Posts Tagged ‘Meeting Design’



March 17, 2014

In past months, I’ve occasionally referred to the movement over the last ten years to refine corporate communications by using knowledge gained in recent years about how adults learn.  As we switch the emphasis off the one-way talks and incessant monotonous PPT, we have explored the benefits of creating interactive engagements within the meeting/event setting that do a better job.  We’ve measured the results; we know retention is expanded and implementation of new ideas going forward has a greater chance of success. We’ve been used as the case study by MPI as they introduced a whole new world to meeting planners called MEETING DESIGN.  The results of that launched last August with an 18-month campaign conducted by MPI to start a world-wide change in what a meeting IS and how to get better results.

Over those same ten years of changing our own thinking, we have also noticed a supportive movement developing.  In fact, MPI used a common denominator graphic through-out the Meeting Design launch.  That growing movement incorporates illustrations and pictures into the corporate communication plans.  If nothing else, it is a welcome relief from the bastardization of POWERPOINT as it has evolved from a Good to Bad supportive tool for Corporate America communications in the last 25 years!

This is not a new “gimmick; it is indeed a response to how much the world has discovered about adult learning , how people retain, recall, and integrate new information going forward from your executive conference, sales meeting or employee gathering.  Interaction and engagement do indeed play a key role – although I become concerned when clients translate that into something called “what are the interactives”- definitely a fingernail on chalkboard moment for me!

No, this is something we have done all our lives.  As children, we told stories with our crayons and stack of manilla paper.  In school, we learned a picture is worth a thousand words.  Our teachers drew pictures and scattered words on the blackboard/greenboard/whiteboard that generally emphasized key points to remember to “pass the test”.  We had notebooks filled with doodles as we sat in a course lecture-and, amazingly, we studied for tests from those notes and doodles, and somehow made it through our early lives of formalized education.  Through-out our adult lives, to give a friend the directions to a meet-up spot, we still draw a map; we sketch a picture or chart on a napkin in the coffee shop or bar to capture our thoughts in a discussion. We doodle as we listen; we doodle as we talk, we doodle as we learn.

Don’t misunderstand; I am not against the PPT as a tool and common point of reference in a discussion. I simply am appalled at how corporations USE PPT – as an easy-to-read-from the back-of-the-room-indoctrination BOOK– and thereby turn most communication opportunities into a joke.

 However, slowly but surely, the naysayers have spoken up and showed us a better way – with supporting statistics to prove that pictures and symbols deliver more impressive results because that is how we LEARN.

An inspiration to me, as this revolution back to what works is taking place, has been David Armano at Edelman Digital.  I subscribe to his blog “L + E Logic + Emotion”, so when I least expect it, I am transported into that world to which I aspire.   The narrative is thought-provoking, and the illustrations are phenomenal.  If you do not know of him, put him on your list! 

If you search for David on Google, you will find him everywhere including a lot of places you may never have heard of in the social world.  But before you get lost in the many sites, take a minute a click on “Images for David Armano”.    You will be transported into a whole new world of pictures and drawing that are indescribable except to say “never-ending light bulbs” get turned on in my brain!  Connections are made between Armano’s thoughts and my current project and I am filled with more new ideas than I could ever see to fruition in my lifetime.

This is how the brain works, folks, and this is why I remain motivated to cry out “Down with One-Way Preaching and the Abominable use of PPT in Corporate America!




March 8, 2014

I started a project this week that I knew would take a lot of concentration if I wanted to avoid timely distractions.  As part of the “clean up and close down of CEK by 3.31.14, I knew I had to tackle that big box of “read later” clippings from newspapers and magazines and all those “Think about this”  ideas gleened from blogs and websites along the way.  Fortunately, it only dated back to the mid 2013s….but still, it was daunting.

No, I am not done yet, but I have indeed made good progress along the way!  Most of the event-related articles have filled a Churchill dumpster; but I am surrounded by idea after idea of creative place making-yet to be organized into usable reference materials.  Maybe I just need to put away the big orange EVENT IDEA book, and start from scratch to build and organize a new volume of thought-starters that are applicable to what I hope to be my third career!

