How serendipity and social mobility affect thoughtful meeting design

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Serendipity is a topic dear to my meeting designer heart, and one I have explored before. Why? We attend meetings and events as stated ubiquitously and often for learning and networking.

I would go deeper than this and borrow a concept from Robin Jones (CMO at QuickMobile). “Learning at its best is either disruptive, where it really makes us consider a new perspective, or actionable, where we want to leave and try something new or in a new way, as soon as possible,” says Jones.

How serendipity and social mobility affect thoughtful meeting designWhen we consider how we can layer in technology – for note taking, image capture, access to content, surveys and quizzes, visual aids to learning retention, connection to others for relevance – the possibilities for collaborations and idea expansion are virtually unlimited.

In the recent book Social Physics, a group of researchers have used data collected from mobile device users in a continuous and contiguous fashion of big data collection over several years to find out how we can as societies improve how we live by tracking patterns. This has the ability to radically improve communities everywhere as we can learn to decipher specific needs and through the provision of resources and services to meet the specific needs of groups of people. This is big picture thinking, applied to real-life situations by people. The same kind of people who attend meetings.

So, how can we apply this to meetings? The actionable learning from this is to find ways we can use thoughtful meeting design to create the best opportunities for “idea flow” – bringing the right people together at the right time to come up with the best solutions to any variety of problems, and to not limit this to just who or what we already know but to use the power of the greater community. This can of course be done through hybrid and virtual inclusions, social media interactions and often ideally face-to-face as this is where we have the best chance to move ideas forward as we can read and respond to more human clues – visual, aural, visceral.

With the technology available now and a mobile device in nearly everyone’s pocket or purse, the ever-growing presence of tablets combined with accessible Wi-Fi, we have the ability with social media and event apps to connect people using real-time data who share a like-mindedness. We can track how people move through venues, cities and trade shows and get information that is up-to-the-minute about what is going very well (ie. keynote speakers) and what needs to be altered (ie. room temperature) and to bring people together in both planned as well as serendipitous meetings.

Does this feel a little “Big Brother” to those of us who have been planning meetings, collecting paper surveys and figuring out how to do it all better the next year, instead of in the next hour? The reality is, the data is all available if we take advantage of it. We need to move past any residual fear and explore the options now available to enhance our participant experiences and keep the people in your organizations ahead of the curve.

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