If you had to choose how to spend your day, would you rather be at a business meeting or at Disney? Most people would pick Disney, where you get to play and have fun. As meeting professionals, we need to challenge ourselves to create experiences that are both productive and really fun, that include the unexpected and keep the audience continuously wondering “what’s next?”
Like a Disney attraction, your meeting or event should capture the mind, heart, and imagination. By taking a fearlessly immersive approach to every experience, you’ll engage attendees as participants, rather than bystanders. Always dare yourself to:
1. Do Things Differently
Have a lot of content to share at an upcoming training meeting? Put away the PowerPoints and consider delivering it via an Experience Arcade. What’s that? A multimedia expo filled with a variety of interactive presentations and activities—each appealing to all your participants’ senses (audio, visual, tactile, etc.). The best part is that the event is active and self-led. Attendees visit stations at their own pace and choose where they want to go to and when. I have seen firsthand how this approach directly impacts meeting engagement and satisfaction scores.
For the marketer or trainer, the most common question is “How will we know they learned what they needed to?” There are lots of ways to capture content engagement and retention. Whether it’s through RFID or Bluetooth badges, on the spot e-quizzes, or a meeting app, there are many tools to measure whether your audience got what they need!
2. Offer Choices
Allow participants to build their own agenda during certain parts of the day—just like you’d build your FastPass times at Disney. It’s human nature to want to make choices that feel right for you. People naturally gravitate towards their interests, and if they’re interested in something, guess what? They pay attention. Choice creates more personal investment. The key is to keep the choices manageable and not overwhelming. Even if it’s as simple as providing different health and wellness options in the morning that your audience can participate in—yoga, hike or meditation—people feel empowered when they can chart their own course.
3. Give Participants a Voice
Getting people together for a live meeting shouldn’t just be about telling them what you think they need to hear. It’s an opportunity for you to hear from them! Everyone wants to be heard. A great way to engage your audience is a reverse town hall or fireside chat. The essence of this design turns the tables on a typical Q&A with the audience and provides the host with the opportunity to ask the audience specific and pointed questions. This process is a great way to gauge interest in a new program, uncover needs, and highlight best practices. Furthermore, the energy in the room during these events really proves that people relish the opportunity to share and participate and that they have a say in creating their own future.
When all is said and done, you’ll find that once you perfect these approaches, you’ll see results—not just in engagement levels, but in how deeply your content connects and sticks with the audience. One final thought: when in doubt, just ask yourself WWDD? (What would Disney do?)
DJ Hanson is a founder and managing partner at Blueprint NYC, a firm that specializes in meetings and events, sales force training, and brand awareness.