A little creative disruption can elevate excitement, enthusiasm, and participation at your next meeting or event.

Your meeting is underway. A roomful of fresh attendees has taken their seats. A captive audience waits to be dazzled, entertained, trained, enlightened. And then… after the “good to see you’s” and “thanks for comings,” somebody launches into a 90-slide PowerPoint presentation? Crickets. There’s coffee and crullers at the breakout session? Face palms and stifled yawns. Another oh-so-relevant Ted Talk to “break things up a bit?” Cue the smart phones.

What you need to get this show on the road is some creative disruption; a surprise element that triggers and sustains interest and attention and, according to Successful Meetings, often leading to transformative experiences. From the venue and content to food and event design, the pressure to stay fresh and relevant is an ever-present challenge for today’s planners. Here are a few thought-starters:

  • GIVE INTROVERTS MORE TIME. “Studies show that 40 to 50 percent of meeting attendees are introverts, yet the majority of meetings are designed for extroverts. It is important to consider the needs of introverts throughout the meeting. They may need to sleep on questions posed rather than compete with extroverts for quick idea production. It may help if you provide a space for them to post follow-up comments such as in a kiosk or on a whiteboard for all to see.
  • JAZZ UP COFFEE BREAKS. One area of a meeting that desperately needs creative disruption is the coffee break, says Sharon Fisher, CEO of Play With a Purpose, an interactive learning company. She recommends disrupting traditional coffee breaks with those that encourage interaction, like “daydreaming rooms,” where attendees can doodle on a wall about their dreams and aspirations or creating a “flash learning mob” where passionate conversations about your sessions and content can take place.
  • PUT PLANTS IN THE AUDIENCE. Think of Saturday Night Live, which frequently uses cast members planted in the audience to take part in exchanges with the host that add an element of fun, confrontation, and entertainment to the monologue. Such a scenario easily translates to creative disruption at meetings and conferences. The in-house team knows the personalities in the audience and who would be a good participant in a role playing exercise, responsive to a question, representative of a position, or provider of archival history. Presenters interacting with people well known to the group will add another element to the experience.
  • BRING ON THE PACHYDERMS. At the association meetings he has planned, Dr. Elliott B. Jaffa, a marketing and behavioral psychologist, has arranged creative disruptions that included bringing in a baby elephant for attendees to pet and hiring a juggler who flings screeching chainsaws into the air. Alecia May, CEO of Eventistry by Alecia, recommends activities like belly dancing, yoga, Hula-Hooping – anything that gets smiles on faces and energy levels up.

Boredom and monotony are productivity killers, so don’t ignore the elephant in the room… invite the elephant into the room! There are dozens of ways to make the time more engaging and more worthwhile for your attendees. Have the courage to reinvent your next meeting or event with creative disruptions that capture attention and provoke participation.


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