Organizations and event planners are increasingly incorporating experiential activities and elements into their corporate events. Their popularity is certainly justified, particularly for event organizers who are looking to achieve specific outcomes when they bring their teams off the job for a day or two — but they aren’t the only ones who want experiential corporate events.

Event attendees also want something more than the same old meetings, speakers, and PowerPoint decks. Employees have a lot to do so they don’t want to be gone from the office for just anything. They want to invest their time wisely and leave corporate events feeling like they got something valuable out of them. They want immersive experiences that keep their attention. They want experiential events.

Time is Short and the Stakes Are High

Whether the event is mandatory or something they signed up for, some attendees are reluctant to leave work for a day to participate in a company event. After all, time spent elsewhere means time away from projects, less flexibility to schedule sales meetings, and an inevitable email backlog. Just as organizations want to know there is a worthwhile ROI, each attendee wants a return for the time they take away from their own workload to invest in the event.

The key to engaging attendees and winning buy-in is to make sure that the event is relevant, practical, and therefore worth the time expended to be there. While some keynotes fall into this category, experiential activities are more likely to resonate with a wider audience and accomplish the event learning goals in a much more efficient and lasting way.

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Desire to Leave With Something Valuable

It’s not that people don’t want to get together for corporate events — it’s just that they want to come away from them with something valuable. We’re not talking about the latest or coolest swag in their gift bags, but rather the outcomes that make their time spent away from work worthwhile.

In fact, according to a research study by Crowdcompass and Edelman, 35% of attendees go to events for the purpose of professional development or training, with the quality of learning being the number one most important factor for attendees considering an event. In addition, 85% of survey respondents said that attending professional events helps them think “bigger picture” about their job.

Unlike keynote speakers, who can be inspiring but aren’t necessarily there to teach your attendees something they can use, experiential activities provide the high-quality learning experience that attendees crave.

Experiential learning activities immerse attendees in the same way that real-world challenges do, requiring them to use their capabilities to solve a problem or meet an objective, but using a theme that masks any connection to their day-to-day realities. This way, they get to learn and test skills and concepts in a setting that is fun, risk-free, and unconfined by the expectations of age or job title.

The experience is a metaphor for the reality faced by the attendees, so when the activity is debriefed by a skilled facilitator, attendees quickly see the parallels. They can look at their approach to the activity and see how it impacted the results of the challenge, and from there, it’s an easy step to see where they excelled, and how some new behaviors lead to improved results — not only in the activity, but back at work as well.

Attendees that walk away from an event with something that could advance their careers, help them think differently about a topic, or refresh their outlook on their roles, will feel that they got something extraordinarily valuable from the event. Your stakeholders will also jump for joy over attendees that are excited to return to work with new knowledge and skills, and a refreshed perspective.

The World is a Distracting Place

Corporate events are often the one time of year when employees and leaders can leave their desks behind, interact with colleagues in a more casual manner than in typical meetings, and hopefully, take away something new and valuable. But when attendees enter a corporate event, they know the emails are still coming in, news is still breaking, and trends are still evolving. Even worse, all of this is accessible on the devices in their pockets and purses.

Those pesky (albeit useful) smartphones bring the outside world inside the doors of your event. Your challenge is to pull your attendees’ focus away from their devices and keep that focus throughout the event.

By making your corporate event experiential, you make it completely immersive. Attendees participating in a challenge with both teamwork and healthy competition won’t have the time — or the inclination — to think about what’s going on outside. So even though the experiential activities are directly related to their work, it won’t seem like that. Instead, it seems fun and unique, and something deserving of their full attention.

The next time you sit down to start the event-planning process, take the time to consider what your attendees need from the event and what your stakeholders have tasked you with achieving. When you do, you will be able to craft an event agenda that makes great use of your attendees’ time away from work, provides them with something of value, and is fully engaging.

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