The best corporate events are fun, engaging, and tied to business goals in a way that provides value to attendees. But when hosting large groups with a variety of personalities and skills at a company-wide event, it can be tricky to keep everyone engaged and enjoying themselves throughout the event. Here are some tips you can use while planning your next event.
Set the Tone
When you plan the event, think about the attendee experience from a point before the event begins. For example, how are attendees getting to the venue? Is it a three-hour ride in cramped conditions, to then be moved to another location for meals and networking? When they arrive, are registration lines long and slow? Negative experiences can set a poor tone from the start, and it can be hard to recover, even if the rest of the event is amazing.
Think about these things in advance so that the things you can control are as smooth as possible. For those things outside of your control, find ways to mitigate discomfort so that attendees think about your thoughtful touches instead of thinking about a bad trip or long line. This could be as simple as providing refreshments, setting up comfortable places to sit before and after registration, and ensuring you have a well-staffed and simple registration process.
Consider the Timing
As you draft the event agenda, be sure to leave more time than you think is necessary between sessions. Things are much more likely to run longer than end early, so leaving a bit of a cushion helps ensure there’s enough time between sessions to account for bathroom breaks, snacks, quick phone calls, and most importantly, informal networking. If a session is going to be particularly long, be sure to provide snacks before, during, and even after the session.
If you’re planning an event with breakout sessions, think about possible attendee profiles so you don’t schedule two sessions that will be of interest to the same people at the same time. If you have a larger event that runs multiple breakout times, consider setting up streams to make it easy for people with a particular set of interests to follow specific topics throughout the event.
Plan for Exceptions
This may seem obvious, but if you want everyone to enjoy your event, you have to be prepared for exceptional circumstances. Ask about dietary requirements in advance so everyone can eat lunch, but keep those same requirements in mind at refreshment breaks. Provide a range of options, or even have specific snacks for those specific people. Also ensure that your event is fully accessible and inclusive to all of your attendees and guests. You can do this on a case-by-case basis by asking in advance for any accommodations, or by following best-practices for planning accessible events.
Plan the Content
When planning the content of a corporate event, there are a number of considerations for keeping everyone engaged:
What topics do you need to cover? Meet with stakeholders to determine their goals for the event and ensure the topics chosen will align with desired event outcomes. You need to also determine what topics will resonate with your attendees. Consider who will be in the room and make sure you stick to content that is relevant to everyone. If you have subjects that are only relevant to specific people or departments, cover those in breakout sessions. If the information isn’t relevant to the people in attendance, you risk disengagement of the audience.
How are you planning on delivering the content? Sitting in rows and staring at PowerPoint presentations for extended periods of time can become uncomfortable and the lack of stimulus becomes repetitive and tiresome. Think about ways to get the audience involved – use live polls, small group discussions, or include a Q&A within your session
Consider Different Styles
To take content delivery a step further, consider using experiential activities, friendly competitions, and interactive exercises to make event messages pop. Getting people out of their seats and moving around, or having them engage directly with the content through activities and challenges appeals to multiple learning styles.
Planning a corporate event that every attendee can enjoy might be a challenge, but the extra effort is always worth it in the end. If attendees are enjoying themselves, it is much easier to achieve stakeholder goals and provide value for everyone. And when you can do that, everyone wins!