If the keynote speaker is the only highlight of your conference, it’s probably time to try some new ideas. Keynote addresses are not the only type of session worth exploring, especially if you want attendees to have fun and stay engaged. After all, a keynote is basically just another lecture. It might be an exceptionally delivered one, but the audience is still just listening to yet another speaker while they fuel up on their morning coffee.
So how do you determine what types of fun and engaging sessions to put on your agenda? When planning a conference or corporate event, think about your two primary audiences: the stakeholders who are organizing the event and the attendees.
“Keynote addresses are not the only type of session worth exploring”
For stakeholders, your main goal is to ensure that the programming aligns with the objectives that have been defined for the event. This could include corporate training initiatives, a product launch, entertainment, team building, and more.
For attendees, you want the experience to be relevant, fun, and useful. Ideally, the experiences and lessons learned at the event should be memorable. When participants continue talking about your event for weeks or months, you know it made an impact!
As an event planner, your goals are to keep the cost of conference sessions within the budget, make the sessions engaging for attendees and satisfying for stakeholders, and ensure that the event is flawlessly executed. When all of these goals are met, the result is an unforgettable event that makes a lasting impression on attendees.
When planning a corporate event, you have endless options for types of sessions and agenda items. This can feel overwhelming, so keep your overall goals in mind when selecting your activities, and consider the pros and cons of these 10 conference options:
Keynotes are the obvious session choice. While this guide helps you look beyond this expected agenda item, keynotes done well can be a powerful addition to any corporate event. While certainly not mandatory, keynote speakers have come to be expected by many attendees at corporate events. The person delivering the keynote address might be an influential leader in your industry, a famous person who shares a relevant story, or a comedian who will keep the crowd on its toes. If your budget doesn’t allow for an external presenter, try using an inspiring and dynamic speaker from within your company to set the tone for the event.
For event planners, a keynote speakers is a relatively low-risk option because you know what you’re going to get. Professional speakers are prepared, and they have experience presenting in front of large groups. You can’t always say this about internal presenters.
External presenters can be informative and perhaps pique the interest of participants, especially if they are famous or well known in the industry. Great speakers who use storytelling and analogies can be very engaging and create memorable experiences for attendees. They also provide fresh perspectives that can motivate participants to try something new or aspire to higher levels of achievement.
Reserving a session for a keynote speaker gives attendees the opportunity to disengage or possibly not attend at all. If they’re not familiar with or interested in the person presenting, they might be inclined to catch up on email or make a phone call instead of sitting through the speech. Why waste valuable time in your agenda?
It’s also important to remember that passive listening is not the same as active listening and being engaged, which means attendees might not remember the speech a few days (or minutes!) later. People also learn in different ways, and unless the presentation relies heavily on slides or graphics, only auditory learners will absorb and retain the message.
Even the best keynote speakers can miss the mark sometimes, especially if they’re not familiar with your industry or organization. External speakers who give generic speeches don’t always connect their content to your organizational objectives, so look for a speaker who can customize his or her message. Some keynote speakers, especially popular ones, can come with a high price tag, so determine your budget in advance, and find a presenter within your price range.
Another type of presenter often booked for corporate events is a motivational speaker. Unlike a keynote, who establishes the underlying tone for an event, a motivational speaker focuses on a more general topic, such as personal development, business success, or community development. If you need to get your audience pumped up, a motivational speaker might be exactly what you’re looking for.
There is no doubt that an excellent motivational speaker can be inspiring to participants. This excitement can permeate the event and create a buzz that keeps attendees engaged and looking forward to what’s next. It also provides a positive shared experience for participants to look back on and collectively reference in the future.
Sitting through a motivational speech can be inspiring, but as with a keynote speech, it is still passive listening, which could lead to “tuning out.” This is especially true when the motivational speaker doesn’t connect his or her subject matter to the event objectives. While participants might leave feeling energized and inspired, they may not know how to channel that energy into their work. For this reason, finding the right fit is important, and it’s not always easy. External motivational speakers can also make a large dent in your overall event budget, as they are generally expensive, so choose wisely.
"While participants might leave feeling energized and inspired, they may not know how to channel that energy into their work."
