Question: We are in the planning stages of our next annual company meeting. In the past I have heard people say they attend because they must but do not get much from the meeting. How can I get my people more engaged?
Answer: When you have an annual meeting many times the efforts tend to be more focused on social activities for people to mingle than on the true content of the conference. Take the time right now to ask those who will attend what information they want and how it should be presented. Also consider that while there may be important general information that will be presented you need to have that information match what your attendees told you. If you have statistical information you need to present make sure you show how the efforts of certain groups influenced the results. Make sure that you remember this, if you are going to ask your staff what they want to see presented make sure you do it. The worst thing you can do is ask people their opinion and then ignore it in the conference agenda.
Question: You gave us a good idea when you answered our first question, but when we tried this we found that there were so many good ideas we could not put them all in the agenda. How do we handle this and not lose the momentum from so many people being engaged?
Answer: There are two basic options I suggest you use, first take the best ideas and have them as the core material for the conference. Then either offer various tracks where people will chose the session they attend or offer an optional day for people to arrive a day early and attend the sessions you could not fit into the original agenda. Sessions that are offered early tend to show who are the most engaged and working toward the success of the organization.
Question: If we have engaged our staff more in the conference as you have suggested in the previous question how do I keep the momentum up during the year and make our event more or as successful the next year?
Answer: First let me suggest that you do a formal survey of your staff and indicate who of the organizations leadership will be reviewing it. Make a point to only appoint people who are engaging and not people who are either overly authoritative or feel threatened by possible negative comments. Then make a point to respond to the staff with the most important questions or comments given with the solutions that are being implemented. Finally start the process for next year’s conference now. Get the people who you know were the most candid with conference material suggestions plus those you can tell responded with less than favorable ratings on the conference to head the conference planning for next year. These are the people that if properly engaged will give you the measureable results you need from the next conference.
The way you maintain the momentum is to design specific goals you want to accomplish as a result of the conference before the conference convenes. Make realistic time lines so that the areas you expect change to happen can be measured and have a process designed that works across each are of change needed. Design a way that each working group can utilize or model the success of other groups so you continue the positive effects from the conference and encourage cross group cooperation.