How Meeting Professionals are Meeting Needs — in a More Virtual World

microphonewaitsforspeaker2What is the value of professional meetings when one can GoToMeeting without going to a meeting?

As someone who speaks at meetings, attends meetings, and uses virtual-meeting tools on a regular basis I am continually evaluating what works in various settings these days. And by “works” I consider the degree to which meeting participants gain knowledge (including cultural knowledge), specific skills, and confidence for performing better in their jobs.

On the PCMA (Professional Convention Management Association) website Michelle Crowley shared this expert view:

Not all knowledge gives you power…While your meeting aims to deliver more information and education, not all knowledge is equal. Articulate knowledge isn’t very valuable anymore. Why? Because your attendees can get it anywhere. Tacit knowledge, on the other hand, plays a crucial role in attracting and inspiring your audience. This is the knowledge that needs to be shared and experienced live and in-person. It creates an emotional connection, and it can’t simply be found online.

I find that meeting planners (and the executives they serve) are looking for more value out of their programs these days. Yes, they still want speakers and activities that are fun and engaging in the moment; these create memories and emotional bonds. But that isn’t enough—not in a world where budgets are tight, travel is a hassle, and everyone has an eye toward ROI (however defined by the organization).

Several years ago, I attended the national meeting of a beverage association in Las Vegas. During the opening session, following short speeches from the leadership, the auditorium lights went down and a group of stilt walkers emerged to high-energy music. The stilt walkers were quite talented, mind you, but during a time of flat industry revenue that wasn’t the program most in the audience were anticipating (even in Vegas). “Really?” said one participant quite loudly a few rows ahead. “How much are we paying for this?”

Today I’m seeing a mix of engagement, information sharing, and training at both regional and national events. Meeting professionals are also finding ways to take the important themes and learnings from an event and give them legs during the rest of the year—with localized follow-up sessions, new-employee onboarding content, recorded meeting content that is packaged into subsequent organization-wide webinars, and the like.

Meeting pros and attendees: What is working for you and your organization today?

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