As every corporate event planner knows, food can make or break an event. Making food a central feature through culinary programs gives you the opportunity to bring people together over one of life’s universal requirements and joys—eating. Some of the types of culinary programs you might consider for a corporate meeting or conference event include:
Everybody has to eat at some point, so why not make the most of that time?
Unless your company is part of the food service or manufacturing industry, a culinary event allows your attendees to step outside the daily grind. When intermixed with other conference sessions, a food-related event can be a welcome break. Participants have the opportunity to bond over a tasty, and often unique, experience. You can make even more of an impact by giving the activity a philanthropic twist; for example, participants could cook or serve food at a shelter.
Although everybody eats, not everybody enjoys preparing food. Dietary restrictions and allergies can also make a culinary event more challenging and potentially exclude some attendees. Additionally, although you can incorporate team building or other types of skills training into a culinary event, culinary events don’t always align with organizational objectives.
Bringing people together for a good cause can be an excellent use of time at a corporate event or conference. You get the benefits of team bonding while also contributing to the community. Some examples of philanthropic and charity events you can incorporate include:
The more aligned the effort is with company values, the more it will resonate with the group.
“You get the benefits of team bonding while also contributing to the community.”
Attendees who spend time helping others will leave the event with a sense of satisfaction and a feeling that they spent their day in a positive way. Your group efforts can also make a genuine impact in the community or on the individuals you help. Additionally, these types of events can be paired with team building activities to generate even more benefit to the company.
Philanthropic causes and charity events don’t always align with organizational objectives, so although you are making a valuable contribution to the community, participants might struggle to connect the activity to the workplace. These types of events are also often one-off activities that don’t create a lasting impact on attendees in the same way that an ongoing effort would. While incorporating philanthropy and community involvement into your corporate event can be a great idea, think about how you can tie it to corporate objectives and goals to get the most from your time.
Personal values can also play a role in the success or failure of a philanthropic event. Contributions to charity, whether time or money, are very personal choices, and if your employees feel pressured to participate in a company event that doesn’t align with their personal values, it could backfire.
Team building activities are a classic addition to any corporate event or conference. This is because it makes sense to foster better connections between team members when the entire group is in one place outside of the daily routine. There are countless team building activities you could try at your next corporate event. We’re not talking about trust falls; we’re talking about experiences like:
Be creative! Some people groan when they hear that they have to participate in a team building activity, but these sessions can be super fun if you plan them right.
Bonding over a shared experience brings people together in a lasting way. Even colleagues who spend most of the workday together can learn more about each other in a new setting. Going through a team building experience also creates new personal connections between employees and often leads to better team dynamics.
“The key is to first define your objectives for the event and then choose the activities that align.”
Like any other type of agenda item you are considering for a corporate event, team building activities need to align with organizational objectives. Fortunately, this isn’t hard to do with such a wide range of options available. The key is to first define your objectives for the event and then choose the activities that align. It’s also important to remember that not every team building activity is appropriate for every size group. However, many activities can be tailored to accommodate various group sizes.
Unfortunately, team building activities too often happen in a vacuum. Participants have a great experience and bond with their coworkers, but they don’t see how the lessons learned during the activity are relevant to their work lives. Reserving time after the activity for a debriefing that ties the activity back to your company message and culture will allow attendees to make the link between the challenges they faced in the activity and the ones they encounter at work. Look for an “Aha!” moment to know you have done it right.
Eagle’s Flight helps overcome these challenges by working closely with your team to customize an activity around your organizational event objectives and group size. We also provide an expert facilitator to lead a debriefing that connects the activity to real-life work scenarios and reinforces the message of the event.
One reason to hold a corporate event or conference is to get people out of their normal busy workday and create a space for them to focus on something different. What better way to give employees a break from the daily grind than to gather them for a destination event? Ideas include:
Destination activities don’t have to be a great distance from the workplace, but they should go beyond the hotel conference room to create a more engaging experience.
“After all, nobody really wants to sit and listen to presentations all day.”
People love destination events because they are totally immersive experiences. Attendees don’t have to worry about what they’re missing at the office because they’re too busy absorbing the new environment. Destination events also don’t feel like typical stuffy corporate meetings, so they tend to be more appealing. After all, nobody really wants to sit and listen to presentations all day.
Attendees also feel like they are participating in something special because the time the company spent planning and the monetary investment are more visible than at typical corporate meetings.
