Event Planners: Captivate By Design (Part III: Rapport)

This is part three of a five part series that applies insight from the world of entertainment to the structure of effective, captivating events. Take a look at Part I before proceeding further.


For an entertainer, the second — and critical — phase of the show is creating the relationship with the audience. It doesn’t matter how impressive the on stage stunts are if the audience doesn’t genuinely like the performer, they don’t care. This is the phase of the show that is most focused on laughter, and on building the bond between the crowd and the artist.

Meetings — at their core — are about creating community. A great speakers’ content is insightful, but we could stay at home and read their books. The live experience not only allows the content to be delivered in a memorable way; it allows us to have the content in common with peers and reflect on it together over coffee in the hallway.

Meetings create and deepen relationships in a way that no other forum for sharing information can.

Just like the showman, great content is not enough. The quality of the relationships created is critical to the overall success of the event; and it is in this second phase of the event – after attention – that we turn our attention to rapport.

Experiences that drive rapport at Meetings

The Solution Room

Developed at Meeting Professionals International’s 2011 European Meetings & Events Conference. The solution room inverts the typical dynamic of a conference session. Where normally it is one person sharing with many, The Solution Room begins with the realization that the whole room has more collective experience than any single speaker within it. How can we take advantage of this, and learn from each other – providing both practical solutions and deepening relationships.

Adrian Segar’s Conferences that Work gives an excellent overview of the session – so there is no need to rehash here. But having been through the session, I can say that it was one of the most effective networking events I’ve seen.


“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” Victor Borge

Live entertainment – rare though it is in the age of On Demand and Youtube – connects; it fills us with endorphins, relaxes us, and creates an experience that we share in common.

There is a rapidly growing niche of professional entertainers who focus specifically on helping to drive relationships at meetings. They typically combine three elements: 1. A skill (juggling, magic, ventriloquism, mind reading); 2. Comedy; and 3 extensive audience participation.

These three pillars are critical for an act you’re looking for to help drive rapport. The comedy gets the group laughing together, the skill provides a fascination factor (and is an important added element for when, as happens to the best comics, the comedy just isn’t connecting with the crowd); and the audience participation brings the group together. Seeing Jim from Sales on stage is not only far more interesting for the group, but it is the perfect conversational opener and connector for the rest of the conference.

Team Building / Charity

Sessions where groups work together to solve a problem – and, often, give back while doing so – build relationships within the group, extend the sense of community, and cultivate good will between the organization and the larger community.

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