Think about the last organization-wide event that you attended. Did it roll out without a hitch? Was everyone in the room inspired, informed and aligned? I have hosted countless such meetings and know it’s harder than it looks to pull off an event like this. I’ve discovered the secret to successful company-wide events and it may surprise you!
The secret to these successful meetings cannot be found at the event itself – It occurs long before the first person thumps the microphone and clears his throat to speak!
Preparation is the key to a successful company-wide event. It is the process of preparing for a well-planned event that makes it successful.
When planning an event, the most important questions I always begin with are Who?, What?, When?, Where?, How? and Why? –Bobby Albert
I’ve been writing about how we rolled out our Core Values to our company and it provides a good example of an organization-wide event. When we held our QIC-Day (pronounced “Quick”) to roll-out our Core Values, it was a focused, team-building experience with lots of fun, fellowship, food, and learning.
Build your event team
Because the Core Values QIC-Day was so important to our organization, I personally asked people to sign up for certain tasks associated with the event.
My objective is always to ask people on the frontline, who work with customers and suppliers, to be the “Who” so they have some “skin in the game”. These assigned roles generate greater anticipation for the upcoming event. Also, when people are involved early, they tend to talk-up the upcoming event with their co-workers.
The event went great, largely because we devoted time to prepare and plan well in advance of the actual function.
Every leader can have a successful company-wide event by addressing four main planning areas:
1. Plan the Logistics
This is the basic stuff, without which you can’t pull off any event, regardless of its effectiveness! We're talking about a detailed agenda, pens, markers, computer, projector and handouts. Plus the following:
Tables & Chairs
- We sat six to eight people at each table to create a small group setting that encouraged interaction and discussion.
- We positioned the tables so that people could easily see the podium and screen at the front of the room.
- I usually provided breakfast burritos to assure every person showed up on-time.
- When people have something in their stomach early in the morning, they seem to have more energy and are more willing to learn.
- You’ve heard the saying “When families eat together they stay together.”
- I wanted our employees to have the feel of a family team, especially when we rolled-out our Core Values.
Observation: The perceived value of a company-provided meal for employees is very high compared with the cost.
2. Plan to Communicate
Pre-notify your customers and suppliers
- We notified our key customers and suppliers that we were holding a company-wide event so we could better serve them.
- This is a great way to manage expectations and emphasize how seriously you value your people and other stake-holders.
Pre-print name tags that include table assignments
- Name tags help everyone remember their team-mate’s names & encourage more personal communication during the event.
- Think about your seating configuration well in advance and be intentional about who sits where. Print each person’s table number on their name tag.
Tip: Your seating plan can help you build and strengthen your team. You can facilitate new relationships by seating people from different departments or areas at the same table.
Send internal teaser notices
- We sent “teaser notices” about the upcoming QIC-Day to our employees several days before the event. These notices said just enough to increase people’s anticipation of the upcoming event.
- The day before the event, we gave our employees their G.I.V.E.R.S. T-shirt so that everyone could wear theirs at the QIC-Day.
- The T-Shirt only had the G.I.V.E.R.S. logo so our people still did not know what it meant until the actual event.
3. Plan to Capture
Recruit a photographer
- We had someone take pictures of employees throughout the event so we can post them after the event.
Tip: Task the photographer to capture virtually every person in at least one photo. (This is not a photo-shoot of the CEO!)
- People like to see pictures of themselves being part of something so significant. This raises their sense of recognition and self-esteem.
Easels and flip-charts
- I loved to use easels and flip charts in our meetings. Ideally, each table group would have a flip-chart on an easel.
- Flip charts create an opportunity for people to voice their ideas on a topic.
- People feel affirmed when their opinions and ideas are recorded in such a visible way.
- The content from all the flip-charts was summarized and distributed after the event. This reinforced that we were listening to their comments and considered them important enough to re-read, summarize and distribute to the whole company.
Insight: When people see that you recorded and took note of their comments, they are more willing to continue giving suggestions and ideas to improve the business.
4. Plan to Connect
- We would randomly draw tickets for door prizes. They are usually as simple as gift cards, or bags of food and/or candy.
Tip: Time these giveaways for immediately after a refreshment break in order to get everyone back to their table on time.
- It is amazing how excited people get over these door prizes.
- We usually have an Ice Breaker game at the very beginning to get people moving and to help people get to know each other better.
- Also often like this QIC-Day, we had a game where people had team building fun while learning something about themselves, about me and our company.
- I ring a cowbell to roundup people after refreshment breaks or at the conclusion of a table facilitation exercise.
- I’ve been using “The Cow Bell” since the first QIC-Day, and I still receive lots of smiles when I ring it. It’s part of the fun.
Idea: Find your own noise maker. It might be a gong, bell or horn. Make it yours and you’ll build some fun into your culture!
- For many years I have personally signed certificates with each employee’s name as recognition of their completion of the workshop.
- I have always been impressed by the fact that most of our employees have all of their certificates posted in their workstation.
Tip: Place a copy of each person’s certificate in their personnel file for future reference. This reflects their involvement and underscores the importance of company-wide training and messaging.
WOW!!! Lots of details to think through and plan for a successful event.
Your FREE download
I start planning for an event like this by pulling out our all-inclusive QIC-Day preparation Checklist.
You can download a copy of my actual checklist for Our Values QIC-Day by clicking <here>. Feel free to save it as a reference when you are planning your next event.
It is designed to identity every possible task that needs to be done, who has agreed to do the task, and a column to check when it was done.
Could you share with me one key way you plan the structure and experiences for your company-wide events? (or which of the above ideas are you going to implement for your next event?)