Sparking the Meetings Experience

Spark Associations Now May/June 2016 Issue By: Kristin Clarke, CAE

It's no longer about planning an event. It's about designing an experience, says Don Neal of 360 Live Media. Doing so will result in his "6 R's," which include revenue, reach, and return on investment.

If the bubbly energy around your meeting has deflated, Don Neal of 360 Live Media knows what to do: Pump in personalized pizzazz.

"Events are in desperate need of becoming experiences that allow audiences to savor the moment while looking ahead to something that will inspire, connect, or surprise them," says Neal, a recent keynoter at ASAE's 2016 Springtime Expo. "But designing experiences is different from planning an event."

Among common missteps he sees are attempts to incrementally change the existing meeting model through "better sameness," rather than by "stepping back, looking at a three-year horizon, and asking, 'How do we migrate to this new experiential immersion?'"

After examining event objectives, designers should move through his "six R's."

  • Relevance. Are the meeting's activities relevant to the broadest array of attendees?
  • Reputation. Is the association building reputation by making the event a manifestation of how it wants to be seen by its membership?
  • Retention. Is it meeting the needs of the largest membership segments? To Neal, a 60 percent retention rate affirms this.
  • Reach. Is it reaching the broadest part of the membership?
  • Revenue. Is the meeting achieving revenue growth of 10 to 15 percent?
  • Return on investment. Is it producing a solid bottom line?

Experiential meetings also require more inclusion. "The most successful are where the CEO, COO, and education and marketing departments are working as a cohesive team, not siloed," says Neal.

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Immersive Conferences."]

Kristin Clarke, CAE

Kristin Clarke, CAE, is president of Clarke Association Content and is the books columnist for Associations Now.