This is Part 1 of “Corporate Meeting Planning: How to Turn Your Next Meeting Into an Event They Won’t Forget.” Watch for Part 2 on the In The Event™ blog on Friday!
“Meeting” is one of the most dreaded words in the modern vernacular. Whether you’re the one in charge of the corporate meeting planning or someone who has to attend, there are plenty of reasons to drag your feet when it comes to meetings. But, if done right, a meeting can be more than a forced group hug.
If you’re tired of hearing associates murmur under their breath about the next big meeting, it’s time to give your corporate meeting strategy a makeover. With the right goals in mind and the proper planning you can transform the annual training meeting into an inspiring event that leaves all participants feeling valued, refreshed, and itching to get back to work and apply what they learned.
Use these 11 strategies to makeover your boring meetings and turn them into successful events the attendees can’t stop talking about.
Have you ever spent three days in a corporate meeting only to leave regretting that you’ll never be able to get those hours back? The truth is, we all have. One of the biggest reasons meetings flop is that they are not executed with an overall strategy in mind. Outlining a clear objective for your meeting will make it much easier to include activities and information that will be meaningful and enriching to all attendees.
Focus on the purpose of the meeting and build your whole program around that central idea. Having a meeting for the sake of having a meeting is not worthwhile. Speak to employees or do an anonymous survey (tools like SurveyMonkey are great for this) to find out what’s currently missing in your corporate culture.
You can also get an idea of any skills gaps that are frustrating your employees or slowing down progress. Focus on the people who are on the front lines and weigh their input just as heavily—if not more than—suggestions from management. Once you know what’s needed, plan your event to fill those gaps. Identify specific outcomes you want to achieve and tailor your meeting to facilitate them.
Once you know what the primary purpose of your corporate meeting is, it’s time to choose a theme. Having a theme can be what makes a boring meeting feel like a true event. Themes should drive home the message of the event and add elements of fun and inclusion. A well-executed theme will help the goals of the event take root so that attendees will remember them long after the meeting concludes.
Themes can center on a key phrase or word, a symbol, or even a story or metaphor that helps the message come to life for the attendees. You should weave your theme throughout every aspect of the event—promo visuals, posters, notes, presentations, meals, activities, giveaways—the more often the theme is reinforced the easier it will be for everyone to remember.
Consider your company values and mission statement when selecting the theme. If you can tie the theme to the foundational tenets of the organization, the impact will be even greater. Themes that help engage both sides of the brain are the most successful. Don’t shy away from themes that appeal to participants both logically and emotionally.
One of the fastest ways to deflate the impact of your meeting is to leave your staff to organize everything. It’s hard to feel like you’re getting something out of a meeting that you’ve been working on for the past month. Reaching out to a professional corporate event planner is a smart way to insulate your staff from the taxing process of preparation.
When you attend a meeting that you’re also in charge of, it’s hard to feel inspired or nurtured. Give your best performers a break when it comes to corporate meeting planning and you’ll reap the rewards. Not only will it keep them focused on their regular jobs, but having them in the milieu as true participants will bolster the experience of all attendees.
A professional corporate event planner will also help you stay true to your purpose and theme. They will see your organization and the upcoming meeting with new eyes that can provide fresh ideas and new perspectives. It’s also great to have someone you can count on for the details. Your planner will make sure everything is in place and ready to go so you can focus on interacting with your associates and spreading the message of your event.
What makes an event memorable? It’s not another string of speakers with clunky PowerPoint presentations. To truly shake things up and make the leap from meeting to event, consider doing something unexpected.
Following a morning of training, load everyone onto a bus and head to a nearby bowling alley or miniature golf course. Prepare a goody bag that includes things they’ll need for the outing: socks, sunscreen, visors. Surprising your staff with a fun excursion will definitely be memorable. Have prizes for different achievements that exemplify your theme.
Other ideas include providing seated massage at breaks, offering stress management classes like Tai Chi or yoga, or rolling out a karaoke machine after lunch. Whatever you choose make sure it reinforces your theme and provides value to your participants. That value can be skill-building, team-building, or simply showing your staff that their health and wellness are a priority to the organization.
There’s no denying the fact that one of the biggest reasons we have meetings is to provide training. But just because it’s training doesn’t mean it has to be boring. When people attend a corporate meeting they expect to learn and grow. Capitalize on that expectation by engaging and retaining the receptive attitude your participants bring with them.
Seek out presenters who are passionate and bring the material to life. Anyone who uses humor to captivate their audience will be an instant hit. Use your corporate event planner to identify possible speakers who may be outside your industry but in line with your purpose. Hearing from an outsider can be a great catalyst for creative thinking and new ideas.
Find ways to combine learning and entertainment. Use group activities to demonstrate principles rather than lecturing about them. Provide ample opportunities for questions, comments, and sharing best practices. Intersperse trivia questions throughout a presentation to encourage independent thought and participation.
Watch the fine line between delivering information in an entertaining way and being cheesy. Make sure that your approach to “edutainment” is intelligent and doesn’t dumb down your message or your audience. If you can master this artful dance, you will end up with a transformative corporate meeting that impacts the productivity, motivation, and ingenuity of your employees.
This is part one of a two-part series. Check back on Friday for the rest of our secrets to make your next meeting a buzz-worthy corporate event. Here’s a preview of what we have in store for you.
6. Be smart about venue.
7. Make acknowledgement meaningful.
8. Go for gamification.
9. Don’t forget the details.
10. Take the temperature of the room.
11. Leave them wanting more.