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!