The time has finally arrived. After months of meticulous planning, your event date is here. Everyone showed up, check-in went smoothly, and you are all settled in for an awesome weekend. This retreat is exactly what you needed. And to kick it off, you’ve brought in a guest speaker to really get people pumped. Except, you look around the auditorium to find that no one is paying any attention.
Sounds like your guests are suffering from Attendee Inattentiveness Syndrome, or AIS. Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common occurrence at events.
- Glassy stare
- Talking to neighboring guests
- Uncontrollable texting
- Scrolling thumbs
- Recurring time checking
- Post-meeting memory loss
- Packing guests into the same old lecture hall that is identical to every other conference they attend.
- Providing one speaker that (whether or not they know what they are talking about) is not skilled in captivating an audience.
- Having said speaker lecture endlessly from a million-slide Power Point presentation.
- Promoting the anecdotal speaker method, as opposed to providing useful information.
- Distributing too much information at once (whether through talk, screen, or handouts).
- Setting guests up as prey for advertisers to attack them with additional information before and after the speaker presentation.
If this sounds like your event, you are in luck, because there is a cure. By incorporating the following steps, AIS symptoms can be avoided.
- Provide engaging activities. Speakers are still an acceptable form of presenting, but make sure to also integrate workshops, music, anything to spark the senses.
- Schedule breakout sessions every 30 to 60 minutes to let guests talk about the information they just absorbed. This will give them a clearer understanding, as well as the ability to learn what others got from it. Not to mention, it’s nice to make sure your voice still works after the silent exercise of listening.
- Get moving. In addition to the breakout sessions, a little time for movement can help to keep the blood flowing and the brain working. Being stuck in a chair for hours on end can cause fidgeting and discomfort. Make sure to allow guests time to get up, move around, stretch their legs, and go to the bathroom. Some successful meetings go so far as to bring in an activity or exercise instructor to get people properly moving, whether through stretches or a light game. Either way, when the endorphins are pumping, guests are sure to be ready for more.
- Instead of using one speaker the whole time, break it up with multiple presenters. In the end, they can all come together for a discussion-based presentation.
- Involve technology. It is almost a guarantee that everyone in the audience has a phone. Tie in social media, polls, and videos. This will get guests engaging in a way that may feel more comfortable to them. Plus, it’s a lot cooler than pencil and paper.
- Decorate. As silly as this may sound, an eye-catching set can pique the interest of those listening and help them to better focus, because they have something nicer to look at than the back of their eyelids.
- Fight against the roar of grumbling stomachs by providing snacks. These may or may not be a distraction while someone is talking, but they can be effective during your breaks. Even if they aren’t really hungry, attendees will appreciate a little fuel and the fact that you took the time to prepare them snacks.
- Tell them what they want to hear. Find a point you want presented and stick to it. Give them useful information that they won’t be able to find elsewhere. Otherwise, why should they come?
You are not simply hosting an event. You are creating an experience for attendees. Don’t get caught with a room full of AIS sufferers. Utilize your meeting time on retreats to get guests learning and eagerly wanting to attend next year.