Do you hold a company-wide annual conference? If not, why not? Better still, do you hold two company-wide conferences per year?
Many companies may hold some form of annual get-together as a way of channelling new ideas or suggestions for the coming year, or maybe just a party or more social occasion. However, it seems pretty obvious to me that one conference per year cannot be satisfactory or enable true business growth. A year is a long time, and it only takes a few back-to-back months of not being involved or discussing ideas with your team for things to begin feeling disjointed.
A summer conference may appear, to some, as a halt to business and taking a “day off” just for some arbitrary company event that causes loss of money, interrupts projects, and causes an unnecessary pause and knock-on delay to the working week. However, if done right, this isn’t the case at all; it does the opposite.
Our summer conference, for example, was – from 9 till 5 – a fully operational, working day. A bit different from the usual working day, I grant you, but a working day nonetheless. Very much at the heart of this year’s conference was an aim to outline and explain the current state of affairs in the business, reflect upon any issues and successes from the past six months, and then to communicate the company’s current vision and how each and every one of us can play a part in us achieving this vision together. As a neat segue, the rest of the day – involving workshops – followed the lead of the morning by demonstrating that all of us, whatever job role, are instrumental in the company’s growth.
For me, this was my first summer conference, having joined in September last year. As mentioned, I found one of the strongest messages to take away from the day was that, whether you’re a junior member of staff or in a non-client facing role, every single employee directly impacts our success and achieving our vision.
Why would you only hold annual gatherings? It does not make sense to me that you could function efficiently without a mid-way point, a session in which small issues can be ironed out – perhaps something you mentioned at Christmas hasn’t happened or something has changed since the last conference – maybe even contextually, like political landscapes.
And larger issues such as the company’s vision and turnover can be discussed – the team can be updated and your CEO can get you all in one place to show you just how important the team has been in the last six months. If you didn’t have this, what would be driving you throughout the year? Would you not be aimlessly working with no clear goal and no awareness of how the rest of the company feels on subjects or recent projects?
Essentially, a mid-year conference is like an injection of adrenaline; employees can plan questions on anything interrupting workflow, or anything regarding the company, and ways in which the company could grow in the next six months. These can be brought up in a discussion, and hopefully resolved during the day or shortly after the conference. Logically, waiting 12 months for a conference could slow your business growth and company satisfaction by half that of holding a conference every 6 months. If possible, I’m sure we’d all like to have them monthly or tri-monthly, but that’s logistically quite a bit more difficult, and that’s where team meetings come into the picture.
Some other key factors to ensure you achieve a truly open, productive conference:
- Honesty: have complete transparency on the day – even if you may not usually do this in monthly updates – and explain any issues over the past six months, or problems you feel we may have to tackle together in the coming months.
- Socialise – both during the working day and after it: mix up the teams throughout the day so that everyone is exposed to all areas of the business and meets those they can’t usually talk to. And, of course, have food and some form of entertainment in the evening.
- Interactivity: It’s a common pitfall with conferences in general. Hours of purely being spoken to will be draining and engagement levels will fall. Mix it up and get every single attendee involved through activities, Q&As or, something we did this year, interview your clients!
Emma Claydon – Admin Assistant