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Conferences, events, and team building activities (part one)

planning your annual conference

This month, we’re going to focus our trilogy of blogs on "corporate" events. (We're using the word "corporate" loosely, here. These events don't have to be that corporate at all!) For most people, this will mean the annual company conference – something that is undoubtedly a heavy task to organise, but, in our humblest of opinions, more than worth the effort when it’s done well.

We’ve been involved in the planning and delivery of a few such events, and you can feel the mood of the room lifting, see the engagement and motivation of teams soar, and sense the camaraderie and team spirit take hold, as people connect cross-department, watch inspiring videos about recent events and future plans, and listen to their leaders (and/or guest speakers) inform, invigorate, and inspire.

Of course, a corporate event isn’t necessarily an annual conference. They can take many forms, be of wildly differing scales, and take place for a number of reasons. They can be a one-off, stand-alone happening, or a regular event. They are often used to educate employees and colleagues on company performance, developments, future plans, or organisational changes. They are also used to celebrate milestones and anniversaries, motivate and reward employees, and to encourage collaboration. They may have been built into your comms strategy, but they will almost certainly be treated as a separate entity.

The main types of internal corporate events (we’re not including things like trade shows or product launches in this series) are employee conferences, team-building activities, recognition and appreciation ceremonies, award ceremonies, or shareholder or boards meetings.

Getting the most from your staff conference

In the first of our three blogs, we thought we’d start with a handful of quick tips on how to host an event.

Make sure it has a clear purpose

What are your goals? What do you want to achieve by hosting this event? Once you are clear about this, you can start to think about the details of the experience and how you are going to get the content to resonate with your audience.

Pre-prepare effectively and set deadlines

There is a lot to consider when planning an event like this, and many tasks will be dependent upon the completion of others, meaning the sequencing and timing of tasks is crucial. Allocate responsibilities carefully and keep on top of deadlines. If possible, designate a dedicated team to share and handle the tasks.

Calculate a realistic budget

You need to know exactly how much money you have to play with before you can start to think about venues, food, guest speakers, audio-visual requirements, photographers, and any extras. We advise adding a 10-15% buffer to your estimation to allow for unexpected extras or emergencies!

Choose your audience

Obviously, this will be determined by the reason for and purpose of the event. If it’s not a simple all-staff, all-board, or all-leaders event, then zoom-in on this key element right from the start.

Choose your location

This can’t really be done until all the above have been confirmed. Size of audience, budget and cost will obviously be the biggest steers, but you’ll also want to consider the geographical location to maximise attendance, minimise travel time and costs, and keep a lid on accommodation expenses.

Plan the schedule

Again, this will be steered by the event’s purpose and focus and can’t be done until all the above has been inked in. Plan your event carefully, considering breaks, break-outs, guest speakers, and an agenda that will energise from the start but also end on a high.

Arrange the tech

If you’re planning to show energising videos (and if you’re not, you should be!), does your venue provide what you need for both video and audio? If you’re planning to incorporate live polling, virtual reality, or interactive apps to involve attendees in real-time activities (and if you’re not, you really should be!), is this set up and good-to-go?


Bizarrely, this appears to be the bit that many organisations forget about or don’t put enough effort into. Regardless of the size of your event, you need to make sure your intended audience know about it (with plenty of warning!) and, if it’s not a mandatory attendance, that they want to attend. We recommend a promotional campaign that utilises all your channels, from email to social media.

a small company conference

One closing thought for part one. Smaller businesses should not fall into the trap of thinking that all-staff events are only for giant corporations, and that if you’re not hiring a huge event space and inviting household-name, celebrity guest speakers, it’s not worth doing. Smaller organisations’ events may look a little different, but the power of bringing people together, perhaps taking them out of their everyday location, and making a big deal out of your recent performance, your plans for the future, and the people who are helping you to get there is still significant.

In part two, we will be looking at the wide-ranging and wide-reaching benefits that events like these can bring, and sharing some tips on how to maximise engagement at your events.


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