Let’s look at two regional meetings that I recently observed while running the registration desk. These were identical meetings that took place in two different parts of the state. The purpose of the meeting was to communicate the newest assessment requirements to school administrators. The general session room was set classroom style at both locations to facilitate taking notes and using laptops. No interaction was planned during the meeting except for some Q & A.
The first regional meeting took place at a venue where there was just enough room for the registration table and the continental breakfast/break table. There was no place to sit or congregate. Attendees came in, picked up their materials and food and headed right into the meeting room to sit and wait for the meeting. The majority of people looked tired and stressed. There was little interaction throughout the day between the participants.
The second regional meeting took place at a venue that allowed for groupings of comfortable furniture and high boy tables in the area outside of the meeting room. When attendees arrived, they picked up their materials and found a seat inside the meeting room. They then came back out to get food and congregate in groups around the tables and furniture. People looked comfortable and were connecting with other attendees through conversation. During breaks, people again sat and talked about the information they had received.
It was obvious to me that the attendees in the second group walked away with ideas from their colleagues and a better understanding of the information they received in the session.
In this case, the furniture came with the venue…we just grouped it to our advantage and asked for high tables. It made a huge difference to attendee engagement and experience.