What does meeting design look like?
You’ve probably heard about meeting design, meeting architecture or experience design. But would you know it if it came up and slapped you in the face?
We stood in the empty space, eyes closed, imagining. Our clients wanted present and potential volunteers to be inspired, excited, encouraged. They wanted participants to feel celebrated, appreciated, special. They also hoped the people at the event would respond and become more engaged. What could we create that would elicit these emotions?
What will lead to the specific results you want?
As the meeting and event industry adopts the lingo – human centered design, participant focused, user experience – are we also applying the principles? We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Ultimately, it’s NOT about the meeting. It’s about the people at the meeting.
If the attendees remain unchanged following the meeting or event: not good. Quite possibly, the meeting will be a big waste of time, effort and money.
Let’s get physical
Take normally formal space, make it intimate, warm. Hard seating, make it comfortable. A predictable coffee break, add in tangible surprises.
In this situation, the physical location was already determined. So we used the space we had. We transformed pew-like theater seating by adding throw blankets and pillows. One advantage we had was the in-the-round set up. We also chose to add in several inflatable chairs at strategic locations that made a visual statement.
In the back of the room, we also added high-boy bar tables with stools which provided a third layer of seating choices for participants. During a break in the program, we placed snacks with a branded and personalized message on each of the seats.
Meeting design considers the physical comfort, attention and emotions of participants.
Overheard at the event,
“Wow, it’s just like a coffee shop! How fun!”
Make meal-times matter
Previous to our meeting design suggestions, breakfast, if offered at all, consisted of coffee and pastries. Participants often arrived late, knowing they weren’t missing out on much.
For this program, we featured a well-loved local restaurant as the caterer on the invitation. We served a much heartier and varied menu. In addition, we drew conversation starters in chalk on the butcher paper table coverings.
At similar events in the past, the client provided a boxed or buffet-style lunch at banquet rounds. To signal the difference, we suggested and the client agreed to a family style “picnic” meal. Simple baskets spaced at intervals on rows of tables required participants to pass the food and connect with those around them.
Meetings and events work if they lead to specific desired behaviors.
If the point is to make the event prettier, then okay, but that’s not really meeting design. It’s décor. If the point of adding meeting design elements is to multiply the impact of your meeting, make sure your objectives are clear and the results match up. Our client wanted their volunteers to know their efforts matter and to keep volunteering. And they wanted those who weren’t involved yet, to hear the stories of impact and to sign up themselves.
The participants at our client’s event shared how some of the littlest elements of the design made a huge impression. There was much more to our design project including interactive elements, speaker coaching, agenda pacing and session formats.
But the parts we shared here were specifically called out as pieces of the puzzle that allowed people to connect, to share, to feel celebrated and ready to jump in. With an over 95% positive response, this group is ready to go.
If this is how they treat their volunteers, I’m in.
If you’d like to hear how we can help you design your next meeting or event, click here. We’re happy to guide you through the process, design a program for you or create a plan you can implement.
Fill out the form or give us a call at 855-TEAM-BLD
In business since 2002, PlayWorks Group is an award-winning team building and meeting design firm serving North America and the Caribbean.