Innovation on an Olympic Scale

August 4, 2012

I smell an analogy. The similarities between athletes competing in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games and one company’s program to train conference and tradeshow attendees to deliver peak performances are compelling. Did I mention the company is based in the U.K. where the games are taking place this week?

Actually, the link between peak attendee performance and Olympic-level athletic achievement is by design, according to the Founder of Meetings Mindset, Jonathan Bradshaw.

“For athletes, optimal performance requires accessing a certain state of mind aided by the appropriate foods, diet, wellness, exercise and training. What’s different about a (meeting) attendee?” he asks.

The Meetings Mindset program takes clients through a three-part regimen. Before the event, attendees receive practical training on accessing the correct mental state to perform at their best.

They address their skills gaps and select educational programming to meet the objectives they set for themselves through an online tool called the Online Performance Center.

On site, participants receive instruction, including tips, tools and techniques to improve performance involving vitamins, brain food and relaxation.

During the recent IMEX Frankfurt event, Meetings Mindset “soothed the tensions of over 200 buyers (with massage); held a total of seven educational 'Camp Fire' sessions about brain performance, wellness at meetings and influencing and persuading others; and delivered three sessions on the science behind meetings effectiveness,” according to the company’s Facebook page.

After the event, attendees are invited to log back on to the Online Performance Center to self-certify their individual performances and compare post-event results with pre-event goals.

They receive a printable, personalized performance review that sets a benchmark for performance at the next event they attend. It also contains tips on how best to follow-up in the days and weeks after the meeting.

Perhaps it’s Bradshaw’s background that led him to develop a program for attendees that incorporates the principles of performance training. Although he is a 17-year veteran of the meetings industry - having been with both EIBTM and IMEX - he also is an adventure sports lover who has climbed Mounts Kilimanjaro and Everest. The combination of his career path and passion for achievement led him to create his company.

There is real science behind the subject of peak attendee performance. Recently, celebrity chef Jamie Oliver has been working the meetings circuit with his ideas about brain food. Researcher, Andrea Sullivan, M.A. of BrainStrength Systems has devoted 25 years to studying the effects of food on mood, learning and performance and has applied her findings to meetings and conferences.

Meetings Mindset’s “curriculum” isn’t the first program to examine attendee performance at face-to-face events. For at least ten years, meeting planners have been nibbling around the edges of subjects like meeting architecture, adult learning principles and even ergonomics to help attendees benefit more fully from meetings.

It’s just that tinkering with room lay outs, banning PowerPoint and replacing chairs with rubber balls can only take planners - and attendees - so far.

Bradshaw’s system places the responsibility for peak performance on the attendees (and, arguably, on the managers who fund their conference participation). Programs that require attendees to do something more than show up and party down are healthy for the industry because they force participants to put some skin in the game too.

As any Olympic host city planner will tell you, you can provide the fastest pool or the smoothest track, but that does not an Olympics make. At the end of the day, the athletes have to come prepared to give their very best performance.

Jonathan Bradshaw see’s the issue of attendee performance as a simple one. “We prepare for sports or an exam. Why don’t we prepare for a conference?” If Bradshaw is successful, the next generation of meeting attendees will be ready to go for the conference gold.

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