I saw the above image on icanhascheezburger.com (a popular site dedicated to the internet phenomenon of "Lol Cats"--cats with often-misspelled captions that make you laugh out loud).
This poor captioned-kitty isn't alone in its feelings. In fact, around the internet--whether in advertising, cartoons, or lol cats, the joke is on meetings: corporate meetings are "boring". Period. Everyone "knows" it. It's ubiquitous and universal.
So when a company hosts a large meeting or event, they're already fighting against that preconceived notion which, by the way, has *plenty* of evidence to back up the perception.
You know what? Most corporate meetings ARE boring. Presenters are strung together one after another with little thought to the overall messaging. Presentations are given out of obligation--and without consideration for engaging the audience. (The goal shouldn't be just to present the information--which it often seems to be--but to actually present it so that audiences GET it.)
Changing your meeting from boring to effective is one task (and it's not so monumental as one might think), but how does one change that, "This meeting is going to be booooring" attitude BEFORE the event? It starts before attendees walk in the room, get on a plane or leave their homes.
- Pre-event materials that are fun and focused. Don't miss the opportunity to "market" your meeting--even if it's an internal audience. Send them pre-event reminders, building up excitement and making it clear that this will NOT be a typical meeting-as-usual.
- Pre-event videos. Record a clip of the keynote speaker, president, CEO, etc., previewing the event. In our case, if a company has used an AniMate in the past, we'll have the AniMate record the message conveying his/her excitement for the upcoming event.
- Pre-event buzz. Bring your event online. Create a website, if possible, detailing the event and providing a space for attendees to talk about it. You can also use social media outlets--like Facebook or Twitter--to get discussions going about what people want to take away, personally, from the upcoming meeting.
- Surveys and pre-work. Send out pre-meeting surveys, asking attendees what they'd like to see at the event. Even if presentations aren't flexible, these issues or questions can make the presentation more relevant for attendees. If necessary, there can be a special time dedicated to addressing key content, or a presentation can be swapped out for a more relevant one. You can even assign attendees pre-work that prepares them for the event at hand.
- Publish the Agenda. Distribute the agenda along with key take-aways. This prepares attendees for the learning that's about to occur in the event and also gets them thinking about how it will be relevant for them.
Now putting that change into effect once they get into the room (and immediately when they get in the room) is another list altogether.