This is part two of a two-part series about transforming a boring meeting into an exciting corporate event. Last week we looked at how to devise a corporate meeting strategy that is focused and delivers a cohesive theme. In addition, we discussed how to inject surprise into your meeting and ways to save your sanity by using resources like a corporate event planner.

Today, we conclude this series with information about using the environment to reinforce your message, tech-savvy ways to engage the audience, and how to pay attention to the tiny details that can become big problems if overlooked.

6. Be smart about venue.

Nobody ever said a corporate meeting has to take place in a stale ballroom or nondescript lecture hall. The environment of your event sets the tone. Consider unusual spaces that will enhance your purpose and theme. With the right corporate event experts on your team you can transform any space into the perfect venue for your meeting.

If your focus is to rejuvenate your team consider a teaching space in a local spa, yoga studio, or wellness center. To stimulate both the right and left brain of your attendees look for available spaces in art galleries, museums, or concert halls. Depending on your theme, an aquarium or library may be the most suitable environment to reinforce your message.

The key is to free yourself from the constraints of traditional meeting tropes. Shaking up the venue choice is one of the easiest, most effective ways to instantly alter your employees’ usual expectations.

7. Make acknowledgement meaningful.

Meetings are a great opportunity to recognize employees for accomplishments, time served, and their unique contribution to the overall success of the organization. Depending on the size of your organization you may want to find a way to acknowledge every participant. This is the perfect way to tie in your theme—and it doesn’t have to be complicated. If your focus is about celebration, buy a box of party horns and label each with the name of an employee and a characteristic of theirs that you want to celebrate.

In addition to acknowledging milestones like work anniversaries, include personal highlights like birthdays, births, marriages, completion of higher education, etc. This will reinforce the organization’s investment in the whole person, not just the part they bring to work with them each day.

If you give out awards for MVPs or outstanding workplace accomplishments add comments and congratulations from colleagues and family members to your presentation. Using video or audio to share these personal messages will make the award that more meaningful—and will inspire everyone to shoot for the same kind of acknowledgement and validation in the future.

8. Go for gamification.

When it comes to making your meeting interactive, you can’t do much better than gamification. The idea is to turn learning into an experience that’s similar to a video game. The focus is on learning, achievement, and rewards. Look into renting iPads or offering a smartphone app for all attendees so everyone can participate in gamification activities throughout the hours or days of the meeting.

The simplest form of gamification to add to your event is audience participation. Audience response systems let attendees interact in real time with fellow attendees, speakers, and panels. It instantly transforms a traditional lecture into an interactive learning event. Poll Everywhere is an app that turns any mobile device into an interactive tool that allows participants and presenters to ask and answer questions and provide feedback. Responses can be shared instantly and incorporated into a web or PowerPoint presentation.

If you have a multi-day event, use a tool like SCANVenger Hunt or Go Game to create interactive scavenger hunts that encourage participation, networking, and learning. You might be thinking, “Ideas like this are appealing, but who has time to put it all together?” That’s where a professional corporate event planner can make the difference—they have all the time and resources to integrate gamification into your event and make it truly memorable.

9. Don’t forget the details.

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You can have the most exciting speaker ever, but if no one can find the restroom, let alone the location of their afternoon breakout session, that frustration is what they’re most likely to remember. Participants shouldn’t notice any of the behind-the-scenes details that make an event go smoothly. Take the time to have the forethought and personnel in place to prevent simple mistakes that make you look disorganized or careless.

Have an organized welcome and orientation station. Provide name tags that include something about each attendee such as their job title. And never use name tags with pins—participants invest in their clothes and expecting them to poke holes in them is disrespectful.

Be sure to clearly mark all rooms on a map and throughout the building. If you’re in a particularly confusing building, place guides in strategic spots to help direct attendees. Other things to consider include fresh water and coffee in all meeting rooms or a central networking area, enough wastebaskets to accommodate discarded cups and napkins (and make sure they get taken out frequently to avoid overflow), and a plentiful supply of paper products in the restroom.

