Thursday, December 20, 2012

The 12 Days of Conference - Day Ten

As we prepare for 2013 I am hosting a series of blog posts called "The 12 Days of Conference". Each day a different expert from the meeting, convention planning, speaking and hotel industries will add their single best idea on how to create better events or other tips for how to improve the "Conference Attendee Experience" in the new year.

Be Open to Wonderment
by Dana Freker Doody

In this season of lights and carols, recognize the delight in discovery reflected in a child’s eyes. Capture it in your memory bank as you would capture on film the Christmas morning rush.

It is our own childlike qualities that drive us to discover, probe and wonder. I believe those are some of the most important qualities we need in event planning today. When our attendees come to our tradeshows and events it is vital to put them in the frame of mind you capture in your memory bank, help put them in the mode for discovery and wonderment.

Creating fascinating experiences and settings can help your attendees engage with one another, with the learning content, with your exhibitors or sponsors. Specifically in tradeshows, where I am most at home, that can mean rearranging your floorplan into different shapes or even neighborhoods of like exhibitors. It may mean incentivizing your big exhibitors to move away from the front door or launching material handling packages that encourage everyone to bring more product. A fascinating experience on a trade show floor could be the latest game or it could be a town hall space at the center of the show where education, engagement and even social media come to life.

The rarity of the delights found during the Christmas season adds to its appeal. “Mom, look! There’s a huge inflatable Santa Claus riding on a motorcycle in that yard.” We don’t see that every day. And that’s the point.

Help your attendees to see, hear, smell, taste and touch something they don’t every day. If your conference schedule is always the same, you’re a yard without Harley Santa. When you shake things up, tweak that schedule, play with the floorplan, introduce a new idea, your community says “Look! Harley Santa!” That discovery opens their mind for the next new thing, the next opportunity, the next relationship, and the next.

Start talking with your team about how you can create entrees to discovery and wonderment within your conference or event. It starts, I think, with lots of questions.

Why do we do it this way?

What if we added this?

Would people react differently if this was over here?

Which pieces of our event should be enhanced?

Can we set politics aside and talk about attendee mindsets?

Could you support us in this trial initiative?

When is the ideal time for our attendees?

What if we started from scratch?

Should we go for a walk to clear our minds?

What’s in it for them?

What’s in it for us?

Will you take a step back and think about this other idea?

What if, what if, what if?

What amazes you?

What can we change today to improve the conference and event experience for your community?

Start small. Don’t go Clark Griswold on us, because too much of anything can be a bad thing. But don’t be afraid to try. This isn’t the season of comfort and joy because it’s same-old, same-old. Capture that wonderment, and be merry.

Dana Freker Doody is Vice President of Corporate Communications for The Expo Group where she oversees in-house and client-side programs for this general services contractor and custom exhibit house. A 12-year veteran of the industry and The Expo Group, Dana helps drive the company’s service promise pulling from previous experience at Disneyland, brings communications knowledge from her days at The Dallas Morning News and rebels against the status quo thanks to … well, no one is really sure. 

1 comment:

Graham - Rokman Laing said...

Great post - love the blog ;-)