How to Create Purposeful Meetings

A recent whitepaper looks at how meeting planners can shift the focus of the conversation around events from outcomes to human-centric experiences.

When it comes to event planning, logistics, costs, and ROI are all important to consider. But a recent industry whitepaper makes the case that creating meaningful, lasting experiences for attendees—by developing purposeful meetings—should be an equal priority.

In “Purposeful Meetings: How to Plan with Deeper Meaning, Innovation, and Insight in Mind,” authors Janet Sperstad, CMP, and Amanda Cecil, Ph.D., CMP, define purposeful meetings as those “that are strategically designed to move beyond financial return on investment (ROI) measurements and learner outcomes to exploring the elements of a meeting experience that impact human behavior and leverage the experience to influence decision making, create moments of meaning and insight, and inspire creativity.”

Sperstad and Cecil offer a purposeful meetings model that covers five areas. Here’s a look at each one and how to apply them as you plan upcoming meetings.

Behavioral science. Meeting planners need to understand how the brain reacts and processes information in order to leverage attendees’ behavior, thinking, and feelings and to create powerful social experiences.

The authors share a few tips for making this happen. One is to use storytelling (a topic we’re familiar with here at Associations Now). “Data makes [something] believable, while stories make it meaningful,” they write. A second idea is to synchronize the brainwaves of everyone in a space to be more positive and receptive. This can be done through guided meditation or by playing music or other sounds in a session room when attendees walk in.

Health and well-being. For many planners, it is now common practice to incorporate healthy eating options, relaxation, and mindfulness into events. Sprestad and Cecil say that planners “must reframe their view of breaks from food and beverage to recharging the brain.”

Two ways to do that: Offer areas for quick, 20-minute power naps and create small nooks in the venue space for people to unplug either alone or in small groups.

Event design. “We would like to challenge planners to first think about how to use space to create moments that enhance attendee experience and focus on human peak performance … then start designing,” Sperstad and Cecil write.

That means creating experiences that work with the natural ebbs and flows of attendees’ energy levels. For instance, they suggest slotting peer-to-peer and case study work sessions after lunch, when the brain is relaxed.

Corporate social responsibility, legacy, and positive impact. It is pretty common for association meetings to offer opportunities for attendees to volunteer in the local community—anything from tree planting to building bikes for kids to cleaning up a community center. Sperstad and Cecil encourage associations to offer more of these activities, as they provide “opportunities for individuals to include others, and to reshape their own perspectives, all of which are fundamental to the transformative power of events.”

Technology. The authors argue that the conversation around event technology “must move away from equipment, platforms, and data to how using the best tools can accelerate communication and transform experience.”

For example, technology can create opportunities for virtual attendance or provide ways for introverts to more easily share in the conversation. “The real power of event technology is to facilitate people meeting and exchanging ideas in ways that would not otherwise organically happen,” the authors write.

How is your association using these elements—or others—to create more purposeful meetings? Please share in the comments.

(Yuri_Arcurs/DigitalVision/Getty Images Plus)

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!