Is it a Show or a Meeting?
When getting ready to create a specification for a client, I have to first determine if the event is a show or a meeting. Just as all chickens are birds but not all birds are chickens, all shows are meetings but not all meetings are shows. Telling the difference between chickens and other types of birds is easy, but what about meetings and shows?
First, I think it really depends on the meeting’s objective. Are we getting together to simply convey information? Or are we getting together to affect the audience in a way that will impact the business or community?
Meetings happen everyday all the time. You may even have family meetings around the kitchen table, you get together, share some information, get feedback, decide next steps and then convene. Business meetings can follow the same format. We gather, we share, we feedback we decide next steps and convene. For those types of communication, basic meeting support is needed. You may need only screens and projectors, voice amplification and enough light to see the presenters face. And with a small audience you may not even need voice amplification or lighting.
On the other hand, if the purpose of the meeting is to change the audience’s perception about something, then you may want to put on a show. The show is one element of an overarching event experience. It should take people on an emotional journey, first getting their attention and eliciting a strong emotion, then creating a sense of common ground, so the hearts and minds of the attendees are open to receiving the message from the stage. The AV is a part of the show, it helps to create the environment, but if that environment isn’t supportive of the overarching experience it’s kind of a waste of resources. Having a strong creative direction that ties to the key communication goal is imperative in creating an significant enough emotional experience to effect the audience’s perception.
Another determining factor is audience size. If you have a large audience (500+) you probably need to treat it more like a show than a meeting, simply because the amount of audio visual and meeting logistics is greater for more people. Even if you are simply conveying information, you may still want to treat it like a show. Even if you don’t employ creative elements to reinforce the message, you may still want to add a layer of production support. Bringing in a producer/ stage manager to help sort through AV bids, room set, organize assets and consult on content will greatly improve the audience’s (and your) experience.
Meeting Owner’s Expectations
Say your CEO is hosting 100 of his best customers, you may want to view this type of meeting as a show. Your company has a brand, and so does your CEO, be sure that the general session experience aligns with the CEO’s personal brand. Again, having a strong creative direction , perhaps from your corporate communications department or even an outside consultant will inform the room environment as well as the whole experience. It would be a good idea to employ a producer too. It’s not that a seasoned meeting planner can’t produce a general session for 100 people it’s that the level of production quality should be raised when the audience expectations are raised.
I am intentionally leaving out budget because you can make almost any budget work. Of course if you don’t have a budget for the production necessary to support either your meeting or show, then maybe you should look more closely to what and whom you’re allocating your dollars. If you think that you’re saving money by staying in house. or that you’re getting more leverage for concessions in other areas of the hotel contract, you may benefit from getting a few bids from regional vendors.
Have a great show everyone.