By TIFANI JONES
Kalahari Resorts & Conventions
We live in a very distracting world. 24/7 news, pictures, video and smart phone notifications disrupt our thoughts and turn our attention very quickly from one thing to the next. The next time you’re in a meeting, look around. You’ll likely see coworkers answering texts, taking phone calls, doodling in their notebooks and scrolling Instagram. Currently, the most consumable video content on social media averages only six seconds long. Six seconds! Research shows the average person can only pay attention to a given task for 20 minutes without self-interruption. So how can you hold people’s attention for a meeting, training or conference? Here are 10 ideas to embrace distraction and turn a ho-hum business event or meeting into something special.
- Hire Speakers to Deliver Your Topics. Presenters who attendees see every day might not be the best to deliver important training and messages. Consider hiring engaging speakers to make an impact.
- Provide Purposeful Disruption.
A 15- or 30-minute activity may be exactly what your meeting needs in the afternoon or in between sessions to get participants ready to focus. Consider taking a dance party break or leading a yoga break to keep attendees engaged.
- Embrace Brevity.
Rather than holding 60- or 90-minute sessions, try 6- or 18-minute ones. The popularity of PechaKucha and TED talks support the idea of breaking up information into smaller pieces.
- Think Differently About Meeting Spaces.
Hold one of your breakout sessions in a cocktail lounge, or outside on a ropes course, or In a waterpark. Put the chairs on a riser and have the speaker in the center of his audience. Hold a standing meeting. Create rectangular pods, where two or four seats are facing each other. Initially, these setups may make attendees feel uncomfortable, but if you change it up every session, they’ll look forward to what’s next.
- Create a Question Wall.
This wall, whether it’s physical or digital, should be in a central location where attendees can ask any question of any person during the entire length of the program. If it’s a physical wall, at the end of the conference you’ll need to make sure all the questions are answered. If it’s digital, attendees, speakers and your staff can keep the thread visible, showing multiple points of view on a question.
- Have Your Executive Team Check In Attendees.
Rather than only appearing on stage, your C-suite can greet attendees, thank them for being there and do the work your admin staff normally completes. This simple change allows organic engagement with participants and the executives they may not see every day. It also sets the stage for a meeting of peers where everyone is interacting with each other.
- Carefully Select Your Menu.
Food is fun and can help keep attendees alert and looking forward to what’s next. The wrong snacks can cause them to want an afternoon nap rather than an interactive brainstorming session.
- Assign Roles and Set Goals.
Create roles for each participant and let attendees know the specific inputs, ideas and proposals you expect from each meeting or session. This increases anticipation for the meeting which goes a long way to increasing attendance and engagement.
- Play Games.
Games build teamwork and they’re fun, letting attendees get to know each other in a new way. Whether it’s board games, ice breakers or an improv session, use games to engage.
- Maximize Use of a Mobile App, Digital and Social Channels.
Get rid of binders, paper and posters. Keep attendees connected to your conference in the way they like to engage. Try Facebook Live or live tweeting your sessions. Create an event hashtag everyone can follow. Participants will stay engaged and network with other conference attendees.
Tifani Jones is Corporate Director of Sales for Kalahari Resorts & Conventions, where she oversees a team of event professionals who have hosted more than 22,000 group events at the resort’s locations nationwide. Jones is passionate about the meetings industry with more than 20 years experience in hotel and hospitality as director of sales for both Marriott and Sheraton brand hotels, and the Wisconsin Dells Visitor & Convention Bureau. For information on Kalahari services for trade shows and events, call 855-411-4605 or email OHGroups@KalahariResorts.com.