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“If you really want to know about business, you should refer to Scott Steinberg.” -Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group

Meeting Planning: 5 Most Common Event Mistakes

Frantic as CMPs and corporate meeting specialists often find their day-to-day working pace, it’s all too easy to overlook simple value-adds that can radically enhance any gathering’s impact. But if properly leveraged, these cost-affordable and easily-implemented initiatives can help maximize attendance, boost audience learning and takeaway, and dramatically improve return on investment. Following are several ways to get more from your conferences and executive summits, none of which require huge added expenditures, yet all of which can maximize value for any organization.

1.  Community support. Want to increase audience participation while maximizing value for all in attendance? Get attendees involved in meeting programs up-front by inviting them to help steer programs, submit comments and suggestions, or contribute multimedia content via internal, online, social media, strategic partners or other readily available distribution channels. Submissions can be used to help select program and track topics, questions and insights incorporated into speeches and presentations, and content easily saved and repurposed for other initiatives. Similarly, conducting advance surveys and polls, then revealing surprise findings at your gathering, can also be a great way to heighten interest while incorporating participants’ input. All present a wealth of potential opportunities to secure greater audience contributions, and make sure their needs are being met.

2.  Partner with program speakers. As noted thought leaders and industry personalities, speakers can frequently help drive event awareness and boost your audience reach. Don’t be afraid to ask them to share blog posts, spread mentions on social networks or provide videos, podcasts and original articles for sharing with guests or publication and promotion, e.g. in industry trades. Always look for ways to connect presenters with audience members and drive added learning for all parties prior to actual presentations as well. Meet-and-greets, breakfasts, teleconferences group videoconferencing sessions, and other live or online programs present ample opportunity for speakers to engage with audience members, share expert insights, and gain feedback that can help better shape and inform presentations. All provide a forum for experts and attendees to ask vital questions, interact, and get to know each other better before the big show, boosting takeaway and making for more compelling on-stage programs.

3. Record and redistribute programs. Always keep a video camera, smartphone, or – at the very least – spare audio recorder on-hand to capture learning and insights. Highlights can be easily shared or live-streamed online, distributed via corporate website, social network or newsletter, or incorporated into online learning libraries, helping you extend the value of programs far beyond day-of attendance. Note that any captured material can provide a ready source of content for year-round inbound marketing or audience outreach programs and be enjoyed and digested at viewers’ convenience. Events provide an ideal venue at which to tap into audience members’ as well as experts’ insights: As part of your programs, ask all to share hints, tips, stories and inspiration. That way, you needn’t limit learning to only those on-hand during actual festivities and can extend the value of corporate meetings and retreats for weeks, months or years to come.

4.  Encourage audience input. Smartphones, tablets and an array of apps and social networks make it easy to poll audience members, post trending topics, or share conversations live on projection-size screens for emcees, speakers and attendees to enjoy. Give viewers the tools to ask questions or provide feedback through these vehicles, and you can quickly improve program engagement and dynamism while helping create more timely and relevant discussion. Sharing links and tools with audience members that allow them to promote live streamed coverage, online chats and event highlights via social channels can also help extend reach and awareness. All make it possible to boost audience involvement, reach larger audiences, and potentially secure added interest or publicity for your programs while also gaining deeper insights into your community.

5.  Create unique value-adds and takeaways. Enough with the pens and key chains. Instead, consider creating more unique giveaways incorporating audience members’ names, faces, and unique contributions to help heighten recall and event takeaway. For example: You might assign team members to act as journalists who interview, photograph and tape attendees to get their thoughts during programs, or set aside space where visitors are invited to share their thoughts on camera. Material can then be used to create eBooks, brochures, websites or video segments (i.e. The Future of Destination Marketing or 50 Tips for Providing Great Customer Service) featuring your business’ employees, clients, and strategic partners. Don’t want to get that fancy? Transcribe contributions and use them to create blog posts or newsletters that highlight your community, creating opportunities to connect and re-engage audiences while promoting social sharing year-round.

In short, a little advance planning and creativity combined with everyday off-the-shelf technologies, tools and solutions can help you squeeze more from any corporate event. Best of all, there’s more than one way to skin a cat: Mix and match ideas, and you’ll find many that many can combine to create benefits before, during and after your special occasions. Meeting planners are encouraged to experiment with any and all of the above ideas – when it comes to keeping an audience on the edge of its seat, you may find many of the most effective solutions hiding in plain view.

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