Whether it’s the start of a new calendar year or the beginning of your business’s new financial year; all-company conferences and sales team kick-off events are vital internal communications tools to help ensure your year gets off to the best possible start.
Sales targets and business objectives are often set in boardrooms, but to stand the best chance of achieving the most ambitious goals, companies need to galvanise their entire workforce into getting behind the plan and striving for success.
So how can you create and deliver an engaging sales conference or company kick-off event that will inspire and motivate your entire organisation for the year ahead? What tools can get your people fired-up to delight customers, beat the competition and smash their targets?
At Clive, we’re lucky enough to have worked with some of the most ambitious and sales-driven businesses around. From leaders in their fields to challenger brands on the cusp of glory. We work with businesses to understand their objectives, their industries, and their propositions as well as their cultures, their audiences and their competition – we then use our experience in live communication events to produce engaging kick-off conferences that motivate and inspire teams.
In this blog, we look at some of the successful tools we use when producing internal communications conferences for our clients.
“Throughout your event, remember to use a range of communications tools to retain attention and keep your audience engaged. We’ve used a variety of techniques when trying to make messages more tangible and memorable – everything from new technology such as holographic projection and 3D mapping to more experiential techniques such immersive sensory experiences, theatrical roleplay and choreographed performances.”
Start with a theme
Creating a unique event theme and brand can help to set the tone, building excitement and engagement around your kick-off event, long before guests arrive.
A catchy and well-thought-out event theme will help emphasise your key messages and challenges for the year ahead – creating a platform for designing content sessions, break-outs, printed materials, social activities and even catering.
Use your distinct identity and theme to create a visually inspiring communications campaign. By slowly teasing details of the event, you’re able to give people a taste of what they can expect at the conference itself, maximising participation and maintaining anticipation in the run-up. Effective pre-event engagement campaigns can be as simple and cost-effective as digital solutions that include email and intranet posts. But it’s important to use techniques which reach the entire business and create cut-through in a busy world of digital comms and exploding inboxes.
Posters and pop-ups can be a great way to reach smaller branches and satellite offices whilst traditional hard-copy invitations can be tackled in a creative way to grab attention and increase attendance of remote workers. For your larger offices consider experiential activations, competitions and photo opportunities in the office canteen or lobby – or how about a quirky desk drop to drive people to the registration website?
When choosing the right venue for your kick-off event you need to consider more than just correct capacities and ‘location, location, location’. We believe that finding the perfect venue can have a hugely positive impact on how an audience perceives and experiences your brand – and in turn, how your message lands on the day. Below you can see where we went for our Clive kick-off a few years ago… We booked an entire island!
When choosing a location, think about the delegate experience. Depending on your overall objectives, you may wish to choose a location that’s easily accessible for as much of the audience as possible – your people are already breaking their normal routine to attend the event, so think about how you can make their travel logistics easy, ensuring delegates arrive stress-free and raring to go. That said, there can be something to be said for bringing your audience out of their comfort zone…
If transformational thinking is on the cards then sometimes you need to get a bit more creative with location, and this is where going the distance to a far-flung destination can really pay-off. Again, consider your messaging when choosing venue style; a functional hotel ballroom with traditional seating set-up doesn’t make for much of a creative playground if that’s what you’re going for – instead consider characterful warehouses and unconventional spaces.
That said, if you’re wanting to instil some aspirational values and get your team shooting for the stars then perhaps a five-star venue or exclusive retreat is just the ticket.
Shaping the agenda
So, you’ve set your company goals and sales targets for the coming year or years. You’ve announced a kick-off event in the perfect venue and designed an engaging way to convince your employees to register for the conference. Momentum is building whilst you work out the best way to communicate on the day – but as busy as these planning stages can be, don’t lose sight of the opportunity to hear from your workforce about what matters most to them.
This initial launch and registration stage is a key moment to gain insights which should shape the agenda for your event. Sure you need to capture attendee information, dietary requirements and share logistical information, but to really foster a collaborative culture why not ask people what matters most to them? A simple commitment to cover the top three suggested topics at the conference itself, can go a long way to engaging your attendees. As a member of staff; understanding that your concerns and interests matter to your employer can be hugely motivating.
