by Andrea Driessen, Chief Boredom Buster at No More Boring Meetings
Whether you invite professional keynoters, subject matter experts, breakout session presenters, or a combination of these speakers to your events, you invest a great deal of time and money.
The stakes are high for delivering exceptionally compelling, engaging, memorable and actionable content. So, how can you maximize event programming? Three easy ways:
1. Message Continuity Conference Call
This one phone call will take your meetings from mediocre to memorable. Simply schedule a conference call with all significant meeting-message stakeholders. Your goal is to air and reinforce the most important “meta-message” takeaways. In this simple act of conversation, otherwise unknown patterns emerge. Connections and common ground are found that boost each speaker’s impact.
This call also ensures that any content redundancies and contradictions are removed in advance, so you can make the most of every minute.
Trying to convey too many messages can mean very little sticks. We communicate more—and more is remembered—when we communicate in more strategic, streamlined, unified ways. What if attendees only remember one or two Tweets’ worth of content? In fact, that may be all they DO remember.
2. Paradox of Choice
Speaking of overcommunicating, it’s natural to assume that more of something is better. Who wouldn’t want more money, time or…ice cream?! But here's what's weird: The power of more is usually inversely true for things like information and choice. In these cases, more isn’t often better; it’s just more. In fact, sometimes more is…less!
In his book The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz shows why having more choices leads to poorer decisions. Sound counter-intuitive? Advising hundreds of individuals and groups on external speaker selections and agenda designs for over two decades, I see organizations often held captive by this paradox.
There’s a common, yet false, belief that the more experts considered for a speaker slot, the better the final speaker choice, and the better the audience experience.
What happens instead: mired decision making, analysis paralysis, information overload, and audiences that recall less. Save yourself effort and aspirin—while boosting learning—by heeding the paradox of choice. Aim not for more for the sake of more, but less for the sake of success.
Begin with the end in mind by identifying your top meeting goals in advance. (This seems obvious, and yet is extraordinarily rare!)
Then, before even one speaker’s name is uttered, ask: what do we want our audience to think, feel, do, and believe after the session?
This one question alone will add discipline to speaker selections and focus everyone’s thinking on the most important outcomes. For example, if you want the audience to become more accountable about results, eliminate any speaker whose message doesn’t deliver on this point.
Then list your top four to five criteria for your best-fit expert. Name recognition that drives registration? Industry experience? Fee? Compare every speaker to each of these parameters. Those who don’t fit are out.
You’ll then have just three to five (not an overwhelming list of 30-50!) of the best speaker choices, all of whom align with your goals. Remember: You needn’t consider every speaker who could possibly fit to know you’ve chosen a best alternative.
3. Bookended Content
Start and end your meeting by reinforcing (“bookending”) the theme, goals, and key messages. My clients add elements such as unifying skits, retrospective videos, talk shows, custom songs, graphic illustration and games that reinforce main points and build content throughlines across their agendas.
Perhaps your meeting starts with a keynote in which you announce a new company initiative. And ends with an all-voices heard company anthem about how this initiative will be executed—sending everyone off on the highest possible note. Whether an hour, a day or a week, your meeting—when “bookended”—will be more rave-worthy.
Andrea Driessen is Chief Boredom Buster at No More Boring Meetings in Seattle, WA, and longtime SHW vendor partner. An international award-winning business owner, she’s been busting boredom and booking top speakers and thought leaders at events for 30 years.
The author of The Non-Obvious Guide to Event Planning: For Kick-Ass Gatherings that Inspire People (2019), Andrea works with clients including Starbucks, Microsoft, Habitat for Humanity and hundreds more.