Five Tips for Memorable Meetings

If you ever use the internet, chances are you have encountered at least one meme referring to a business meeting that should have been an email. And if you have ever attended a business meeting, chances are you find the sentiment behind these memes somewhat relatable.

That said, business meetings don’t have to be meme fodder. In fact, many organizations that offer meeting spaces and services are utilizing cutting edge technology and helping clients think outside the box to ensure that attendees have a meaningful—and perhaps even fun—meeting experience. If you want to jazz up your business meetings, read on for five tips from four local professionals.

Integrate themed activities
Themes are no longer just for children’s birthday parties; if used intelligently, they can add personality to meetings and increase participant enjoyment. “Create custom breaks themed around the overall objective of the meeting,” suggests Shelley Simpson, Director of Sales at The Virginian Hotel. “For instance, we hosted a revenue conference and when the attendees left the meeting room for their afternoon break, they were presented with stations of food and music themed around money. Who doesn’t love chocolate gold coins and the sound of ‘Money’ by Pink Floyd?”

Simpson adds that at a meeting between two merging companies, incorporating a theme of “popular pairs” was very well-received. “This can be a scary and difficult time
for employees who are going through a merger,” she notes.

“So we decided to lighten it up a bit by offering two-ingredient snacks that create the perfect combo such as chocolate-covered strawberries, grilled cheese and tomato soup, and bacon-wrapped dates. All the while the attendees listened to songs like ‘Come Together’ by the Beatles and ‘Just the Two of Us’ by Will Smith. Two is always better than one!”

2. Highlight the local community
Involving your local community through venue and/or food selection is a great way to make employees feel more connected to the area they serve and to support other local businesses. “Attendees want a mixture of educational/meeting time and an opportunity to experience the local area,” says Jennifer Adamczyk, Director of Sales at Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites. “Including local food and attractions in the overall planning is always a hit.”

If possible (and logical), using multiple local venues can make for an even more dynamic meeting experience. “We’ve had some groups utilize a multi-venue conference to get people moving around and engaging in different spaces in the community, which has proven to be successful,” says Kimberly Wolfe, Director of Sales at the Craddock Terry Hotel & Event Center.

Regardless of the particular local site you choose, offsite meetings are always preferable to onsite meetings. “Office environments are great for day-to-day meetings, but I believe that to get people thinking differently, you need to create a different environment,” says Tommy Clark, owner of Mission House Coffee.

3. Tap into apps—but don’t rely too heavily on technology
Meeting apps are becoming more and more popular due to their versatility and eco-friendliness. These apps can help participants enjoy a more streamlined conference experience. “I love meeting apps such as ‘Engagefully’,” Simpson says. “This app allows you to have a one-stop show for everything you need to know about the conference before you even attend. You can use it for information on lodging, meeting agendas, and floor plans, and you can even use it to engage with other people attending the conference.”

Technology will undoubtedly play a significant role in any business meeting, but it should be used judiciously and not overshadow the objectives at hand. “While new and exciting technology can be great, it can also lead to disorganization and miscommunication,” Clark says. “It’s important to find what technology you want to utilize and get everyone on board with the same tech. Allow people’s minds to be consumed with thinking creatively over trying to figure out the technology.”

Creative thinking emerges largely from interactions with other people rather than from interactions with technology, so technology also shouldn’t eclipse collaboration in a meeting environment. “I don’t think it’s necessarily the newest technology that’s important to meeting success as much as it is employing new creative techniques,” Wolfe says. “When you meet face to face, you’re creating that engagement and comradery with your colleagues that we all need to take the time to do every now and then.”

4. Keep lines of communication open
Although practically all business meetings utilize a lecture period, efforts should be made to keep these periods to a minimum and to encourage both formal and informal attendee participation. “The best ideas are the ones that make the meeting more personal,” Clark notes. “Allowing opportunities to share personal experiences and thoughts creates an environment of inclusiveness and teamwork. If it’s going to be a more informative meeting, include little things in the meeting to encourage friendly competition (identifying mistakes in the presentation, for example) or have people share random 30-second stories that relate to whatever topic you may have at hand.”

The physical setup of a conference room can also make a significant difference in creating a more personal environment. “We recommend seating attendees in rounds or crescent rounds for better networking and engagement,” Adamczyk notes.

5. Make sure the meeting format suits the meeting objective
When it comes to the length and specific format of a business meeting or conference, there is no one right answer. That said, thinking outside of the box and breaking away from traditional formats could prove successful. “The length of the meeting is not necessarily as important as how you break it up,” Clark says. “Most meetings are divided into predictable sections (ice breaker, overview of meeting, substance, feedback). Making the format more fluid and less predictable allows people to stay engaged longer.”

Regardless of the format, breaks are imperative, and breaks that involve incentives are preferred. “I think it’s just important to realize that you have to have a captive audience,” Wolfe says. “You can’t do too much straight meeting for hours on end without a break or you lose people’s engagement and interest. If you are doing an all-day meeting, incorporate breaks, games, prizes, and raffles. Make it memorable.”