By Beth Buehler
When there is chattering and laughter in the hallways and meeting break spaces, you know successful networking is underway (or maybe that means the build-your-own supreme nachos is going over extremely well!). People snatching spare minutes on their smart phones and iPads also is a common sight as job duties must go on for many even while attending conferences and traveling. The challenge in both situations is how to get people’s attention and desire to return from “breakland” and head back to meetings business. Here are a few tips to consider.
- Flash the lights or dark– Performing arts centers have this down to a science. When the lights flicker, it’s time to head back into the auditorium or performance space. Another fun idea might be having glow-in-the-dark décor and tiny lights in the ballroom and giving attendees light-up necklaces, sticks or bracelets. When there is a little fun added to the day, it’s more appealing to go back after breaks.
- Do something dramatic – Even though it has been a while now, I remember Grand Junction having a high school marching band launch the opening session or a major part of the Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference many years ago. You can bet that people quickly moved to their seats to see what was happening.
- Create something special – At the 2015 Meetings Industry Council of Colorado’s Educational Conference and Trade Show, a special song just for the conference was written and performed as the group was reconvening after circulating at food stations and visiting booths over lunch. Once I heard entertainment underway, I knew it was time to head back to the main area.
- Schedule dynamic speakers – If there is a fairly big-name speaker or a session addressing a hot topic in my industry right after a refreshment break, it is highly likely that I won’t need any nudging or cute tricks.
- Give out prizes – If there are giveaways happening at your meeting, consider scheduling them to happen right after breaks as an incentive to return to the room where the next session is being held. This works beautifully at the Colorado Governor’s Tourism Conference but as motivation to stay until the very end of the conference, which is always a closing luncheon. The same woman from the Outlets at Loveland, Silverthorne and Castle Rock is always there with an incredible number of great things to give away. Sponsors could be given the same opportunity but after meeting breaks instead.
These are just a few ways to conclude breaks without cracking the whip or getting your referee whistle on.
Beth Buehler is editor of Colorado Meetings + Events and Mountain Meetings magazines, has planned numerous meetings and events and enjoys exploring Colorado.