Amidst it all, I found an article by Travis Stanton, editor of Exhibitor Magazine- dated just this past January.  It was the article entitled “The Interaction Anomaly” that started to crystalize in my mind why I was not making progress with defining a plan for a recent client meeting.

Stanton shared that as he attended a recent show in Las Vegas, he saw several exhibits filled with tablet and touchscreen technology….but no staff.  In one large booth, the exhibitor did have a manned “reception” desk, so after complimenting her on the use of technology to enhance the message, he asked her why she had incorporated that function in the booth.

Her response?  “We wanted to make the booth more interactive.”

Travis’ reaction matched mine.  With no one to interact WITH, you don’t accomplish the goal.  The remainder of his article dealt with the fact that in an exhibit display, staff, not technology, is the key to connections and relationship building.  He shared a measurement option – the “Staff Interaction Rate” and how it might be used to measure progress.  

At the end of the article, I had scribbled a note “Amen!…exactly the xxxx company problem

One uses interactive elements to connect people in discussions; to engage in conversations that reinforce a message; to assist in the learning process that will lead to a desired outcome.  As we speak, we have a two year case study accompanying the Meeting  Professionals International  release of MEETING DESIGN that is being rolled out to MPI chapters around the world over an 18-month timeframe.  That is validation that we know of what we speak.  But a BIG lesson learned here.  It does not matter if we cannot convince the client of that.

In my situation, “Interactive” has been transformed from a descriptive adjective to a noun.  The means had morphed into the  desired end result for the client, and no amount of discussion was going to change their mind.

We were expected to deliver three “interactives.”  (Note:  Even my computer is signaling something is wrong with how I used interactive in that last sentence J)  Over several months, we’d suggested almost twenty ideas – all tied in some way or another to the meeting “theme”,  stated values, or “mentioned in passing” objectives.  Nothing resonated because in the client’s mind, “interactive” had become an end in itself as it transformed from a descriptive adjective to a noun. And I simply did not understand that had happened.

But, no matter what we said, they were intent on having a 45-60 minute meeting with butts firmly anchored in rows of chairs to hear the one-way communication from the speaker to the audience, telling them what to think.  After the indoctrination, the audience would be moved to some other yet-to-be-defined space to pick up a gift and do their “interactives.”

And I failed.  I simply was not able to communicate effectively what was possibly wrong with that picture.

Too bad I did not address that pile of clippings sooner.  Maybe I could have use Travis Stanton’s clear thinking to get us past this stumbling block and the client would not still be looking at a gathering that most likely will create few positive results.   For that I am truly sorry.



October 15, 2013

Back in the mid-2000s, event and meeting planners started to envision a NEW WAY forward that better matched emerging research on how we learn….The “Adult Learning” revolution launched simultaneously with technical advances that were propelling us into a digital age.

Here at Creative Events, we became followers of these visionaries, did some exploration of collaboration and new learning tools, and tried to focus on engaging our audiences to interact with each other and their own thought-leaders. We got our “feet wet”  in 2008 with the GOP Convention and by 2010 we were ready for the grand experiment of developing a collaborative of independent event peeps to test our theories and growing knowledge when we were selected as the vendor to for a Boston Scientific Employee meeting.

You have heard the story, seen the pictures, positive press, and awards that signaled we were on the right track.  We delivered good results; we were recognized for it and this year in August, MPI launched a new initiative called “MEETING DESIGN” that used those two BSCI employee meetings as the case study to support their new curriculum.  Over the next 12-16 months, 71 MPI chapters internationally will be introduced to this concept that revolutionizes the Meetings Industry; and slowly, ISES, as well, is executing events with something more than A WOW factor-thank goodness!

Simultaneously as a volunteer , I have participated in brainstorming several revitalization projects in the City of Minneapolis (Plan It Hennepin, Washington Avenue,  the Cultural Corridor, Nicollet Avenue Street Car Plan and  the latest project just introduced – the redesign of Nicollet Mall itself)…not to mention the West River Road Trails Improvement plan and the continuing evolution of the latest 30 year plan for the Central Riverfront…all of which have introduced me to an international concept called creative-place making.  Much of that has focused on building consensus and building/sharing visions through the use of art. 

