In the past 15 years I have sat in meetings where I wasn’t suppose to say anything, to a room full of people expecting me to come up with something on the spot. If you are involved with corporate meetings you probably have seen the same themes come by for different companies. Why is that?
When working for the company that first hired me in the meeting production business I remember sitting down to lunch with this English creative director who spoke with a cockney accent. I was a newly minded production coordinator and I wish I could remember his name. Such an animated guy, he had been in the business for 100 years, he had a swagger and confidence of Man Men: Don Draper a cool creative director. (Sans cocktail and cigarette that day in the office )
He and I were eating sandwiches they brought in, we were waiting for the creative meeting to start. This is where he would come up with the blockbuster theme for one of our clients sales meeting. He boasted to me how they flew him out for this meeting from England, and he said he had the goods right here- he patted his shirt pocket and smiled as he brought out a small leather book. In it he said: were years and years of sales meetings themes and event themes. He told me he would just ask some questions and pick the one that was closest to one he had seen before that he thought would work the best.
When we entered the brainstorming room he started asking the group questions. He got mad when we answered wrong. It was a strange process and we all looked at each other dumbfounded. One of the guys we worked with- a graphic designer who was one of my favorite co-workers had a very small chain for bullshit. “Why don’t you tell us the answer.” He asked. The English creative directer turned to the board and said. “I think this is it.” I believe that is the theme we went with. His presentation was interesting. I knew what he was up to. Why did he tell me about the little Leather book. But his system worked for us and our clients.
Another time years and years later with my own company, I was flown out to the east coast (We are based in the San Francisco Bay Area) I went into a room with all the top executives and they played grab ass for a whole hour. All the sales executives just screwing around instead of taking the meetings architecture seriously. When it was my turn to talk they said they did not want to talk about themes just yet. Strange situation for me. I asked if I could give them my notes. The ideas and explanations that I was going to present to them. They agreed. So the meeting planner copied them and handed them out. Then the talk turned to financial elements so I was excused. As I walked to my hotel room, I wondered if I was lucky to have been invited or lucky I didn’t have to give my presentation? Did they trust me so much that all I needed was to show my face?
The next morning my client told me they decided over drinks watching a pro sports game at a local bar after the meeting. Also this situation sounds pretty close to a Don Draper Mad Men episode.
So where do you come up with ideas for sales meeting themes?
I asked some of my clients and they said: the shower, gym and on the train. One said the creative meetings they have internally, usually move down a bad path and frustration ensues. It becomes a chore. The sales & marketing director just ultimately decided the theme.
How do we do it at Grass Shack Events & media?
We usually ask a ton of questions. (not in a cockney accent) We then work backwards from what the actions of our clients attendees want to be when they leave the final day of the meeting. Then we try to inspire, engage and educate them to these desired actions. Use storytelling, images, videos and plan networking events so they can learn from each other to reach this action. The look and feel of the meeting and events surrounding it also will match. It all comes from the theme.
Have you had to come up with a theme lately? How did you do it?
- 15 ways to build Kick Ass Corporate Meeting Production Company (d72.c4e.myftpupload.com)
- Mad Men asks: Who is Don Draper? (canada.com)
- How the real Don Draper sold Lucky Strikes (money.cnn.com)