You know the drill: everyone shows up to your company event to hear a keynote speaker on...what is the topic again? Then there are some sessions on the same old topics we always cover...at least the venue has great coffee.
If this sounds familiar, and you’ve been tasked with planning the next event, here are five telltale signs that it’s time to reboot the corporate event agenda.
1. There is no clear purpose or desired outcome
If your company throws an annual offsite, conference, or sales meeting out of habit, they may have fallen into the trap of recycling the same old agenda with no clear purpose or goal in mind. Whether it is a lack of advanced planning or poor organization, throwing a corporate event without a clear purpose or takeaway for the participants is not only a waste of company resources, it’s a lost opportunity for company growth.
How to fix it: The very first thing to do when you’ve been given the task of planning a corporate event is to sit down with company stakeholders and find out what their goals and desired outcomes are for the event. If they don’t have a clear answer to the question, “What are we hoping to accomplish with this event?” then you may need to start by backing up a bit and asking them about the top challenges and goals for the company as a whole. Use that information to help suggest a few directions you could consider for the event, and work with them to clarify and refine until you have a clear purpose around which everything else can be planned.
2. No one is paying attention
Think about the last company event. Was everyone looking at their phones, responding to emails, or having side conversations unrelated to the content being shared? It could be that the content was not relevant to attendees, and that the agenda items were not engaging for them.
How to fix it: Once your stakeholder goals are defined, take time to look at ways to make them relevant, practical, and valuable to attendees. Choose agenda items that achieve both stakeholder and attendee goals in fun and engaging ways. If the topics and information are valuable, and the agenda items are fun and engaging, you will be able to capture — and keep — your participants’ attention.
3. Discussions are dominated by the same few people
No matter what the topics are, you constantly only hear from the same five people. Sure, their thoughts are valuable, but there could be a goldmine of information in your audience, if only they would speak up.
How to fix it: The key to getting more balance in the discussion is to use a variety of ways to encourage conversation. For example:
- Bring in a skilled facilitator who can engage a wider range of attendees, without discouraging the more enthusiastic participants
- Use technology to gather input during large group discussions - for example, ask the audience a question, but have them answer using an app that sends the feedback directly to the facilitator, who can read out answers from a variety of people
- Break out into smaller groups for discussions and have one member from each group speak on their behalf to the larger audience
- Incorporate experiential activities that enable all attendees to participate in meaningful ways
4. People show up late or leave early
If people are showing up late or leaving early, it is usually a sign that they are not engaged, or don’t feel the content is relevant to them.
How to fix it: Once again, the content must be relevant and valuable to attendees, and delivered in engaging ways. Poll employees and stakeholders in advance to ensure topics are relevant and achieving the outcomes they are hoping for. Then, employ some pre-event strategies to ramp up engagement so people will be excited for the event.
5. People leave feeling tired or frustrated rather than empowered and energized
At the end of the event, people are dragging, disappointed, and giving mediocre or even negative reviews on the followup surveys.
How to fix it: If your event agenda is leaving people drained instead of energized, and frustrated instead of excited, it’s definitely time to reboot that agenda. Fortunately, if you are already working on fixes for the first four problems on this list, this one will just take some tweaks. For example:
- Make sure your sessions don’t go on too long without breaks
- Make sure the day itself isn’t too long — people can only be at their best for a certain amount of time before they are out of energy, no matter how great the activities are
- Consider the time of day — during the after-lunch crash, it makes sense to get people out of their seats and moving around, whereas if you have some information you need to deliver, people may be more able to concentrate first thing in the morning
- Tweak the snacks you are providing — if they are straight sugar — like donuts and cookies — all day long, you set your attendees up to crash, so consider including a variety of options to energize them instead
If you identify with the items on this list, it’s definitely time to reboot that old corporate event agenda. For some great inspiration on how to plan a fresh, exciting agenda that will be a hit with your stakeholders and attendees alike, check out our guide, Choosing a Corporate Event Agenda That Wows.