Get out and about—during the meeting and throughout the year—to ensure your annual meeting isn’t the same old, same old.
It’s the nature of the annual meeting beast that each event has a familiar feel to it. Keynotes, breakout sessions, networking events are staples for a reason, but they can make each meeting feel similar, even if you are changing up the education topics, speakers, and host city each year.
So, what can you do to give your conference a rejuvenating shake-up?
For starters, work with your host city’s destination organization to book your off-site events in the city’s most unique venues, which will offer attendees more memorable moments. And throughout the year, attend events that are known to innovate, so you can come to your meeting planning with new ideas on how to keep attendees engaged.
Take Advantage of Interesting Off-Site Venues
If you are holding your opening and/or closing ceremonies, networking events, and other special events off-site, make sure you are booking the city’s most interesting venues (think cool architecture, happening neighborhood, and/or historical interest). Not only do attendees like to get out in the city they’ve traveled to, but they will appreciate the fact that you are bringing them to unique spaces (which will make for a unique meeting experience).
In 2016, the Airports Council International (ACI) held its 2016 Annual World Conference in Montréal, and the group held a special event at Maison Symphonique, a striking modern building with an organ built into the concert hall. Angela Gittens, ACI’s executive director, was impressed with the “very classy” space, as were her members.
For its closing night event, ACI ventured off-site again, inviting delegates to drink, dine, and dance at New City Gas, a former industrial space turned music venue. “It was a blast, and people loved it,” Gittens said.
“Tourisme Montréal was very good at coming up with special things that we wouldn’t have come up with even though we live here,” Gittens said. “They worked with us in terms of understanding our audience. The conference attracted 2,300 attendees from 60 countries, so it’s not always easy to find something that’s intimate and noninstitutional when you have that many people, but they did.”
Attend Other Conferences
You might have a sense that your annual meeting is getting stale, but it’s hard to make changes in a vacuum. That’s why you need to make time to attend as many other events as you can—particularly those known to be moving the needle on innovative meeting practices. Check in with your local destination organization to find out about any interesting events in your city.
Christoph Schewe, executive director of the Montréal-based International Federation of Airline Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA), recently attended the inaugural Movin’On conference with the help of Tourisme Montréal, which used its industry connections to get him into the meeting. Sponsored by Michelin and created in partnership with the organizers behind the uber-innovative C2 business event, Movin’On aims to improve the future of mobility—with a particular focus on sustainability. Schewe came back from the event with some ideas on how he could potentially make his conference more engaging.
“I have been lucky to see different events here that are more creative,” Schewe said. “I saw how plenary sessions could be different, with speakers engaging with people, walking through the rows and making it interactive.”
You want to give your attendees an experience they will remember each year. Take advantage of outside help during your meeting and throughout the year to reach that goal.