All the Meeting's a Stage When the lights dim and the music starts at your next sales meeting, you should be feeling the excitement, not shaking your head at the thought of the production bill. Special effects, cutting-edge audiovisual techniques, and a program that runs seamlessly are critical to getting your motivational message across.

Diana Zimmerman, president of Creative Marketing Services in Los Angeles, calls it "business theater." That is, "the application of theatrical techniques to communicated business messages." According to Zimmerman, this was revolutionary when CMS was founded in 1986. Since then, the pendulum has threatened to swing in the other direction. "People started getting dazzled," she says. "You had dancing girls and marching elephants." Attention-grabbing? Yes. Effective at delivering messages? Not so much.

Zimmerman starts with the basics: What is the message? "A lot of execs know what they want to say, and usually it's too much," she explains. "We ask them what must be said to the group and then match that message to a tool. Maybe we change the presentation style."

For example, Zimmerman says we may be nearing the end of the "bowling alley" ballroom setup. "Where's the action at a basketball game?" she asks. "In the middle. We've had success putting the stage in the middle. From when people walk in they know it's going to be different. They know the company is thinking out of the box. That is what business theater should be."

It should also be varied and interactive. "Every three to four minutes you must change the pace of talking," Zimmerman advises. "The mind can only absorb what the seat can endure."