One Attendee Giveaway to Rule Them All

If only we could fine this one!
If only we could fine The One!

Rumor has it we attended the first installment of Lord of the Rings at the stroke of midnight.
Rumor also has it that we may have been in costume – though there are no photos to prove or disprove this.

In the years since that movie – which was epic btw – we have often thought of the ring, specifically the inscription:

One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them

With meeting giveaways, it’s more like:

One Item that ties to the strategy, One Item to source and produce on time and on budget,
One Item to make everyone feel like part of the team and we can distribute in a dark ballroom

In other words, we need swag with serious swagger.

The Joe Show is a great resources for fresh ideas – beyond the usual hats, wristbands, and notebooks.  Produced by the Advertising Specialties Institute, it features managing editor Joe Haley’s 3-minute take on the latest promotional items.

Buzz through the videos to jumpstart your thinking. In the time you save, you can binge watch the LOTR movies…you know, if you’re into that sort of thing.

2 Quick Tips For Better Q&A Prep


Are flying zombie clowns afraid of themselves?

If the recent poll on America’s top fears is any indication, the answer is no…but what they do fear is public speaking.  Rehearsals can provide a safety net for most presentations, but this net hits a snag when you add a Question and Answer session.  Those Q&A’s can be a fantastic bridge between the audience and the presenter…or a cringe-inducing failure, especially when the speaker fumbles for words, comes off as defensive or just plain freezes.

In a recent Spiral Marketing podcast, communications consultant Merrie Spaeth (Spaeth Communications) provided some excellent tips to improve Q&A’s, including:

Tip 1 – Acknowledge the Question.

People want to be heard. More specifically, they want to know that you, in fact, heard what they said.  Acknowledgment phrases provide this reassurance, and Spaeth has put together a list of them here.   She goes beyond the interview standards like, “That’s an excellent question” and “Thank you for bring that topic up” and offers alternates like:

“I have heard that.”
“Let me put that in perspective.”
“That’s a possibility.”

An added benefit of these short and truthful phrases is that they give the speaker time to craft their response. Not answer, but response, which leads us to…

Tip 2 – Don’t Answer the Question. Respond.

When speakers answer, they limit themselves to the question’s parameters – its framing, language, and sometimes, the speaker’s agenda. But when they approach their words as a response, they broaden their scope by thinking about what the entire audience needs to hear – not just the person asking the question.  This puts them in control of the exchange and increases their impact.

Incorporating these 2 simple tips into your Q&A prep will not only raise the speaker’s comfort level, but also increase their effectiveness.

And if these don’t work, you can always have flying zombie clowns storm the stage.  That’s something the audience will be talking about for years.

Put More Pizzazz in Your Meetings

Now this is what I call oatmeal!
Now that’s a fun breakfast!

Most meetings are like plain oatmeal.

Good for you? Yes.
Scrumdiddlyumptious? Not so much.

A little brown sugar, some maple syrup and heck, if you feel like it, some rainbow sprinkles can transform that ho-hum breakfast into an AM delight.

When you’re so focused on content, it’s easy to forget the fun factor – that memorable opening number, breakout element or culinary surprise that generates buzz and excitement. The successful meeting educates as well as entertains, lets people laugh as they learn.

So where can you find these ideas?

Check out Michael Cerbelli’s annual Hot List. Every year, the “Oracle of Spectacle” – as we like to call him – compiles a list of new(ish) talent, tools and trends.

A few fun ones this year:

Projection Mapping As Performance
Both Freelusion and Focus 3D DJ & Drummer turn up the impact of projection mapping by synchronizing live performance with projected images.

Flip Book Photo Booth
Upgrade the photo booth experience with Open Air’s flip book takeaway.  Made on the fly, it’s a fun keepsake for attendees.

The Hot List is packed with ideas for decor, opening acts, interactive tech and more.  Not every idea may fall within your budget, but you’ll be inspired by what you see…and maybe even come up with some fresh ideas of your own.

Getting More From Leadership Meetings

Go Team! Wait...what are we cheering for?
Go Team! Wait…what are we cheering for?

Oh Joy!  Another Leadership Meeting where we’ll discuss big ideas like STRATEGY and CULTURE and GROWTH.  We’ll have breakouts, keynotes, and maybe even paint a local school.  Then we’ll head back to our offices, slowly forget the firehouse of information until the next meeting rolls around.

There must be a better way.

