The elephants showed up to your event too.
Rarely is everything exactly perfect in company-land going into an event and sometimes there are major, major issues.
It may seem like getting on a plane and traveling to a 3-day conference/meeting/event would be enough to at least shrink those elephants a bit; but the elephants travel with the audience.
The bottom line? If there's a Big Company Issue, it's going to be hanging out in the event room--in the brain space of each and every attendee--until it's addressed. You can't ignore the elephant, and attendees can't move on with the mindset of tackling the future until the past is brought to light.
We're not saying that every concern or complaint or issue has to be addressed head on--especially if they're minor--but large issues (pending mergers, layoffs, product quality issues, delivery issues, management shakeups, etc.) have to be addressed.
Attendees can't move forward until you've addressed the past.Getting everyone pumped up about the coming year and ready to tackle the goals set for the next few quarters is a huge task. It's even harder when morale is low from the previous year. Maybe results were sub-par or maybe the attendees feel they didn't--and still don't--have the tools to be successful. No matter how great the goal looks and how wonderful it will be for all of them to achieve it, if they have the same doubts from the year before plaguing them in the future...you get the same results.
Attendees won't accept promises in the face of unacknowledged shortcomings.We know of NO company that always delivers everything on time or as promised. It's the business of companies to be agile and deal with things as they come. Sometimes this means that a new product isn't ready in time or a new training program that was rolled out has to be scrapped. Acknowledge these shortcomings, provide a brief reason (not excuse) for the shortcomings, and the audience will be more likely to accept that the next deadline is going to be met (if it actually IS--companies also have to be realistic in their goals) or that the next training program really IS going to stick around.
Attendees will disregard beneficial information until their worries have been directly dealt with.You may be giving the attendees the key to the castle, but if they are stuck back at the moat--what good is a key? You have an amazing new product that will increase their sales, but your attendees are worried that a new manager is going to clean house? Their primary concern isn't going to be the features and benefits of that product until the other issue has been addressed.
Attendees will turn an elephant into a mountain if it isn't managed.Occasionally when we bring up getting elephant-type issues out in the open, a client will interject: "But we don't want this to turn into a gripe session!" We don't either. An issue in the general session, however, is much easier to manage than an issue that runs wild (and possibly inaccurately) around the rumor mill/gripe-enabler social hours and networking sessions.
Attendees respect a company that knows where they're coming from--even if they don't agree with the issue.Showing the attendees that you actually know what's going on with them; that you know what their life is like and that it's hard having to deal with a particular issue can go a long way. You may still have to enact the measure, but at least the attendees can get closer to understanding why--and that they were taken into account when the decision was made.
Events are a great opportunity to address Elephant-type issues in a controlled way; you have everyone together, you can carefully pre-frame and support new messaging over a number of days, and you can leave with a team more united and on-board than when they left for the event. Don't miss the opportunity by letting the big things hang out in the corner of the room.
Three reasons to consider the Hermann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) when planning your next event.
Mon, Nov 12 2012 03:18 | Articles, Best Practices, Brain-based Learning, Event Psychology, HBDI, Research
Those in the "A" quadrant tend to be the Analyzers of the group. The Analyzers are highly logical and quantitative. These would be your CFOs, perhaps even some accountants, etc. For them, the most persuasive argument for adopting a new process is to lay out the numbers. What will it mean to the bottom line?
Those in the "B" quadrant are your Organizers. The Organizers respond to order and detail. These are likely your meeting planners. Theyʼre highly efficient and good at making sure that everything falls into place. As long as things are checked off the list in a timely manner, theyʼre with you.
Those in the "C" quadrant are your Personalizers. The Personalizers in an organization are often the human resources personnel. These are also the teachers, the social workers, etc. They are very concerned about how people are going to feel about information and are persuaded by a collectivist good.
And finally, those in the "D" quadrant? Those are your Strategizers. The Strategizers are your sales people. It doesnʼt matter much if information is perfectly laid out. It doesnʼt always have to be super logical or in detailed steps.
