16 Meetings Today // 07.18
Keep Your Meetings Weird!
12 ways to throw a delightful wrench in the same-old, same-old
Who wants the same-old, same-old in their meetings? From pre- sentations and breakouts to teambuilding and networking events, attendees are shaking their fists at the heavens and wailing the
plaintive cry, “Quit boring the hell out of me with your cookie-cutter meeting
At Meetings Today LIVE! MidAmerica in St. Louis, KiKi L’Italien, CEO of Am-
plified Growth and host of Association Chat, broke the mold with her “Design
Thinking for Better Engagement” presentation.
“People no longer need to meet face-to-face for the chance to network and
learn,” L’Italien said. “There are plenty of places to find that kind of thing online.
“It is critical that meeting planners understand how to take even the most
mundane meetings and create the experiences that people are looking for
when they attend a meeting,” she added.
“Design thinking uses the elements of function
and emotion, mixing the two together to create
The whole concept reinforces the value of
“This is a framework for meeting planners to
use so that they can appeal to their attendees
in a way that highlights the importance of face-
to-face connections,” L’Italien said. “People
are too busy, tired, and maybe even a little bit
jaded, these days when it comes to meetings.
But if you create an experience for them, you
are speaking directly to those things inside them that make them human.”
The meeting planners in attendance at Meetings Today LIVE! were charged
with coming up with key ways to mix up their meetings. Following are highlights
of the best ideas. Your attendees will thank you!
1. “Signature” Amenities: Why stuff amenity bags full of impersonal items?
Tell attendees to have you pack them with the things they personally enjoy,
and then give those bags to others. Great conversation starter!
2. Choose Your Experience: Get away from the one-size-fits-all syndrome.
Give meeting attendees a host of options to choose from. Yoga? A hands-on
culinary how-to? A flower arranging course with an expert that results in
table centerpieces to be used later? Everyone wants to have a say in their
3. The Snowball Effect: Write an idea on a piece of paper, ball it up and
throw it at each other. If it hits you, you read it and start a conversation.
How’s that for attendee engagement?
4. The Democratic Way: Why force attendees to sit through a presentation
with a subject they have no choice in? Select a few speakers from the
attendees, have them “pitch” the audience, and then let them decide.
5. The Wide World of Cooking: Chances are that attendees at your meetings come from a variety of backgrounds, from different regions within
the U.S. to points across the globe. Before the meeting begins, ask for
volunteers to step up and share recipes that come from their regional
and/or ethnic background. Give these to the property’s chef—with some
advance notice!—and/or have the chef lead groups to produce the recipe
6. Relaxation Surprise: Provide attendees with a welcome break in a stressful
and/or mundane day of meetings by surprising them with a pop-up
relaxation station offering soothing massages, wellness-inspired food and
aromatherapy goodness. If you want to be really
sneaky, put a fake item on the agenda requiring
their mandatory participation for what sounds like
a really tedious activity or lecture. Boom—
7. Break Outside the Box: Attendees may get over-
loaded with all the industry-specific information
they’re being bombarded with. Offer a breakout
session with topic(s) that are outside of their industry, such as wellness,
networking fun or a trivia contest. Give ’em a break!
8. Get Interactive: Studies show that giving attendees something to fiddle
with while listening to a presentation can actually improve their retention
of information. Why not include a pile of materials in the center of the
table for them to interact with together to construct a centerpiece for an
9. Bad Actor: If you really want to get frisky and take a little chance, hire a
local actor or three to pretend to be an obnoxious or funny attendee, let
them slide into their role for a while, and then present the grand “reveal” to
get your real attendees in on the joke!
10. Talkin’ ’bout My Generation: Fun-up your meeting environment by offering
a variety of seating options, from beanbag chairs and inflatable couches
to standard tables and chairs. Different generations want different seating
options. Be the conduit to their comfort.
11. Make It Sensory: Who wants to sit in a boring meeting room where your
senses are dulled by four soundwalls and stale air? Scent it up! Select scents
that fulfill a purpose and let your attendees know why their nostrils are feeling
young again. Make sure to account for allergies/sensitivities, though!
12. The Aw-Shucks Moment: Everyone loves having to travel for business and
leave their loved ones at home, right? WRONG! Before the conference begins, innocently ask attendees to share digital photos of their friends, family
and furry friends. Then, make a friend for life by room-dropping framed
photos of their significant others in their hotel room. This one is so good it’s
Featured presenter KiKi L’Italien, founder and president
of Amplified Growth and host of the online Association
Chat broadcast, fired up her mobile studio to air a
segment of Association Chat from Meetings Today
LIVE! in St. Louis. Go to bit.ly/mtlivebroadcast to see
interviews with some of the MT LIVE! participants, as
well as discussions on meetings industry issues with
Geoteaming’s John Chen and Meetings
Today Vice President & Chief Content
Director Tyler Davidson. Thanks to The
Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis for letting us use
a room for the broadcast (and a yummy
lunch!). And don’t miss our Meetings
Today LIVE! MidAmerica 2018 event
gallery by accessing our website at
DESIGN THINKING SESSION
KIKI L’ITALIEN AND