Fortunately, Bob Frish and Cary Greene, partners of the Strategic Offsites Group, have penned a great article in this month’s Harvard Business Review. Packed with practical recommendations, it’s a step-by-step template for a successful Leadership Summit, specifically:

  1. Assign clear roles that have real authority.
  2. Define a clear set of objectives for the conference.
  3. Start the conversation before the event (hint: pre-event surveys).
  4. Design the event around the objectives.
  5. Engage participants before they arrive onsite (think webcasts).
  6. Pay attention to pacing and rhythm (mix up presentations, tablework, etc.)
  7. Be flexible by using real-time feedback.
  8. Go for three-way communication (stage to audience, audience to stage, peer to peer).
  9. Use high and low tech to kickstart ideas.
  10. Be deliberate about connecting attendees to each other (uber-networking).
  11. Create succinct takeaways for post-event cascade.
  12. Follow up on promises made at the meeting.
  13. Keep the conversation going.

Included in the article are: a pre- and post-event calendar, a chart of tools to solicit attendee input, and a list conference of roles and responsibilities.

While I disagree with the relegation of meeting content to a mid-level strategy or communications person, the rest of the article rings true.  Any event should be part of an overall corporate communications calendar.  Without this context, companies risk over-communicating with employees and diminishing impact.  A webcast for one initiative may overlap with the kick-off presentation of another, or employees may receive several teasers, surveys and invitations – all on the same day.

With a Leadership Conference in particular, what is being said – and how – must 1) align with the communication strategy, 2) promote the internal brand, and 3) adhere to corporate brand standards – all 3 of which are driven by senior leadership within the corporate communications department.

That being said, it’s a well-written, thought-provoking article that will help you develop a leadership summit that actually produces results.

See the Latest Tech Gear at LDI2015

LDI 2014 Logo

Want to check out the latest and greatest event gear?

Mark your calendars for LDI2015, October 19-25, 2015 in Las Vegas.

See how lighting, audio and staging companies are using technology to create more immersive, memorable experiences.

Learn more about Live Design International here.

Get More From Your On-site Candids

Smile. Click. Post.
Smile. Click. Post.

Bridge the anticipation gap between your events by making better use of the hundreds of candid photos you take onsite.  Turn these into a post-event campaign instead of one “We Had A Blast!” video.

Post one per week on your intranet to keep the event – and its value – top of mind.

Bonus: Turn it up a notch by adding attendee quotes or speaker insights.

Capture moments today to inspire excitement tomorrow.

HT: Andrew M. Davis (author of Brandscaping)

Better Interview Tips from This American Life
“Wow…this is actually fascinating!”

“That interview went really well,” you exclaim, as your camera crew wraps up.  Then you get back to the edit suite and realize that it’s going to a looooong night of cutting and pasting ho-hum segments to make a story.  If only there were an Authenticity Setting in your software to change those canned, corporate-safe answers into compelling soundbites.

Thank goodness for Alex Bloomberg.

Former producer for This American Life and Planet Money, Bloomberg shared his secrets to conducting great interviews in his 40-minute master class, available here. (warning: sound file will begin playing).

The entire thing is worth a listen, but the first 20 minutes are gold for anyone responsible for creating videos/podcasts that employees actually care about.

A few gems:

  • Avoid Yes/No questions.
  • Know when to be quiet so your interviewee keeps talking.
  • Ask questions that elicit an honest emotional reaction or prompt the interviewee to tell a story.
  • To prompt a story response, use statements like:
    • “Tell me about the time when…”
    • “Tell me when you realized…”
    • “Describe the conversation…”
    • “What are the steps that got you from Point A to Point B?”
  • To prompt an emotional response, use statements like:
      • “How did X make you feel?”
      • “If the old you, could see the new you, what would they say?”
      • “You seem very confident about X right now.  Was that always the case?”
      • “Describe the debate you had in your head about X.”

    “What do you make of that?”

Bloomberg knows the connection between a good interview and a great story.  Be sure to check out his interview with Tim Ferriss.

One Speaker Tip That Will Transform Your Meeting
For the love of God, make it stop!

How many of us have sat through a 9-hour presentation?

OK…a slight exaggeration, but when a meeting is just one speaker after another with no time built in for Q&A or peer interaction, that “captive” audience can feel, well, just plain trapped.

In a recent interview with Success Magazine, author Adrian Segar (Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love), shared his thoughts on what makes a successful meeting, including this tip that can transform your checked-out attendees into a fully-engaged group:

Use speakers strategically.

This means internal and external presenters.  Replace those one-sided, 45-mintue death by PowerPoint (or Keynote – pretty pictures can’t save a boring talk), with shorter speaker segments – say 20 minutes – followed by peer- or facilitator-led roundtable discussions. This provides your audience with just enough information to get their internal juices going without overwhelming them. And, it’s a great springboard for quality interaction between your attendees.

Segar provides other helpful insights, like creating a community and finding ways to provide value.  Read the entire article here.