Our team just wrapped up another PCI Security Standards Council Community Meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland. With hundreds of attendees, scores of speakers and dozens of exhibitors, the meeting—and its counterparts in the US and Asia—have a ton of moving parts.
But if I do say so myself, we hit it out of the park on these meetings. Our team does a phenomenal job of making them successful.
So what’s our Secret Sauce?
It comes down to focus. I’m a stickler for four pillars of these meetings that make a big impression.
The first pillar is the first impression an attendee has walking in to the meeting. Does the meeting room make someone feel like they’ve arrived at a real “event.” A sign hung over a podium emblazoned with the logo of the hotel doesn’t have that feeling. A real stage, a real backdrop, lights so you can actually see the speaker—these are things that make a big difference to someone’s first impression. And there’s a few good—true—axioms out there on first impressions.
The second pillar is the “internal keynote.” People come to a meeting for an update in what’s happening with the organization. This needs to be solid—slides, delivery and message should be well thought out. That means this isn’t “let’s pull together some slides on the plane on the way,” but rather a well thought out deck that takes months to prepare. I’ve been a big fan of books like Presentation Zen and Slideology that show that slides can be a lot more than bullet points. Anyone can do this—it just takes forethought.
Pillar number three is the first reception of the event. People come to events to network. We try to make it fun, and make it memorable. It’s about more than having a bar in a corner—it’s creating an experience. With people traveling to events from all over, often without time to see a city, it’s great to do something that makes them feel connected to where we are. We’ve all said the same thing on business travel—well, every conference room looks the same. It doesn’t have to be that way. Our Harry Potter reception in Edinburgh is still being talked about.
And the final pillar is the external keynote. We try to bring in someone from outside the industry to get people thinking in a different way. This year is was a rocket scientist who talked about risk management. We’re constantly on the lookout for the right speakers—learning is everywhere. I often watch TED talks to see who’s out there and constantly look at the business best sellers for people on the circuit. It’s remarkable what you can learn from keeping your eyes open.
Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Retired U.S. Navy Admiral Jim Stavridis