Just what remains at the end of the day for meetings and incentives attendees?
Seems like I’ve spent the majority of the last year on the road. Maybe it’s the millennial, and/or the meetings nerd in me, but as I’ve been doing all this traveling and meeting I’ve been thinking about what has really stuck with me from all this jetting around. What set the really cool meetings, conferences or events apart from the OK or the pretty good? I’d have to say it boils down to an acronym: IAATE. It’s All About The Experience.
I’d guess that for the majority of us the conference room of a meeting was not the most memorable highlight, but if during that same meeting we got to pick the brain of a really smart or interesting person, dip into the local culture, or take part in a different or energizing activity I bet we did walk away with a lasting memory.
As an example of IAATE, this summer I took a group of North American meeting planners on the annual GCB educational trip to Munich and Cologne (Germany). What resonated with them the most were those activities that were a little unexpected—ones that would leave a lasting impression long after our trip was over.
“What struck me the most about these experiences is that it is no longer enough to focus on what attendees will absorb in the core conference itself.”
One of these experiential highlights was a climb to the roof of Olympic Stadium in Munich. We were harnessed in so completely safe and were able to take in a magnificent view overlooking the city with the Alps in the background. Not saying it wasn’t a bit scary at first; I was certainly pushing myself out of my comfort zone too, but there was something so exhilarating about doing this together and in challenging and overcoming our fears. As a result, we grew closer as a group and certainly came away with a confidence and energy rush to apply to the business at hand. After sharing the experience with our Instagram (@Germany_Meetings) followers we realized just how great of an experience we just had.
Cologne offered another experience for the “things you don’t usually do” category. We walked in the footsteps of astronauts at the training facility of the European Astronaut Center. Seeing the inside of the International Space Station model in our official EAC gear is not something you get to do every day…or ever!
What struck me the most about these experiences is that it is no longer enough to focus on what attendees will absorb in the core conference itself. Attendees want to experience things first hand. They want to do fresh and out of the box things. They want to pump up their network and sense of connection, learning and accomplishment in new ways. It will take some creativity to make this happen but CVBs, hotels, DMCs and venues are there to help you uncover experiential activities and integrate them into their events. I promise IAATE is exhilarating, worth the effort, and will stick with your attendees for years to come!