3 Ways to Maximize the Value of Your Meeting or Conference

In a previous post (read here), I shared the results of a recent Forbes survey that showed business executives still overwhelmingly believe in the value of face-to-face meetings. I also shared my belief that the same reasons given by the executives surveyed also hold true for Christian meetings and retreats.

Rally to Ridgecrest

There is definitely value in the personal interaction of face-to-face meetings, but as meeting planners, you must be intentional in fostering and maximizing the personal interaction that occurs during your event. Here are 3 things you can do to help make sure this happens:

  • Provide meaningful takeaways for your attendees – Whether it be the general sessions or the breakouts offered, work with your presenters to improve the quality of their material. Give those attending something they can really sink their teeth into. Also make sure the sessions are relevant to those attending your event. It could be a great presentation, but if it doesn’t connect with the audience and their needs, it’s pretty much a waste of their time.
  • Provide more networking opportunities – This is a huge one for me personally. When I attend a conference I feel I get as much, or more, from the networking than I do from the scheduled sessions. Be intentional about this, not only during the conference, but also before and after. Social media makes this easier than ever before. Create an online community where attendees and speakers can interact before, during and after your conference.
  • Provide more value to your sponsors and exhibitors – Sometimes these folks are forgotten, or taken for granted, by meeting planners. We’re probably a little unique in that we experience meetings and conferences from all angles (event sponsor, exhibitor, event planner and event host site) so we’ve seen this done well and not so well. If your event has sponsors/exhibitors never forget that these folks are helping to pay the cost of your conference. Be very intentional about optimizing exhibitor/attendee time. As an exhibitor or sponsor, I do not have an unlimited budget for tradeshows and conferences. Thus I’m going to focus my limited dollars on those events where I get the best bang for my buck.

What about your events? What are you doing to maximize the value for your attendees?

Is There Still Value In Face-to-Face Meetings?

Since the economic downturn began in 2008, many organizations have struggled with justifying the expenses associated with holding, or attending conferences. I can certainly understand this as we’ve wrestled with these same issues. “Can I afford to bring my remotely located staff together for a retreat? Can I afford to attend that training? Can I afford to attend my association’s annual conference? Can I afford NOT to do any of these things?”

Tough questions for tough economic times. Fortunately we are starting to see some studies validating the value of face to face meetings. This past summer, Forbes released a study entitled “Business Meetings: The Case for Face to Face“. The study surveyed over 750 businesses and asked whether or not web conferences, video conferences and other virtual meetings can really take the place of face to face meetings.

For those of us who plan, or host conferences, the results are encouraging. 80% said they preferred face to face meetings over virtual meetings! Here are the top 3 reasons they gave for their preference:

  1. Helps to build stronger, more meaningful relationships
  2. Allows them to read body language and facial expressions
  3. Greater social interaction

Also in the survey, the executives were asked which specific business actions or outcomes were best served through face to face interaction. As you might expect, they listed some pretty important actions:

  • Persuasion (91%)
  • Leadership (87%)
  • Engagement (87%)
  • Inspiration (85%)
  • Decision Making (82%)
  • Accountability (79%)
  • Brainstorming (73%)
  • Strategy (73%)

While this study focused on business executives, I think the findings are still applicable to the world of Christian meetings and retreats. At the end of the day, people still prefer personal interaction over looking and talking to someone on a computer screen. The question for us is, what are we doing to foster and maximize the value of that personal interaction?