It’s always very impressive when you read about some of the fantastic new technologies available to conference and meeting organisers at professional venues and hotels. Apps and websites galore. Interactive voting systems. Facebook and twitter feeds updating the delegate as they go.
But let’s look at this digital communication the other way round. What exactly are you doing here? Encouraging your delegates to liaise and focus on their mobile phones or iPad screens and this is not always such a great idea.
As Sue Pelletier points out in a useful meetingsnet post: ‘what participants almost always say is the best part of every meeting, [is] those hallway conversations’ and this is a spontaneous process. “Does your app replace making connections with people they may find interesting with making appointments with sponsors and exhibitors who have paid to meet them?”
Neither approach is wrong and both can be fruitful and bear long-term benefits. But here are three key ways to keep the human element to the fore when you are planning your next ‘all singing, all dancing, technology-led conference:
· Include an ice-breaker that encourages delegates to find out a bit more about their conference neighbour.
· Give lunch tables a pre-dining brain storming topic to discuss and report back on. Set a strict 10 minute time limit to reduce starvation! You will find that this gives every delegate permission to carry on talking to their new contacts stimulating stronger relationships and business connections.
· Include a strong human element in any entertainment you arrange. A cartoonist is more personal than a photo-booth. A live gypsy swing trio is more compelling than a playlist. A farewell goodie bag with a delicious chocolate is more exciting than a memory stick.
As they say in Ireland “the Craic is what getting together is all about”!
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