Heard a Great Meetings Idea? Steal It.

As the saying goes, "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." Learn how to use what your colleagues see and hear at other meetings to make your next event more successful.

Here’s some insider scoop on me: I’m a magazine addict. At last count I had 14 subscriptions for both weekly and monthly publications. And that doesn’t include the random issues I’ll pick up when I’m in line at the grocery store, waiting at the airport, or hanging out at my local bookstore—or the magazines I read that are work-related.

The publications I subscribe to cover the whole gamut of interest/topic areas: New York, Vanity Fair, Esquire, Entertainment Weekly, Glamour, and so on. And I really enjoy reading every single one of them—even as I sometimes watch that pile of unread issues grow, and guilt starts to creep in.

But here’s another secret: I don’t just read them for pure enjoyment. I also read them to get an idea of what other publications are doing when it comes to content, design, etc.—and think about how we may be able to “steal” the brilliant ones and put our own spin on them here at Associations Now.

What’s more powerful than honest feedback from an attendee who doesn’t work in the meetings industry day in and day out.

I imagine the same is true for a lot association meeting planners out there. How many times do you attend a meeting or event for your own professional development and think either “Darn, I wish we had thought of that!” or “Ugh. Why are they doing it that way?”

In fact, I was in a cross-departmental meeting earlier this week about ASAE’s 2013 Annual Meeting & Expo, and one of our staffers, who is not on our meetings, was talking about how he had attended some meetings in the past few months. As he spoke about his good and bad experiences at those events, I couldn’t help but wonder how association meetings teams can use internal staff to get ideas on what to do—and NOT do—as they plan their upcoming meetings.

Just think about it: Say you have a staff of 10 or 30 or 130. And say that every person attends at least one meeting (half-day seminar, two-day conference, webinar, whatever else) not produced by your association for their own professional development each year. You have that many more meetings to learn from. But now the important question becomes: How do you capture their thoughts about the meeting itself (not necessarily what they learned) and then share them with the right people?

Maybe it’s as easy as asking staff members a few questions about the meetings. Here are three I quickly brainstormed:

  • What was one unique thing you saw at the meeting?
  • If you could change one thing about the meeting/webinar/event you attended, what would it be?
  • Is there anything you saw at this event that you think our association should consider trying?

Maybe you’re thinking this is more effort than it’s worth, but what’s more powerful than honest feedback from an attendee who doesn’t work in the meetings industry day in and day out. A few weeks back I wrote about the power of observing your attendees in action at a meeting; now it’s about soliciting feedback from your fellow staff and listening to what they have to say.

About a year ago, the Associations Now team did something related as we were going through our redesign process. We sat around a table and showed each other what we liked from various publications and thought about how we could incorporate elements in the new magazine. A meetings team could do something very similar by collecting photos of elements that stood out from different events and sharing it with colleagues.

What ideas or trends have you seen at other recent meetings that you’re considering implementing at your association’s upcoming events?


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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