doses of inspiration for the innovators in all of us
As the world quickly changed for us over the past few months, companies have had to move all their employees to a work from home model. With no end in sight for when teams will go back to their day-to-day in-office routines, managers have had to strategize innovative ways to keep their employees engaged and connected to their colleagues. While most of us are spending are days jumping from one Zoom call to the next, setting time aside for socializing and non-work connection is important to keeping up your company morale and culture during these uncertain times.
We have been working closely with many of our clients to provide exciting ways to engage with their peers that can continue to contribute to their employees mental health professionally and personally. Even though everyone is stuck at home, there's plenty of ways to continue to bond with your team and promote company culture.
Similarly you can do this with food! So many restaurants have upped their takeout and delivery game during this time, so support a local restaurant and send everyone lunch one day to enjoy together over Zoom. Keep the conversation light and non-work related as-if you were sitting in the break room together.
Personalize Zoom Backdrops
At this point we're all joking about the "books" that everyone on CNN must have in their background when conducting an interview. Next time you have a staff meeting, as everyone to dress up the view behind them to reflect their personality. Whether it's a favorite sports team or a band they love, encourage them to use it as an opportunity to share something new about themselves with their coworkers.
Book or Movie Club
Get a Pro to Teach a Class
Many small business owners and freelancers right now are looking for gigs to teach online. Hire a yoga teacher to teach a Friday morning class. Find a chef to do a cooking demonstration. Even an art class! So many people are home looking for new hobbies so why not make it an opportunity for you connect your employees!
HACK: Perhaps one of your employees has an hidden talent they can share with the team!
Play a Game
Many virtual game apps have popped up on the market since quarantine. Houseparty is an App with a bunch of different apps or you can coordinate your own trivia or Bingo game! Everyone is missing their bar nights so bring everyone together for a virtual one!
This unique time in our history has pushed organizations to make difficult decisions in regards to events that promote and support the livelihood of their business. Many companies rely on networking events, conventions, conferences etc to sell their products, establish new connections, get updates on their products out to their customers and more. As we adapt to a new normal, companies are pushed to adapt their models to serve these needs virtually and find creative methods to engage and connect with their customers and partners.
We have been working hard with our clients over the past months to re-evaluate plans for upcoming events and evaluate how and if we can make them valuable in a virtual setting. It's important to spend time looking at your business model and ensuring that it will be worth both your time and the customers to logon and engage. While we are all balancing various roles at home - working full-time, teaching our children, taking care of loved ones etc - our time is more valuable than ever.
The other side of this is that we are finding people are more eager to socialize than ever. Virtual meetings have seen an uptick in attendance in comparison with in person event with everyone being stuck at home, eager to compare ideas, stories and feelings. Virtually meetings done right can be more beneficial than ever. We've taken some time to put together some Dos and Don'ts for Hosting Virtual Meetings and ideas to engage your audiences further:
Do a Test Run:
If you aren't comfortable with a virtual meeting platform (Zoom, Google Hangouts etc) ensure you take some time to play around with it before you host your event. This will allow you to get familiar with all the tools and will prepare you to answer questions from anyone who may not know how to use it. Things to be sure to know: how to mute/unmute, where the chat box is, how to turn audio/video on/off, and how to share your screen.
Think About How You Want People to Interact
Put together a plan for your meeting and establish how you want your attendees to interact. Do you prefer everyone to join via video? If it's an interactive type of event with a smaller group of people - video is recommended to make it more personal! If it's more presentation focused and attendees will be listening in, most guests may just be joining in via audio. Perhaps you want people to submit questions and comments in to the chat and you will read? Think this through so you can provide people with guidelines at the beginning of your meeting.
Make it Fun!
Let's be honest, everyone's calendars are full of Zoom meetings and conference call these days. Finding a way to set your meeting a part from their schedule will leave a lasting impression. There are lots of ways to do this depending on the format and purpose of your meeting:
Have. A. Plan. Even if it is a small meeting - having an Agenda or notes for topics and ideas is key. When having a group of people together virtually, there isn't as much organic conversation as in person so having some leads ready incase crickets is key!
Assume Everyone Knows How to Join
While most people are connecting through virtual meetings, don't assume everyone knows how to join a virtual meeting. Compiling detailed instructions in how to join the meeting, join audio/video etc will ensure people don't have any issues and join on time.
Make It Open!
Be sure to add a password for people to enter the Meeting room to ensure that you don't get crashed by any unwanted parties. Having a registration process that can gather information for guests if you add an open invitations and providing them the password after that is received will keep it a secure and safe Meeting.
For many corporate events, catering eats up a huge chunk of the budget. A great way to get the most out of this line item is in finding ways to upgrade your event menu through food stations at your event. Not only do they provide a unique and fun experience for you guests at your event, interactive stations can also help promote conversation amongst your guests and add a marketable moment shared with their own audiences. Here are some of our easy ways to make simple changes to your menu that will go along way and guarantee and return on your investment!
Live Action Stations
Showcase Local Specialties
Are you hosting a destination meeting in a location that has a specialty food option? If so, create a station to highlight it! This is a great chance for your attendees coming from out of town to get a taste of the local flavor.
