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High-energy speakers earn high praise

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Photos by David Malhalab, MNS Photo/M News Service

Shawna Suckow
President and Founder of SPIN
“Meetings 3.0: Enough’s enough! No more fluff or boring stuff!”

The world has changed, and the way speakers deliver their messages must change as well, Shawna Suckow said.

“Hold up your cellphones,” she told her audience at the Small Market Meetings Conference (SMMC). Every hand popped up, phone in hand. “This,” she said, “is your competition.”

A photo of a preteen boy popped up on the screen behind her. “This,” she said, “is your audience.”

Audiences that have the attention span of an 11-year-old boy and a smartphone in hand present a challenge to meeting planners. How can planners book speakers and educators who will keep audiences engaged and deliver what Suckow has dubbed ROA, Return on Attention.

“We cannot lecture people to death anymore and expect them to pay attention,” said Suckow, whose association, SPIN, was created for meeting planners with 10 years or more of experience.

She campaigns for what she calls Meetings 3.0. Unlike Meetings 1.0, the traditional lecture, and Meetings 2.0, where audiences and speakers are engaged, in Meetings 3.0, “the audience has taken control.”

The format acknowledges that “there is more knowledge in the room than from anyone on the stage,” said Suckow. “When you give power to the audience, it will make presentations more powerful.”

To illustrate how Meetings 3.0 works, Suckow asked those in her audience to move so they would be seated with people they didn’t know. The audience then broke into small groups. She asked groups to discuss challenges they face.

After a few minutes of lively and loud discussion, she asked groups to exchange business cards and urged them to keep in touch throughout the conference and beyond. To cement the relationships, she had each group invent its own “sign.”

“You all are now your own gang,” she declared. “You have met people who are now your allies. Stay in touch with one another, and help each other meet challenges.”As groups left the conference, talking with their fellow “gang” members, they demonstrated their gang signs to one another and the rest of the crowd.