Every event you plan, from the annual holiday party to the company-wide sales meeting, must have a purpose and bring value to the organization. Whether the goal is to reward employees for their hard work or reinforce your company message and objectives, you need your event to be meaningful for everyone, especially your boss!
Here are the seven keys to making your next corporate event engaging, productive, and downright awesome:
1. Keep the Unexpected from Throwing Things Off-Track
You know the extensive planning that is involved with corporate events. Still, even after you have planned every last detail and think you can’t plan anymore, step back and ask yourself, “Have I thought of everything?” Always consider the worst-case scenarios and think about what you can do to either prevent them or overcome them, should they occur. The chances of something truly bad happening is slim, but you can never be too prepared.
In the unlikely event that “slim” becomes a reality, you can quickly resolve the issue, keep the event moving along without distraction, and ensuring your event is perfect.
2. Focus on Event Goals First
Booking the event space in the fanciest hotel in town will lose its appeal if the activities you plan fall short of participants’ expectations and achieving the goals of your event. Focus on practical matters first that relate back to the overall event objective, such as the speakers and desired outcomes. Then plan location, food, travel, lodging, and entertainment once you are certain you can afford the main attraction.
3. Build Buzz Early
Go beyond just providing a basic agenda that tells people where to be at what time, and truly build excitement well before the date of the event. Create a stand-out invitation, provide a teaser on the activities, or share information on internal social or intranet sites. You can even even give participants an event-related teaser gift.
For example, in the weeks and days leading up to the event, continue to build excitement by sending participants an email with the weather forecast, a PDF of the menu for a fantastic restaurant you have reserved, or a short video of the speaker you have booked. Treat the event communications similar to how a marketer would promote an external event. This will help build enthusiasm that will carry over into the event. Participants will be ready and willing to participate, and that increases the chance that the activities will be successful.
4. Involve Senior Leadership
If you want employees to see the true value of the event, invite all the executives to attend. Ask them to participate in a hands-on way, encouraging them to have fun right along with the staff. If members of the c-suite can take time out of their busy schedules to participate, it must be important, right? That perception will help everyone become more inclined to buy-in to the message and commit to the learning; not to mention the added value of relationship building with senior leaders.
5. Interact with People Throughout the Event
Check in to see that everyone is having a good time, ask people how they are doing, gauge the room to see that people are comfortable and interested, and ensure that things are running smoothly. You don’t want to wait until an event is over to learn the speakers wasn’t working or that the gluten-free food options weren’t delivered.
Unaddressed, these kinds of concerns distract attendees from your event’s overall purpose, hindering their engagement. For larger events, consider using audience response or voting technology, which can often be accessed right from attendees’ cell phones, to gather feedback in real-time. Checking in frequently allows you to troubleshoot issues as they are happening, helping you maintain attendees’ focus on the event and better plan for future events.
6. Make Events Meaningful with Experiential Activities
Schedule activities that encourage people to interact and engage in meaningful ways. Learning activities should be based on real-world situations that employees find relevant to the work they do every day. Furthermore, employees should be involved in the process, as opposed to merely sitting and listening to a lecture. Finally, make sure that you connect activities to the overall theme of the corporate event or the goals of the organization.
The interaction, coupled with an emphasis on the purpose of the event, keeps things interesting and is crucial for long-term retention of the lessons learned at your corporate event.
7. Follow Up After the Event
When it is all said and done, reach out to employees thank them for participating, and to ask them to provide feedback for improving the next event.
For training and learning sessions, ask them to explain what they will do differently going forward as a result of the event. Furthermore, ask managers to work with employees to set goals and create actions plans that prompt employees to apply what they learned. Provide managers with a system to measure the changed behavior and track progress. Doing so allows you to show the executive team that the event met the organization’s objectives and was worth the expense.
Planning corporate events is certainly a time-consuming process, but by following this advice, you can drastically increase the chances that your event will be a great experience for everyone involved—including your boss!