- Posted by Gavin Pommernelle
- On April 8, 2013
How much money are you spending on leadership events and internal conferences each year? Are these having the desired impact in your business or are they simply an engaging and fun way to recognize your people?
The direct costs of running these events include: venue costs; flights and other transportation; accommodation; and external speakers. This alone can add up to a considerable amount.
What about the indirect costs: the management time away from other vital aspects of the business, delayed or missed customer attention and the negative impact of those who resent not being invited.
By taking all these costs into account one has a better idea of the return you are looking for from the event. Examples of where the return comes from include: decisions which are more aligned and informed; improved knowledge or leadership capabilities resulting in increased performance and reduced employee turnover; and the strengthening of internal networks and related collaboration.
I have no doubt that a well thought through and targeted event can be highly beneficial to an organization. Unfortunately too many companies are not good at this and simply waste their money.
Often a lot of focus is given to the logistics. This is needed and there are excellent external partners who can support you in this. They can be very innovative and bring a level of professionalism that makes a statement about your organization in itself.
In my experience the risk comes from the content itself:
- Lack of clarity of what the key objective of the event is
- Personal agendas which distract from the core focus
- Topics and speakers selected on the basis of ‘politics’ rather than alignment with the objectives
- The event being far too much of an event rather than a part of the business itself
- More time spent planning the social aspects than the business needs
I have had many years of experience arranging internal leadership events and conferences, from executive retreats to top management strategy launches to large global conferences in different regions.
This experience has taught me some essential lessons and by apply these six tips you will be much more likely to make your event a real business driver and not only a social event.
Ensure you have the right leadership sponsor
While the management of the event can be delegated, the ownership of the objectives and the key related decisions must be with the CEO or relevant divisional leader. This is where your alignment with business objectives is ensured.
Keep your content focused
Trying to include too much content and too much variety in the themes will mostly likely result in your delegates being confused or simply forgetting the key messages. Ensure all your topics and any external speakers are reinforcing your core messages.
It’s not just about the event
Do your delegates only think about the themes on arrival? Do you have any follow-up planned? How are you engaging your teams back home?
These are questions you should be addressing. The key is to have pre and post event communications and engagement with delegates so that they are in the frame of mind to apply their learning. Ensure business processes reflect any new ways of working that have been decided. Keep all people in the organization involved in the content in some way.
Give your speakers attention
While each speaker or session leader will have their particular style and hopefully a reasonable speaking capability, you cannot assume that they will be on-message or as capable as you imagine. I have used events to develop the speakers themselves through coaching and speaking skill training.
Clear articulation of event objectives beforehand; reviews of speaker themes and key messages (can be by phone and preferably as a group); and rehearsals (to ensure that they are comfortable, their materials work and the logistics are clear) provide a very proactive way of ensuring success.
Apply the most effective learning techniques
No one wants to sit at a table in a fully enclosed conference room for eight hours a day listening to speaker after speaker. More likely they will sleep through this or be spending time doing email under the table.
Adults learn best when they are doing. Vary the style of the sessions, get delegates to be actively involved, do simulations. Don’t just tell, DO.
Run the event the way you want to run your business
An event is an intense period. You have a lot of your leaders in one place. People are together constantly. Everyone is having fun during the social aspects.
This often leads to behaviors, which you would not normally condone. Apart from the ‘misbehaving’ situations that we are all aware of, there are more innocuous behaviors that say much more about your business than you realize.
Do you condone a program than is fluid or structured; is it acceptable to not attend certain sessions; does punctuality matter; does non participation matter; what level of dress is appropriate; etc?
While these may seem unimportant they actually set the tone for your business back at the workplace. You need to choose what the tone is that is right for your business and culture. Keep it consistent wherever you come together as a business.
An internal event can be a powerful way to set thew direction and engage your people in the key goals for your business or in a specific area that supports these. Use it to demonstrate what your business is about. Approach it with this in mind and you will see the signifiant benefit and won’t question the investment needed.
I work worldwide with leaders and leadership teams in businesses experiencing changes in management, business direction or complexity. The way they lead their people is a critical and significant value creator and sustainable driver of their success.
Guiding leaders and teams using executive coaching, talent assessment and practical talent management tools brings real results.