Les Holloway Manager, Creative Services The Canada Life Assurance Company Atlanta, GA
"At the beginning of a meeting, we show slides featuring items that will be given away at the beginning of each session. These are promotional items, a mix of cheap and expensive things ranging from golf balls, tees, T-shirts, and logo watches to a desk clock or a Swiss Army watch. We tell attendees that in order to keep our meeting on track, after every break, the first thing we will do is draw for prizes. People really like these drawings; they like getting things, and they respond particularly well when the names of people who are not in the room are called. They get a big kick out of that."
Sheila Flanagan Training Programs Administrator Erie Insurance Group Erie, PA
"Well, I don't do anything about it personally, but many of my speakers do. One guy in particular says to the group before a coffee break, 'I just want to warn you, if you're late returning from a coffee break, I'm going to ask what you were doing.' And sure enough, when people arrive late, he asks what they were doing. Were they in the bathroom? Were they on the phone? Some of them will crouch over, but he won't let them off the hook. He does it in a funny way, but the message gets across."
Allison Walsh Conference Planner USF&G Insurance Baltimore, MD
"That's easy: We hire Richard Betts. He's an entertainer who dons different costumes, becoming hilarious characters. He's very tall, and he looks funny and acts funny. At a recent incentive, he dressed up in an old policeman's costume, like a bobby, and he wandered through the crowd with a whistle saying 'C'mon now, I'm going to have to write tickets if you don't get back into the room.' He's obnoxious, but in a funny way, so no one minds--and the meeting planner doesn't have to do it."
Evy Garcia Manager Advertising and International Relations Pan-American Life Insurance Company New Orleans, LA
"Something that we do, especially for management meetings, is penalize people: we make them pay if they're late. We have a penalty box or a jar, and we ask them to pay an amount that is determined by how late they are. And whatever money we collect, we give it to one of our charities or use it to pay for a party or to cover expenses. This has helped us, and we have fun doing it too."
Suzanne Maranville Director, Meetings & Events M Financial Portland, OR
"It's as hard for us as it is for everyone else. What we do is we take chimes with us. We chime three minutes before we want them back, lower the lights, start up music inside the general session, and then I have a planning team that goes and gently pushes the people back into the room. We usually don't have much of a problem if we use all four techniques. But it's still tough. I find that if you extend their breaks from 15 to 20 minutes it helps."
Linda Mills Conference Planner London Life Insurance Company London, ON
"It's always a problem. Our meetings are jam-packed with business, and we can't let the coffee breaks go too long. Essentially, we just walk around and say, 'It's time to return to the meeting.' But we've found that if we get their leaders--people at the senior reporting level--to call them back, people respond more quickly. It also helps to find someone with a loud voice."
Dale Huff Vice President Amica Mutual Insurance Company Providence, RI
"Believe me, it's a problem. At ICPA, one of the things we've done is to hire somebody to walk through the crowd in character, ringing a bell. He'll be dressed up as something--a silly nerd, or an obnoxious tourist--you know, with shorts, black knee socks, funny glasses, and a camera. This has been very effective. When we don't have the budget for this, we use a combination of things. One thing we do is close all the doors but one, which we'll leave open until the speaker has started to speak. When people see the doors closing, they typically rush back to their seats."