Much time and energy go into planning a corporate event that must make a huge hit with employees. Yet, on the big day, you hear more grumbling than excitement, and employees seem like they want to be anywhere else.

Even if a major catastrophe was avoided (half the staff didn’t come down with food poisoning, after all), for months people make jokes or snarky comments about the event, or even worse… they don’t say anything. 

After investing all the time into planning the whole thing, it’s hard not to take the jabs—and in some cases, full-on animosity—to heart. Still, a better use of your energy is to find out why the event was a huge flop.

Here are five reasons why corporate events tend to fail:

1. Company Morale Is Low

This one is out of your hands, yet worth noting. If layoffs have been rampant, budget cuts are the norm, or big changes have made life difficult for employees, an employee-appreciation luncheon or some other event isn’t going to change morale.

If things have been bad for a while, employees may not appreciate the gesture—even if upper management’s intentions are good—so it’s important to keep that in mind when you schedule activities.

Sometimes it’s all about how you frame the event. Saying “It’s been a tough few months, and the company wants to reward you for your hard work …” acknowledges the problem, while offering a valid reason for holding the event.

2. The Event Doesn’t Have a Purpose

A meaning needs to be attached to everything you do at work, even those for-fun social events you organize. Employees need to believe that the event is worth their time because it benefits them in some way.

For example, you aren’t hosting the annual holiday party simply to feed people for free. You’re bringing people together, building stronger relationships, and improving how employees work together. Similarly, you aren’t mandating a corporate team-building activity just to have fun… You’re building problem-solving skills that will make everyone’s lives a little easier.

Always make the event about employees. As you design and create, ask yourself, WIIFT – What’s in it for them.  

Download "The Guide to Interactive & Engaging Company Events" for tips on how  to rock your next event!

3. The Timing Is Wrong

If you squeeze an event in during a particularly busy period, employees may not have the time to attend, much less enjoy themselves or receive the full benefit of the event. If it’s mandatory, they’ll attend reluctantly, but if they’re stressed about a deadline or the burgeoning workload waiting for them, they will resent the company for it.

You will never be able to please everyone; however; to offset as many engagement issues as possible, look at the big picture of the business realities when choosing the timing of your event, and emphasize the “mission critical” reason why the event must take place. This is where your ability to trumpet the WIIFT becomes paramount.  

4. The Event Is Too Predictable

Holding an annual company picnic is a great way to show employees how much you appreciate their efforts. That’s the great part! Having the exact same agenda, activities, food, and so on year after year is, well… frankly uninspired. Employees will always dread the 4th year in a row that they have to change the words to a Beyonce song in order to make that song relate to the company.

Special events and training sessions are an excellent time to push people out of their comfort zones. This keeps them focused on the topic, engaged, maximizing their participation. You shouldn’t expect these results if you are just giving participants a dose of the same old, same old. And here’s a great thought, ask people what they want! This will give you great ideas of how to keep engagement. (see point 5)

5. No Feedback Is Gathered    

You don’t need a flashing sign to tell you when employees are having a bad time. As hard as it may be, not taking things personally is a skill mastered by the greatest event planners in corporate history. That said, you need to know why.

Even if they’re grateful enough to feign some interest and enthusiasm, it is important to gather their feedback afterward. Send out a survey asking for anonymous feedback on what went well and what didn’t. They will appreciate being asked. Take a page from movie festivals and simply have employees drop their name tag or card provided, into boxes on their way out potentially labeled, “Great Time – Don’t Change Anything”, “Great Time – Ask Me for Feedback”, Then…. Ask them for feedback.

Every corporate event planned won’t be a success; however, you can learn from these common mistakes—and avoid an epic failure.

Download Guide: The Guide to Interactive and Engaging Company Events

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