All of these advantages have a flip side. The new surroundings can sometimes be too distracting, causing participants to disengage from the conference content and focus on other aspects of the experience. Destination events can also be more expensive than typical conferences because of the costs associated with travel, tours, food, and more. As an event planner, you can probably imagine the logistical nightmare of destination activities, not to mention liability and security issues.
Get the most from your group gathering by carving out time to develop the participants’ soft skills. Some of the soft skills you can focus on at a corporate event include:
Participants at every career level can benefit from ongoing skill development, and corporate events are great opportunities for building additional soft skills.
One of the best budget advantages of incorporating soft skills training into your conference is that you can see the return on investment when skills learned at your corporate event are applied in the workplace. You can’t say this about a keynote speech or food tour.
“Development of new soft skills can also be directly linked to your corporate strategy.”
Many employees are also hungry for new learning opportunities, so they eagerly attend these types of sessions. Development of new soft skills can also be directly linked to your corporate strategy, as long as you ensure your event aligns with organizational objectives. When used with an engaging and hands-on delivery method, these types of sessions can seamlessly integrate with your overall conference.
When traditional training methods, such as lectures and slide-based presentations, are used to deliver the content, it can become a real snoozefest. Poorly prepared training events don’t always link to specific situations in the workplace; therefore, not all content may apply to everyone in the room. Additionally, if a post-event retention and reinforcement plan is not in place, the likelihood that the newly learned skills will be applied when back at the job is lessened, and you will get less bang for your buck.
Eagle’s Flight delivers engaging training events designed to teach and hone soft skills. Customized training content and skillful facilitation ensure that the concepts resonate with participants, not only during the training but also back in the workplace.
With its “learn by doing” approach, experiential learning fits the needs of even the most diverse audiences and is ideal for groups of any size.
Experiential learning is a fun way of mirroring real-life workplace scenarios and requires active participation, creating consistent engagement in the activity. Encouraging attendees to get out of their seats and fully immerse themselves in the activity’s theme, while simultaneously working for a common goal, fosters team building and communication and also results in higher attendee retention rates.
“Experiential learning fits the needs of even the most diverse audiences.”
Experiences that are fun and engaging are not easily forgotten, and they help create a common language while strengthening relationships among participants. Pairing team building activities with a customizable debriefing can help you map outcomes to your company message and goals.
When you incorporate experiential learning into your conference, the vibe in the room is fun, and it doesn’t feel like classroom training. You are creating an immersive environment that fully engages participants, no matter what their level in the organization.
For example, in the activity Gold of the Desert Kings, teams are on the hunt for treasure, but they have to cross a vast and perilous terrain to find it. They can’t look at their phones if they’re busy trekking across the desert because every moment counts! They have to make important decisions ... and fast! Attendees will bond over a shared, intense experience while learning how to be more productive at the same time.
One of the greatest benefits of experiential learning is that it creates lasting behavior change. Getting people to do a task or a process differently is not easy, but when they see how a new approach can have a positive impact and help them overcome a workplace challenge, they are more likely to make a change.
On the surface, experiential learning might seem like a budget-buster. However, the return on investment is well worth it. Most other types of training don’t provide the behavioral change results that experiential learning can. For an activity that gets participants excited and delivers lasting results, experiential learning is hard to beat.
One potential challenge associated with experiential learning is that, as with any type of training, the activity should not stand alone. The impacts of the experience can diminish over time when not followed up with a retention strategy. The good news is that a retention strategy helps you get an even better return on your investment!
Many people also shy away from experiential learning because the idea is so “outside the box.” It might feel like a risk to propose this type of conference program, but given that more than 50% of the Fortune 500 companies have used Eagle’s Flight for experiential learning, there must be something to it.
Want to learn more about experiential learning? We literally wrote the book on it!
Sports-based outings are popular components of corporate events because they have the potential to foster teamwork. Some options to consider include:
“Sports-based outings are popular components of corporate events.”
These types of outings, which can be indoor or outdoor, can be either local or more of a destination event. Either way, they get people moving!
Doing activities outside of a workplace or conference room setting allows space for employees to connect with each other in a different way. It can also be an opportunity for participants to interact with people they wouldn’t normally work with on a daily basis. Healthy competition fosters the development of relationships with peers and promotes teamwork. This spirit of teamwork and new bonds between individuals can carry through to the workplace.
