Sharon Fisher, CEO and “idea sparker” of Play with a Purpose, hosted a Wednesday IMEX America session in the Playground Area on how meeting planners can persuade their company to allow them to switch up their meeting activities.
Fisher says, “Clients frequently come to me and say, ‘I believe in having fun and making meetings more interactive, but my boss doesn’t get it, he doesn’t see the value in doing something different.’”
Here are Fisher’s four strategies to help planners be more persuasive:
1. "I have a sheet I call, 'Learn Feel Do," she said. "I put those headings in three columns and let stakeholders talk about what their goals are for each of them. For example, in a sales meeting, the goal would be for attendees to learn about product attributes, feel inspired and confident about the company, and the 'do' part of the column would be for the attendee to buy or distribute the product at the end of it."
If you can break down the objectives for the meeting visually and show how a new activity will support them, the company decision makers will be more likely to understand your pitch.
2. Keep your boss informed about current meeting trends so that when you go to her with an idea for an event it is not a completely outlandish idea coming from left field. "I advise planners to send a steady drip of information, not so much that it is overwhelming, but enough that they have a sense of changes in the industry and what other comparable companies are doing."
3. Find an ally. There is always someone in senior leadership who understands the value of having fun, or being different, and they are more receptive to new ideas. Include them in your “drips” of information and approach them about an idea you would like to implement before you take it to your boss, Fisher said. You may find an ally in a different division of your company, or a satellite office, where some of the practices you want to bring to your meetings have already been implemented.
4. Start small. It may take a while to change the culture of your company or attendees. Build on incremental changes each meeting so that people have the time to get used to your changes, she said. When you do want to make a larger change, you will be able to say, “We did X last year and it worked well, I’d like to do XY this year.” It will be less of a risk for the decision maker if you can show your previous changes were successful.
Fisher said, “I’ve never had a planner say something bombed and they were banned from doing anything out of the ordinary again. Sometimes things don’t work out the way they were planned but I’ve never heard of a disaster. Remember, attendees are craving new ways to learn and new ways to interact at conferences so your ideas will probably be well received even if the execution is a little shaky."
Finally, Fisher reminded the session attendees that the rut they are stuck in could be their own, and not the company leadership's. She said, “If you are stuck in your old ways you may assume that changing them will be too hard, but sometimes leadership are looking to you to make those changes, so find the time to be creative.”