Taking your annual employee conference from good to great
As specialists in employee engagement events, we share with you our top things to keep in mind for your next annual conference.
Many questions go through our clients’ minds when they think of hosting an annual conference: How do you make it memorable? How do you ensure it’s an event your employees look forward to? How can we step away from the dark conference rooms, in theatre-style set ups? How do you ensure ROI from an internal event?
Smart Live produce an array of conferences, all with different objectives and deliverables in mind. But there are a few things to keep in mind that will align and motivate your employees for the year ahead, and ensure that the annual conference becomes something they look forward to and remember for the months ahead.
First, we need to start by identifying key objectives and, ultimately, what is going to make the event successful – why are you hosting it? What is the key business messaging you want employees to remember? What should employees be taking away and delivering on post-conference? These answers will dictate how a conference should be best delivered, and then ROI can be guaranteed. When producing your conference, we’ll ensure we focus on your objectives throughout the organisation process, so we deliver the conference you need as an organisation.
Venue & Set-Up
The venue is key to getting the right atmosphere for the messaging you want to deliver. Standard conference rooms exist for a reason and have become standard, easy spaces for this style of event to be executed within. However, we at Smart Live love to think outside the box. We’ll take your objectives for the event, and work on the best way to deliver that messaging in a memorable, fun and exciting way, using different presentation style set ups, breakout rooms and interactive elements throughout. This is important whether it’s a live or virtual event, as streaming platforms differ enormously in deliverables, just like a venues do.
The use of technology within events can be amazing, but let’s face it, to keep costs down and ROI up, they need to have a set purpose and not be there just for technology sake (check out our blog on overdoing tech at events). Most importantly, it needs to be easy for guests to use, in order to keep interaction high. We love to use registration apps that blend into your conference guide and host all the content post-event for attendees to review afterwards, keeping everything in one place. It means attendees will use the application available to them as it has everything they need. Get instant feedback through live polls, questions from your audience submitted to the panel on stage, and extra information on exhibition style stands with QR codes, removing the need to have all experts onsite, which can be costly.
Once live events return we know that not everyone will want to, or be able to, attend in person, and so we know that hybrid events will become the new norm. We will ensure employees joining from home don’t feel alienated by including them in interactive elements, giving them the ability to watch elements of the event live, and even delivering them delicious food to enjoy. We’ve partnered with Moving Venue to ensure guests can still enjoy top quality catering at home with ‘The Moving Menu’.
A conference is a great place to reward your staff with their hard work and achievements. Whether it’s an Awards Show, an evening celebration or just lovely giveaways, it’s important to get this element right and to separate it from the conference messaging so that it has the stature and positivity around the delivery that it deserves. Hosting an end of the day or evening section to the event will create a great celebratory atmosphere, perfect for an Award Shows element, evening dinner or entertainment. When it comes to any form of giveaways, be sure to give your guests something useful, something related to the messaging of the event and something of good quality. These are the elements that your guests will walk away with after the event and talk to their family and colleagues about.
Food & Drink
Aside from the day’s key messaging, this is arguably the most important element of all – the food and drinks on offer throughout the conference, no matter how great your stage set looks, can change the energy of the crowd in the flick of a switch. Be sure to be inventive! Long gone are the days of limp looking finger sandwiches. Bring out live food stations, beautiful bowl food and healthy food options throughout. A hungry attendee is never a happy attendee, but a sluggish crowd after a heavy lunch will make concentration extremely difficult in the afternoon. And of course, be sure to celebrate with some drinks at the end to bring your employees together. After all, we all spend so much time with our colleagues in the office, so giving them the opportunity to socialise away from their desks, and instead in a beautiful location with a celebratory drink in hand, will bring your employees together like nothing else.