Many sales rallies and internal conferences are not interactive. Participants go home exhausted after packed agendas with wall to wall presentations. The emphasis on pumping people up with motivational talks with little time is devoted to skill building.
This year, I filed Cvent Blog reports from a number of conferences, trade shows and hosted buyer events. I thought that by reflecting on these experiences from a participant's point of view would uncover some best practices to improve corporate events.
To carve out more time for your agenda without exploding your budget, start early on Day 1. Serve a morning snack and aim for a 10:00 AM start to build in a buffer for the inevitable winter traffic delays. Arrange for out of town participants to arrive the night before to get enough rest.
1. Avoid rows. Instead configure the main space with comfortable seating and provide relaxed spaces for participant networking.
Toronto's Ignite Business Expo used a variety in their seating. (See top photo.)
2. Begin with a high energy kick-off and CEO briefing.
Highlight achievements for the past year, take-aways for improving corporate performance and sales rally objectives.
3. Extend the afternoon with an early lunch.
The afternoon agenda for Smart Monday at IMEX America was an excellent model for a first day afternoon. Start at 12:30 and give delegates a choice of skill building break-out sessions or corporate social responsibility initiatives.
4. Give back to the community.
The Sustainability Safari at Clean the World demonstrated that meaningful corporate social responsibility initiatives can easily fit into a 3 - 4 hour time slot. Select a hotel close to the charity you are supporting or select an on-site activity (e.g. cooking for a shelter, toy hamper or amenity kit assembly).
5. Interactive Skill Building Breakout Sessions
With my own clients, I have found that interactive sessions focusing on everything from competency based interviewing or prospecting to strategies to managing diversity or closing skills can fit into a 3 hour time slot plus a 15 minute break with cool drinks.
6. Upgrade the snack to a 3:45 afternoon tea.
More substantial mid-afternoon refreshments make it possible to extend downtime and serve dinner later.
7. Carve out downtime.
The first day format for M&I Forums in Palm Beach demonstrated the value of giving participants an opportunity to relax on the first day. Give the group the rest of the afternoon off to settle into their rooms, go the beach, visit the spa, or rest.
8. Opt for a later dinner.
This format was used for the IMEX Frankfurt gala and the last night of M&I Forums America. The 8:00 dinner was preceded by a relaxing networking reception through which guests flowed at leisure.
9. Facilitated Team Building
If your group is staying off-site for 2 nights, Day 2 can be allocated for a full team building simulation. Alternatively, offer more skill building opportunities.
(If Day 2 is your last day, you can still fit a team building simulation into the morning with a full debriefing after lunch. This will allow still allow sufficient time for a wrap up by the CEO and a motivational keynote by a guest speaker.)
10. Reserve the final evening for your closing gala.
(If there is only a 1 night stay, schedule the gala for Day 1.)
The final morning or afternoon can be devoted to a business meeting with overview of targets for the new year and an inspirational keynote. With a 3 day format, after lunch, guests can relax, go on a tour or enjoy hotel facilities before heading home.
New models are cropping up at major trade shows. Designing an agenda with more margin and interactive formats will also create a more engaging and less exhausting experience for sales rallies.
Photo Credits: Sales Rallies, Executive Oasis International