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Beware of Boring Meetings: Here’s How to Breathe Life into Your Next Gathering

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Think back to the traditional meeting setup: beige walls, stiff banquet chairs, and hours of passive listening. 

While participants may take notes and engage superficially, these meetings often fail to foster a genuine connection with the content or fellow attendees. This disconnect leaves organizations questioning the value of such meetings. 

Participants give their time and effort, but what are they taking away?

Wingspread’s General Manager, Eric Bates, sheds light on the power of experiential meetings, with a few takeaways you can use when planning your next gathering. 

Let’s dive in.

Why Traditional Meetings Fall Short

Traditional meetings are often stuck in a cycle of routine and monotony. 

Attendees arrive in the morning for coffee and a pastry, sit through presentation after presentation, and leave with few actionable insights. 

Eric says, "They’re just not connected with the content." 

The sterile environment of conventional meeting spaces limits participants' ability to truly immerse themselves in the learning experience, making it challenging for organizers to ensure their message resonates.

The Solution: Experiential Meetings

Experiential meetings are a dynamic alternative that immerses participants in the environment and connects them deeply with both content and each other. 

At Wingspread, Bates explains that experiential meetings are "among the most popular meetings we do." 

With access to 36 lush acres on the shores of Lake Michigan, Wingspread offers a unique setting where meeting attendees can engage with content through a range of hands-on experiences.

How Wingspread Makes Experiential Meetings Effective

The natural landscape and creative use of spaces at Wingspread enable immersive learning experiences. 

Bates mentions that experiential meetings can include activities like beekeeping, orchard tours, or art installations, each reinforcing different aspects of the meeting's message. 

By exploring the apiary, groups discover how bees work to produce honey that enhances the resort's cuisine. Touring the orchards can educate teams on sustainability and giving back to the community. 

Such activities turn learning into memorable, actionable insights.

A Real-World Example of Success

Bates recounts a memorable leadership training session where attendees explored Wingspread's campus to reinforce their understanding of core principles. 

In the perennial garden, they discussed how to nurture natural resources, and in the art installations, they explored the connection between artistic inspiration and leadership. 

Finally, a birdwatching session taught participants how to recognize distinct behavioral patterns, reflecting on their teams' unique talents. 

Bates recalls, "It was the first time I've seen a group do it, and I can't wait to do it again with another group."

Making Meetings Meaningful Again: Here are Some Tips for Planning an Experiential Meeting

Experiential meetings redefine the concept of influential gatherings. 

By offering opportunities to connect with the environment and each other through hands-on activities, Wingspread ensures that attendees leave with more knowledge and a stronger sense of purpose. 

Here are some tips to infuse experiential elements into your next meeting.

1. Define Clear Objectives:  

Outline what you want your participants to achieve or learn during the meeting. Is the focus on team building, leadership development, or brainstorming new strategies? Understanding your goals helps you design activities that will effectively engage your audience.

2. Know Your Audience:  

Tailor the meeting to your participants' interests, preferences, and expertise. Gather information through surveys or informal conversations to understand their expectations and the activities they would find enjoyable and beneficial.

3. Choose an Appropriate Venue:   

Select a venue that provides a conducive environment for experiential activities. With its natural landscape and flexible indoor and outdoor spaces, a place like Wingspread can facilitate creativity and engagement. Make sure the venue has suitable facilities to support your planned activities.

4. Integrate Interactive Activities:  

Incorporate activities that directly involve participants in learning. Whether it's hands-on workshops, outdoor team-building exercises, or creative brainstorming sessions, ensure that each activity ties back to your meeting's core objectives.

5. Encourage Networking:  

Provide opportunities for participants to connect informally. Networking sessions, collaborative challenges, or group meals can help people bond and share insights, creating a stronger sense of community and increasing engagement.

6. Use Technology Wisely:  

Technology can enhance experiential meetings if used thoughtfully. Live polls, interactive apps, and virtual reality can complement face-to-face activities and offer new engagement methods. However, keep technology from overshadowing the event's experiential nature.

7. Plan for Flexibility:  

Build in flexibility to accommodate unexpected changes. If the weather doesn't permit an outdoor activity or a speaker is delayed, have backup plans that will still deliver a meaningful experience to participants.

8. Debrief and Gather Feedback:  

Allocate time for reflection and discussion after each activity. Participants can share their insights and how the experience will impact their work. Post-event surveys can also provide valuable feedback for improving future meetings.

9. Partner with Local Experts:  

If the venue has unique features, work with local experts or guides who can enrich the meeting with their knowledge. Their involvement can add a layer of authenticity and relevance to the event.

10. Balance Learning and Leisure:  

While experiential meetings should be engaging and informative, they should also provide relaxation and enjoyment. Include leisure activities like yoga, nature walks, or social gatherings to keep participants refreshed and ready to engage with the meeting's content.

Organizations seeking to inspire and empower their teams should consider the immersive and interactive approach of experiential meetings to transform how their messages are delivered and received.

Have questions? We’d love to hear from you! Reach out to us here.