Unlock Your Attendees’ Inner Artist

Tapping into the creative genius of your meeting attendees will get them out of their comfort zone, boost right-brain thinking, and foster connections.

I’m the first to admit that some things are just not my strong suit. Included on the list: spatial relations, drawing, singing, and painting. I’m sure all my friends and family would not only attest to this but also would be willing to offer up a funny story related to any or all of these.

So, you can imagine my hesitation earlier this week when I went to Paint Nite with some friends. The two-hour event, hosted at local bars and restaurants, features a local artist who gives step-by-step instructions for painting a picture. (Also worth noting: Drinks are available.)

Ours had a perfect theme for spring in DC: cherry blossoms. But, as I put on my apron and stared at the blank canvas in front of me, I was pretty much convinced that my painting would be one of the worst of the 40-plus finished artworks in the room.

But once I got started, to my surprise, I really got into it. Most importantly, it allowed me to completely clear my brain, engage in the moment, and talk to the people sitting around me.

Now, was my painting the best? No. (And I’ll spare you a photo of my final masterpiece.) But I had a great time, which is all that really matters. And it got me thinking that associations should consider tapping into their attendees’ inner artists at their upcoming meetings and conferences.

One group that will be doing exactly that at its 2016 Spring Conference this month is the Ohio Bursars Association. At a sponsored event called Paint & Pour, attendees will create a one-of-a-kind piece of art they can take home.

Adding a painting event is also a good way for an association to inject some more local flavor into its meeting. For example, a group could hire a local artist to teach the class, hold it a unique venue, and even have attendees paint an image that represents the meeting’s location.

And the artistic options don’t have to be limited to painting. They could include drawing, pottery, music—or even the kitchen. For example, at the Idaho State Dental Association’s 2015 Annual Meeting, attendees could sign up for a wood-oven-fired pizza-cooking class with a local chef.

Or, at the Missouri Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ 2016 Annual Conference this month, attendees can take part in the “Savor the Flavor of Small Bites Cooking Class.”

“The cooking team at Dierbergs School of Cooking will provide a hands-on cooking class that will explore how to make tasteful and nutritious appetizers to please any crowd,” the website says.  “It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or a seasoned pro in the kitchen, this pre-conference cooking class is sure to be a lot of fun!”

The type of artistic activity you get attendees to engage in should be the least of your worries. Rather, what matters is that it gives them the opportunity to build relationships with their fellow “artists,” as well as step away from an office mindset and engage a part of their brain they may have not tapped into in a while. And, most of all, they get to have some fun doing it.

How have you seen associations incorporate artistic adventures into their meetings? Share in the comments.

Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

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

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!