Tips for Maximizing Meeting Content, Retention & Budget

January 25th, 2013 by admin Leave a reply »
Meeting space is one of the critical components in setting the tone for your message. Talking heads with power point presentations will surely put your audience to sleep so be sure there are interactive snippets throughout the session that help to apply the learning techniques and keep the audience engaged. Keep in mind that the amount of meeting space needed is considered “real estate” and needs to have revenue associated with it to make it profitable for the venue. When evaluating space, take into account whether or not you are going to have the following inside the room:
·         Staging
·         Audio visual equipment
·         AV technician/Production crew
·         Food and beverage
·         Registration Table
Set up of the room sets the tone for your event. Whether you are conducting a training session or holding an association conference, each meeting room needs to be thoroughly evaluated.
·         Theatre style provides maximum seating for sessions under 90 minutes.
·         Hollow Square is best for interactive meetings that are more discussion based where everyone is on an equal level.
·         U Shape is best if AV and presentations are needed in small interactive group settings. You can always add theatre style seating around the perimeter for observers.
·         Classroom or Schoolroom is best for longer meetings or those requiring note taking with a single presenter.
·         Rounds, Crescent Rounds or Pods are most common for meal functions or to encourage smaller interactive round table sessions of 6 – 10 people.
·         Eyeball is chairs only in a circle to encourage creative involvement in small work groups.
·         Lounge or Comfy seating is great for socializing / networking but is not encouraging for participants to exercise their greatest creativity.

Creating a learning environment that moves participants in rotation to different meeting set ups will keep them stimulated and improve retention. The time in their seat is not equal to the time they are learning.

Proportionate space can usually be negotiated at no cost as long as the guest room rates are not too deeply discounted. There will likely be a food and beverage minimum spend to offset meeting room rental. Decide how and when you will utilize the food enticements to maximize the attendee perception of a great conference.
·         Plated meals are portion controlled and force individuals to focus on the dining experience. It is the most cost effective meal option.
·         Grazing stations allow people to mingle while tasting and oftentimes they don’t feel like they ate much but they tend to eat more. Choose from pasta stations, potato bars, carving stations, taco bars, and themed salad bars. Keep them to one hour of food service and you are likely to stay on budget.
·         Reception foods with passed hors d’oeuvres tend to be the most costly based on the labor of bite size portions and the server fees. Always order the smallest cheese tray or veggie tray as those items may be well intended but far less popular.
·         Pay close to the percentage of the service charge and any added fees for servers or equipment.
General session rooms for larger audiences typically require stage, lighting, sound and rear screen projection. Request that space on 24 hour hold based on the extensive set up. Seating arrangements can be changed from meeting to meal set ups with ample time built in. Consider doing crescent rounds (6 people per 60” round table all facing the front) should your time between sessions and meals be short with limited space. The other advantage to that meeting style it that you have small round table session discussions for team training exercises. On meeting breaks you can require attendees to change their seats to maximize networking among different groups. There are several fun ways to encourage intermingling and new perspectives.
Professional key note speakers and entertainers are great headlines to draw maximum attendance. Their technical knowledge is interesting, but not all technical experts can deliver a message in an actionable way. Be sure to review their talking points so the message is clear, on time, on target and leaves the ego out of the room. Decide in advance if you will allow professional speakers to do any back of the room sales or if their best seller is a gift to the audience. Oftentimes you can negotiate the rate to include the takeaway. For the greatest return on investment, move sessions from “expert-centric” to “participant-centric”. More participant involvement produces better retention, buy in and unique, creative ideas.
Technical training tracks are best done in the smaller group settings in breakout sessions. Another way to do the breakout sessions are in a “learning lounge” environment where your suppliers can do specialized training modules in theatre sessions around the perimeter interspersed in a trade show environment. This is a good way to provide added value to the vendor, keep people on the tradeshow floor, save on speaker expense, add vendor clients to the trade show only attendance and enhance revenue streams for the conference. The “learning lounge” sessions should be 30 minute snippets and can be repeated. Set each theater for no more than 10% of the group and have no more than 2 sessions going simultaneously.
Internet access in meeting space can be a large expense and be sure to check the minimum bandwidth before you consider live streaming. Videotaping sessions can be extremely valuable for training purposes or a revenue stream following the conference. Many trade show vendors will want internet access so be sure that option is included in their packet. Guests may be carrying their personal recording devices assuming internet access is available but there is typically a charge per IP address. Investigate and inform attendees in advance.
Equipment rental, shipping and handling and meeting space can be a large expense. Be sure your contract permits you to bring in outside contractors as this will assist in negotiating for things like security and audio visual. The built in sound system is usually proprietary and not included if you elect an outside vendor. Depending on the production level of your event, the in house system may not meet your needs.
These are just a few considerations that narrow options of your set up and zoom in on budgeting options. With an average per person cost of $1,800 – $2,500 for a 3 day meeting, it is important to have a meeting professional negotiating all supplier contracts. Having a meeting professional on-site to manage logistics, trouble shoot and answer questions keeps the organizer focused on the meeting purpose with attention on the goal. The devil is in the details so leave the devil to A2Z Meetings & Events 813-990-0950.

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