In recent years advances in meeting design, behavioural science, ROI methodology, event technology and audience engagement have created the potential for meetings and events to deliver much more value. However we have to stress the word potential.

The challenges facing events and meetings

The biggest challenge for the business events industry is that we do not use the tools that are available to us to improve our events. We know that the bar can be set pretty low for some of our business events and I don’t just mean low from the attendees point of view, it’s from the organisers too. I remember asking an incredibly busy event manager at one of my clients:

“How do you know that your conference has been a success? Easy she said. “No one complains at the end of the day”

Knowing how the organisation viewed the events they ran, and the shear number of events she was in charge of, this was a necessarily crude measurement. But in an environment with so much to do and so little time it was an effective one. However this was evidence that this particular organisation was simply striving not to make attendees mad rather than striving to make them happy. We have tools to help very event raise the bar.

Where do attendees set the bar when they attend our business events?

So if that is where one organisation placed the bar, what is the attendees perspective? Well unfortunately we know the following to be the case. A day out of the office at an exhibition that generates one or two new leads is deemed a success. A day at a conference where they learn one or two bits of useful information matches many peoples expectations. As an industry we really should be doing all we can to make sure that people achieve so moocher when they attend one of our events.

It’s not only in the world of exhibitions and conferences but the issues are similar for large internal meetings. I’ve gone into organisations and spoken to staff, stakeholders and past attendees at events. The staff tell me that they often return from the annual sales conference deflated and disillusioned. Guests come back from internal and external networking events having network only with the people they know. Annual conferences are flat, boring and often a rehash of old content. I’d confidently say that those events were not making full use of: meeting design, behavioural science, event technology or audience engagement.

But we can raise the bar. As organisers we can hope for more than not being shouted at by our attendees at the end of our events. And as attendees we can strive for more than a handful of business cards and a bladder full of always strangely grey coloured tea. We can run better meetings and events.

The bar can not remain so low forever; raising it is the challenge!

Things are changing but I would argue not quickly enough. The newer entrants into the business world simply won’t accept what, for now, passes as a successful business event. But that’s OK because we have the tools which can help us to create these new events. They are in reach for every organisation to use. So let’s use them and let’s raise the bar.

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