In the first part of our blog trilogy on conferences and team-building events, we shared some tips on getting an event off the ground, including determining purpose, setting budgets and deadlines, choosing audience and location, setting the agenda, and promoting your event. There’s no denying there can be a lot to think about and plan.
So, with all of that to consider, and all the expense involved, are they really worthwhile?
The short answer is almost always yes. We opened our last blog with how we have seen the benefits of such an event for ourselves through our involvement in supporting them. We genuinely believe that hosting a staff conference (or similar) can offer many significant advantages for an organisation of any size. Here are just a few:
Knowledge sharing: A conference can provide the perfect platform for employees to share their knowledge, experiences, and best practices. This can lead to cross-pollination of ideas and increased collective intelligence.
Team building: A large-scale staff event is a fantastic way to foster a sense of unity and camaraderie among employees. Bringing people together in this way allows them to interact in a different context, strengthening professional relationships.
Professional development: Events that include workshops, seminars, and keynote presentations provide valuable learning opportunities, helping staff to develop new skills and stay updated on industry trends.
Motivation and inspiration: Keynote speakers and successful case studies can inspire and motivate employees. This renewed energy can translate into increased productivity and a positive work environment. And never underestimate the power of a well-executed video to do the same. If a single picture can speak a thousand words, then a video with eye-catching visuals, energising music, and a strong message (of past, present or future) can speak a million, but super-charged with emotion, excitement, and empowerment.
Innovation and creativity: Similarly, exposure to new ideas, technologies, and approaches can stimulate creativity and innovation among employees. It encourages them to think outside the box and find novel solutions to challenges.
Networking opportunities: This kind of event offers an unparalleled chance to meet and connect with colleagues, industry experts, and potential partners or clients. This can lead to valuable collaborations and business opportunities.
Company culture reinforcement: A well planned conference or event will reflect the values and culture of an organisation. It provides a platform for leadership to communicate their vision and mission, reinforcing the company's identity.
Feedback and input: Conferences can also be a forum for employees to provide feedback and offer suggestions. This can lead to improvements in processes, products, and services.
Recognition and rewards: Conferences are the perfect opportunity to recognise and reward employees for their achievements and contributions. This can boost morale and incentivise high performance.
Market exposure: If the conference is open to external participants, it can be a chance to showcase the organisation to a wider audience. This can be particularly beneficial for marketing and brand exposure.
Change management and communication: If there are significant changes happening within the organisation, a conference can serve as a platform for transparent communication. It provides an opportunity to address concerns and align everyone towards a common goal.
Fun and relaxation: Depending on the format, conferences can also include recreational activities or team-building exercises, providing a break from routine work and allowing staff to recharge.
So, there are plenty of reasons to host an event, and plenty of significant advantages in doing so. Of course, to really make the most of such an event, and justify the planning, preparation and expenditure, you’re going to want to fully max-out the engagement across your audience.
In fact, the best events create a lasting impact on their delegates, with information and motivation staging with them long after they’ve gone home or returned to the office!
Here are a few strategies for maximising engagement at your event:
Clear objectives and agenda: Clearly communicate the purpose and goals of the conference. Ideally, advertise an outline of the event in advance as part of your advertising campaign, and then start your event with the agenda in more detail. Ensure that the agenda is well-structured and balanced, covering a variety of topics and activities.
Interactive sessions: Incorporate interactive elements such as workshops, panel discussions, Q&A sessions, and group activities. This allows participants to actively engage with the content and each other.
Diverse content and engaging speakers: Include a variety of speakers from different backgrounds and expertise levels. This provides a broader perspective and keeps the content fresh and engaging. Invite dynamic and knowledgeable keynote speakers who can inspire and captivate the audience. A compelling speaker can set the tone for the entire conference.
Technology integration: Leverage technology to enhance engagement. Use tools like live polling, virtual reality, or interactive apps to involve attendees in real-time activities. There really is no better way to make everyone feel involved and empowered, or to collect the thoughts, feelings and ideas of your entire population.
Networking opportunities: Provide structured networking sessions or activities. Icebreakers, speed networking, or themed discussions can help participants connect with colleagues.
Small group discussions: Break attendees into smaller groups for discussions or workshops. This creates a more intimate setting and encourages participation from everyone, including those who are intimidated by the thought of speaking in front of larger crowds (but whose ideas are just as good as those who are bolder).
Gamification: Incorporate elements of gamification, like quizzes, contests, or scavenger hunts. This can make the conference more interactive and fun for participants, and it can break up the ‘heavier” or more corporate parts of the event.
Feedback loops: Encourage participants to provide feedback throughout the conference. Use surveys, live polls, or discussion groups to gather input on sessions and activities.
Inclusive environment: Ensure that all attendees feel included and valued. Create an environment where diverse perspectives are respected and encouraged. We’ve written a few times about the importance of promoting psychological safety in the workplace, and this should absolutely be extended to any such event.
Live streaming or virtual options: If possible, offer a virtual attendance option for remote employees or those who cannot physically attend. This can broaden the reach and increase participation.
Post-conference follow-up: Provide resources, presentations, and materials after the conference. This reinforces learning and allows participants to continue engaging with the content.
Surprise elements: If appropriate, consider incorporating unexpected elements or activities to keep participants engaged and excited. This could be a surprise guest speaker, entertainment, or special announcements.
In our final part of this trilogy, we’ll be venturing away from "the conference", and looking at other activities that can be used to develop team spirit, collaboration, communication, and a sense of belonging. Most of them also bring a level of fun that your teams will thank you for.