Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

April 2014

The Right Wavelength

By Molly Brennan, Contributing Editor

Million Dollar Round Table lets attendees plug in to the exact content they — and only they — want to hear.

Quiet is not something you typically aim for in your exhibit hall. But at the 2014 MDRT Experience, a global meeting for insurance salespeople and financial professionals held at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre on Feb. 13-15, that was exactly what attendees encountered — and Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) intended — in the meeting's ConneXion Zone, a blended education/exhibitor space. By utilizing an infrared amplification system to broadcast programming to wireless headsets — not speakers — the room, filled with a thousand people, was dead quiet. “It was kind of spooky,” said Raymond Kopcinski, CMP, MDRT's senior director of meeting services.

Weirdly silent, but an ideal way for attendees to hear everything they wanted and nothing they didn't. “People liked it so much,” Kopcinski said, “we're thinking of using it at our Annual Meeting” — where the ConneXion Zone itself was first launched. A few years ago, MDRT reinvented its Annual Meeting exhibit hall: Out were the traditional layout and 10’ x 10’ booths; in was the ConneXion Zone, an interactive space divided into speaking clusters, networking pods, a big ideas theater, a hospitality area, and a technology “bar.” Short, informal education sessions take place concurrently throughout the day.  

SEE ALSO: A Meeting Within a Meeting

The redesigned space has been well received by both attendees and exhibitors at the Annual Meeting, but with so many concurrent sessions, it can be hard to hear speakers. “In the past, we tried to avoid audio amplification, because the sessions are very close to one another and we didn't want spillover,” Kopcinski said. “As a result, at some of the more popular sessions, people were complaining they couldn't hear.”

When MDRT organizers decided to introduce the ConneXion Zone into this year's MDRT Experience, they knew they needed to control noise levels. The inspiration for the simultaneous infrared amplification came from a PCMA Convening Leaders 2013 lunch program, where attendees were provided with wireless headsets to listen to various speakers.

Working with Washington, D.C.-based Conference Systems Incorporated, MDRT developed an infrared amplification plan for MDRT Experience. The ConneXion Zone was divided into five zones, each one assigned its own audio channel. Attendees chose the channel that corresponded to the zone and speaker they wanted to hear, and were able to listen without any background noise. Headsets were distributed — about 2,000 in all — via a coat-check-like system at the entrance to the ConneXion Zone. Every one of them was returned. “It helped that we said if you don't return them, the credit card you used for registration will be charged $500,” said Audra Kubilius, MDRT's program planner.

Kubilius thinks the headsets encouraged more speaker-attendee interaction. “Attendees were able to really focus in on the sessions they wanted to hear, without any other distractions,” she said. “We saw people asking questions, and in every one of the zones, people went up to talk to the speakers and continue the conversation.

Working Smarter is sponsored by PSAV Presentation Services, psav.com

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