Issue #49

Meetings as Journeys

How the “Disney World effect” is influencing internal meetings.

If you’ve vacationed at Disney World lately, you know the experience begins long before you reach the entrance gate. Families can gather around the GPS-enabled app ahead of time to plot out their trips and make reservations. What was once a funnel experience led primarily by the park is, today, a visitor-led journey from start to finish.

That “Disney effect” is a thriving approach for consumer events and for large-scale b-to-b events—these events are bringing together campus layouts and other consumer-centric touchpoints.

Event Marketer’s EventTech show in Las Vegas has capitalized on the open-campus concept, offering learning labs around the perimeter of an open footprint and exhibitors at the center. The format gives attendees free range to pop into a lab or take a quick meeting with a technology partner. Sessions run concurrently, but some are also repeated so attendees won’t miss popular content.

At PCMA’s Convening Leaders 2018 conference, a massive LED screen called “The Mix” in the middle of the complex streamed concurrent sessions “so that attendees could ‘channel surf’ sessions while still networking with their peers.’” At C2 Montreal, attendees literally sat back and relaxed to watch the keynotes from a remote viewing area stocked with bean bag loungers in a dim setting.

Event apps are helping to live-wire these event journeys, delivering personalized content and recommendations using artificial intelligence. SXSW’s app this year pushed out capacity alerts that let attendees know how quickly popular sessions were filling up (as Disney’s app offers on ride wait times). The SXSW app also offered personalized recommendations based on registration information, networking contacts and a proprietary algorithm, among factors.

While this festivalization trend has been adopted for these external events, their strategies, designs, and technologies are now filtering down into sales and internal events. Business leaders recognize that their internal attendees expect the same types of experiences they encounter in their non-business lives.

Today, leadership and sales meetings are adopting campus footprints, organic networking spaces, fewer classrooms, and more mini theaters, and in general, more opportunities for attendees to pick and choose how they’re informed and spend their time on-site, rather than arriving to a one-way agenda set for all attendees.

Of course, a memorable journey is all about the people you meet along the way, and a looser framework paves the way for more interactions, happenstance and purposeful, that can change the game for a business unit or individual, alike. As is the case in Disney theme parks, while visitors choose their own adventures, their stops along the way are well-staffed with engaging employees. It’s why in events every touchpoint should be supported with a human experience from helpful staff at registration or influential product experts in the exhibit center who keep attendees informed along their journeys and who, collectively, can make the on-site experience a magical one.

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