Intolerable Meeting Mistakes Still Being Made

I'm a pretty patient guy, but I have finally reached my breaking point after experiencing all of the following basic meeting planner blunders at one or more conferences during the past 10 months:
  • Name badges you can't read unless you bury your head in the participant's breasts.
  • The "sugar-only" afternoon break buffet of cookies the size of your head.
  • General session speakers who are nothing but general because either they weren't prepped with enough specifics about the audience or they didn't care/weren't capable of being specific for the audience.
  • "Smiley-face" evaluations only asking whether or not I liked a speaker, event, or conference.
  • Banning handouts that could help facilitate learning under the guise of going green, but then serving bottled water and having enough printed promotional crap laying around the registration area to grow a forest. 
  • The all-carb continental breakfast because it's always best to start the day drowsy.
  • Kicking off the first conference general session with 15 minutes or more of mind-numbing logistics announcements from a parade of increasingly uninteresting talking heads.
  • Sessions trying to save on AV costs using LCD projectors with barely enough lumens to do shadow puppets in the comfort of your home living room.
  • Mandatory workshop slide templates using garish clip art or graphics that consume more than 20% of a slide but add absolutely no educational value to the visual.
  • An apparent inability to find anyone other than older white males to make keynote presentations.
  • Room sets meant for certification exams being the only available option for highly interactive sessions.
  • Session descriptions limited to 100 words being the only available info to help you select your learning options even though the only program is an online version that technically could have unlimited length.
  • Bland, catalog-look stock photos being used for marketing instead of actual members of the community.
I have to stop here because my blood is beginning to boil.  How can it be that in the year 2010 so many basic blunders remain so prevalent, ones often perpetrated by individuals with one or more of the alphabet-soup certification designations following their name?  What's even more obscene is that these fundamental faux pas are prevalent enough that meeting attendees just shrug their shoulders as if to say "what can we do?"

So I ask you, what can we do?


Eric Lanke said...

Let the blood boil, Jeff. You're right on the money with this one. There's only three things association members can do to combat this stuff--speak up, get on planning committees, and force change.

Joan Eisenstodt said...

Dear Jeffrey - I love you even more for articulating what many of us know. HOTELIERS need to see these thoughts too .. they can influence those who plan meetings. And vendors who provide software or badge production, c'mon .. think of the PURPOSE of badges.

If the (meetings/hospitality/association) industry meetings don't change, I think we make it even more clear why we are not attending.

Oh wait.. we have been, haven't we? And nothing changes?

How long can this continue?

Dave Lutz said...

Jeff, great list! Here's a couple more that get my heat up:

- sponsored sessions/meals where they think they get the most bang for their buck by showing us some stale 5 minute promotional video.

- Treating attendees as customers vs. a numeric transaction.

Pat said...

Two of my favorite blood boilers--old white men presenters and stock photos. Oh--and those templates! Or as I said when I reviewed the 'smiley face' evaluations of a particular conference, "God, we must be fabulous!" Thanks for pumping me up.

Patti Shock said...

My pet peeve is loud music at an opening reception, forcing you to shout instead of talk, and finding yourself hoarse the next day. When will planners learn that people that haven't seen each other in a year want to talk.

Traci Browne said...

I've been complaining about Diabetic coma inducing breakfasts and snacks for years and nothing is changing. Judging by all the comments and other posts about you're excellent points above not everyone is doing it wrong...I just have not been lucky enough to go to their events.

Perhaps we need to be more vocal at the events.

Garry Polmateer said...

I agree with all above, the loud volume. What gets me the most is the food options at these things. I try to eat healthy, and that is nigh impossible at many conventions.


Paul said...

Pointing out what not to do is easy, everyone has pet peeves from meetings and events. Jeffrey you made very valid points but haven't done anything constructive to remedy the problems. Nearly all other comments jump on the bandwagon to highlight their own pet peeves yet still don't contribute to solving anything. I strongly suggest a follow-up blog entry to actually take on these issues and create change for meeting goers.

Jeffrey Cufaude said...

Paul: I disagree. I don't need to answer these issues with yet another blog post when there are dozens i've done over the years and I have been writing on these topics for PMCA's Convene Magazine every month for the past four years. And besides, the answer is right there in most of the times I've listed: don't do this, do the opposite.

These issues are not new, the answers are readily available from a myriad of sources in just about any format desired. The problem is not that people don't know what to do; it's that they aren't doing it.

Pat said...

I can't begin to tell you how many times I've raised the healthy food option, and I've bullied people to get rid of the plastic water--suggesting sponsorships for water bottles and water stations. Last year I led a rebellion against a horrible slate of general session speakers and offered relevant alternatives. I'm guessing most of us have been crusading on these points for years (some of us alot of year--especially the old white male thing)but there is a resistance to do things other than the way they have always been done. Jeff Hurt mentioned earlier this year in his blog that we have to look for new ways of presenting--I tried a modified pecha kucha with great results. Having the attendees move around to different centers of interests works well, too. The point is it's time for a change. Or think about conventions: for years beyond imagining, we've been hanging a big cardboard sign with an aisle number from the ceiling and calling that navigation. Yes, there are options...but change doesn't come easy in this business.
And don't get me started on black tie galas...

Patti Pokorchak said...

Your comment re "...inability to find anyone other than older white males to make keynote presentations."

YES! I knew there was a need for new speakers, who I call the hidden gems.

They're not quoted everywhere, aren't on a bunch of speaker bureau lists but are truly fresh voices with new ideas and add VALUE to the event.

Thanks for this list, great checklist of what NOT to do!

Patti Pokorchak, MBA
Speakers With Impact! +1 416-253-9974
Making your event - exceptional, educational & entertaining -- results guaranteed!

Member of CAPS - Canadian Association of Professional Speakers
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Deirdre Reid said...

Let's all remember to reference this post the next time we are asked to fill out a meeting evaluation form. Or maybe we should create a checklist out of this and leave a completed version behind at meetings for the planners and leadership? Let's make our own evaluation forms!