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Are You Thinking Outside the Room?

Bruce MacMillan wants MPI members to look at their meetings and events in a new way. He wants them to look at new ways of connecting people to ideas and content. He wants them to start thinking outside the room.

That’s the message that he brought to MPI Members from Minnesota and Wisconsin at the Midwest Regional Conference in St. Paul, Minnesota, today. I hope that he continue to share this same message with all chapters around the world.

Bruce brought more than theory. He brought three “A” list events that would inspire anyone.  I have summarized each event below – so you can be inspired too.

SAP’s Sapphire Now

Luca Favetta and his team outdid themselves with this event. They built a hybrid event that linked two hub cities of Frankfurt and Orlando and integrated thousands of people online. They used TV studios to create additional content and connect people to a broader audience.

Cisco GSX

In 2009, Cisco’s Global sales event was in danger of being cancelled. Instead of cancelling the event, they created a virtual event. They pulled together over 19,000 people and created a remarkable case study in the process. They created interactive games, like the Threshold, to get thousands of people involved and participating.


TED does four things to connect people to ideas and content outside the room. First, they use an 18 minute format for their presentations. Second, they regularly publish videos on their websites. Three, they have TEDActive which is a simulcast event for people that could not attend the real TED event (See Interview). Fourth, they have the TEDx series of self organized events that help connect people to the content.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Bottom Line

We have the tools to connect people and ideas to larger audiences around the world. The events above show you what you can do with gazillions of dollars. There’s a big secret that most people don’t know about. You don’t need a gazillion dollars to create innovative and engaging experiences for remote attendees. At Event Camp Twin Cities we proved that you can create engaging experiences with a lot less money. A lot less. (if you don’t believe me checkout the case study: Watch)

Are you thinking outside the room?

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Didier Scaillet, MPI’s Director of Business Development, delivered much the same message to a packed room at World Travel Market in London Wednesday. The message is very good and very important at this time.

    Didier also referred to recent research indicating that meeting planners in general have not understood what is happening and they are not ready for the challenge ahead.

    I go to Milan on Monday for European Best Event Awards (EuBEA), proudly presenting an award for ‘Best Event Evaluation’. Most of the winners are experiential agencies, their background is advertizing and PR, film and television. They have very little in common with the hospitality related meetings industry, most of them haven’t heard about associations like MPI.

    The experiential agencies don’t necessaily master technology, but they have the basic knowledge of communication and content design.

    It will be interesting to see if associations MPI will be able attract these agencies as members now that what they can do is becoming more mainstream.

    I met last week with Flemming Fog in Copenhagen, we ‘met’ first as speakers at different locations during EventCamp Twin Cities. I think Flemming and his company are able to deliver today the meetings of the future, adding a dose of ROI Methodology, it will be perfect ;-). Have a look at

    November 12, 2010
  2. Hi Elling!

    Thanks for your comment and the confirmation that MPI is spreading this message globally. I agree with you – it’s important.

    Regarding experiential agencies: I think we are always going to find great things coming from experiential agencies. Most are remarkably creative and innovative – with client’s that can afford to pay for it.

    On the B2E (Business to Employee) side, I think the strategy consultants (OD Consultants) are innovating on another level entirely. If you look at the large group processes – they are engaging groups in collaborative projects all the time. Thinking outside the room – shouldn’t be that hard.

    Training and Development groups are thinking outside the room, but still haven’t mastered the engagement and collaboration pieces, yet. I think the “E-learning” experts will get this figured out sooner or later. (Actually they have figured it out – but it will take time to make it standard.)

    Flemming’s Wizerize, Inc. is an excellent marriage between great process and technology. I work with them and have seen how they can marry process and the technology together to transform people and businesses. They, also, think and work outside the room:

    November 12, 2010
  3. Ah, what we’ve long known and some of us have done re ‘thinking [and holding gatherings] outside the room.’

