Meeting Ideas Worth Stealing

Looking to try something new when it comes to your events? Here are a few meeting ideas to consider---and possibly steal.

When I’m looking for ideas for this blog, I often come across cool things that different organizations are trying in planning and executing their events.Here are a few I thought I would share with you in hopes of sparking your own creativity as you go into planning your meetings in the months ahead.

Naptime for attendees. According to the American Academy for Sleep Medicine, one in five adults fail to get enough sleep [PDF], which can affect their health and workplace performance. That means 20 percent of your attendees already come to your meeting sleep deprived, and the long days (and nights) that go along with association meetings will only exacerbate the problem. So what’s an association to do? A 2015 Convene magazine article offers a number of tips for meeting planners, including eliminating early-bird sessions. But would your association ever consider setting aside a space for attendees to nap? That’s exactly what the National Automobile Dealers Association did at its 2015 Convention and Expo. Attendees could take a break from the exhibit hall in one of four nap pods that were part of a NADA-sponsored “Lifestyle Experience” retreat on the show floor. “People loved them,” Christine Marshall, NADA’s manager of convention operations, told Convene. “They were in constant use.”

Tabletop sketchpad. While listening to sessions, we all know that many attendees take notes or doodle. To accommodate this, the 2015 Freeman Leadership Conference had whiteboard tabletops that served as “brainstorming hubs.” The tabletops could be used for doodling, note taking, and idea sketching. Surrounding the room were larger whiteboards to capture notes and fresh ideas as one large group.

Sip on this. I don’t know about you, but I like drinking my iced coffee from a straw. That’s why I was excited when I came across this idea on Meetings & Conventions: biodegradable, compostable papers straws that can be customized with names or logos. Could be a good way to show your sponsors some love at one of your upcoming meetings.

Quiet dance party. Seems contradictory, right? But silent discos have been a trend for a while now. How it works: Participants dance to music listened to on wireless headphones. Those without the headphones hear no music, giving the effect of a room full of people dancing to nothing. But, on the flip side, it also allows nonparticipants in the space to talk to one another, instead of screaming over loud music. Seems like a few associations are getting in on the trend, too. The  Great American Beer Festival—brought to you by the Brewers Association—featured a sponsored silent disco in 2015.

“Blue Sky Meetings.” In an article posted in September 2015 on Trade Show News Network, Rachel Wimberly gives an inside look at the National Retail Federation’s annual “Blue Sky Meetings.” More than 20 staff members and stakeholders get together—usually nine months out from the annual show—to discuss how to solve the challenges they have related to the tradeshow and how to make it a more personal experience for attendees. According to Susan Newman, NRF’s vice president of conferences, several ideas generated in the meeting have been implemented at shows. One example is its Fast Tracks keynotes, which are a spinoff of TED Talks and feature up-and-coming retail companies doing things differently.

So there’s five to get you started. Any other ideas you’ve come across lately that you might steal for your own meeting? Share in the comments.


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

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

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