Five ways to fire up the engagement bang you deliver for the budget buck
‘Here’s the challenge’, explained a newly appointed CEO to me recently. ‘I’ve been asked to sign off the budget for our annual internal event, so, being new, I took the opportunity to ask a very simple question… what difference did the last one make?’
She went on. ‘My board colleagues simply wrung their hands and stared back at me in silence, before calling for the event organiser to join the meeting. He arrived with some rolled up flip charts, but still no evidence of any concrete outcomes.’
The final straw came when, in the canteen lunch queue, the CEO asked a few of the previous years’ event participants what actions they took following it. They then entered into a circular chat about whether ‘that was the one in Amsterdam or Barcelona’.
Sound familiar? It did to me. So here are five ways to rise to the challenge.
1. Start with the end in mind
Before you even think about booking a venue or sending out invites, be clear about why you want to get your people together in the first place. Then imagine it is six months after you’ve switched the lights off at the conference venue. Ask yourself what you want to see your people doing, what you want people to be saying and what you want people to be feeling, as a consequence of your event. And not just your event’s participants, but their direct reports too.
2. Explore how aligned your people are
You might be quite clear about what you want to talk about at your event, but do you know what the hot topics are amongst your participants and the wider workforce? Understanding this is key in helping you align your content and make your messages as relevant as possible. Conducting some ‘pre-search’ is a great step to take and also provides a benchmark, that you can return to after the event, to determine the extent to which you have moved the engagement needle and therefore your ROI.
3. Be clear about the role of participants in cascading your messages
One of the first messages to deliver at the event itself is to set your expectations of participants in bringing the key messages to life in their part of the organisation, post-event. Then explain how you are going to measure and report on their performance. Make it easy for them to capture their personal insights, through an event journal, in writing or via technology. And build action planning activities into each major chunk of content, giving participants time to reflect on and record ‘what this means for us.’
4. Make cascading your key content as easy as possible
If you are really serious about driving concrete outcomes, as a consequence of your conference, you need to do more than rely on participant’s notes, or copies of your slides. You need to make cascading your content super easy for participants. So set them up to succeed. Give them a proper cascade pack and make some the materials editable. This way, your colleagues can add local content under the heading of, ‘what this means for us in our part of the business.’
5. Conduct and publish some post-event research
The final step is to check the extent to which the outcomes you were looking for are truly being delivered… by measuring impact. You will no doubt look to see the results in your existing metrics and scorecard, but it is also worth conducting some post-event research, not just with participants, but also amongst their direct reports. Then publish the results to demonstrate progress against your pre-event benchmark and make heroes and heroines of the people who exhibited the right behaviours.
From wringing hands to high fives
Now you can look forward to a future where you can point to real evidence of the extent to which the outcomes you wanted to achieve, through your employee events, have been delivered – by whom and where.
Isn’t that better than wringing hands, blank stares, dog-eared flip charts and vague geographical recollections; as opposed to clear, consistent and compelling communication?
Now you have created clear accountability for the delivery of your messages and a culture in which bringing them to life, beyond the conference room, is the norm.
Now that’s worth high-fiving!
If you would like help in hosting a memorable employee engagement event, please get in touch. We are the internal communications conference facilitators that you can rely to help you deliver a successful message to your people.