Over the past couple of years, Jeff Rogers, president of communications agency ZAP Creative in Chicago, noticed that many of his big-budget corporate clients were pulling him aside and saying the same thing. It always began with, â€śHey, weâ€™ve got this other meetingâ€¦â€ť That â€śotherâ€ť meeting didnâ€™t have a large budget, theyâ€™d say, but they wanted to make it special. It was low budget but they didnâ€™t want it to appear low value.
â€śWe found there is an underserved nicheâ€”the sub-$100,000 meetings, with 100 to 300 people, which represent 80 percent of meetings across the country,â€ť says Rogers. â€śThey arenâ€™t at the dollar amount where they can hire a whole production company. But these meetings need to be more engaging, more focused, and better aligned with the companyâ€™s overall strategic message.â€ť
To serve this niche, Rogers launched The Meeting Department, an extension of ZAP Creative that offers pre-themed production packages that provide a framework for a basic business meeting. The new company also offers a la carte production servicesâ€”everything from an emcee to a speech coach to a graphic designer.
At the most basic level are the Meetings Express packages, available with thematic outlines such as â€śGame Day,â€ť which has an ESPN-style sports-desk feel and is designed to motivate a sales force to compete. Other themes include â€śContent Tonight,â€ť with the look and feel of an entertainment magazine program, designed for product launches and marketing meetings; â€śThe Morning Show,â€ť a conversational format that works well for mid-year updates or webcasts; â€śThe Big Idea,â€ť an interview format designed to spark creativity and innovation; and several others.
Each package includes a plug-and-play opening video (two of which won 2011 Telly Awards in the non-broadcast video category); PowerPoint templates that echo the theme; music for walk-in, walk-up, awards, segues, and walk-out; a planner guide with a site-inspection checklist, Web site checklist, and minute-by-minute show-flow template; and even e-mail templates for pre- and post-event communication, including save-the-date notes, registration reminders, and event surveys.
â€śYou can customize everything,â€ť Rogers explains. â€śVideos are delivered in high-res, so if you have an in-house editor you can edit it, add to it, whatever.â€ť And if you donâ€™t, you can use it as is. Or, you can hire an editor from The Meeting Department on an hourly basis.
â€śWe offer many services that are a la carte, based on hourly fees and equipment use,â€ť Rogers says, including creative consultation, stage design, Web site design, and event management. â€śWe can put a group together, and whatâ€™s nice is you donâ€™t have to pay for what youâ€™re not using. With a production company, youâ€™ve got the whole team so you might be paying for personnel you donâ€™t need. I have total respect for the production company model, but I really believe that there are many clients who arenâ€™t able to partner with themâ€ť because their spending doesnâ€™t reach a high enough level.
â€śWe are moving toward democratized versions of vertical industries,â€ť says Rogers, citing Pandora for music/radio and Mint.com in the financial planning sphere. â€śBut there hasnâ€™t been that approach in event production.â€ť Now, companies can buy the pieces and put them together themselves. And the creative heavy-lifting is already doneâ€”a huge savings in time, effort, and, probably, committee-work. Rogers also points out that the modules offer planners the ability to make meetings globally cohesive. â€śClients want to better leverage their meeting spend, and they need something they can use on a regular basis, a global basis, so they can cascade the same content companywide,â€ť he says.
The Meeting Departmentâ€™s next-level offering is Meetings Select, which might be appropriate for a planner with less experience, or one who has an understaffed department and needs an event producer to pull everything together. At the top end is Meetings Premier. â€śThat is our standalone concierge-level service, a more typical event-production partnering,â€ť Rogers explains. â€śOur goal is to help out with the lower end, but where we come from is the higher end.â€ť
The Meetings Express packages are $5,000, while the Meetings Select and Meetings Premier services have variable pricing. â€śWeâ€™ve found that there are three levels of meetings in terms of production,â€ť Rogers says. â€śIt starts at $5,000, then moves to $25,000, then you jump to the higher-end meeting.â€ť