After a year and a half of Zoom meetings and webinars, the corporate event is making a comeback. From executive team and board retreats to conventions with multiple speakers and breakout sessions, companies around the country are sending out Invitations with real addresses attached for the first time in a long while. Of course, just because IRL corporate events are starting to show up on the calendar, doesn’t mean you should ditch the virtual world entirely for your next product launch celebration or board meeting. Instead, figure out how you can take the lessons of the past year and apply them in brand new ways.
As you start planning for your next corporate event, consider how you can offer the in-person experience of old while still making virtual attendance possible. With the right ideas and execution, you’ll be able to deliver an experience that motivates and educates, no matter where participants are viewing from.
Whether to stop the spread of illness or to simply accommodate employees working in multiple locations, business leaders expect the hybrid event to be the way of the future. By combining in-person get-togethers with virtual components that can be accessed around the world, hybrid events make sure there’s a spot at the table for everyone. According to a February 2021 survey of more than 100 event organisers from the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), 3 out of 5 said they are expecting to hold a hybrid event this coming year.
“We saw virtual events that enabled attendees to engage with content in their own ways, but there were still many aspects about in-person events that organizers and attendees missed—from the connections and face-to-face interactions to the excitement of grabbing your morning coffee,” said Alon Alroy, co-founder of the hybrid event platform Bizzabo, speaking with TechRepublic.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly been a main driver of the move to hybrid events (71% of respondents in the GBTA survey said they had not held a hybrid event prior to the pandemic) organizers expect to use and benefit from the format well after the pandemic ends. For larger corporations with offices across the country, a hybrid event can help to significantly cut costs by limiting the number of plane tickets and hotel reservations needed for a conference. Hybrid capabilities can also help employees and leaders with conflicts that prevent them from travelling (or who don’t feel safe doing so right now) remain involved and informed.
Ultimately organisers moving forward will probably use a mix of in-person, virtual and hybrid, depending on context. The key, regardless of format, is creating an event that will captivate participants and help support the event goal — whether it’s to build synergy amongst leadership, boost morale or celebrate a successful quarter after a stressful year with a party.
While you obviously have to get the work done, a big part of a successful internal event is ensuring attendees are having a good time. Come Monday, employees will be returning to work feeling motivated and with a sense of shared purpose that might have been missing after a year and a half without these large gatherings. Each idea communicates something different about the future of your organisation and, with the right tweaks, can provide joy to both remote and in-person attendees:
Everyone loves a little healthy competition. Divide attendees up into teams and let the games begin! Turning portions of your event into a game is a fun way to help to break up the malaise of endless speakers and help employees practice their team building and leadership skills. In addition to spicing up your corporate events, gamification and team building activities can be used in your smaller teams to help smooth out the return to the office and help new hires get acquainted with their cubicle mates.
The right creative corporate event idea for your event could include:
While it may feel like competitive games will require team members to be in person, this is not necessarily true. The virtual event platform Hopin, for example, lets users design a virtual scavenger hunt where users can hunt for “tokens” like keywords in an address or pictures of an activity. These kinds of challenges can add fun and spontaneity to events that aren’t necessarily known for being either — especially when held virtually.
Remember concerts? What about live comedy? They’re both back and could play a big part in your next corporate events. Companies hold corporate events for a variety of reasons — the right entertainment can build morale and demonstrate your company’s sense of fun with live entertainment, be it a magician, live band or comedian.
While there’s nothing quite like live entertainment, employees who can’t attend your event in person can still witness the fun. All you need to do is set up a live stream. The events company Bizzabo, for example, hired a hip-hop improv comedy team for their most recent virtual corporate event, entitled “(Almost) HYBRID.” The performers created original songs based on experiences the employees had shared — boosting employee engagement, no matter where in the world they were attending from.
No corporate event is complete without a catered spread in the back of the reception hall. Rather than return to the standard fare, let this reboot be an opportunity to mix it up. Try getting a catered spread from a local business. You can ask attendees who live nearby for the scoop on the right sandwich shop or taco spot to handle the catering.
Don’t want your virtual attendees to be left out of the food fun? Mail a gift basket of non-perishable snacks or other goodies. From crackers and cookies to healthier options like dried fruit, a gift basket is your way to bring a little taste of the conference to participants who couldn’t make the trip. If there are any local delicacies your conference location is known for, be sure to include them. A personalised Greeting Card can also go a long way towards helping virtual attendees feel like they’re a part of the corporate event experience, wherever they’re watching from.
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