Today's trends are making a huge difference in the length and format of meetings. Attendees no longer want to sit passively during a session — they expect to be active participants in what's being presented. The time has come to think beyond the u-shape and outside the square conference setup. Here are just a few novel approaches from the Kiawah Island conference team to help you increase participation and engagement:
Try this twist on the typical lecturer-to-audience set up. Arrange your group in a circle with the content leader(s) in the middle speaking to everyone around them. Begin your session like a traditional presentation, but after 15 or 20 minutes have the leader stop talking. Then invite the circle of participants to collectively discuss the subject, while the leader takes on a new role as facilitator. He or she keeps the questions and answers flowing around the room and lets the group drive their own learning. The results of this ring of discussion? Participants can actually see everyone else and get a take on colleagues' reactions (that's significant). They also get to hear other's experiences and gain a vast array of new perspectives during free-flowing discussion with their colleagues.
Experiment with this simple and effective way to tap the collective wisdom of your group. Ask your conference planner to arrange an environment that mimics a typical café, setting up enough small round tables with four or five chairs at each to accommodate your group. Add colored pens for notes and decorate the tables with café-style items if you wish. At the start of the session, welcome everyone to the café and introduce the question(s) about leadership, strategy or whatever you want to discuss. The right questions are key because they drive engagement and a meaningful dialogue. Let participants discuss the question at their tables for about 20 to 30 minutes. Then have them switch tables to interact with a new set of colleagues. Do this at least three or four times. At the end of the sessions, a group discussion is conducted to glean key insights and ideas, which can be summarized by the leader on whiteboards or flipcharts at the front of the room. The outcome can be a surprising and energizing mash-up of new ideas!
Even when your meeting requires presenter-driven content, participants want that content quickly, followed by a chance to talk about what they've heard and why its relevant. In a typical collaborative session, the speaker begins by making his or her presentation about a specific challenge you want to solve for your organization. Then the group is randomly divided into teams to brainstorm how to solve it. If you wish, the group can vote to decide what group came up with the best solution(s). These collaborative sessions are popular with attendees because they're a fresh way to approach typical meetings and they build team relationships. Every participant is involved and knows his or her opinions are valued. Another positive element is that everyone has a chance to come with those big, new ideas — and there's that compelling element of competition too.
The heart of any meeting is finding ways to open people up to new ideas and create significant learning experiences. The Kiawah Island conference team can help you find ways to bring new meaning and connection to your meetings. As a bonus, you'll be meeting at the destination voted the #1 Island in North America by the readers of Condé Nast Traveler. To find out more about hosting an innovative meeting on Kiawah Island, contact our Director of Group Sales Marty Couch and his team at 800.576.1585.