meeting objectives and measurable outcomes.
  4. Define learner outcomes: performance, condition, proficiency, and business impact such as time savings, greater productivity, reduce costs, increased sales…
  5. Understand the characteristics of adult learners: self-directed, multiple life experiences; problem-solving orientation.
  6. Apply Knowles Adult Learning Principles: need to Learn; need for ownership; importance of relevance.
  7. Add new people to conference committee and get new insights through focus groups, surveys, phone interviews.
  8. Focus on content, content, content.
  9. Mix up the delivery with experiential learning, new formats, interactive tools, book signings, speed networking, ice breakers.
  10. Create a marketing plan that includes web, email, direct mail, social media, testimonials, and cool design to get attention. Be consistent with brand, segment your attendees, use public relations tactics.
  11. Communicate content and relevance consistently and creatively.
  12. Be innovative: Try something new and don’t be afraid to fail. Stop repeating the same conference from year to year.
  13. Create a memorable experience with everything from ease of registration to how people are greeted, to content and every seemingly “little” aspect of the event – excellent meetings are in the details.
  14. Connect members during the year through the website and social media tools.
  15. Start looking for strategic alliances.
  16. Don’t do evaluations unless you’re going to use them – ask the right questions and listen!
  17. Increase vendor and sponsor value by using online links year round, including on-floor demos in your program, hoisting banners, offering “how to sell without selling” tips for exhibitors, and creating a real value exchange.
  18. Use your website to draw attention (white papers, content from conference, speaker forum discussions, quick polls, enhanced member-only sections, networking tips PowerPoint during a networking reception).
  19. Continue the conversations past the conference through forums, blogs, listservs, LinkedIn, and/or Facebook.
  20. Collect lessons learned before, during and after; evaluate and make changes for your next meeting.

Rethinking Meetings Format to Deliver a More Engaging Experience

  • Pecha Kucha: Each speaker presents a maximum of 20 slides and comments on each slide no more than 20 seconds – each presentation is less than 7 minutes, allowing time for discussion. Speakers shouldn’t read slides to the audience. These sessions usually involve several speakers, and are used to inspire people to think at a higher level. www.pecha-kucha.org.
  • Twebinars: Combining webinar with Twitter. Utilize the instant-messaging capabilities of Twitter to replace the standard Q & A period, so participants can comment before, during and after the webinar. Keeps the webinar “alive”.
  • Second Life: Virtual world/virtual meetings and tradeshows.
  • Project-Based Events: Instead of a lecture about how to build a budget, you build a budget in the session. It's a collaborative, unconference, open space where topics aren’t defined until people arrive onsite.
  • World Café: Roundtable-style format that taps into the collective wisdom of the group. Clusters of five people sit in rounds and discuss issues surrounding the theme of the meeting for 20-30 minutes. Conversations are repeated three times as participants switch tables to interact with others. At the end, a group discussion is facilitated to identify key insights and ideas. Ask the right questions – engage people in a meaningful dialogue. www.theworldcafe.com

The five market segments of association annual meeting attendees include Knowledge Seekers, Value-Based Attendees, Social Networkers, Convenience-Driven Attendees, and Creatures of Habit.

  • Knowledge Seekers (22 percent of those polled) are frequent attendees who seek to expand their involvement with their industry, both in terms of education and interaction with colleagues, at conference.
  • Value-Based attendees (17 percent) are more sensitive to the costs involved in participating in such a meeting. They want to get useful information and ideas that they can put to work for their investment. Overall, these are the youngest registrants.
  • Social Networkers (26 percent) enjoy the social aspects of the convention and like to combine business and leisure travel. However, they also attend to learn about their industry and to network.
  • Convenience-Driven attendees (17 percent) are infrequent attendees, most likely due to busy schedules. They also experience time constraints at the annual meeting, making it difficult for them to accomplish all their goals.
  • Creatures of Habit (18 percent) attend the most annual meetings, but they have less interest in furthering their industry knowledge than other attendees.

Using Your Website Effectively for Your Meetings


  1. Collect Speaker proposals using an online form
  2. Promote the event with podcasts, email blasts, conference archives
  3. Promote volunteer engagement in your registration form
  4. Email confirmations to attendees
  5. Include a speaker page on website
  6. Set up an Exhibitor registration form
  7. Provide an Exhibitor booth map with links to exhibitors; this adds value for exhibitors
  8. Give people a reason to want to come to the destination – feature CVB website and resources

During event

  1. Set up a photo gallery
  2. Email daily evaluations to participants
  3. Provide conference updates, perhaps daily
  4. Use quick polls
  5. Create recordings (audio and/or video)
  6. Encourage attendees to use Twitter or Facebook to post photos or share their insights

After event

  1. Send overall event evaluations
  2. Post speaker presentations online
  3. Post a “save the date” message for the next year
  4. Provide ongoing sponsor and exhibitor recognition
  5. Continue to connect virtually through the year – Webcasts, LinkedIn

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