When I began writing Intentional Event Design: Our Professional Opportunity, it was to delve into and provide information on designing events that are people-centric and purpose-driven. The more I wrote, the more I realized it came down to one thing: using meetings to build trust – in the organization, between teams, and between solution providers and their potential clients. To create environments that allow the time and space for conversations is part art and part (neuro) science, and deeply understanding how humans respond to live event environments is our new currency as we build the value of our industry.
Great meetings inspire conversations
These conversations deepen trust among participants. Trusted partners engage in discussions where ideas are sparked and innovative collaborations are incubated. It is these conversations which ensure the industry or organization keeps moving forward. This premise is not new.
Human beings have been changing the world one meeting at time since before the wheel was invented. First on foot, then horseback, later in carriages and on trains, people met to celebrate, hunt, gather and share, connect and trade, and grow communities and countries. We still travel to meet because no amount of online communication will replace the connections we make face-to-face.
Growing through community
Stating the obvious, this is one of the key reasons people attend a meeting. Building a sense of community is key for associations focused on continued future growth as education becomes available on many mediums, and is critical for organizations competing on a global stage.
We often hear people say about their association membership or event attendance, “I am so happy to be with my people.” Humans long for this sense of community and the deeper connections are being lost as our lives become ever more individualized and less reliant on a community or an extended family network. Both virtual and face-to-face events allow you to build community via shared experiences among like-minded people. With a shared mission grown over time, people become business associates, colleagues and friends through membership in an association, at a traditional workplace or through digital means on a remote team, or the most powerful tool, a shared experience.
Community building at corporate meetings and incentives
For corporate events to thrive, it is important to create event spaces where ideas can intersect and grow with both internal colleagues and shared employee-client interactions. If you are planning a mandatory-attendance corporate event, you will be working with your internal teams to determine who should attend in person, who may attend virtually and the other partners you want to have participating. You may bring in supplier partners as exhibitors, instructors or learners, or you may invite clients to participate in the thought leadership being offered. It depends on the stated goals.
You may be hosting an incentive trip requiring first a long-tail sales cycle and deep partnership with the sales or service executives to develop the reward and loyalty program culminating in a reward trip. A group travel reward builds its own sense of community and deepens loyalty among top performers. Each event type requires you to inspire attendance through thoughtful messaging and clear feedback loops. There is no one way of doing this, it requires a team of planners and producers working thoughtfully to understand the entering behavior of the participants, and the desired exit behavior, and designing an event and all its components to get to the end goal, taking into account our participant’s human needs for security, care, knowledge and networking, each in their personal, unique way. Those who have mastered this skill are the most valuable asset in event design. Enjoy the process, and continue to learn and evolve our meetings to the ever-changing human, digital condition.