Nick Terry urges us to view events as part of a much bigger communication journey.
Nick believes the best way to get more from your next event is to get your audience engaged before your event is even designed … and then provide managers with the tools and skills to share the important messages once everyone’s back at their desk, post event.
Demonstrating your ability to listen, well ahead of the event, is the best place to start.
Use focus groups to identify the issues your audience are grappling with. What’s on their mind? Are their perceptions rooted in fact or in an information vacuum the event can quickly fill?
Of course you have important messages you want to share … but unless you understand the stones in the shoe of your audience, your key messages simply won’t land.
Expand focus group activity to include a website – sharing key outputs to gain quantitative input and to establish other topics people want to look at – and you can start to create an event that will have high levels of engagement from the off.
Take your managers with you on the event journey – their support will be absolutely essential in delivering change once everyone’s back at their desk. And remember that line managers are the most trusted in an organisation … so take them with you too.
Involve them early in the planning process to take full advantage of their knowledge and help shape the event – this is especially important if they have any direct responsibility for cascading messaging post event.
Handing them a fait accompli on the day won’t go down well and won’t give you the benefit of their insight into the organisation.
The big day
Make sure you get the right mix of everyone in one room and design break outs, carefully tailored around different groups to really drill down into specific issues. This way, you’ll capitalise on the shared energy and excitement of the group, whilst offering the chance to really get under the skin of those important issues that need to be aired and shared.
Again … involve managers in the delivery of the event to maintain their own engagement with the whole process.
Live voting enables us to evolve event design on the day to address issues that have emerged during the event.
An event will help share knowledge so people feel and think differently … it should also gain the commitment to do things differently. But change will only come if behaviours change. Whilst an event is instrumental in gaining buy-in for what’s to come, taking advantage of the feel good factor in the room after the event will be fundamental to helping the entire workforce actually do things differently.
A highlight video does NOT constitute a cascade programme!
Don’t have too great an expectation for what the event can achieve in itself. Time will limit what can be achieved. Always think strategically … how does the event link to and work within the overall comms plan?
For maximum impact, the engagement journey needs to continue post event.
Focus on challenging and supporting managers to own and control how to get people to actually behave differently and equip them with the skills and materials to share the important messages.
Consider following up with cascade / break out events a month or so after the event, to address more detailed issues and help embed new behaviours once everyone’s immersed in their day to day role.
And remember … a highlight video (no matter how good) does NOT constitute a cascade programme and is likely to alienate those who weren’t there – unless it’s used as part of a much more expansive suite of post event communications.