The air is electric. Excited fans buzz about in the nervous energy of the arena. Then the lights go out, screams fill the air, and 25,000 people are hit with a sonic boom that sends a place into a frenzy for hours.
That’s the magic of a concert!
But it doesn’t sound like most meetings and conferences we attend, does it? I’ve worked with countless rock stars and keynoted countless conventions, and the experience is very different. As I look back on the great concerts that I’ve been a part of, there are some excellent takeaways for meeting planners to consider.
First, choose the right venue! Rock stars don’t just play anywhere. They pick and choose the right cities and venues so that their concerts leave a lasting impression on their fans. The perfect venue feels sold out. Nothing takes the air out of a concert like a half-empty arena. We thrive on the energy of others, so the perfect venue puts all of us in close proximity and allows the energy to flow from one fan to another.
But the right venue isn’t just about size. It’s about the vibe. There is something extra special about a venue that perfectly suits the artist. The right venue should provide an unusual and memorable backdrop. This was the case for two Foo Fighters shows I’ve seen. The first was during the summer solstice 2017, the longest day of the year, in Reykjavik, Iceland. The band finished playing just after midnight in twilight, and the sun never set all night long. Fans left the venue and partied into the morning hours. Last year I saw the Foo Fighters again, this time at a 2,000-year-old Roman amphitheater in northern Croatia. It was the smallest venue the band had played in over a decade, but it was hand-picked by the group because it was a special place to share with their fans. Seeing a legendary rock band with the pillars of a perfectly preserved Roman amphitheater as the backdrop was beyond memorable.
Once you’re on stage, your setlist is vital. The setlist is the list of songs the band will play that night, and smart rock bands organize their setlist in order to maximize excitement. They make sure that they open the show with a great song, end with an anthem, and spread out the lesser-known songs in a strategic way. Great bands plan their songs the same way a smart meeting planner would schedule their speakers. A perfect setlist balances era, sound, tempo, and flow just like a great agenda at conferences balances topics, genders, styles, and themes.
As a speaker and a music fan, the biggest “rock star” takeaway for meeting planners is how to end a concert. Concerts always end on a high note, with an encore and a song we all love and sing along with, and everyone leaves with a buzz. Unfortunately, most meeting sessions end with a whimper… the speaker wraps up their presentation, there is the silence of an awkward Q&A period, and then an MC comes to the podium to deliver some housekeeping notes before the bathroom break. One vital lesson I’ve learned from the rock stars I’ve worked with is to never let that happen! I end my presentations on a high note, and I leave the stage immediately. Of course, I stick around to meet attendees, sign books, and answer any questions. But I have learned from rock legends that you never go out with a whimper, and you always leave them wanting more.
Steve Jones is a music-biz insider who will change the way you think about business, marketing, creativity, and customer service. As the author of two highly-acclaimed business books, Steve draws upon his 30 years in the music industry to demonstrate how the essential lessons of business can be learned from the bands, songs, and albums we love.