Have you ever sat through a boring meeting? We hall have. Boring meetings suck. I hate dull events and have taken on the mission of ending boring meetings. Regardless of if it is a conference call, a team gathering in a meeting room, or a larger conference, nobody wants to have their time wasted. Meetings that are boring rip the joy from the room. The people who plan meetings never bring groups together with have the intention of providing dull events. You need a conference energizer to fire up the crowd. Does your conference have a catalyst?
There has been a lot of things written over the years about how to make meetings more exciting. Most, like this 2018 article in Forbes focus on internal company meetings. Boring meetings come in all shapes and sizes. But much of the advice about how to make small meetings better translate to conferences.
The Conference Catalyst
For over ten years I have worked as a speaker and master of ceremonies with the focus on helping get people to engage more at conferences. My first book was called “Some Assembly Required: How to Make, Grow and Keep Your Business Relationships”. After it’s release I began speaking on the subject of networking. People were energized by the topic and instantly began putting some of my advice into practice at the events where I spoke. One meeting planner told me I changed the culture of the conference with my advice. From that day forward I was “The Conference Catalyst” and my messages became focused on helping people meet and engage.
Meetings are more fun when people connect. A main reason people come to large industry events is to make connections. From association annual events to company users group conferences, participants want to network. However, often they do not know how and are not set up to engage. My purpose is to be a conference energizer. I make sure boring meetings are a thing of the past.
Ways To Improve Your Conference Networking
If you are planning a conference and you want to have people engaged, you do not need to hire “The Conference Catalyst”. To avoid boring meetings and get people to network, you just need to create a culture for connections.
- Make networking a priority. Talk about the power of connections in the correspondence leading up the event. Remind people that the value of live events is more than the learning, it is the sharing with people. If you make networking seem important, people will embrace it. Take on the role of conference energizer and cultivate the fun culture. Keep referencing how meeting people will bring more value to each and every attendee. Address the elephant in the room that sometimes there are boring meetings – but not at this event.
- Schedule time to let people network. Too often when planning events we are so focused on the learning that we cram in as many breakout sessions as possible. Allow plenty of time between plenary session and breakouts so people can talk. Make sure the social gatherings have ample room for people to mingle. Additionally, consider hosting a speed networking event to get everyone energized.
- Get your speakers involved. When selecting your speakers and master of ceremonies / emcee, ask them to help you promote the fun and the networking. If you do not talk to your speakers about your expectation of having them engage with people, many will not. However, when they do they have the power to jump start your meeting. Do not let your speakers simply speak and leave. If you do not want boring meetings, then only work with speakers who will be part of the solution.
The Education Shift
There are real changes happening in the world of conferences. Boring meeting content is out. It has to be engaging and hitting on the right topics. In a June 2019 article about “the Education Shift at Conferences” on the ASAE Website, there is discussion about engaging people not just with the agenda, but on the website, etc… The conference committee is taking on the role of content curators. In the article, industry expert Dave Lutz says that planners are seeing their roles changing:
“They’re being tasked to identify the greatest problems to solve, or opportunities to seize, for experienced participants,” Lutz says. “This learner-centric approach is front-end loaded. Organizers are using the advice of the committee to better communicate the learning tracks and outcomes in order for submitters to better align their session proposals.”
Engaging the audience before, during and after the event matters. But getting them involved in the education helps create a stronger buy in from all who attend. However, I still believe there is an important role in finding the right speakers if you want to kill boring meetings. We need to have the right content, but it must be presented by people who will cause an audience to listen and take action.
Declare The End Of Boring Meetings
One of my favorite repeat clients looked at her association’s annual conference a few years ago and declared the end to boring meetings. She looks for a countless little ways to energize her events. Hiring me as “The Conference Catalyst” and the conference energizer is just one step. She asks all speakers to encourage interactive conversations and to stay to network. Her social events are epic, and together we encourage people to branch out and engage with others. And the first timer event and speed networking session are attended by newcomers and seasoned repeat attendees. There is a vibe that boring meetings are dead, and that leads to more fun for everyone.
Declare the end of boring meetings and make every decision you make go through the funnel of asking “does this choice make the experience better for the audience?”
Meetings should be fun. Boring meetings are a real issue. People hate to be bored and will zone out fast. But when you are clear on your mission to bring real experiences to your event, everyone will benefit.
Thom Singer is a motivational speaker and master of ceremonies / EmCee. He is the host of the “Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do” podcast and the author of 12 books. If you want your meeting to be more fun and get people engaged, consider bringing to be the “Conference Catalyst”.
I am on a quest to stop boring meetings!