9 Ways Associations Are Changing Their Meetings

Group of 3 men sitting at a table onstage while giving a presentation

Recently, a group of top association meetings professionals gathered at Leading Authorities’ office to share ideas, best practices, and lessons learned from their own meetings. We were excited to hear about all of the new formats and ideas being tried at large meetings in a variety of industries and wanted to share this list of activities sparking new energy in the 2014/15 meeting cycle.

Speaker/Content Formats:

  • Time on Stage: A lot of groups are shortening the length of sessions. From half-hour keynotes and stages in-the-round to TED-style, 18-minute presentations given back-to-back on a “Smart Stage” delivering well-rounded views on a topic from multiple perspectives, our group is trying lots of new content delivery formats.
  • Making an Ask: More meeting professionals are asking speakers to participate more or differently than the standard keynote. They are including meet and greets, interviews, and dinner attendance in their talent contracts.
  • Housekeeping: The bane of the meeting, our professionals are tackling housekeeping necessities with clever videos, dynamic slides, and even social media blasts. Others are hiring a professional emcee to deliver essential information and tie sessions together with insights gleaned from multiple speakers.
  • Sharing Content: We had a lively debate about live-streaming events versus creating an on-demand platform for sharing content. Most attendees agreed that the world is moving to a more on-demand format, choosing when and where they want to consume archived content.

Show Layout/Environment:

  • Enlarging the Footprint: Setting up tents outside the venue is giving groups a larger footprint and a new environment in which to welcome attendees and create a new experience for their meeting.
  • Demo Zone: More and more trade shows are including an aisle or designated section of hands-on, how-to demonstrations that allow attendees to learn more about a product or bolster their skills.
  • Live Studio: Creating a news studio on the trade show floor or in a high-traffic zone is driving the creation and collection of content for in-show use, as well as extending the meeting experience beyond the 2-3 day event with video and commercial content for a year-round communication strategy.
  • Lounge and Connect: The lounge, tech hub, or social user zone was a popular concept. Attendees are expecting a place to charge devices and still feel like they are part of the experience. Creating places for people to network while powering up was a common theme. Other activities included the popular headshot lounge and silly prop-filled photo booths. Adding on to this idea were some creative food and beverage tie-ins. We loved the ideas of adult milkshakes, nacho bars, and coffee baristas creating custom lattes.
  • Variations on Seating: This was a big theme with some meetings offering large, comfy sofa seating near the stage to encourage early arrivals and a full front row, to seating pods and bar stools for smaller group learning situations, and special seating sections for social media participants that gave them amenities for laptops and good views for capturing photos. And a lot of the fun seating options are getting paid for by sponsors!

Because our team is on the ground producing meetings year-round, we have a great vantage point to see all of this in action and more. Submit the form below if you are interested in receiving more ideas centered on a more specific conversation about your event. Let us help you “wow” your attendees next year.

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