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Effective Meeting Execution

Innovative Ideas to Host Better Meetings
By Jessica Widing, Executive Director

One of the most stimulating sessions I attended at a recent ASAE (American Society of Association Executives) meeting was entitled "Knowledge Strategies for Better Meetings" lead by Mickie S. Rops, CAE.

Filtering Information is Key By filtering we can extract only relevant information from the intended audience. This will add value by saving the attendee's time by filtering out what is not relevant to them.

  • Start by identifying the level of experience for the target audience
  • Use tracks or other easily identifiable labeling systems so attendees can easily navigate relevant sessions
  • Allow the attendee to be proactive in the selection of topics by submitting topic ideas to a facilitator
  • Collect ideas and post them to a "thought" board around the registration area

The more information that is available prior to a conference, the better. Build interest in sessions by having them clearly indexed on the association/conference website. Make them searchable by keyword or topic. Maximize interest and attendee participation by providing an interactive forum. Host a conference blog prior to the meeting where speakers talk about their session content this can help attendees judge if it is a session that they want to attend. It also allows the speaker to modify their presentation if new topics arise.

The best sessions leave attendees eager to continue building their knowledge. Encourage all speakers to provide recommended resources and reading lists.

Provide Opportunities for Feedback Attendees don't always know what they don't know. Feedback helps attendees to discover it.

  • Extend the meeting with online communities for specific sessions (listserves, blogs)
  • End everyday with roundtable discussions so attendees can talk about how to apply learned ideas
  • Offer learning teams or peer groups scheduled throughout the conference where attendees can discuss what they have learned so far and build on each other's ideas

Context Add meaning to presented content by relating it to specific examples. This will help attendees turn information into knowledge.

  • Offer less formal presentations and more opportunity for discussion
  • Give attendees the opportunity to begin their learning before ever arriving at the conference
  • Publish a recommended reading list prior to the event
  • Have keynote addresses prior to a networking luncheon so attendees can discuss their thoughts and ideas
  • Provide a forum immediately following the session where attendees can talk about ideas presented and how they might apply them

Make the Connection Facilitate a connection by bringing together attendees with common interests, issues or expertise. Members that are connected can share ideas and information.

  • Offer opportunities for attendees to network prior to attending the conference via social media (blogs, listserves, or create a Facebook page)
  • Schedule plenty of 'down time' to allow members to connect
  • Use more table rounds versus theater or classroom style seating
  • Try a 'speed dating' networking event to encourage attendees to meet a large number of new people.

At your next meeting consider incorporating some of these innovative ideas. Hosting better meetings means happier attendees, which will undoubtedly build a stronger association.