Meetings and the Business of Inspiration

Speaking at ASAE’s Springtime Expo, 360 Live Media founder and CEO Don Neal encouraged attendees to reconsider their roles, saying they are not just meeting planners—they’re experience designers.

Meeting planning isn’t just about logistics. It’s about designing and creating live media experiences that inspire and transform.

So said Don Neal, founder and CEO of 360 Live Media, addressing attendees Thursday at ASAE’s Springtime Expo. His primary question for the audience: “What business are you in?” His answer: Meeting planners are in the inspiration business.

“When you design a meeting, when you plan an event, there is one condition that has to be present for an audience really to feel transformed, to feel different, to feel better, to feel changed,” Neal said. “We are at our best when we are inspired. And the more inspired you are when you design and plan an event, you are creating an inspirational experience.”

Event planners are in the media business, building live, face-to-face media experiences, he said. In fact, “associations really are the 21st-century media organization, bringing people together with common interests, delivering value to them, and delivering it through a whole host of distribution channels.”

Calling face-to-face meetings “the original social media,” Neal said conferences are the places where people with common interests come together, cooperate, and share ideas. Before and during an event, silos need to be broken so associations can co-create meaningful experiences with business partners, other actors in their industries, and other associations, he said. In working with others to create meetings, association event planners will start to shift their perspective on how meetings should look.

“You have to build an event, deliver an event with flawless execution. But if you view what you do through the lens of inspiration, through the lens of a media platform, you are designing live media experiences,” Neal said. “Yes, you are a planner. You’re also a designer, a creator. You know you are in charge of making sure all the trains run on time; you have to be a good logistician. But you’re a live media producer.”

In an ever-changing world where meetings often remain formulaic, Neal challenged his audience to shift their perspective and start breaking the mold, especially as they increasingly compete with commercial meetings outside their space.

“People come to events to leave transformed,” Neal said. They “hire” meetings to change them and expect an inspirational experience that will make that meeting “indispensable and irresistible.” They want an event that is “cancel-your-vacation good.” To do this, the same old planning strategies aren’t going to cut it.

To keep up with expectations and change the way meetings are created, planners need to start looking at their role not just from a meetings perspective but through an inspiration and live media experience lens.

“When you begin to look at yourself, your industry, your job through a new lens, you will find that other people look at you the same way,” Neal said.

Don Neal, 360 Live Media Founder and CEO, speaks during ASAE’s Springtime Expo. (Photo by Maria Bryk.)

Alex Beall

By Alex Beall

Alex Beall is an associate editor for Associations Now with a masters in journalism and a penchant for Instagram. MORE

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