by Linda Spelling | December 01, 2016
Keeping an annual meeting interesting is a challenge planners face on a regular basis, especially when the program is hosted at the same venue or destination year after year. Following are tactics for creating a fresh experience in a familiar setting.

The first step is to visually differentiate the meeting from the previous year. For example, set the opening stage on a different wall or at a different angle. If the room was set in the round last year, try stadium or classroom seating. Is one large screen usually used? If so, set up two screens that flank each side of the stage.

Mix up dining areas, too. For example, breakfasts and lunches previously held in ballrooms can be set up in foyer space or an on-site restaurant. Or, instead of hosting dinner by the pool again, arrange an elaborate barbecue beach party or picnic on an event lawn.

One of the easiest ways to change up a meeting is by taking the group off-property for an evening event. This not only spices up the actual experience, but provides a welcome change of scenery for attendees. If the group went off-property last year, don't secure the same venue, even if it was a success, because the sequel is never as good as the original.

Also, be open to taking attendees off-site -- perhaps to a theater, park or university --for meetings during the day. This novelty can change the event's dynamic and infuse a bit of unexpected fun.

Revitalize the event by creating a brand-new flow for the agenda. For example:
 Transform long, drawn-out group meetings into shorter sessions. Besides being a distinct change from more traditional formats, the shorter sessions tend to maximize attendees' attention spans.

 Reduce the amount of time devoted to "talking heads" and create an agenda that includes several interactive sessions, promoting more intimate and engaging experiences.

 Say good-bye to your existing program template by scheduling your general session in the middle of the event, rather than as the kick-off. If the keynote speaker always presents on the last day, have him or her welcome the group at the first session.


Adjust the timing of the program to match the amount of content. You might need only three days instead of the typical four in order to achieve your meeting's goals. This shift will undoubtedly provide a new look and feel.

While tweaking the format can prove difficult -- and some stakeholders might resist change -- it can make a huge difference in meeting productivity and effectiveness.

Linda Spelling
 is president/owner of Buzz Inc., a full-service corporate meeting planning company based in Northern New Jersey.