general session blog

Rethinking The General Session

Cybelle Clevenger Blog, Tips and Tricks

Most meetings revolve around the general session – why?


…What’s the point? Who is the general session for? Is it for the organization’s leaders? The speakers? The audience? At Multi Image Group, we’ve planned our fair share of general sessions and they all have one thing in common: the general session is about the audience. It’s about motivating them, stirring their emotions, changing their mindsets, sharing information, and inspiring them to take very specific actions. It’s our responsibility (as architects of the event experience) to continually adjust the shape, form and flow of the general session so that the message connects, resonates and alters hearts and minds. What are some ways to rethink the general session experience to achieve those goals? We’re glad you asked!

Waive the traditional room layout.

Classroom, theater, banquet: these are the most common layouts. But are they the most effective at creating mind altering experiences? Sometimes not. If you want mindsets to shift and emotions to be tapped, then you must change the way you do things. A few things to consider are putting the stage in the middle of the audience for a theater-in-the-round design. This layout creates a stronger sense of intimacy for attendees, even in a space with hundreds of people.

Give attendees options.

Design the space with a few different styles in it, some theater, some cocktail tables, some highboys, some rounds, some informal room furniture – and have it placed so people can move around when they need to. This of course also means that you must give your attendees permission to move around. Additional things to consider are whether attendees need a table or surface to place mobile devices and whether they need access to a power source. Or how about this for shaking things up; ask them to check their mobile devices at the door.

Go lighter.

Improvements in audiovisual equipment and presentation technology means that lights no longer need to dim attendees into REM sleep mode. A brighter room not only helps attendees stay alert, but also sends a subtle message that they should be participating.

Mix it up.

Here’s a radical thought, mix general sessions altogether and instead break the meeting experience and attendees into smaller sessions. Smaller sessions offer greater opportunities for attendees to speak up, participate and interact. Neuroscience shows the more you talk about something, the more you actually retain that information and apply it to your personal situation.