With many moving parts involved in every corporate event, it’s easy to get lost in logistical details and forget about an important part of the bigger picture: participant engagement. When you’re planning an event with team building, skills training, or leadership development at its core, you must ensure participants are engaged and motivated to learn. Their time (and your budget) must be well-spent. Here are the keys to planning an engaging corporate event:
Go Beyond Happy Hour
Happy hour events are a great way to encourage employee connections and recognize their hard work. Connecting and “free-form” networking are important! Participants; however, will be more enthused if the scope of the event goes beyond mingling and helps them learn a new skill or develop their existing skills. Plan activities that teach new skills by actually requiring the attendees to experience the material. For example, if a team needs to improve decision making skills during meetings, use an activity where the team is required to solve a fictional crime. Teams of employees can work together under challenging deadlines, with multiple “agendas”, and lots of information to process - sounds like the day-to-day of most companies. Activities that allow participants to learn new skills and are disguised as games, take advantage of how humans learn and increase the likelihood that the participants will be engaged and retain the lessons learned. This, as we know, is experiential learning.
Motivation plays a key role in the participant’s level of engagement. If they clearly see the benefit of attending the event and the skills they can acquire, they’ll be more motivated to actively participate in the event and activities. Here are some ideas to get your attendees motivated about attending the event and to show them how it will give them an advantage in their day-to-day work:
- Give participants the opportunity to share event ideas–whether they’re relevant to a work project or the training activity--it will help them feel like their opinion is valued.
- Incorporate activities that prevent participants from getting bored. Keep them on their feet and working together in order to maintain that momentum and enthusiasm throughout the event.
- Include a challenge on your event agenda. A little friendly competition never hurt anyone! If the participants can work toward a goal (especially if one team can be recognized as a “winner”), this will do wonders for motivation.
Consistent communication enhances engagement and should be a key factor in planning events. Ensure your event communications span across these mediums:
- Social media
- Staff meetings
Before the Event
Build buzz early on and let participants know what to expect. In the weeks leading up to the event send out a themed invitation or share teaser images on internal sites or social media channels.
During the Event
Walk around and check in with participants to ensure they’re enjoying themselves. If you notice any red flags (like participants checking their emails or tuning out), it’s better to make adjustments at the event rather than finding out later that it was a flop.
After the Event
Solicit feedback from the attendees through a survey or debriefing meeting to help shape future events. You won’t improve event engagement if you don’t know which activities are working and which aren’t.
Conviction powers engagement and conquers doubt. Participants need to develop personal conviction to the overall purpose of the event and the value they will receive. Here are some ways to help obtain conviction in event participants, ensuring better engagement:
- Get support from leaders: If executives and senior leaders demonstrate their enthusiasm towards the event, chances are the participants will see the value and be on board as well.
- Experiential learning activities: Rather than the standard keynote speaker or PowerPoint presentation, plan activities that embed the learning into an immersive game so participants learn new skills without realizing it.
Every corporate event has an objective beyond having fun. Whether it’s learning a new skill, improving communication, or creating accountability, engaging your participants increases the likelihood of retaining the key messages and ensures that the event will make a positive impact on the business.