Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Peer to Peer Sales Meetings

The ultimate purpose of sales meetings is, naturally, to boost sales. The wide range of incentives used at sales meetings today - great resorts, passionate speakers, perhaps an evening with Hootie - have all been very effective. There is another lever we can push, however, to take these meetings to an even higher level: collaboration!

At each annual sales meeting, new goals are set, new products are introduced, and new messages are conveyed from management. But the people who know best how to use this information are the sales people in the audience. These are the greatest resources for other sales people, and we can leverage those resources a lot better than we have!

To what techniques or habits do your top sales people attribute their success? How would those people incorporate the new products or messages into their approach to clients? How should these approaches differ among market segments? These are great conversations for your sales teams to have, and it can all be part of your meeting. In fact, this kind of collaboration can be the focus of your sales meetings!

An Illumination Gallery captures all of the biggest and best ideas from your keynotes, breakouts, workshops and panel discussions, and puts them all in one place. The Collaboration Lounge then gives your sales team the opportunity and the tools to apply all of those great ideas to themselves. Big ideas. Collaborating with peers. Changing behaviors to drive future sales.

An Illumination Gallery at your next event will leverage the skills and experience of your own team to boost productivity in the year ahead.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Co-Creation and Meetings

In a recent webinar, Doug Amann from Pfizer made this point: If we're going to invest all of the money and resources to bring a large group of people together, let's maximize the interaction! "Broadcast" presentations -- one expert talking to an audience -- can be done very effectively online or on DVD's. Why bring people together to listen? What the face-to-face experience is exceptionally GOOD at is individual and small-group interactions. How can we make THOSE interactions the focus of our meetings?

Planners (and event sponsors) tend to rather LIKE the traditional, broadcast-style conferences. They are predictable. They are controllable. We all know how they work. If we can get the butts in the seats, we know (we think) how to deliver a great program (or at least a program kinda like last year's). And frankly, the audience tends to go along with it -- no one's expectations are normally that high. They'll sit in the seats. They'll listen to talks. They'll want to be entertained. And if this experience is comparable to other conference experiences, they'll generally give you positive scores on the feedback forms.

But how does this experience compare to actual meaningful events in our lives? Are we connecting with people? Are we learning anything useful? How will we be different after these events? With rare exceptions, a lecture hall experience will not create these kinds of changes.

So what will? I've been talking about collaboration, networking, and interaction. On a great twitter chat today, the focus shifted to "co-creation" -- working together to build something new. This might be a new invention. It might be a new process. It might be a new way to understand the world. Let's take your understanding and my understanding and see what we can build with a new, shared understanding.

Co-Creation -- the multi-day conference is the perfect venue for this. The conference creates a community -- a group of people bound together in shared experiences, new knowledge, a physical location, and even sporting handy community ID badges. This community builds trust among its members. This trust might be stronger or weaker among different parts of the community, but in sharing a good speaker, a challenging breakout, a karaoke fiasco, we build trust together. With trust and with our shared interest (the topic of the conference), we have the foundation for co-creation.

All we need now is the time, the space and the tools. Conferences tend to pack their schedules so that everyone feels like they didn't "waste their time". It's important to build in time for co-creation. At most events, the "water cooler conversations" happen in the hallways -- how can we create a more formal, useful environment for co-creation to take place? Finally, what tools are needed for co-creation? Marker boards are a great start for brainstorming, mind-mapping, and creating back-of-the-napkin drawings of your big ideas. Writing tools. Drawing tools. Display tools. Diagramming tools. Modeling tools. What are all of the different materials people might need to create something new together?

Make your "attendees" into "participants". Get them creating things together, and they will remember your event forever. "THAT was the moment our organization changed forever."

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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Best Seat in the House

You've probably been too busy running conferences and events to watch the behavior of your attendees very closely. Have you noticed how different they are in different environments? Have you noticed when they are engaged and passionate versus when they are quiet and passive?

At Illumination Galleries, we have observed human behavior in all kinds of collaborative environments. We can help you pack the biggest punch into an area of your conferences that our industry has largely ignored. Want to kick it up a notch? Answer the following question:

Where is all of the real action at a conference?
Is it in the plenary during the keynotes? Is it in the breakout sessions? Is it in the lobby outside the meeting rooms? Or is the bar the place to be?

