On Valentine’s Day, people invariably turn to their favorite V-day rom-coms to turn up the volume on romance. Rom-coms like “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “You’ve Got Mail” and “When Harry Met Sally” are as popular now in their second life on Netflix and Amazon as when they debuted.

What can meeting planners learn from these classics? You’d be surprised!

  1. Woo the wallflowers.  You know them, the participants that don’t…participate? Just like in rom-coms the wallflowers sometimes blossom into the most valuable participants in a meeting with a little encouragement. Plan engagement that encourages even the most hesitant of meeting-goers by deliberately connecting with the margins of the room where wallflowers traditionally hang out. Plant mic holders at those margins to make sure every voice is heard.
  1. Be clear on dress codes. One major plot point in rom-coms is when the hero or heroine comes to an event or a party woefully mis-dressed. Avoid similar dramas by being clear on dress codes in your advance communications so they can pack appropriately. If a dinner is dressy, don’t be afraid to ask folks to spruce up. If jackets are required at a dining venue, don’t assume participants will intuit that.
  1. Be a great matchmaker.  A constant theme in rom-coms is the matchmaker. “Hey I thought you guys might like each other.” Or as Sylvia Miles, the traditional yenta in the rom-com, “Crossing Delancey” says, “Sometimes it fits and sometimes it don’t.”  Smart Meetings founder Marin Bright found a sweet spot in matching meeting planners with meeting vendors and venues and our world-renowned events were born. Don’t be afraid to organize “speed dates” with willing participants. One-on-one dynamics have never been more important.
  1. Be like the “supportive friend” character. You know how in rom-coms there’s always that person the star of the film can count on? S/he, they/them are not always the most glamorous character in the movie but they are always there with the best advice and a shoulder to cry on. Be that character for your clients: listen to their needs and concerns without judging or diminishing their concerns but don’t be afraid to give them solid advice and a supportive shoulder if things get stressful.
  1. Chemistry is more important than perfection. In rom-coms, sometimes the most unlikely partners connect. Don’t strive for perfection in mixes of people but do look for dynamics that get folks talking and making meaningful exchanges. Give groups enough time to network with their peers. Make sure there’s enough seating in meeting areas to give people a place to park when they do connect. Sometimes a less rigid schedule of activities provides the most meaningful amount of time to make lasting impressions with other participants.