5 Meetings Rules to Break in 2016

Usher in the new year with new and improved meeting methods


 The 6 a.m. fun run on the first day of an event

 The long, boring traditional award ceremony

Large room gifts attendees have to lug home or leave behind

 Long, formal pre-cons and post-cons

Lounge-style seating is popular for social events, small gatherings and breakout areas, but it is rarely used for large keynote sessions. Consider ditching traditional theater-style layouts and go with a mix of seating styles and chairs to give auditoriums and large ballrooms a fresh vibe.

The new year is a great time to rethink what works for your events, and what doesn't. Now is the time to replace tired habits and tedious traditions with new ideas. Following are suggestions for what to nix or fix in 2016.

I was invited to an event recently that offered no fewer than 14 dietary options. I don't think Facebook offers that many relationship statuses! While giving attendees a host of alternatives is thoughtful, it can also be a logistical burden and a budget killer.

Simplify menus and keep F&B costs in check by limiting the options to the three most-often requested special meal requirements: vegan (includes vegetarian), kosher and halal. You can easily approximate the appropriate percentage of vegan, kosher and halal meals (10 percent vegan; five percent total for kosher and halal meals) for your event; these numbers rarely change in the United States.

To assist attendees with more specific dietary requests (gluten-free, paleo, etc.), or for those who have food allergies, list ingredients on the menu or, for buffets, on a card displayed with each dish. (Note: Attendees with life-threatening food allergies will rarely trust a special meal and always carry an EpiPen.)

While flowers are lovely, consider changing up table décor with elements that encourage interactivity, offer inspiration, and reinforce the event theme or company brand. For example, liven up meals at internal meetings by placing "poetry boards" on each table. These can be chalkboards, magnetic boards or tablets that display industry jargon or company buzzwords. Attendees use the words to create poems that can be shared with the rest of the crowd.

For celebratory events such as awards ceremonies, tablets that flash video bios of the winners or honorees can serve as fun and innovative centerpieces.

Dare to banish traditional badges. Instead, go high tech with "smart" wristbands. Or consider an old-school approach: Let attendees find out each others' names by introducing themselves!

If these suggestions are too radical for your group, try revamping the registration process.Borrow the luxury hotel practice of recognizing VIP/loyalty members with a designated line or a dedicated "badge concierge"to check in your VIPs and repeat attendees.

Sustainability at events is becoming the norm, rather than the exception. Keep the momentum going with modest updates on green progress and gentle tips on how attendees can adhere to your green practices. You don't want to "guilt" attendees into following them. Gracious greening speaks for itself.

Louise M. Felsher, CMP, CMM,  is an event producer and writer who specializes in strategic global event marketing. She is based in Pacifica, Calif.