If you answered "The bar!!!" with multiple exclamation points, then you might not want to show this piece to your supervisor. But to be fair, the bar, the lounge, the cocktail reception and the official networking events are all very important venues at a conference. Building relationships is a critical objective for most meeting attendees. Relationships require time for conversations to happen. And sometimes a little liquid courage helps to grease the wheels as well. The "bar" (to include any of the social locations listed above) is the place for social interactions to occur. Some negotiations take place here, but the bar is the stage for building relationships.

The plenary is another universe altogether. The plenary is set up to "broadcast messages" -- from one talking head to many listeners. These plenaries can have more or less energy, more or less interactivity, and more or less entertainment, but the primary function is for a few people (usually in the front) to share their ideas with the dozens or hundreds or thousands of others sitting in the audience. Executives and academics really like this space. This is the world of traditional education, where the expert talks and the little people absorb. Great speakers can make this environment transformational for people in the audience, but there just aren't that many great speakers out there. And for attendees, the more passive ones will like this space too -- this is where they can be most "entertained" with the minimal amount of effort on their part.

The breakout sessions tend to be where more detailed content gets shared, and where attendees get to have some interactions with the experts. These smaller-format sessions tend to be more hands-on, and much more interactive. For people who have come to a conference to learn a skill or best practice, the breakout session is where the most vital interactions will take place. Usually people get to attend sessions that they are interested in, so the audience is normally more focused and engaged. Great collaboration is possible here.

So that leaves us the lobby -- that nebulous "between" space that connects all of the different conference venues. This is where the registration table is normally found. You'll find snack stations and an endless supply of coffee. There might even be some informational or promotional displays here. It may seem a little strange that this area is often described as the most important part of a conference. Why is this area special? What makes this space useful? What can we do to make it even better?

The lobby belongs to the community of attendees. It is the Commons. The speakers own the plenary. The facilitators own the breakouts. The bar is pandemonium. The Commons is a different story. No one is in charge of it, so everyone can use it however they like. It is quiet enough to have important conversations, but generally active enough that you don't feel like you're bothering others (or that others are listening in). It is the central hub of the community, so anyone that you would want to see will walk through there on the way to or from somewhere -- this is where chance encounters and reunions happen, full of laughter and delight.

And this is where new ideas come flooding in like the tide. When people leave the plenary, fresh from a motivational speaker or a dynamic executive presentation, they pour into the Commons to share their ideas. When they return from a variety of exciting breakout sessions, they meet here to share ideas, compare notes and tell each other what they missed in the other sessions. These regular floods of new ideas and new energy keep the Commons at the center of the community of attendees.

This is where connections are made. This is where ideas pop. This is where insight happens. If you want to make a conference sizzle, transform the Commons into THE place to be!

This area gets the least amount of design attention of any venue at a conference, yet this is where the most important conversations are taking place. This is where people are most themselves, are most passionate, are most engaged. This is where the real value of a conference is forged for many attendees. The speakers, the breakouts, and the entertainment all provide fantastic ingredients, but it is here in the Commons that it all comes together to build new connections, new relationships, and new plans for the future.

We created Illumination Galleries to turbocharge the Commons. We decided bring the design brilliance of an opening session to the conference venue where attendees find the greatest value. We create a powerful experience of the meeting's content, of making connections, of building relationships and of producing results. Come visit the website and we'll show you how.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Eureka! Novotel's Meeting Spaces

Novotel in Europe has been working with InnovationLabs to redesign its service offering for meetings. These tend to be smaller meetings - the space appears to max out around 20 people.

The tool they've developed for their website is a terrific example, though, of how a space can be reconfigured to support different functions. (Click on the four "plans" on the right side of the screen to see the space reconfigure!) The space can support a variety of different work styles, and this is the first demonstration I've seen of a hotel actually thinking through the process of a meeting beyond when a meal will be served.

They even post sample agendas for how your meeting can be more productive using this kind of space!

(Oh, the whole site is in French, so let me know if you have more questions about the content.)

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