The festive season is over and while some of us are still recovering from the holidays and celebrations, we have a blank canvas of events to design over the next 12 months.
Why so early ? Research shows that when events are planned in advance, it helps achieve the goals you’ve set for the year ahead and gives your team something to look forward to.
Ready to start your yearly planning? Here are our top 10 tips:
1. Start with “Why”
Before doing anything else, take a look at the company goals for the year and design the events to complement the objectives.
Like all your other goals, make sure your event goals are SMARTER:
Specific – For instance, if one of your projects is product diversification, you might need your management team to shift their mindset: Giving management the mind tools to think innovatively to successfully launch a new product is specific, as opposed to simply wanting your team to diversify.
Measurable – The effectiveness of a creativity workshop for instance can be measured by asking your guests, to review and rate it afterwards, and by comparing the amount of innovative/ creative ideas or solutions they had 3 months before and after the event.
Achievable – An event goal must aim to stretch boundaries whilst keeping reality in check. With a 1-day leadership development course, you can aim to give the direction needed to lead a team to launch a new product, but a longer period of training would be required to create transformational leaders that will take the business to the next level.
Relevant – The right event must be planned at an appropriate time. If you just went through a major restructuring programme, instilling confidence in the remaining employees through a motivational workshop could be more relevant than a summer party.
Time-bound – Create a timeline for the planning for each event. Small bite-sized goals will have you prepared for the target date in no time! You could also prepare another schedule to evaluate the results after its completion, a month, 3 months and a year down the line.
Enjoyable – Aim for enjoyable events that give you flow and buzz! They are more likely to be repeated or pushed further. Play to your strengths and work on doing what challenges your team but is rewarding and enjoyable nonetheless.
Repeatable – If the goal of the event progresses to the next level, it should somehow relate to the overall purpose, ensuring continuity.
Goals are like stepping stones across a river. Each time you reach one you should immediately be looking for the next one, whilst celebrating your achievements so far.
2. Set up an Event Planning Team
The best events are always the result of a passionate team, who take pride in planning and preparing the perfect event. There is usually at least one person who has a flair for events and gets a buzz from organising them. They might be the ones organising the summer barbecue, secret santa, fund-raisers or after-work drinks. It doesn’t matter what position this person holds within your company, find him/her and ask if they would like to be part of the events team, along with the marketing and HR person (if they are not from that department). They can be responsible for sourcing venues, finding speakers, selecting activities and finding creative ways to maximise the event budget.
If you do not have that person onboard at the moment, have a more complex event to organise, or simply need an extra pair of hands, engage a professional event company to handle the planning and logistics for you!
3. Diversify your event pool
In your event calendar, ensure you have a mix of learning and personal development, motivation, activity, team building and social events! It could look something like this:
January – Kickstart: Motivational Speaker : Gearing up for 2017
March – Sharpen your saw: Selling with Purpose Masterclass
May – Spring TeamBuild: Outdoor Activity + Interactive Wellbeing Session
July – Social: Summer Barbecue
September – Personal Development: Transformational Leadership Course
October – AGM + Creative Thinking Workshop
December – Social: Award Ceremony
4. Save the date
Watch out for potential industry events which might clash, bridge holidays and occasions which could impact attendance. Even if you haven’t yet finalised all the details of the events, block the dates once they are set, early on in your team’s calendars. In this way, people taking time off or planning business trips can plan around the event, where possible. Also, if there is a date where a significant number cannot attend, you will have the flexibility to change it well in advance.
5. Location, Location, Location!
Moving away from the office environment, where possible, has been proven to stimulate creativity. It is the reason why we sometimes get great ideas or solutions to problems while we’re in the shower or taking a walk! It is also easier to get people’s full attention by moving them away from the daily office distractions.
Offsite locations work best for seminars, workshops, team building and social events where you want your team to step out of their habitual thinking patterns, open their mind to welcome new ideas, let go of their preconceptions and step out of the social circles they formed in the office.
When sourcing locations, apart from the logistics and budget, ensure that it is accessible to everyone in your team and there are adequate parking facilities if you would like your people in the room on time !
The ambience should not be too imposing or intimidating and preferably suit the theme of the event where possible.
If one of your seminars is about making an impact, why not hold it in a charitable institution and leave a donation as part of your CSR.
On the other hand, if you have a series of training or coaching sessions planned on a regular basis, your boardroom is probably the most convenient location.
6. Secure your Speakers
Speakers get booked up fast and after you would have meticulously chosen your speakers to suit your audience and fulfil your objectives, it would be frustrating to find that they are not available.
Venues can often be interchanged, speakers less so.
7. Organise a poll
If you are organising a team activity, workshop or keynote and are deciding between a couple of options, get your team to vote for their preference. It will engage them and get them excited in anticipation of the event!
On a recent talk during an annual conference, the HR manager fed the management team a short description on “Triggering Mind Flow” and “Developing a Growth Mindset” and they were asked to vote for their preference. It intrigued them and many researched the suggested topics prior to the talk, which led to an interactive Q & A session at the end !
8. Be Prepared
Managing the event calendar is great fun, but can also be stressful. Don’t let the pressure get to you!
Once you’ve established the events, keep these 5Cs in mind:
• Prepare a Checklist to ensure you have everything and haven’t left anything out.
• Communicate your objectives and requirements clearly to all third parties involved. Don’t assume that they know what you want or that certain requirements (such as a projector) will be there. Be specific, ask and confirm.
• Stay Calm, know that there is always a solution to every challenge.
• Call the main people who will be involved just before the event to ensure that everything is scheduled correctly and that any changes have been updated.
• Double Check everything before the event. Get there in advance to allow you enough time to “fix”something that isn’t right or can be improved.
9. Add Value
The value gained from an event is not necessarily equivalent to how much money you spend. The choices you make and the attention to detail will have an impact on the value perceived by the participants.
Events organised with purpose will make your people feel cared for, appreciated and proud to work for such a great company!
One of the recurring comments from our post-event surveys is gratitude, towards the management for choosing events that are not solely work-focused but are also investing in their wellbeing and personal development.
There are various ways of adding value to your event. Below are a couple of ideas:
⁃ Recognising individual achievements which are not necessarily work related, for example a team member who just competed in a major race.
⁃ Addressing topics that are important to your staff, such as working remotely. A moderator can be invited to initiate an open discussion, which will be followed up after the event.
When planning the day (s) don’t forget to include some unstructured ‘down-time’ for your participants to relax and catch-up with each other. They’ll appreciate it and enable them to function at a higher level.
10.a Get Feedback
You’ve run your event and all went well. Before moving on to the next one, ensure you complete it by getting that all-important feedback from the participants.
The information gathered can be used to measure your ROI, whilst any improvements highlighted can be implemented in the events to follow.
The most practical way of doing this, is to send out a short survey using an online survey tool such as surveymonkey. The survey link can be shared at the end of the event, for the participants to fill in there and then from their smartphones. This tends to get more responses, depending on the type of event. Alternatively, it can be sent electronically, shortly after the event or series of events.
After you’ve collected all the responses, relate the stats back to them with your comments to show that you are listening and taking their feedback into consideration.
When everyone’s forgotten about it… remind them!
If it was a workshop, ask them how they are performing in that area six months down the line.
Send out a teaser following a teambuilding session, to trigger their thoughts back to the event.
Share some of the best photos of the party!
Think of the events as the link between your company vision and your audience.
Listen, Understand, Scout, Implement and Measure.
Don’t be disheartened if it’s not perfect, every imperfection is a growth opportunity and every lesson learnt is a step closer to excellence!