You feel it so they can feel it

August 18, 2017

Dana’s Meeting Minutes is based on the Meeting Planning Triangle©. Click here for a link.


I’m moving around my Meeting Planning Triangle (above) to the third area—Participant Experience. Yes, I’ve covered it in the Event Design area, but I will focus entirely on planning for participant perceptions, experiences, and benefits from your event. I’ll look at it from three angles: marketing, implementation, and evaluation.


This week I have tips to keep in mind while planning.



Tip #1

Be a participant in your own meeting.

  • While planning, be deliberate about considering how your participants will respond.

  • Think about each target audience separately to ensure you have all of their interests in mind.

  • Even when you’re running around, try to eat a meal with the crowd, sit in the general session, and/or get coffee from the break station instead of your well-stocked office.

Tip #2

Be a participant at other’s meetings.

  • Attend industry meetings, e.g. those for meeting planners and/or associations.

  • Attend meetings sponsored by associations in the industry you represent, e.g. your counterparts in other states. Invite them to attend yours.

Do a lot of parallel development—stealing all of their good ideas.


Tip #3

Elicit emotions.

  • As I wrote in April, your stakeholders’ responses are loaded with emotion.

Use the five senses, sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing as a checklist to enhance various aspects of your event.



Plant spies and collect intel.

For input from the front lines, invite trusted, observant, somewhat neutral attendees to observe participants. Ask them to record their responses to different situations, especially each of the new things you’ve introduced. Include a list of criteria to measure, such as initial reactions, comments heard, ease of access, comfort level, emotional responses, etc. Include space for their personal reactions.


If you can garner enough energy to meet with your spies before they leave, hold a spy meeting to hear the input first hand and while it’s fresh. Add some fun to the project by continuing the spy theme. Check out the International Spy Museum for code words!



See how ASAE gets real-time input on attendees’ experience with Attendee Experience Mapping. (This does not constitute an endorsement for the product mentioned in the article.)


Read Designing and Facilitating an Exceptional Conference Experience with City Awake by Travis Martin for Collective Next.


Experiencing Information, by Jim Kalbach, is a collection of articles about “how we experience information in the digital world.” Some articles are applicable; all are interesting.





Dana L. Saal, CMP, CAE, has been planning meetings for associations for more than 30 years. She recently decided that coaching meeting planners is now more fun than proofing BEOs, counting coffee cups and writing scripts. If you think a bit of coaching could improve your meeting, send a message via her website.

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