What matters is that the information/process/etc. makes sense and is relevant to them.
With this in mind, what are three things you should consider with regard to the HBDI and your next event?
- The makeup of our profession correlates with, at least somewhat, the makeup of our brain and how we are persuaded. If your audience is full of sales reps, they're going to fall into a different quadrant--generally speaking--than, say, human resource directors. Paying attention to who is in your audience can give you clues on HOW to present your key messaging. Data isn't always bad. Playing to the emotion of the story isn't always right (though engagement IS absolutely critical).
- Not every audience is the same, so your solutions shouldn't be the same. You're having a sales meeting. To convince your sales force that you're going to have a great year, you throw data at them. The collective eyes glaze over and the messaging is lost. You're having a meeting of CFOs. To convince the CFOs that you're going to have a great year, you throw data at them. They are enthusiastic.
- When you think about the whole brain, you think about the whole audience. It's unlikely that your audience will be *only* in one quadrant. Crafting a multi-faceted presentation with persuasion coming from multiple angles (i.e. data, story, interaction, WIIFM) will reach the whole audience and the whole brain.
Is Your Audience Prepared for your Event?
Tue, Sep 4 2012 05:34 | 4 Stages of Learning, Audience Response Systems, Best Practices, Brain-based Learning, Event Psychology
Your first response might be something like, "Of course, all flights and travel are booked, all days are marked off and important meetings rescheduled or scheduled..."
But we don't mean this in the technical sense; packing, flights, hotels, teambuilding activity choices, signed up for the event app, etc. While this may be the only way that MOST meeting planners think about their audience being prepared, we're thinking about something much more impactful: Are they prepared for your messaging?
Our CEO's daughter is currently taking developmental psychology course in college. The other day, she came to him with a quote from her professor: "'The difference between adults and children is that children will learn for the sake of and love of learning. Adults have to have a reason to learn.' See dad? It's just like you always say!"
Small validations aside, you have to give your *audience* a reason to learn. You have to prepare them for your event. That's the biggest thing that we see missing from major events: Preparation. Not only is preparation the first stage of learning (followed by presentation, practice and performance), but it's crucial in captivating the attention of your audience. Preparation should answer the question, "What's in it for me? What do *I* get out of sitting through this event?"
Here are four ways to prepare your audience and to make sure they get the MOST out of your content:
1. Pre-event communication:
Your audience knows that this is going to be your "best annual event ever" because that's what you say when you send out the invitations, right? Go beyond that. This isn't going to be the best event ever because it's in a great resort or because the weather looks perfect for golfing--err, teambuilding--day.
It's going to be great because the CEO is going to reveal the top 10 reasons why the latest product will be great for their personal sales. The marketing team is going to unveil the new ad campaign that will help drive business in the coming year. The CFO is going to show us a roadmap that will make it clear where we've been and where we're headed. Plus we're going to have an amazing keynote speaker that will do x, y, and z. Etc, etc, and so on and so forth.
You want your audience to know how tremendously valuable this event is going to be for them. How those three days they're spending away from the field not making sales are going to be WORTH it and pay them back in heaps and piles over the coming year.
2. Pre-event feedback:
Do your attendees act like passive players in your event because they feel like passive players in its design? Surely THEY weren't all consulted about the agenda, the presentations, etc.--so why should they listen to some stuffed suit? Give them a reason.
Put out a pre-event survey asking them what they want to get out of the meeting. What questions will they want answered? What workshops or breakouts are most important to them? What issues do they have on their mind coming into the event?
Turn them into active participants by asking them to develop their own event learning outcomes. Sure, you have outcomes, but what are theirs? By the end of the event, what do they want to know, believe and do? What will they be responsible for learning that will make this event "worth it" to them when they get back to their office the next Monday?
3. Pre-frame the content:
Every presentation should have a pre-frame, and every opening session, too. Attendees need to know what they're going to get out of a meeting, a speaker, a presentation, and why it's important to them. Issues also need to be addressed, lest they stew in the minds of the audience leaving precious little space for the actual messaging.
