There are all kinds of reasons that people go to meetings and conferences. Some go because it is a requirement. Some are attending to gain knowledge. Some want to “recharge their batteries” and attend conferences as a way of taking a break. Some are looking for networking opportunities and camaraderie with others who share their frustrations. Regardless of the particular motivation, your goal is to provide a fresh, innovative and entertaining program that will make a real difference in the work and lives of the attendees. The challenge is to rivet the audience’s attention, leaving them inspired, motivated and wanting more. Choosing a keynote speaker who will instill a sense of fun while providing cutting edge expertise is the key to jump starting a successful meeting
A wealth of research shows that providing a fun atmosphere promotes attention to and retention of the information provided, as well as encourages dialogue and interaction throughout the meeting.
A fun milieu promotes a safe and relaxed feeling for even the most reticent attendee.
Every event is made up of four critical components and here are key tips the meeting professional can use to bring fun, anticipation and excitement to each phase.
1. Setting the Tone Even Before the Meeting Takes Place
- Announce in the advertising and registration materials that there will be prizes awarded for completing a fun crossword puzzle (containing key information about the association, company, etc), included in the mailing.
- For smaller audiences, ask attendees to bring pictures of themselves as babies (or their yearbook picture). They will be posted around the meeting room and prizes will be given to those who correctly match the most faces.
- Announce that a team scavenger hunt will be part of the event.
Obviously, there is no limit to the ideas you can use and the message everyone gets is “this is going to be a different, fun meeting.”
2. Opening Your Fun Event
- Have upbeat music playing while attendees are entering the meeting. Music sets a fun tone and puts attendees at ease. It can also be used to accompany interactive games, breaks and at the closing. Copyright infringement can be avoided by selecting “copyright fee paid” cd’s, all commercially available.
- A short, humorous video can open your event by setting the expectation that this meeting will be fun and unique. Video segments can also be strategically inserted throughout the event to avoid boredom and during breaks. The internet provides tons of funny commercials and short videos suitable for any audience. Commercially available videos, such as Jerry Seinfeld’s final standup routine, are easily accessible and loads of fun.
- Select a keynoter who will greet the attendees at the door, let them feel welcomed and present from the front of a stage or close to the first row of seats. This way, the attendees get a sense of comfort with the speaker, rather than feel distant from the speaker who “talks down” to them from a podium.
- Dynamic ice breakers serve multiple purposes. Interactive ice breakers facilitate networking and prepare attendees for a creative and meaningful learning experience. There are many catalogs of ice breakers available. An example is the human treasure hunt, which I use with every group I speak for. Attendees are provided with a list of traits, such as “enjoys eating liver,” or “has found a successful way to bring fun to his/her workplace.” Attendees have 10 minutes to fill their sheet. The first to finish wins a prize. This serves as a fabulous networking instrument, as well.
3. Energizing Your Event
Well spaced energizing games throughout the meat of the event prevent fatigue, boredom and passivity.
- A “stress buster” kit can be given to all attendees upon arrival develop group dynamics concepts. Have plenty of fun prizes available, such as clown noses, goofy glasses, squeeze toys, etc.
- Ask for volunteers to discuss the funniest/most embarrassing experiences they ever had. This hilarious break can be used to emphasize a point that the speaker is making; for example, how to use humor to counteract stress.
- Fun prizes can be given to audience members throughout the presentation for answering (or asking) key questions.
- Many team exercises are available for various sized groups, including improve games, stress-busting games, communications skills teams, etc. The exercises are not only fun, but they are directed toward the specific goals of the meeting.
4. Memorable Closers
Other than the introduction, the closing is the most important part of the meeting, in terms of riveting the information in the minds of the attendees.
- Form an action plan, with attendees teaming up with a partner to share ideas they learned and that they plan to incorporate into their work/lives. Set a date for the partners to call each other to check up on the progress of implementing those changes.
- For small groups, have a “brag bag” exercise where each attendee writes something positive about each other attendee and they all put their slips with comments into bags labeled the names of attendees. Each attendee takes home the bag with all of these positive comments included.
End with another fun exercise so the last thing attendees do is laugh and leave enjoying their time