Meeting design for transformative experiences

Meeting design for transformative experiences

According to, the term meeting has many meanings, and many synonyms. It struck me that the synonyms are the words we need to more carefully consider when we are designing our meetings if we want them to be effective.

What do I mean by effective? If we consider the origin of meeting design as a philosophy that began around 2009 with the Meeting Architecture Manifesto, and as a stakeholder deliverable as laid out in the Event Design Handbook in 2016 it comes down to creating behavior change.

Why is this important? If everything is going to remain the same – f we want to have the same conversations, run our businesses in exactly the same way, ignoring the massive global shifts affecting us as organizations and individuals, we don’t need to meet.

Let’s assume however, we are designing a meeting. How do we use the power of meeting design to deliver change? Given the desire to move from meeting to experience now to transformational, it starts with a plan. I found going through the event model generation process as we designed our Summit this year was key to obtaining the critical stakeholder buy-in we needed to build on the first year’s success. This program has been launched through our key industry associations – MPI across Canada, IMEX, PCMA and others, and is now available in seven languages. Its unprecedented approach to strategic meeting design, from university event programs to the largest organizations, has the potential to transform a collective approach to effective meeting design, and using it has been interesting.

Take a look at the synonyms below for meeting, we did end up building on many of the words below, in ways I did not necessarily anticipate and I include examples you may use to build upon in your own meetings.

Synonyms for meeting from

7. confront. 8. join, connect, intersect, converge, unite. 17. collect. 23. contest, competition.

Confront. Great keynote speakers are often the penultimate way we drive a shift in attitude, and working with your key speakers to provide the information that allows them to craft their message in way that will resonate with your unique audience is critical. This is the time in your meeting to challenge thinking and push boundaries and leave people talking to each other following these sessions.

Join, connect, intersect, converge, unite. Marketplace and workshop spaces which build on our historical human need for gathering in tribes and building community are a key part of successful meetings. We sell our boss on attendance based on our potential takeaway learning from a program agenda, but we return to meetings based on the connections we make to other human beings and the intersections of ideas. This year we tested an open learning space with “tech talks,” and it became a repeatable highlight.

Collect. For the individual having time and space between sessions and meetings to reflect and gather your thoughts is important.

For the group, each networking opportunity provides time and space to share your ideas, bouncing them off one another, test theories, and make linkages which can drive your business forward.

We also collect knowledge, or build on skills as we go through a meeting experience, and this becomes one of the most important collectables in creating a change in behaviour post-meeting.

Being able to measure this comes from collecting data through pre-event or on-site polls and with post-event surveys. Collecting data is also the way you can determine if you meet your core objectives laid out in the initial design phase.

Contest, competition. Each meeting participant – business leader, organization, or individual – is seeking a way to stand out and be noticed or recognized. This can be done using gamification and leaderboards, through formal recognition programs, through awarding speaking spots to those exhibiting thought leadership, and of course through the activations your sponsors and exhibitors each bring to create those standout moments.

How will you evolve your meeting design to leave your participants with a transformative experience they want to return to again and again? Comment below and let us know!

About the author:

Tahira Endean, CMP, DES, CED, is a curious event producer, passionate about intentional event design and the integration of now-ubiquitous technology to enhance the human experience at events and everyday. Tahira is committed to the industry and has been recognized for a range of contributions. In 2016, she was named a MeetingsNet Changemaker, and nominated in Vancouver for Global Meetings Industry Day Influencer and MPI BC Chapter Mentor of the Year. In 2015 she was named one of the “Top 5 Women in Event Technology”, was inducted into the Meetings Canada Hall of Fame in the Big Idea category, and most recently was one of Canada’s 20 most Fascinating Women in events from Canadian Special Event magazine. Driven by a fascination with what we are learning about neuroscience and the power of the five senses to enhance memory, knowledge retention and improve connections, she is continually seeking appropriate ways to design the most relevant meeting and event environments. An instructor at BCIT, the British Columbia Institute of Technology, she instructs both Special Event Planning and Sustainable Event Management. She contributed to the 9th CIC Manual which provides the framework for the CMP studies. She is the author of Intentional Event Design: Our Professional Opportunity. Tahira also loves cooking, time with her family, and anything with bubbles!

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