For instance, if you've had 4 different CRMs in 5 years and you're introducing ANOTHER one...and talking about the importance of getting completely on board with this CRM... why would your audience believe that they should be actively embracing your message? It's just going to change in another year or two anyway...
Address those objections and points of skepticism. You have to exorcise those thought and points before the audience can move on to accepting your message. (You also, in the extreme case cited above, have to provide hard evidence that they should adopt this program or that it's not going away in 2 years...it's not enough to say it when it's been said dozens of times before with little veracity.)
4. Use preparation activities:
So your audience knows it all. They've had YEARS of experience. You want to tell them about the new protocol, but THEY know how to do it. They're experts. How do you shake up that dismissive mentality and get them to focus on learning? Prove them wrong in an engaging way.
One thing that we'll do is include an audience response game as a pre-test (of sorts) before a presentation. The audience gets to compete on teams and engage with the material, but it's also a rather stark wake-up call highlighting what they do and do not know. Not only is the presenter aware of their knowledge gaps--but they are as well. And if, by chance, they should become aware that there is going to be another round of the game AFTER the presentation...they're going to be listening VERY closely for the answers they need to score well.
This is just one example of a preparation activity. You can also have someone perform a task or do a roleplay, try to install a new product, or give a team pitch. The point is to illuminate the need for the presentation/learning in an interactive and engaging (and fun) way.
Your Audience Has Baggage
Mon, Mar 12 2012 02:34 | Audience Engagement, Best Practices, Brain-based Learning, Event Psychology, Presentation Tips
It's all pretty straight forward; but is the message that is being delivered even acknowledging the state of the audience? People don't just come into a sales meeting all tabula rasa; waiting for you to dump 8 hours of information into their heads (not that information should be dumped anyway, but that's another blog post). They come with the whole year on their shoulders.
We're not saying that you have to start off a meeting with a little therapy session, but measures must be taken to move your audience from baggage-carrying and not-really-listening to an unburdened audience ready to see the possibilities of the next year. If you don't do this, every persuasive point you try to make (i.e. "We can hit 3% growth, here's what I want you to do," will be met with skepticism).
1. Acknowledge what they're going through. If it's been a tough year, don't kick off the meeting like everything is great. Ignoring a major communal issue that the audience has isn't going to make them forget it--it's going to make them reiterate that issue in their heads after every point you make.
It's not enough to say, "It's been a tough year," either. Open by relating to the audience. "I know it's been a tough year; you've had problems retaining sales leaders, our clients only seem to want bargains, we're late on x product." That way you can get over the past and move forward into the coming year. Maybe the situation isn't going to improve--but acknowledging that you're all going through it is going to help people deal with it as a team.
2. Anticipate objections. You want the audience to adopt a new sales strategy, but in the past you've gone through "new sales strategies" like a couch potato working on a bag of chips? (This year: Relationship Selling! Next year: No, Now Whiteboarding!) What makes you think that the audience will have faith that the new way will stick around? Why would they make the effort to adopt something that will be gone in a few months? Pre-frame their objections by acknowledging the situation of the past and giving concrete reasons (what's in it for them) for the future strategy.
3. Acknowledge your shortcomings. If you didn't deliver on something--don't be afraid to admit it to your audience. "We know that we didn't give you marketing support like we promised, but we'll have to do more with less." It's not justification to tell the story of an initiative gone wrong. It's a way of bringing it to a rational, understandable level. Be sure to follow up, of course, with why it's not going to be this way in the future (or alternate options if it IS going to be this way in the future).
4. It's not all negative. If your team busted their behinds all year and did a great job, don't start off by telling them how much more they're expected to grow in the coming year. It's okay to celebrate. This doesn't mean that you'll be resting on your laurels in the future, but many people are driven by significance and positive reinforcement. Be sure to give your team the props they deserve for a job well done.