Create a checklist of all the small things that need to be attended to and assign someone to be responsible for each one. If you’re using a corporate event planner they probably already have a list that covers everything. Let them help you identify the most common blunders and make a plan to avoid them.

10. Take the temperature of the room.

It’s been said that you can’t repair a bicycle while you’re riding it, but that’s exactly what you need to do when you’re presenting a corporate meeting. Designate yourself and a couple key members of the leadership team to check in with participants throughout the day. Ask them if they like the format, if the speakers have been engaging, and if their expectations have been met or let down so far.

Events that take place over multiple days give you the most opportunity to adjust course if needed, but even if you only have a one-day event you can still take advantage of participant feedback. Make sure someone in the room is monitoring the mood and levels of participation. Empower them to jump in and steer the direction of a presentation if things start to get off course or add something to infuse the room with energy.

Your designated monitor should also keep an eye out for the physical comforts of the space including ample seating, appropriate temperature, audio-visual issues, and easy access to refreshments and restrooms. Constant diligence will create an experience that is focused on your message rather than the little things that can fall through the cracks.

11. Leave them wanting more.

One of the best parts of modern technology is the ability to integrate social media into your corporate event. If you use gamification, build in a follow-up aspect that encourages participation beyond the dates of the meeting. You can also have speakers make additional content available to participants to reinforce the goals of your event.

Plant the seeds for implementation and provide a forum for attendees to share successes and ideas weeks and months following the conclusion of the event. Invite enthusiastic adopters of event principles to participate as speakers or facilitators in follow-up webinars or mini-events. Offer rewards or tokens of acknowledgement to people caught trying something new after the meeting.

Your consistent reinforcement and application of the message and theme will validate the purpose of the meeting and demonstrate the organization’s commitment to excellence. Leading by example and congratulating employees you “catch in the act” afterwards are the best ways to make sure the efforts you put into your corporate meeting pay off.

Meetings are an inescapable fact of corporate life, so why not make them as painless as possible? By adopting these strategies you can create an intentional, meaningful experience that will propel your employees and organization to new heights of accomplishment and success.

This is Part 1 of "Corporate Meeting Planning: How to Turn Your Next Meeting Into an Event They Won’t Forget." Watch for Part 2 on the In The Event™ blog on Friday!

“Meeting” is one of the most dreaded words in the modern vernacular. Whether you’re the one in charge of the corporate meeting planning or someone who has to attend, there are plenty of reasons to drag your feet when it comes to meetings. But, if done right, a meeting can be more than a forced group hug.

If you’re tired of hearing associates murmur under their breath about the next big meeting, it’s time to give your corporate meeting strategy a makeover. With the right goals in mind and the proper planning you can transform the annual training meeting into an inspiring event that leaves all participants feeling valued, refreshed, and itching to get back to work and apply what they learned.

Use these 11 strategies to makeover your boring meetings and turn them into successful events the attendees can’t stop talking about.

1. Start with the end in mind.

Have you ever spent three days in a corporate meeting only to leave regretting that you’ll never be able to get those hours back? The truth is, we all have. One of the biggest reasons meetings flop is that they are not executed with an overall strategy in mind. Outlining a clear objective for your meeting will make it much easier to include activities and information that will be meaningful and enriching to all attendees.

Focus on the purpose of the meeting and build your whole program around that central idea. Having a meeting for the sake of having a meeting is not worthwhile. Speak to employees or do an anonymous survey (tools like SurveyMonkey are great for this) to find out what’s currently missing in your corporate culture.

You can also get an idea of any skills gaps that are frustrating your employees or slowing down progress. Focus on the people who are on the front lines and weigh their input just as heavily—if not more than—suggestions from management. Once you know what’s needed, plan your event to fill those gaps. Identify specific outcomes you want to achieve and tailor your meeting to facilitate them.

