Takeaways? We have them. Here are 15 ideas taken from the pages of our November issue.
1. The average human attention span is eight seconds — one second shorter than that of a goldfish. Sam Horn, communications strategist, encourages the speakers she coaches to tell attendees something they don’t already know before the 60-second mark.
2. Networking doesn’t have to mean standing around holding tiny plates of food. The Northwest Human Resource Management Association (NHRMA), added events that included a ghost tour, a group painting class, and a walking food tour to boost attendee interaction at its annual meeting.
3. Don’t skimp on the charitable aspects of meetings — invest time and energy to make experiences compelling. “People would give more to charity if it weren’t so boring,” says Dan Pallotta, 2015 Convening Leaders closing speaker.
4. “Emotional analytics” technology, which analyzes the range of human emotions in speech in real time, can be used to measure the mood at meetings and events. Test the technology with Beyond Verbals free app, “Moodies.”
5. Working with local vendors to supply convention-related materials was the key to Toastmasters International saving thousands of dollars in shipping costs when it held its annual meeting in Malaysia.
6. For a memorable twist during a reception, serve hard cider in addition to beer and wine. It’s a gluten-free alternative to beer, lower in alcohol than wine, and has deep American roots.
7. Don’t let an uncomfortable meeting environment derail attendee attention. Minimize distractions. Make sure sight-lines are clear, attendees have enough personal space between chairs, the room temperature is an ideal 68-72 degrees, and outside sounds are minimized.
8. Instead of offering a multitude of breakout sessions at Convening Leaders 2015, PCMA’s educational content strategy allows attendees to start with big-picture concepts in the morning and drill down to applicable takeaways throughout the rest of the day.
9. Save money on equipment for simultaneous translation with this hack from the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences. At its annual congress, the federation asked attendees to dial into teleconferencing lines with their mobile phones.
10. Simple tweaks to make your meetings healthier. Serve water as your meeting’s default beverage, fruit or vegetables at each meal, and for less-healthy (such as fried) foods, hand out smaller utensils. A great networking break snack: A cup filled with hummus and baby carrots.
11. Don’t just make jokes about how sleepy everyone is after lunch — organize a walk or other light exercise. When people sit for a long time, their brains shut down. Exercise helps digestion and brings oxygen to the brain, improving alertness.
12. Productivity apps can be fun. The free TwoDots, for instance, is great for waking up your brain when you switch time zones.
13. Give attendees green spaces, even in winter. At Convening Leaders 2015 an indoor park inside Chicago’s McCormick Place will give attendees a place to socialize, snack, and think.
14. Find a good traffic pattern: The Transportation Research Board (TRB) of the National Academies held poster sessions in a hallway at the convention center, creating a more intimate space for presenters to talk to attendees one-on-one.
15. To stop email from gobbling up so much of your workday, web guru Guy Kawasaki advises keeping emails to five or fewer sentences.