Four Ways to Make Your Next Strategy Session Sing

Boring strategy sessions are the bain of every busy executive.  Thankfully, when I spoke to a group of 130 CEOs in San Diego, California last week, I felt hopeful that they still have their place in today’s Web 2.0 world.

This meeting was unlike any other event where I have been invited. I just had to tell you about the strategies that host Jim Tenuto used to produce a spectacular brand and experience.
Jim is the President of the Renaissance Executive Forums CEO peer groups in San Diego, California. His CEO peer groups represent a solid cross-section of San Diego entrepreneurs.  Here’s Jim with an overview:



Each year, Jim hosts a “Big Event” to increase awareness of his groups and attract new members. In today’s information-overloaded society, most CEOs can barely find time to eat breakfast, let alone allocate three hours for an educational seminar.  But Jim has found a way to make it work.  Here are some creative ideas that you can incorporate into your next offsite strategy session.

1. Find an edgy place to host your meeting. When Jim picked me up at Lindbergh Field, I couldn’t wait to see the venue.  Anthology Jazz Club has invested at least $1M in their sound system, and it showed. My presentation appeared clearly on a huge screen above the stage (usually reserved for bi-name jazz musicians such as Colin Hay), and the microphone worked flawlessly.
When the guests arrived, they were welcomed with contemporary background music, books, and breakfast. What a refreshing change from the plain vanilla hotel and conference center venues!  I could feel my creative juices begin to flow. The venue created a relaxed, yet professional atmosphere.
2. Align yourself with passionate sponsors.  Regents Bank executives greeted guests at the entrance.  They made sure that every attendee received autographed copies of my book, as well as Marshall Goldsmith’s.  Marshall and I were the featured speakers.  Participants left the session with two books and a plethora of great ideas to implement.
3. Create instant accountability. This single idea will encourage people to connect, collaborate, and form virtual peer communities.  During my talk, I offered 12 client-centric strategies to help companies thrive in the upcoming recovery. Fully realizing that most entrepreneurs will be barraged with a crisis du jour when returning to their offices, I never expect them to implement more than two or three.  The Executive Forums hosts made it easy for people to take action by: a) providing pocket-sized notepads for people to use; and b) creating a simple, instant accountability step.  At the conclusion of the meeting, Executive Forums CEO Jim Canfield asked every participant to take two steps.  First, write down one action item that they took from the session.  Second, call someone you know and trust. Third, tell them the action step you are committed to taking.  Fourth, schedule a follow-up call with them one week later to report your progress.  When was the last time you attended a seminar where the host really invested in transforming your business?
4. Make the event fun and informal. Today’s society craves authentic connections and eschews pretense. Jim is the perfect host for that reason. He was wearing a purple tie and one of the coolest striped dress shirts I have ever seen. He emoted approachability, affability, and authority all at the same time.

I may not be a musician, and I may not know much about running major events.  What I do know is that music spurs creativity.  Creativity cannot happen unless you create the white space on your calendar to reflect.  And reflection is essential to breakthrough thinking.  Memorable events like this can take your client and peer relationships to new levels that traditional, stodgy meetings never will.  Find a conductor like Jim Tenuto to help your next strategy session sing.

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