Let’s face it, some meetings are mandatory; attendees do not have a choice in the matter. These types of meetings can be challenging even for the tenured planner. How do you get an attendee to want to register for a mandatory meeting? How do you keep them engaged during the meeting? How do you offer a calming more comfortable learning environment? I presented these questions to three SMEs on our Global Enterprise Solutions team to discover the current tips and tricks for making the most out of mandatory meetings.
Jessica Menzer, HMCC, Strategic Account Manager, had plenty of insight to offer based on her 15 years of experience in meeting planning. “As we are all aware, registration is vital to a smooth-running meeting. All factors of an event are based on the quantity of attendees – room size, seating style, quantity of food, transportation to offsite events, staff on hand, the list is endless. It is essential invitees register, that is why marketing is imperative for events, including mandatory ones.”
Save the Dates
When asked how she entices attendees to register for a meeting they don’t have a choice in attending. Jessica stated “start with a Save the Date invite with plenty of time in advance. Choose an appealing destination with a hotel located near attractions, shops and restaurants.” She continued by suggesting the use of airport hotels that are easy to maneuver to and from the airport, especially for 1-day meetings. In addition to the points above, Jessica recommends to always reveal some agenda content in advance of the event. By focusing on clear communication and the value of the mandatory meeting, planners can generate excitement and drive registrations for even the most reluctant invitee.
Once the attendees have registered, the question becomes how planners keep them engaged during a meeting that they must attend, Paquita McCray shared a plethora of ideas. Paquita has been working in this industry for more than 15 years, she is also a Strategic Account Manager at M&IW. One of Paquita’s suggestions is interactive meeting technology with electronic tablets for all participants. Tablets, such as EM-Array, have multiple uses and keep attendees interacting throughout the event. When using tablets at a meeting make sure the following items are installed prior to the start of the meeting.
- Agenda – ability to update as needed
- Hotel Map – meeting, breakfast, lunch, dinner and break room locations clearly marked
- Presentation Slides – attendees can take notes and save slides for future reference
- Audience Response System (ARS) and Live Polling Questions
- Speaker Bios
- Surveys, Session Evaluations and Certificates of Attendance
- Interactive Games – Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune format is popular and questions can be customized based on the objective and content of the meeting
Additionally, many global mandatory meetings have multilingual participation. Setting up multilingual capabilities for attendees will help with engagement. To ensure clear communication, provide translation services when needed. When attendees submit questions and opinions through the tablet, give them the ability to enter questions in their local language. Ensure prior to the event that the tablet is programed to translate the question to the group/moderator.
A must-have on everyone’s list, especially for mandatory meetings, is a mobile app. Mobile apps generate engagement throughout the event – pre, during and post. Apps provide attendees up-to-the-minute information and event navigation at their fingertips. This form of technology also enhances and brings events to life via the energy of registered attendees, which is very helpful when applied to mandatory meetings.
Paquita also recommends scheduling presentations to rotate speakers; nothing is worse on one’s attention span than sitting through the same speaker for three topics, especially if the content is dry. Adjust the presentation styles and make sure speakers are dynamic. Review the decks prior to avoid speakers duplicating information.
The last great piece of advice that Paquita offered is to make sure you schedule in adequate breaks and white space. If there is a longer presentation, break it up into part one and part two with a break in between. Attendees often lose interest or focus on their own work rather than focusing on the presenter if there is too much content in one sitting.
Steve Lorenz, CMP, HMCC, one of M&IW’s Sr. Account Leads with 28 years’ experience, suggested to always book a room with natural lighting when possible. As we all know this isn’t always possible, when that is the case, decorate the entrance, stage and room with plants to provide a calming more comfortable learning environment. He also recommended breakout sessions or workshops where attendees are separated into participant types. This gives the client the ability to cover information that is more specific to each participant, such as having an investigator session separate from a study coordinator session with medical meetings. Doing this keeps the attendees engaged and interacting with their direct peers.
By utilizing these tips from our M&IW’s subject matter experts, planners will generate pre-meeting excitement, attendee engagement and offer a conducive learning environment at their next mandatory meeting.