The Science of Meetings

PSAV Presentation Services
Senior Vice President, Global Sales and Marketing

Hometown: Hillsboro, Oregon 

College: University of Oregon, Eugene

"Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that fun is a necessary way to engage the brain."

Greg Van Dyke is unabashedly “corny,” as he puts it. When asked what he loves most about the meetings industry, he knows he sounds corny when he answers “the incredible opportunities to change the world, from education to saving a life, furthering careers, gaining a better understanding of each other—even helping a dad give away his daughter.”

Come again? Van Dyke, senior vice president of global sales and marketing at PSAV Presentation Services, explains that his company—a leading industry provider of A/V and event technology support—often handles the mic, lighting and settings at weddings.

And while he may be idealistic about the industry’s impact, he’s clear on less warm and fuzzy changes he’s seen over the years. Today, he notes, “the industry is a little less fun, more focused on results. For us, that means making sure the technology we’re providing has tangible impact and ROE (return on events).”

The good part, Van Dyke says, is that “we’re connecting the dots on science more.”

Van Dyke is big on science in meetings. He speaks often about how the right use of A/V activates our brains and senses to increase learning, based on research by PSAV and Brainstrength Systems. “If you’re in an environment where you want attendees to focus on detail, they will do consistently better with warm colors, and consistently worse with blues and greens,” he says. “But for creativity, it’s the opposite.”

Similarly, he says, big screens, bold graphics and images, video, animation, lighting and sound all are key in stimulating the senses and helping attendees learn, think and remember. 

But Van Dyke, who joined PSAV in 2002 and is known as a hands-on, passionate leader, is no slave to data or gear. What he’s most proud of professionally, he says, is the ability of his PSAV team members to engage people in discussions about their meeting objectives without talking about technology.

“We’re doing you a disservice when we talk about how many projectors or screens [you need],” he says. “Instead, we ask, ‘What are you trying to achieve?’ Then we can make recommendations and use tech to maximize the meeting.” His goal is to help planners think more strategically and holistically, from before attendees leave home to repurposing content after they’ve left the meeting. 

Van Dyke also knows that having a good time is critical. “Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that fun is a necessary way to engage the brain and provide that memorable moment that inspires change,” he says.

Fun seems to be in his DNA. He’s a golfer and an avid Oregon Ducks fan—“even following them to the Poulan Weedeater Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana, twice!” Born and raised in Hillsboro, Oregon, he attended the University of Oregon, where he met his wife, Annie, a high school history teacher. He loves to travel; he proudly notes that he, Annie, daughter Mary, a freshman at the University of Wisconsin, and daughter Catherine, a junior at the University of California, Berkeley, have visited every continent except Antarctica. And he and Annie recently adopted Sammy, a yellow Labrador puppy who “chews everything up.”

Family, education and giving back are integral to his life. “My dad, an educator, showed me the value of education as well as the importance of continuous learning, sense of responsibility at work and community, great hospitality and work-hard-and-play-hard,” he says.

Van Dyke also says colleagues in the industry—particularly those he has worked with at Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) and Meeting Professionals International (MPI), where he has been involved for years—have influenced him greatly. He rattles off a half-dozen prominent names, among them Anne Hamilton, vice president of resort sales and services at Disney Destinations.

“I’ve known Greg for many years,” Hamilton says. “He’s a remarkably strong leader who inspires colleagues and peers to collaborate in investing their time and knowledge in enhancing our industry.” 

Currently, Van Dyke is a trustee for both the PCMA Education Foundation and MPI Foundation; through the organizations’ research and education efforts, he fulfills his mission “to help and make sure people put on the best events.” 

The research and education, as well as his work at PSAV, keep him on top of industry innovations. Van Dyke is excited about meetings’ future, specifically what’s coming with “wearables, a ubiquitous Internet, interactivity where attendees can interact with both presenters and peers, and smarter meetings using near-field communication on personal devices and 3-D presentations such as Layar.”

He acknowledges that virtual meetings have their place, but advocates for face-to-face, saying, “the collective input of the audience is far smarter than the individual. A properly designed face-to-face meeting will harness that more effectively than virtual.” 

And while connectivity is important, Van Dyke realizes that it’s not everything in life. “I’m happiest in the wilderness where I can go fish, the phones don’t work and there’s no electricity,” he says.

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