4 Keys to Inspiring Corporate Events
Innovative event planners are taking a more holistic approach to help attendees stay engaged and energized
I’ve never cried at a conference before in my life. But I’ve teared up twice here.
A colleague of mine said that about a sales conference he attended a few years ago. But he didn’t cry out of frustration or exhaustion. He was moved to tears by emotional moments throughout the event. Impactful moments. Memorable experiences that have stuck with him to this day.
Done right, corporate events can thrill, inspire and stay with people. But all too often, they exhaust and underwhelm. When you consider the time and financial investment an event requires, it’s essential that your events exceed expectations and leave attendees knowing they are part of an exceptional company culture. To compete for the best and brightest talent, organizations must set themselves apart. One way to do that is to create corporate events that engage people and show them how valuable they are to the company. That means bringing your A-game to planning and execution.
Here are four keys to creating a corporate event that will inspire (not tire) your attendees.
- EDUCATE BUT DON’T FORGET TO EXCITE
No doubt, you have mountains of information to share in a short time – but don’t leave heads spinning by barraging attendees with too much at once. Of course, you need to educate, but you also need to excite. To do this, think about what excites you. When you are mesmerized by a great book or movie, part of what keeps you engaged is the element of surprise. Implement diverse event programming that does just that at your events. Throw in a surprise flash mob or an immersive 4D experience. Have an adorable dog unexpectedly wander across the stage during an executive keynote or touch your attendees’ hearts through a surprise contribution to the community. These elements can be as simple or as extravagant as you want, but don’t leave them out!
Don’t be afraid to get creative when it comes to the role your executives play as well. Attendees want to hear from leaders, but not every leader is a born public speaker. The key to your success here is to know – and play on – their strengths. Maybe your CFO hates getting up in front of a big audience. Try making an informative, yet entertaining, video starring your CFO, and show it during the conference. Perhaps your head of sales is all about adventure and taking smart risks. Have her make a daring Cirque du Soleil-like entrance onto the stage. Inserting these moments into the agenda provides levity and intrigue and demonstrates that, regardless of our titles, we are all human. The moments that allow your audience to take a breath or have a laugh are the ones that will stick in their minds.
- INVIGORATE MIND + BODY
Between travel, hotel food and endless hours of presentations, corporate events can be physically and mentally draining. As a result, innovative event planners are taking a more holistic approach to help attendees stay engaged and energized.
When offered a wide range of nutritious meal and snack options throughout each day, attendees are less likely to feel event fatigue from too much sugar and processed foods. When was the last time you served hard-boiled eggs during an afternoon break? Try it, and you’ll be surprised by the response.
A few other moves that can work wonders:
- Switch up the morning routine by pushing back start times. This offers attendees the opportunity to opt into group exercise classes or guided meditation – or to get a full night’s rest.
- Keep main stage speaker time to no more than 30 minutes each (ideally, 20).
- Build in substantial breaks throughout the day, including 90 minutes for lunch. You’ll be amazed at the level of engagement you get for your afternoon sessions!
- Resist the (common) temptation to program every minute, including break times. It is best to offer attendees some space to check in back home, grab a healthy snack or disconnect for a few minutes. This will ensure they can soak in your amazing content and savor the overall experience.
- MAKE TIME TO CONNECT
As the world goes digital – and more and more people work from satellite offices or from home – events are rare opportunities to connect with others in a genuine and human way. Depending on your company size, corporate events might be the only time global team members connect face to face. It is up to event teams to create programming and opportunities that promote and encourage meaningful connections. There are many great ways to do that. The key word here is small:
- SMALL breakouts and group sessions help open the lines of communication and collaboration.
- SMALL teams working together on a volunteer activity is a great way to break the ice, network, bond and make your attendees feel good about doing good work.
- SMALL groups having dinner together at local restaurants around town builds more intimate, authentic connections than having everyone pile into a large ballroom every night. Even for one evening, allow your attendees to head out on their own.
One more key to making connections: be sure executives are accessible throughout your corporate events. Employees feel more valued, connected and excited when there are organic opportunities to engage with leadership directly.
- MAKE MEMORABLE MOMENTS
Sprinkle moments of celebration throughout your event to recognize employees and demonstrate how pivotal they are to the company’s success. Give awards for outstanding individual or team contributions. Invite certain groups up on stage to celebrate their birthdays or their anniversaries with the company. Have an executive give a speech from the heart. Never underestimate the power of a single moment. The smallest moment can make a big impression that will stay with employees for years to come. Maybe even for life.
Remember that your events should not only strengthen company culture but motivate employees to reach higher, work harder, to remember that they are an important part of something bigger than themselves … and to leave inspired to be more and do more for your organization.
When you’ve done that, you’ve done it right.
Lisa Hempel is Vice President of Global Events for Equinix and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.