Slowly but surely, the in-person corporate event is making its long-awaited comeback. From executive team and board retreats to conventions with multiple speakers and breakout sessions, companies around the country are starting to send out Invitations with physical addresses attached for the first time in a long while.
Although “IRL” corporate events are beginning to pop back up on the calendar, that doesn’t mean you should ditch the virtual world entirely. Incorporating the lessons of the past year and combining the best of both in-person and digital events can help you to maximize turnout for your next product launch celebration or board meeting.
As you start the process of planning for your next corporate event, consider how you can offer your guests a one-of-kind, face-to-face experience while still making virtual attendance possible. With the right ideas and proper 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 organizers 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 traveling (or who don’t feel safe doing so right now) remain involved and informed.
Ultimately, organizers moving forward will most likely 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 team spirit or celebrate a successful quarter after a stressful year with a party.
Whether you decide to host your event virtually, in-person or in a way that blends the two, there are some best practices to keep in mind as you get ready and prepare for the big day:
It can be tempting to dive headfirst into planning, but there’s one important question you need to ask before sending a single invite: What is the goal of your event?
Not all corporate meet-ups are made equal. You should have an explicit purpose and a strategic goal you’re trying to reach. Some examples of potential event objectives include spreading brand awareness, announcing a new product or service launch or simply positioning your company as a thought leader in your area of expertise. By taking the time to outline your goals for the big day, you’ll be able plan more effectively — and maybe score a larger budget too.
Before you start putting your event in motion, consider the following questions:
By taking the time to outline what all relevant stakeholders hope to achieve from your event, you’ll have a clearer idea of what the day of should look like.
A good rule of thumb is to send out your invites at least three to four weeks in advance for smaller, internal corporate gatherings. For larger live events such as conferences that will require guest speakers and hotel blocking, you’ll want to plan a full year in advance. Regardless of the size of your event, be sure to include important details such as the location, date and any necessary information for phoning in virtually.
Not only does this long lead time give you and your attendees more than enough time to prepare, but it also may be necessary for any health screenings or testing that your venue of choice requires.
After so many events were canceled over the past year and a half, it can feel a little daunting to flip your calendar months forward or even a full year ahead. However, doing so will allow you to maximize the turnout at your corporate get-together.
As you design and send out your invites, keep the following tips in mind:
If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to designing your own invites, working with a printing partner can help simplify the process.
What is the most crucial part of your event? Ensuring both your virtual and in-person attendees have a great experience.
As you prepare for the big day, always consider the branding and design of any promotional assets you use. The materials don’t need to be identical, but they should feel cohesive in the way they look and feel.
We’ve all heard of Murphy’s law: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
Spare yourself the unnecessary stress of pivoting your plans in the moment and instead make a list of four or five of the most critical parts of your company event such as your keynote speaker, a certain catering partner or even the venue itself.
For each of the components you identify, ask yourself:
While you may know there was a change of plans, your guests will be none the wiser.
And, in the event your worst-case scenario becomes a reality, take a breath. If you find you need to change the date of your corporate gathering or put it on hold for the time being, you can easily spread the word with customizable Change the Date Cards.
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 organization 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 personalized 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.
It’s easy for even the most experienced event organizer to feel overwhelmed when it comes time to plan their first corporate get-together in a post-pandemic world. Just remember that by preparing well in advance and getting all of your necessary assets organized, you’ll be well on your way to maximizing turnout and providing your virtual and in-person guests with an experience they won’t soon forget.
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