Make the meeting bigger!

Most of the event industry and our clients continue to assume that if you can make the meeting bigger it’s a good thing.

It ain’t necessarily so.

How we got here

The massive disruption of in-person events since March 2020 has shaken our industry to the core. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, in-person events that weren’t canceled have seen drastically reduced attendance compared to prior years. Online and hybrid meetings have seen less drastic reductions.

One bright spot has been the normalization of online meetings for routine connection and collaboration. We have also seen the emergence of new forms of online events, supported by solid business models.

So as I predicted in 2020, we haven’t seen the old normal since the pandemic started, and it’s likely we’ll never see it again.

What we shouldn’t do

The event industry unduly focuses on large meetings. Our trade magazines mainly report on big events, the ones with big-name speakers and eye candy razzle-dazzle. Pandemic-induced smaller audiences engender hand-wringing. What to do? How can we get our old, big events back?

Some respond by increasing their event marketing. Often, however, that’s not a smart move, as Seth Godin illustrates:
make meeting bigger

Make the announcement louder. Make the logo bigger. Yell. Call more people on the phone to sell them an extended warranty. Send more emails. Hustle harder.
None of it works.
The problem with the fountain isn’t that they didn’t make a big enough sign. The problem is that the fountain itself is poorly designed…
…If you get the design right, you can whisper instead.
—Seth Godin, “Make the sign bigger!”

What we should do

For too long, we’ve equated a meeting’s “success” with its size. “Bigger is better.” But if we concentrate on increasing attendance, we overlook getting the meeting design right. Improving an event’s design makes the meeting better for all the stakeholders: meeting owners, sponsors, and participants. In contrast, large meetings are usually less effective at satisfying stakeholders’ desired goals and objectives.

Do yourself a favor, and rid yourself of the “bigger is better” meeting mindset. It may help to remember that in reality, most meetings are small meetings. And that’s OK.

So don’t try to make the meeting bigger. Instead, make the meeting design right. (Get in touch if you’d like some help.)

You and your stakeholders will be glad you did.

Photo attribution: Seth’s blog post “Make the sign bigger!

My treadmill desk — the next generation

My treadmill desk — the next generation I’ve replaced my treadmill desk with the next generation: a simpler, cheaper, and better alternative!

Five years ago I shared my initial and follow-up experiences with a treadmill desk. Since then I’ve walked over 1,600 miles while working, and have seen a clear correlation between my general level of wellbeing and regular use of my walking desk for (typically) a couple of hours a day.

Last week, however, I noticed that my upper arms were aching after using my desk. After a few days experimenting, I realized that the height of the commercial plastic shelf I’ve been using since 2012 was causing my shoulders and upper arms to tense up while typing, leading to the achiness. Though this hadn’t happened before, I’m getting older and creakier and I needed to do something if I was going to continue to reap the benefits of my walking-while-working routine.

Googling “DIY treadmill desk” led me to the post How to Build a Treadmill Desk for Under $20! which acknowledges the original inspiration of Super Cheap DIY Treadmill Desk. Both articles described a simple, cheaper, and better solution to my problem.

Simple, because I could quickly build a better shelf myself.

Cheaper, because I used materials already in my possession. (But even if you bought everything, it should cost you less than $20.)

Better, because the new shelf:

  • rests on the arms of my treadmill at a perfect height for me to type with my forearms level, avoiding the scrunched up shoulders my old desk required, and;
  • is twice as wide as the old one, giving me a place to rest reference materials right next to my keyboard while writing.

Materials: a piece of plywood, two brackets, four screws, two hooks, one bungee cord.

Tools: saw, tape, pencil, screwdriver.

Time: about an hour.

Here’s the side view of my finished shelf. The brackets were only needed because my treadmill’s arms have a gentle slope. Some treadmills have horizontal arms, making construction even easier.

My treadmill desk — the next generation

Construction is so simple that these pictures and the referenced articles should contain all the information you need. Though I don’t regret purchasing my (now discontinued) commercial shelf in 2012, this homemade version is a great improvement. If you have a home or office treadmill and want to work while walking, this is the way to go!

Can we do better than novelty at our meetings?

novelty at our meetings Can we do better than novelty at our meetings? Yes we can!

Sure, novelty has its place in meetings. The latest cocktail. The hot new band. The color of the year. But novelty doesn’t have lasting impact. The first time, it’s an enjoyable transient experience. The next time it’s old.

Better however is a whole different kettle of fish. Better lasts. Better has long-term value.

So don’t fob off your meeting attendees event after event with an ever-changing stream of “new” or “different”. Go for better. You can reuse better over and over again—and your attendees will appreciate it every single time!

Better means fundamental improvements in your meetings that continue to pay off once you’ve successfully incorporated them. This blog is full of ways to permanently improve your meetings, for both meeting owners and participants. And the vast majority don’t require spending significant chunks of your budget on expensive novelties.

Makes sense, right? So why do we rarely shoot for better? Apple’s Jony Ive explains:

“‘Different’ and ‘new’ is relatively easy. Doing something that’s genuinely better is very hard.”
—Sir Jony Ive, Apple Senior Vice President of Design, quoted in Business Week in 2009

Yes, better is very hard. But it’s worth it.

Image attribution: Flickr user dopey