Although sports-based outings are a fun diversion, they add little or no value in terms of skills and competencies. They can also be challenging to coordinate when trying to accommodate various skill levels. It’s also important to remember that not everybody enjoys sports-based activities, and that some people find them intimidating or frustrating. Weather can also play a role in planning this type of event, if you are planning an outdoor excursion.
Breaking up the day or closing the conference with entertainment is a great way to reward attendees and get them excited about having attended. Types of live performance you could incorporate into a company event include:
Having something to look forward to after a long day of conference sessions can be motivating for attendees. It also allows you to close the day or event on a high note if you save the live performance for the end.
A live performance can be a fun and energizing shared experience for participants. For voluntary events, this type of entertainment is a great way to attract attendees and keep them there for the entire day.
Entertainment at a company event is a great bonus, but it typically does not support organizational goals. A dance party is super fun, but it doesn’t lead to better performance. Depending on what you choose, it can also be quite costly, so consider the return on investment as you decide which agenda items to include.
“A live performance can be a fun and energizing shared experience for participants.”
Planning a conference is a lot of work, and it requires a major time commitment from both organizers and attendees. Get the most from your investment—and that of your attendees—by planning your program wisely.
It is absolutely critical that organizational goals and event goals are in alignment. Start by outlining your organizational goals and identifying which ones the company event should support. After they have been determined, the event goals must be clearly defined to the organizer, all presenters, and participants.
Determine the overall budget for your event, which could include line items for:
When allocating the budget for the program, evaluate the associated expenses and which investments will deliver lasting returns on your investments. This will help you decide which big ticket items are worth the money and which are not.
The location of the event and the venue where participants will spend the majority of their time are important considerations. Nobody wants to be stuck in an area where there is nothing to do in their off time, and a venue that is cheerful and bright will help keep energy levels high throughout the day.
Of course, cost and logistics are always factors, so look for a place that is easy for people to get to. You can’t control the weather, but you can control when and where your event is located. Avoid locations that are likely to have foul weather during your planned event dates; this will save you the headache of having to delay or reschedule the event. Scheduling a conference in Minneapolis in the dead of winter will probably not make you any friends.
Finding the right mix of speakers, training, presentations, and other offerings is critical for a successful corporate event. For every agenda item you consider, ask yourself how it supports the stated goals of the event. Make agenda decisions based on the set budget and goals, and choose sessions that provide the best return on investment.
Working with an expert partner to develop and deliver your conference program is a great way to free up valuable time and ensure that attendees have a memorable experience.
“With the expert help of Eagle’s Flight, your audience will be actively engaged in sessions.”
Why choose Eagle’s Flight as your corporate event partner? Because we will make sure your event is all of these important things:
With the expert help of Eagle’s Flight, your audience will be actively engaged in sessions instead of passively listening to speakers. Even the most reluctant participants find it impossible to resist participating in an Eagle’s Flight event. Trust us, we have seen the most disengaged people go all-in on a mock jungle safari or arctic expedition!
Your attendees will have FUN during the program—they’ll be laughing, smiling, and interacting with their peers. Picture the audience at the conference sessions you have been to in the past. Not a lot of smiles, right? Now imagine a room full of excited people at the conference you are planning! Eagle’s Flight can help you make it happen.
“We’ll work closely with you to learn about your internal language.”
All programs are 100% customizable based each company’s unique requirements. We’ll work closely with you to learn about your internal language, team dynamics, and the specific challenges you are trying to overcome.
Your attendees will not only be engaged and having fun, but they will benefit from programs carefully designed to grow the competencies of your choosing. Whether you are looking to develop your employees' collaboration skills or their planning and goal-setting competencies, Eagle’s Flight programs guarantee that each attendee walks away with a better understanding of the skill set of your choice.
Unlike a typical keynote speech that might never be thought of again once the speaker leaves the podium, Eagle’s Flight corporate event programs are designed to leave lasting impressions. Your event participants will not only be talking about your event for months to come, but they will also bring what they experienced during the program back to the workplace and retain the message.
While most corporate event attendees expect lectures and motivational speakers, Eagle’s Flight brings fun and relevance to all of its conferences and events, for an undeniably memorable experience.
“Eagle’s Flight corporate event programs are designed to leave lasting impressions.”
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