Meet and Potato’s Karen Clarkson discusses the golden recipe of events, and how businesses can maximise their budgets and ensure the best experience for their teams.
Having worked in events and communications for nearly three decades, one of the things we’re asked most often by new clients is what the magic formula of employee events is. Clients want to communicate on a regular basis, make sure their teams feel motivated, loyal to the brand, and part of the bigger business picture. But no client has the time or budget to hold live events every month so that’s where our communication expertise comes into play.
So what is the magic formula?
The world of events doesn’t stand still, and we often advise on a mixed media approach these days, that uses a client’s annual budget effectively. Engagement-wise, continuity and variety are what really make the difference, so it’s important to think about your options for timing and format. They may have one standout in-person event, alongside a number of more regular virtual events throughout the year, some for the whole business, others on particular topics for more specific audiences. And all this is supported by regular video content for any key updates that fall in between. The world changed during the pandemic, and more companies are open to this approach now.
Many people thought that virtual and hybrid events would disappear post-pandemic, but they are actually remaining popular with our clients. Most have returned to at least one big, annual, face-to-face live event, and for many this is now live-streamed, to involve a wider audience than it did previously. The mixed media approach is popular with many of our clients, particularly in the retail sector, who saw the success of their virtual events over the pandemic and the positive impact they could have. Before that pretty much everything was in person, and virtual was rarely a consideration. Our clients now know that virtual events can be brilliantly engaging and effective and that there’s never a reason to wait for months between in-person events, or settle for a dull Zoom or Teams call!
What practical advice do you give clients?
There are two main things we say to clients adopting this approach:
- Think about your internal event strategy over the year as a whole campaign. Not just one event at a time. Often a lot of thought goes into the big, annual face-to-face event, without too much consideration of how virtual events and video can support the ongoing communication further. If you’re introducing these elements into the mix, even though they are a completely different beast to an in-person event, they can still be engaging and effective, and can still have an interactive element too.
- Delegate experience is always key. Think about your virtual audience as much as you think about your live audience. A virtual audience might be sat at home alone or in a training room in a store with a few colleagues. It’s very different to consume content in this way, compared to being part of a big live audience. There’s no natural buzz for the virtual audience, so the content format and delivery have to make up for that, keeping it pacy, interesting, relevant, and engaging. That’s obviously important for a live event, but even more so for virtual.
How can clients get the most out of their budget?
I think investing in content support is the most important thing. The quality of the content is what determines the success of the communication, whether live or virtual. If you create a great environment you can guarantee a client their team will have a great day out. If you create great content, you can guarantee your client that their team will be inspired and motivated to take home their key messages and deliver on them too.
What’s the key to this strategy of virtual and live events?
I think the key is balance. The one big yearly get-together still has a hugely important role to play. It’s not just about having a great day out of the office, or store, it’s an opportunity to really get your teams on board with your priorities, and the vital role they have in delivering them. Clients tell us they get a huge uptick in productivity, and rates of staff attrition go down following our live events.
A virtual event is obviously going to be cheaper than a live event. It saves clients the cost of transporting, accommodating and feeding hundreds of delegates, and of transporting the live event set, technical equipment and crew – which not only saves money but is also more environmentally considerate which is something we should all be thinking about.
Having virtual events as part of the annual communications strategy is a great way to keep the conversation going, and enable a business to talk to everyone ‘together’ again, in a time when every business is more cost-conscious than ever before.
What other benefits might businesses see from this strategy?
It helps them to keep a sense of togetherness. Especially for employees who are geographically dispersed as is the case for many retail clients with stores all over the country. We saw real culture change in some of our clients over the pandemic. Where internal communications had been fairly ‘top down’ in the past, many businesses saw the importance of creating a sense of family, a ‘we’re all in this together’ mentality and communications became a lot more conversational, with a ‘peer-to-peer’ tone.
We’ve encouraged our clients to take the more conversational style of communication back into the live arena, and the events are all the better for it. We use a lot less ‘presentation’ and a lot more discussion-based content, plenty of fun and interactivity. And audiences react so well to it. It really resonates with people, so it’s now the style we encourage clients to adopt for both live and virtual events.
For more information on how events can empower your business, visit www.mandp.agency