Today’s corporate meetings are far from those of decades past, especially those in the ’50s and early ’60s when post-war prosperity and patriotism drove productivity and company loyalty. At least, top manufacturers delivered the not-so-subtle message at their conventions to motivate workers and push products.
Listening to the songs from the long-forgotten musical extravaganzas produced for those early conventions, it isn’t easy to believe anyone took the messages seriously. At times ridiculous, catchy, and almost romantic, the music and lyrics seem naive and stuck in an era long gone. But they make you wonder how much has changed beyond the format and the semantics and how our events will be recalled in future decades.
But technology has forced a shift in focus as well as language. As individuals embrace digital technology and become more intelligent consumers, they gain power. At the same time, organizations still need help to move past efficiency-based practices and learn how to benefit from the flow of knowledge and resources shared across the digital infrastructure. Companies have to take the pulse of their audiences and listen more effectively to what meeting attendees want to know or learn, as Sage North America’s Gabie Boko says in a recent story on innovation conferences.
That’s a significant shift. Instead of feeding attendees the corporate message through popular entertainment and new products on the showroom floor or a big screen, convention organizers are learning to share information and intelligence in hands-on demonstrations, interactive sessions, and conversations. The participants are the MVPs of today’s meetings, and the C-suite better be listening.
How planners approach meeting design, which plays a starring role in those interactive sessions and conversations, is more critical than ever. Today’s programming must match the needs of attendees and be designed to maximize ROI for them and the company’s bottom line. “Meetings need to match how we learn these days,” says author Adrian Segar in “How We Learn.” “People often say, ‘The best learning was in the hallway.’ We need to bring that learning into sessions and make it the core part of the event.”