One of the biggest draws of corporate events is the ability to network with colleagues and peers that can help grow your business or help you achieve personal goals. Small talk and approaching strangers is not an easy task for everyone, so finding ways to organically facilitate networking at your event is great to ensure success and leave a long-lasting impression on your guests. Especially in the startup world, everyone is looking to walk away with a new connections that can help them expand their network. Here are some ways we have found to be easy approaches:
When in doubt, spring for name tags. Professional name tags that include guests full name AND company offer an opening line for guests to approach each other.
In a conference setting, assigning small breakout discussions where guests can engage in a more intimate setting with speakers, presenters and each other can ensure higher quality connections are made.
1. Time for Socializing
At so many conferences and meetings, there is an overload of information without the opportunity for some downtime. In addition to little time for attendees to go back to their rooms and recharge, having some time for them to grab drinks with fellow attendees or go out and explore the area is enhances their experience by leaps and bounds. Tied in with this, pick a destination that makes it easy for people to go out and explore! They'll leave with stronger relationships and memories of a great time.
Whether it's an inspirational speaker, music act, local variety, whatever! Add something that will give your guests a chance to check-out from the agenda in front of them and gear all their attention to the stage. It's a nice way to break up a heavy session of information. Also, depending on the caliber, usually can guarantee some social content to enhance your brand awareness.
3. Innovative Activities
4. Get Attendees Involved
No one wants to feel like just another number on the attendee list. You can involve your attendees through so many ways, but one of the simplest and most impactful is recognizing them. Through showcasing work they have done, offering awards, or asking them to share experiences in presenting/speaking to their peers, you can show your appreciation as a member of the organization.
5. Don't Be Afraid To Push Some Free Publicity
EVERYONE loves free stuff. And one of the best ways to get some free publicity is by using your employees, vendors and partners as walking billboards. The key is creating tasteful and impactful materials that they actually WANT to use. Unique items like phone chargers, tote bags, planners, etc.
Each year, companies around the world plan annual sales retreats where they brief their global teams on the latest products and strategies and overall hype them up for the year ahead. It's a time to educate, entertain and bond. Finding a destination that is uniquely exciting for team members while also giving managers the opportunity to hold their attention while also invigorating them can get stale after awhile. Outside of the top cities in the country that always come to mind, here are some of our favorites we like to recommend as Destination Meeting Planners.
Whether you are looking at a venue for a large conference or small breakfast, there is crossover in details to pay attention when planning your event and looking for an event venue. Above and beyond that, there are always special features in the search that leave a lasting impression on your clients and guests. While looking for an event venue is often an overwhelming process, we are sharing tips on 8 things we always focus our attention on when searching for the perfect fit.
1. Location - While this may be obvious, think about how your guests will be arriving. Will it be an area that is easy for them to get to? If not, is the event venue somewhere they will be willing to travel to?
2. Furnishings - Depending on the type of event you are hosting, it may be important to think about why types of tables and chairs they have in-house. If they are not something that will work for your event, it could add an additional line item in your budget to supplement.
3. Food & Beverage - Finding somewhere that has food & beverage through your event venue is always the easiest method. You will not have to worry about setting up any f&b needs or adding another vendor to your roster. Additional items to consider are if the options are good? (if that matters to you) And what their level of service on the day-of will look like. Sample menus are always a great thing to request and should be provided before securing an event venue.
4. Security - There are many levels to this, but it's important to know how they will monitor who is coming into your space and how it will be reserved for your group. If you need additional levels of security, inquiring about their in-house team and how you can work together is always a key factor.
5. Sounds - Think about your type of event and how sound will affect it. Is it a quiet meeting where outside noise will be a disturbance? Or is it a lively cocktail reception that the silence of the venue will be a drag? Evaluating how many event spaces are around the room and the potential for other events going on at the same time are important questions.
6. Storage - This is important for the guest experience and from a planning perspective. Is there a coat check where attendees can store their coats? Maybe they'll be coming with suitcases and need to store them somewhere. For you, having a space to store an extra event materials or work out of is also key when finding an event venue.
7. Surrounding Spaces - A hot tip is to ask the venue if they book additional events at the venue. This could either apply to before/after your event or in the next room. It's good to know what may be also going on around your event and if that raises any concerns for your group in regards to privacy, access or noise.
8. Booking Policy - Ideally this is something you know before you even go visit a space - but knowing how they charge and what their booking policy a help fact to note. Some charge with a F&B minimum and others with a room rental (or sometimes both). Understanding this will help you have a grasp on the full budget of your event and when you will need to make payments.
Can we get an Amen? Sometimes you just have to figure it out on the way. And sometimes, that's when the best things happen. More times than not, we get approached with events with short turn around times. We don't have the luxury of our brainstorming sessions and research we generally perform before producing an event. Instead we have to jump right off the cliff and figure it out. We personally find that this is when some of the best magic happens. There's not time for second guessing decisions and you are forced to just go with your gut instinct! While planning is in our blood, there is something to be said for not planning at all.
Kelly is a Corporate Event Planner and the Founder of 8 Stratton Events with over 10 years of experience working with innovative and iconic organizations all over the country. Kelly lives with her husband Daniel and their dog Lucy in their home in Boston.
"We would highly recommend her for anyone who is looking to have someone create their vision and be able to execute it with little oversight knowing it's going to come out perfect."
- Jamie at Brookfield Properties -
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