5 Ways to Inspire, Motivate, and Activate Attendees
Are you using your corporate events to lay out the company’s plans for the year ahead? While broadcasting information to customers and teams was once a prime objective for in-person meetings, it now makes no sense to waste your meeting doing something that is more quickly, easily, and effectively done using today’s readily available — and affordable — communication technologies.
Instead, use your corporate events to motivate employees, reach customers, and brand your organization. Here are five ways to help you get the results you really want from your events.
1. Tell a story
Whether the goals of your event are networking, building support for upcoming initiatives, or developing brand loyalty, these outcomes are far more likely if the event tells a larger, compelling story in which attendees play a key role.
What’s your event’s story? Once you pin it down, weave it into every aspect of the event by encouraging presenters to approach their speeches as narratives. To create more genuine connections with the audience, have your speakers incorporate a personal element into their presentations by sharing a funny, happy, or reflective anecdote that adds to your event’s narrative.
2. Set the tone
The tone of your event will greatly influence the way attendees experience it. If you want attendees to relax and let their guard down during networking sessions, you need to set the stage to help make that happen. Consider substituting traditional roundtable seating with living room-style chairs, loveseats, and coffee tables. To create excitement about a brand, incorporate that brand into everything attendees experience from the minute they walk in until the end.
Small changes in the event program can send a big message. For example, if you want to indicate that company leaders are accessible, have them enter the stage from the audience rather than from backstage. You may also consider having attendees’ peers present along with the company’s leaders. It’s one thing to tell attendees, “We’re all in this together,” but those words will have more weight if they are backed up by how that content is presented and otherwise integrated into every aspect of the event.
3. Spark friendships
To get attendees engaged and talking, involve them in the event’s content at every possible opportunity, especially if your goal is for employees who work from different locations to build relationships.
You can foster interaction by asking attendees to break into groups to discuss an issue or solve a problem. For a more memorable experience, ask attendees to collaborate on an unconventional project, such as creating a piece of art that speaks to your company’s attitude toward teamwork. Constructing–style stations around the perimeter of the room is another way to spark conversations, allowing people to walk around, converse, and learn something.
Exhibits and breakout sessions also help keep attendees alert by allowing them to move around and experience a change of scenery. If you are serious about collaboration, these types of sessions should be a key part of the agenda — not just a way to fill time between presentations by management.
4. Build a fake elevator
Part of making an event memorable is creating fun and memorable experiences that attendees will talk about. For example, a client of Cramer’s constructed a fake elevator in which attendees could practice the “elevator pitches” being discussed at the forum. Organizers hired professional comedic actors to play the person in the elevator, and created humorous videos for employees to take home with them.
Fake elevators may not be the solution for your event, but consider how you can find unusual ways to surprise your audience and make a lasting impression.
5. Think of the whole person
If you want attendees to be engaged, then your event should support the healthy living habits that keep people alert. For multiday events especially, attendees should have opportunities to eat healthy foods, exercise, and relax. Consider offering yoga or other exercise classes and steering clear of high-sugar foods, or at least providing healthier options for attendees.
You can also gain fuller attendee engagement by piquing their curiosity about the event’s location — not the interior of a ballroom, but the host city or town. Bring in local foods, musicians, artists, and more to create a sense of place. Remember: The location and tone should be tied back to the story you want your event to tell. You may even consider scrapping the ballroom altogether for a venue that reinforces your theme, perhaps a university, a football field, or a museum.
Don’t Stop Now!
While these are important starting points, there is also a whole world of and technology platforms that you can use to analyze attendee behavior and spark lasting conversations. A big part of thinking outside of the ballroom is thinking ahead about how each new innovation can revolutionize events. For example, Cramer has recently experimented with the Microsoft HoloLens, a newly released mixed-reality platform that could serve as yet another way to push the boundaries of inspiring, entertaining, and informing event-goers.
Nothing can replace the power of bringing people together to create meaningful connections, but there is a lot that can be done to enhance it. Event location, setup, content, and the use of quickly evolving technologies can ensure that the potential of these live moments are fully realized — along with your organization’s goals.