Make sure you take the opportunity to get a gauge on people’s feelings and understanding on the topics that matter to the business too. For example, during registration, you could use a simple 1-5 scale to ask people to rate their understanding your product’s USPs, the way they feel about the marketing strategy or their knowledge of your competition.
With this information to hand you can work out which points you need to cover in the most detail during the events. Not only that, but you’ll have some key metrics to measure the success of your conference by asking attendees similar questions in the post event survey, ensuring you have some real return on investment information to demonstrate the value of your event.
Let’s face it, the way we engage with everything from theatre to dining and cinema to art has changed beyond all recognition over the past decade. The audiences of today are crying out for engagement and interaction. Our attention spans have shrunk and we long to be immersed in authentic experiences, not remain passive observers to content.
When thinking about designing your event content, consider working with a content producer or agency who specialise in bringing messages to life for face to face audiences.
We’re big believers in the power of video to evoke emotion and communicate with a diverse audience. As an opener or closer to a conference, a well-produced brand video can be the most memorable part of the event for many people.
Throughout your event, remember to use a range of communications tools to retain attention and keep your audience engaged. We’ve used a variety of techniques when trying to make messages more tangible and memorable – everything from new technology such as holographic projection and 3D mapping to more experiential techniques such immersive sensory experiences, theatrical roleplay and choreographed performances.
Generally, at Clive we’ll always encourage you to consider reducing the amount of time bums are on chairs throughout the day. Providing a few unique, self-explore content sessions throughout the day or an interactive exhibition which uses technology or craft-driven experiential activations are both great ways to keep people awake and ensure attention-spans stay high.
Taking to the stage
Once your topics are set and you’ve designed the agenda, you need to consider the all-star line-up; just who will take to the stage when the big day comes around?
Not every presenter will be as flawless a public speaker as your CEO, or be able to naturally deliver a TED Talk as comically as your CMO might be able to. Instead, work with a Content Producer or agency who can help your speakers embrace different ways of presenting topics to ensure each business function is represented. You just need to really get creative with interactive sessions like quizzes, gamification and audience participation.
Consider getting the wider team and even customers involved with chat show style interviews and panels. This is a great, informal way of shining a light on your people and also really bringing to life the difference your work is making to your customers’ businesses – a great way to instil pride in the business.
If budget allows, it’s worth considering a motivational speaker to rally people behind your business plan. Maybe it’s an entrepreneur who just wouldn’t give up and managed to completely disrupt their market with their third attempt at a start-up that evolved quickly to a challenger brand, and then became a trailblazer. Or perhaps an inspirational talk from an athlete who overcame the odds after an accident to not just compete again, but to win medals and go on to help others.
Any other tips?
Yes! If it’s a sales conference you’re planning, think about announcing the sales target in an effective way; a big reveal that will stick in people’s minds. This is a number you want the entire business reaching for, so think about using creative techniques to make it memorable – we’ve helped brands use music and dance, created a ‘Smash the Piggy Bank’ activation and even created ‘Clive’s Profit Rocket’ to land the magic number in a way that sticks with as many people as possible. Tactics like these can make large targets seem less daunting, bringing a bit of fun to proceedings.
Try to demonstrate what success looks like; whether that’s the type of work and clients you want to be delivering in the future, or perhaps it’s what the company bonus could equate to, or perhaps it’s even an incentive trip for your highest achievers. You can check out more about using incentive travel to motivate teams here by the way.
If there’s an opportunity, then you should always try to incorporate some kind of recognition into your staff event. We highly recommend hosting an awards ceremony to add a bit of excitement, bring some healthy competition and ensure people leave striving for their moment in the spotlight.
Finally, remember employee engagement is for life, not just for the kick-off event
Make sure you consider how your messaging can be repurposed as part of a cascade to the wider business and to those unable to make it on the day. Content from the event could be repurposed as part of your onboarding of new employees, ensuring that they quickly get to grips with your business goals.
Also think about how photos, videos and statistics from your kick-off can help build your employer brand and attract the top talent in your industry. This material can also be used as part of your regular employee communications, reminding your team of the commitments made at the event and inspiring them to go the extra mile.
Join the world’s most successful companies and align your workforce with an engaging kick-off conference that will motivate them for the whole year ahead. Get in touch with the team at Clive today and discuss impactful ways to bring your business priorities to life in front of your entire organisation.