2. Carefully select a theme.

Once you know what the primary purpose of your corporate meeting is, it’s time to choose a theme. Having a theme can be what makes a boring meeting feel like a true event. Themes should drive home the message of the event and add elements of fun and inclusion. A well-executed theme will help the goals of the event take root so that attendees will remember them long after the meeting concludes.

Themes can center on a key phrase or word, a symbol, or even a story or metaphor that helps the message come to life for the attendees. You should weave your theme throughout every aspect of the event—promo visuals, posters, notes, presentations, meals, activities, giveaways—the more often the theme is reinforced the easier it will be for everyone to remember.

Consider your company values and mission statement when selecting the theme. If you can tie the theme to the foundational tenets of the organization, the impact will be even greater. Themes that help engage both sides of the brain are the most successful. Don’t shy away from themes that appeal to participants both logically and emotionally.

3. Put the right people in charge.

One of the fastest ways to deflate the impact of your meeting is to leave your staff to organize everything. It’s hard to feel like you’re getting something out of a meeting that you’ve been working on for the past month. Reaching out to a professional corporate event planner is a smart way to insulate your staff from the taxing process of preparation.

When you attend a meeting that you’re also in charge of, it’s hard to feel inspired or nurtured. Give your best performers a break when it comes to corporate meeting planning and you’ll reap the rewards. Not only will it keep them focused on their regular jobs, but having them in the milieu as true participants will bolster the experience of all attendees.

A professional corporate event planner will also help you stay true to your purpose and theme. They will see your organization and the upcoming meeting with new eyes that can provide fresh ideas and new perspectives. It’s also great to have someone you can count on for the details. Your planner will make sure everything is in place and ready to go so you can focus on interacting with your associates and spreading the message of your event.

4. Try some risky business.

What makes an event memorable? It’s not another string of speakers with clunky PowerPoint presentations. To truly shake things up and make the leap from meeting to event, consider doing something unexpected.

Following a morning of training, load everyone onto a bus and head to a nearby bowling alley or miniature golf course. Prepare a goody bag that includes things they’ll need for the outing: socks, sunscreen, visors. Surprising your staff with a fun excursion will definitely be memorable. Have prizes for different achievements that exemplify your theme.

Other ideas include providing seated massage at breaks, offering stress management classes like Tai Chi or yoga, or rolling out a karaoke machine after lunch. Whatever you choose make sure it reinforces your theme and provides value to your participants. That value can be skill-building, team-building, or simply showing your staff that their health and wellness are a priority to the organization.

5. Embrace the concept of “edu-tainment.”

There’s no denying the fact that one of the biggest reasons we have meetings is to provide training. But just because it’s training doesn’t mean it has to be boring. When people attend a corporate meeting they expect to learn and grow. Capitalize on that expectation by engaging and retaining the receptive attitude your participants bring with them.

Seek out presenters who are passionate and bring the material to life. Anyone who uses humor to captivate their audience will be an instant hit. Use your corporate event planner to identify possible speakers who may be outside your industry but in line with your purpose. Hearing from an outsider can be a great catalyst for creative thinking and new ideas.

Find ways to combine learning and entertainment. Use group activities to demonstrate principles rather than lecturing about them. Provide ample opportunities for questions, comments, and sharing best practices. Intersperse trivia questions throughout a presentation to encourage independent thought and participation.

Watch the fine line between delivering information in an entertaining way and being cheesy. Make sure that your approach to “edutainment” is intelligent and doesn’t dumb down your message or your audience. If you can master this artful dance, you will end up with a transformative corporate meeting that impacts the productivity, motivation, and ingenuity of your employees.

This is part one of a two-part series. Check back on Friday for the rest of our secrets to make your next meeting a buzz-worthy corporate event. Here’s a preview of what we have in store for you.

6. Be smart about venue.

7. Make acknowledgement meaningful.

8. Go for gamification.

9. Don’t forget the details.

10. Take the temperature of the room.

11. Leave them wanting more.