Internal events can be an expensive and resource intensive exercise. It is difficult to put an actual ROI on the cost of an event; but the concept of bringing together communities in a business to focus on strategy and direction can have a significant impact on engagement. If an event is at a leadership level, the cascade of messages can influence engagement beyond your delegates.

There are many formats for an internal event; and each event will be unique and pitched to the intended audience. But for leadership events where the main focus is unpicking strategy and direction, here are six tried and tested methods I have used in the past that have proved effective tools in getting the most out of the session.

1. Planning

Any good event is all in the planning. Make sure that at the outset you understand your objectives; and use those as the driver behind how you build your event.

The venue is an important factor, it needs to be in a location that is accessible for the majority of your delegates, and it needs to suit your overall objective. Details such as natural daylight can be important, and a site visit before signing off on any venue is a must.

The management of delegates is very important to the success of your event. The success or failure begins when you send out your invitation. Getting the basics right with administration is critical.

Another good idea is to theme your event, so that you begin to position its relevance and objectives to delegates from the beginning.

2. Content

Building your agenda should be a collaborative process. Make sure that your keynote session is your CEO or business leader that is driving your theme.

Try and be innovative about how you can deliver content; a PowerPoint presentation is the default, but would a Parkinson style interview or the use of a tool like Prezi be more engaging?

Make sure your agenda fits your objectives; and challenge the relevance of a session if you don’t believe it will add value. Try and use different speakers from different areas of your business to build a broad perspective.

3. Facilitation

The absolute key to a good event is good facilitation. By using a strong facilitator your event can flow smoothly and there can be an interactive element to the event where the facilitator encourages questions from delegates.

A good facilitator will also help keep speakers to time and manage your agenda; introducing speakers as they come on to stage and facilitating Q&A with the audience.

If you have a tight agenda and an audience that needs encouragement to participate, a facilitator can be a good investment. In previous events I have used a professional facilitator and motivational speaker called Rob Brown (www.therobbrown.com) who was excellent; and received very positive feedback from delegates.

4. Guest Speaker

This is perhaps one area which is a real unknown with events. How much value does a guest speaker add? I think that if you can find a speaker with the right chemistry for your business, then it can add significant value.

Most internal events can appear a bit staged or repetitive, so a guest speaker can provide an injection of outside perspective that can challenge thinking in your delegates. The critical factor with a guest speaker is to make sure that they understand your business, and align any session with your objectives.

A guest speaker doesn’t have to be a well known name; but a top professional in a certain area of expertise that can draw parallels with your agenda and event objectives. Make sure that you arrange a pre-brief with your guest speaker, so that they have a clear understanding of what is required.

I have previously used Celebrity Speakers (www.speakers.co.uk) who have been excellent at identifying the objectives of an event, and sourcing exactly the right speaker.

5. Interactive

The most common gripe delegates have with an event can be that it is too one way, lots of people speaking at them. So, where possible, try and make your event interactive. This can usually be good during an afternoon session where energy is low.

A couple of good ideas for an interactive session can be:

  • Using video to storyboard a specific element of your strategy. This can be achieved with Ipads where filming and editing can be managed easily. There is also an output that can be used post the event; sharing the storyboard with your business via your Intranet for example.
  • Undertake a group task aligned to business behaviour; the Apprentice concept can work well where you can ask people to undertake a negotiating or new product launch.

I have used a company  (www.outlook.co.uk) previously that provide technology via Ipads that give delegates the opportunity to interact with a facilitator on the day; asking questions and taking part in live polls. They also provided the software for a filming exercise via Ipads.

6. Networking

An internal event can be an expensive investment; so it is important that you allow time for networking and informal relationship building. A good way to do this is to tag on a drinks reception to the end of your event, make sure that you are realistic with your end time so that people don’t feel like they have to rush off.

A lot of businesses operate in multiple locations, so giving communities the opportunity to interact face to face can help to build strong business relationships.

Summary

The cost of an internal event can vary between £10k-25k plus; but if you plan sensibly and negotiate well you can likely deliver an event with all of the aspects above for under £20k.

It is important that you ask delegates for feedback; so that you can measure the success of your event and determine lessons learnt and areas for improvement.

Events are perhaps the most costly way of delivering your message to employees; so you may want to consider filming the entire event or aspects of it to share with a wider audience so that you are maximising your investment. This can be particularly effective if filming a keynote speech.

There are many aspects that make a good internal event; these are just a few that I have found have added real value.

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