Out of that, has come a strong desire to experiment with applying those same creative processes to meetings and events in order to achieve that same warmth and depth I was seeing emerge in community events – that is  not necessarily achieved from social media and current technology alone.

Meanwhile, Boston Scientific has continued to push forward…applying a key corporate value – not only to the patient and healthcare in general, but to business applications in their healthcare world. Their commitment to Meaningful Innovation has opened new doors. 

Last month, we started a new journey with them, as we once again turn our thoughts to their next Employee Meeting in late Spring of 2014. 

Is the world ready to take “Meeting Design” one step further?

If we unlock a meeting from the need to have a BIG room, BIG stage, and BIG seating blocks for a general session…then we have a whole new world of possibilities before us.  Maybe all those costs and time spent with hotel/convention center infrastructure can be redirected to the purpose and outcomes of any given meeting:  increasing adult learning and achieving results…creating an improved corporate environment for all.  In 2014, we will test our new theory.  The BSCI Employee Meeting will be held on each campus during the same week’s timeframe.  To accomplish that, we need to create engagement points that allow interaction before, during, and after the Town Hall experience; we need to ensure that engagement and interaction is between all employees and their leadership. Along the way, we hope to give employees what they need and want in order to get results for Boston Scientific and for their patients. And we hope to do that utilizing the power of all the technology on both those campuses supported by interactive projects that result in a bit of creative “corporate” community-making, as we also work with the BSCI space design folks to tell the story on empty walls  in lobbies, cafeterias, and within departments across a total of ten buildings on three campuses. Stay tuned on this one.  With no clear path to follow, I’m sure we’ll have some stumbles as we explore how to best to do this, but something tells me, we are opening the door on a whole new world.

And so the exploration begins-guided by new visions of what this Meeting and Event world can be.





September 4, 2013

Some of us first embraced what has become one of MPI’s five principles of Meeting Design back in 2008 during the Republican Convention in Minnesota when several small businesses successfully experimented with collaboration to produce an award-winning hospitality event for Medtronic.

It was cutting-edge at the time; it made sense; it worked well for us and for our client; and it was well recognized in the Events world with several Star Awards…as well as a lot of industry press.

Two years later, we came together again-a collaborative of individual businesses-armed with more knowledge  not only about how to better work together, but about how 21st century research  had unlocked more secrets to the brain and how it functioned.  A revolution was happening in adult learning.  We may have been the experts in times gone by, but in this new world, we had to make some changes.

An opportunity at Boston Scientific gave us a chance to do just that as we were selected in 2010 to produce an all employee one-day meeting for 5000 persons.  We learned more; the client achieved not only their objectives, but the event exceeded their expectations and we were engaged for a second time, to do a follow-up meeting a year later.  We added new skillsets to the team; we understood more and more as we went forward, and we earned more recognition in not only awards, but international press coverage.  By now, we knew we were on the right track, and engaged Brett Culp to tape that second meeting which then became a great sales tool for each of us, but also cast us into “Event Fame” when he shared it in his presentation at The Special Event in 2013.


 Meanwhile, we had already started on a new journey.  In February, 2012, we were approached by MPI Research to become the case study to support their new initiative to launch “MEETING DESIGN”.

 It was a long process, but in early August this year, I received my copy of the final version.  It then rolled out in the August, 2013 edition of MPI’s “The Meeting Professional” Magazine.  The complete MPI Toolkit followed on August 20.

It also debuted in Toronto at IncentiveWorks August 19-21, clearly spelling out the Five Principles of Meeting Design:

  1. 1.       Assessment and Evaluation
  2. 2.       Experience
  3. 3.       Distributed Learning
  4. 4.       Collaboration
  5. 5.       Meaningful Evaluation


And as I understand, the rollout will continue through 71MPI chapters around the world over the next 12-18 months. 

Our Minnesota “Collaboratory” is proud of our work; we are proud of the recognition; and we continue to learn and grow as each of us moves forward utilizing this 21st century way of thinking about meetings and adult learning.  Perhaps we’ll have some updates to share when MPI WEC arrives in MSP in 2014!