4 Major Ways to Make Your Next Meeting or Conference More Participatory
Nov 30, 2011 by DeDe Mulligan
meetingEveryone is talking about increasing attendee participation and interactivity, but there are no real guidelines to make it happen. From registration to the last function of your meeting, it is important for attendees to always feel welcome. Some experienced meeting planners recently weighed in on this topic on a LinkedIn PCMA Group Discussion. Below, is a synopsis of their thoughts, along with a few of my own.

REGISTRATION AREA

  • Create an environment that "invites people in." Is your area, warm and inviting? Is your staff smiling and attending to the registrant’s needs?
  • Have a lot of space around the registration area for people to mingle. 
  • Call registrants "participants" rather than "attendees".
  • Have your Board of Directors, Sponsors, and/or Volunteers at the registration area to greet participants and "show them around."
  • Assign Mentors to first-time attendees and, if possible, have the mentors at the registration area ready to greet their mentee.

NETWORKING

  • Have Ambassadors be on the look out for "lost attendees." These individuals come into a networking event by themselves, and are desperately looking for a familiar face. Be that face and invite them in. 
  • Have a networking event on the eve of the conference and have Board Members serve as Ambassadors.
  • Have stations with Discussion Topics on them and encourage participants to go to the tables of interest to them. This can be completed over a meal, such as breakfast or lunch.
  • If you decide to do the Discussion Topics at a seperate time, have participants rotate to a new table after 15 or 20 minutes. 

AUDIO VISUAL

  • Sound and lighting rentals are key to increasing attendees participation. The ability to hear what the speaker and other participants are saying can increase interactivity. Wireless mics can be placed throughout the room. A dark room discourages interactivity. There are many light equipment rental options to maximize audience participation.
  • Wireless Audience Response Systems can allow participants to weigh-in on the topic anonymously while allowing event organizers to collect data instantly.
  • Rent Tablet PCs for each attendee or place one tablet on each table for small group discussions. Facilitators can share questions for group discussion, accept questions and comments via Twitter, or allow participants to make notes on the downloaded presentation.

SEATING

  • Look at the room from a networker/participant’s point of view. What seating will allow for the most interaction between multiple individuals? Or better yet, between multiple tables? 
  • Dr. Paul Radde’s book called Seating Matters: State of the Art Seating Arrangements delves into the 5 seating principals and 17 factors that can help troubleshoot any meeting room. 
  • Make certain that a lot of extra chairs and tables are not in the room. It zaps the energy out of the meeting because it allows participants to be seated yelling distance away from each other and stay primarily in the back. 

AV Event Solutions can provide your next meeting or conference with many different audio visual components to make your meeting very participatory! They have 1st and 2nd generation iPads, Tablet PCs, ARS, and sound and lighting solutions. Give them a call today!

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