How to Boost Employee Engagement at Your Summer Conference

corporate party

As the bluebells and alliums start to flower, organisations also turn their attention to growth and new beginnings.  A summer conference is a major event in the company calendar, bringing employees together to share key messages and updates, show them how valued they are, and motivate them.  In these challenging post-pandemic times, with hybrid working and squeezed household finances, employee engagement is more important than ever.   At Octopus Events, we organise creative conferences for clients here in Oxfordshire, the UK and around the world so we see the impact that well-executed events can have on staff morale.

If you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers. It’s that simple.

Richard Branson

What are the benefits of boosting employee engagement at your conference?

A positive company culture creates a ripple event. Employees who feel appreciated are more productive and more likely to perform at a higher standard at work. That means happier clients, satisfied customers, and, according to a recent Gallup survey, increased profitability. When people feel connected and loyal to the organisation they work for, businesses experience decreased employee turnover saving themselves time and money.

So how can events help to boost morale and employee engagement?   Put simply, they’re a memorable way of showing staff how much you value them.  There are innumerable possibilities when it comes to creating positive experiences for staff at company events, whether it’s teambuilding activities at a conference, family fun days, small monthly events celebrating teams or reward and recognition programmes with luxury trips to be won. Just remember to listen to your teams to find out what they would appreciate the most.

People love to recount positive experiences to their friends, family, peers and via social media, so not only do employees feel more engaged as a result, events are a great way of building a strong reputation and achieving some positive PR for your business.  Employee engagement initiatives are also a powerful selling point when recruiting top talent.  Being able to share that you have an annual conference that takes place overseas, for example, can help you stand out from the competition..

Lastly, by bringing people together in person at a conference or event, you ensure that employees are working together to achieve shared business goals.  Communicating messages at an event where you can invite real time discussion and direct feedback (both formal and informal), is much more impactful than sending email monologues from on high.

Success comes when people act together; failure tends to happen alone.”

Deepak Chopra

How to make your summer conference memorable:

You’ve got the budget signed off, but now where to start?  To create a memorable conference, sit down and plan how your event will meet its objectives. Start with the key elements that set the overall tone of the event.

Firstly, select the right location keeping inclusivity and the needs of your audience in mind.  How will guests be arriving and is it easy to get to? You might want countryside seclusion for privacy or a city centre hotel for accessibility and some positive PR thanks to the visibility of the event (and your consummate hosting skills). Next, choose the meeting spaces with the atmosphere in mind.  If you want a full, themed production (stage, lighting, and sound), don’t worry too much about a space with natural daylight but do consider having coffee breaks and lunch outside, or in a separate area that’s flooded with natural light, to offer a refreshing contrast.

People always remember the food at an event so make sure it leaves a great impression. Try to arrange a tasting with the catering team before the conference to avoid any surprises, particularly if you’re having any type of immersive catering or branded desserts.  There’s nothing worse than a beautiful customised pudding with a typo in your company name!

Choose your entertainment wisely and tie it to the style and format of your event and the profile of your guests. Would roaming entertainers, like jazz musicians, work well or are you looking to create an amazing spectacle with something like aerial silk artists performing above your guests during the drinks reception?

“The event in Lisbon which Sarah helped us to organise was great in terms of getting the whole team together (which is rarer these days with hybrid working) and served as a great celebration of the achievements of the past year, as well as an opportunity to focus on the strategy and priorities for the following year. After the event, there was a renewed drive and focus on the elements discussed in Lisbon – being able to have this event in such a superb location was a bonus!”  

Laura Haigh, Head of HR at Oxford Summer Courses

Tactics for boosting employee engagement at your summer conference

Now to the nitty-gritty, here’s how to get the finer details right at your conference so that employees come away feeling energised and motivated

  • Have an engaging host or MC to keep the audience’s attention throughout. This can set the tone for the whole conference. Make sure you brief them in advance, providing a script, running order, and the context of the event so that there are no surprises for them (or you!) on the day.
  • If you’re booking a popular speaker or entertainer, make sure you secure their services months in advance.  Establish what their role will be on the day, who will be briefing them, and what your expectations are.
  • Provide a sustainable goody bag for guests to take away.  Get them right and they’re a brilliant talking point but get them wrong and it can make your business look cheap and unimaginative (no one needs another branded coaster, keyring, and a tin of mints!). Be mindful of budget and tone – a goody bag should reflect how you want the conference to be remembered. For that reason, local suppliers are great. At Octopus, we organised a ladies networking event for a law firm hosting high-net-worth individuals and the perfectly pitched goody bag contained a bottle of English fizz, a luxury candle, and a spa treatment.  On the flip side, we know of one event where the company gifted huge, fluffy, branded beach towels.  A very generous gift, but nothing to do with the event (which took place in January) and a pain for guests to transport home in their hand luggage!
  • Unexpected gifts and surprises throughout the conference are a great way to keep the audience entertained and listening. These could be a lucky number under your seat; announcing the winners of the next company incentive; revealing the location of next year’s event; a video message from a relevant celebrity or closing the conference with a well-known live band or DJ set.
  • Incorporate breakout sessions and team building activities to keep things fresh and energy levels high. Mixing up the format of your conference gives people a chance to spend time with new and existing colleagues. Use a few gentle icebreaker exercises at the start of the conference, incorporate informal seating for the morning sessions, then change the layout after lunch to keep guests engaged.  A post-lunch activity can alleviate the afternoon slump while interactive coffee breaks are a great opportunity for different teams to showcase recent projects they’ve worked on and for colleagues to learn about the work going on in other areas of the organisation.
  • Use social media to spread the word about your summer conference by creating an event hashtag and asking guests to post images and stories from the day.  Give delegates the opportunity to take branded photos (with fun photo booths or quirky backdrops with creative props) and upload them to social media.  Anyone not in attendance will have serious FOMO.

“Sarah, without a shadow of a doubt, is what any client needs when staging an event regardless of guest numbers, objective, or location. Knowing Sarah is on board and an extension to your team is invaluable.”

Odell Dair, JLT, London

How to boost employee morale through other events, large and small

Organisations need to go the extra mile to show their appreciation to staff at events whether that’s through awards, gifting, or other morale-boosting initiatives. Here are a few more Octopus ideas, beyond the conference itself:

  • Invite families and partners to selected company events like seasonal celebrations (Summer, Easter, and Christmas parties) and family fun days.
  • Incorporate international festivals and celebrations into your events calendar and conference schedules, where appropriate, to acknowledge the traditions of an international workforce and celebrate diversity.
  • We all love a prize, it’s human nature, so recognise hard-working staff with corporate hospitality experiences at Ascot, the Six Nations Rugby, Formula One, Chelsea Flower Show or Wimbledon.
  •  Reward staff with special group events for long service such as 5 or 10 years.
  •  If you have regional offices, host smaller roadshows with the senior management team to show staff that they are a valued and integral part of the wider organisation.
  • Arrange small but meaningful events year-round, like parties for employees’ children, a local brass band to come into the office and play carols around the Christmas tree, or seasonal wreath-making for teams? Even the smallest of gestures can have a hugely positive ripple effect.

If you haven’t done so already, create a calendar of events for your employees and customers to show them what they can look forward to over the next 6-12 months. This demonstrates your commitment to investing in events for staff, their families, customers and suppliers.

At Octopus Events we love the big picture, so let us help you create an event strategy to supercharge employee engagement.  By planning ahead around the needs of your business, we can help save you time, stress, and money

Call 07483 227316 or email Sarah sarah@octopusevents.com for a free, no-obligation chat about your upcoming events.  I look forward to hearing from you!

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