    What needs to happen:
    1) Take all learners/participants into account – some want to be _in_ the room with a standard set and a lecture. They should have that. Others of us, as do all who are part of meetings, want different models at different times for our own learning. MPI (and PCMA and ASAE, etc.) should be using VARK or other learning inventory to find out styles and design partly around those.

    2) Hotels, conv. centers, even some conference centers and other venues and their owners and management cos. need to be more learned about the impact of space on what happens. We need to have sessions at industry meetings about adult learning; we need Paul Radde to teach ALL venues about how to set rooms better; we need to work w/ fire marshals on how to do this better and safely; we need to talk w/ furniture designers (as IACC once did) about better/different furniture to accommodate different sets. Alas, some of us have said this since .. well, when did Jack Kemp speak at MPI in Baltimore?

    3) Let’s have smaller, more intimate meetings that can go to conference centers ( or and use outdoor space – use small gathering space in housing buildings. Why mammoth gatherings? [Note to MPI: Please no outdoor gatherings in Orlando in the summer – or at least something else for those of us who cannot be out in the sun or heat for medical reasons.]

    4) One size does NOT fit all.

    And we could go on, couldn’t we?

    Someone else’s turn now.

    November 12, 2010
  4. One more thing: MPI (and all industry orgs) need to not just “spread the word” verbally – it needs to be SHOWN and then explained about why and input sought about effectiveness.

    Technology is sometimes a component, sometimes not. I’ve done a small (up to 50 people) gathering for 7 years that has experimented with all kinds of things. We’ve learned and have lots of learning to share .. if only others (MPI, PCMA, ASAE, etc.) were listening.

    (Sam: how do I add my photo to your blog?)

    Grrrrr… such a hot button for me.

    Why can’t WE all just have our own meeting (I know .. EC is one example – it’s not the only one!}

    November 12, 2010
    • Hi Joan,

      Thanks for such thoughtful comments. I can always imagine the energy and passion inside your comments – when you post. It motivates me!

      I agree with you about showing people the future. Not just one time – but many times. These alternative formats need to become so familiar that they are basically second nature.

      November 15, 2010
  5. Thanks, Sam — you and I share a brain me thinks!


    (And how DO I add my photo?)

    November 15, 2010
    • Sam:

      Nice post. I tend to focus less on where something should happen and more of what we want to have happening. if it can happen in a room, fine by me. Hallways, field trips, online, coffeehouse, bar? Sure, why not. If we focus on the experiences we want to create and the results they should produce, the space questions answer themselves I think.

      November 16, 2010
  6. Hi Jeffrey,

    Thanks for reading and commenting. For the purposes of this post, it was to get people to look toward the hybrid audience that was beyond the room. Maybe I could have stated it more clearly.

    In general, I agree with your approach. In B-school, we used to say – structure follows strategy.

    November 16, 2010
  7. Tho’ I almost always agree with Jeffrey, I find myself questioning the ‘where.’ We know that environment plays a great deal into outcomes. I’m not nearly as receptive to learning in a
    dark(ened) meeting room as I am if I have natural light.

    Noodling on this for a bit….

    November 16, 2010
  8. Technology presents an opportunity for event professionals to leverage new tools and means of communication in order to create an innovative and memorable event.

    I found SAP’s hybrid event approach particularly interesting. By combining both in-person and online event formats, attendees are able to engage with an even broader and more diverse audience. When feasible, offering an option for face-to-face engagement is important for the local audience, and the online channels provide a unique way for the remote audience to transcend location and even time.

    Most importantly, these types of events leave a lasting impression with those who attend, resulting in increased loyalty, reputation, profitability and overall success!

    Katie S., Omni Hotels & Resorts

    November 18, 2010
  9. Thanks for sharing your ideas. I would also like to convey that video games have been at any time evolving. Better technology and inventions have made it easier to create sensible and active games. These types of entertainment video games were not actually sensible when the real concept was being used. Just like other areas of technological know-how, video games also have had to evolve by means of many generations. This itself is testimony towards fast development of video games.

    February 3, 2012

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