4 Keys to Successful Company Summits or Conferences

Rear view of speaker giving a talk on corporate Business Conference. Audience at the conference hall. Business and Entrepreneurship event. Panoramic composition

Company summits and leadership conferences present an invaluable platform to inspire, enthuse and rally the troops. Whether you’re celebrating success or need that extra lift to meet your business targets, the vital ingredient required for success is communication.

The courageous leaders understand that it’s not an expense, it’s a visionary investment. Most shy away from the idea in the knowledge that it is a significant venture. The time, financial resources and planning it takes to craft a high impact summit or conference is not for the faint of heart.

To ensure the greatest possible return on your investment consider factoring in the following 4 keys.

Key 1: PurposeBe clear about what your objectives are and why your team should care

A surprising number of organisations arrange summits without beginning with the end in mind. Clarity of purpose is always the critical first step. Avoid using generic terms such as engagement, collaboration or strategic. What are you really trying to achieve and why is the most effective platform to make it happen.

– Message

Given the enormity of the cost involved in holding a summit and the awareness of how incredibly busy your team are, your message is critical.

What is so important that you have to call everyone together to listen to and why should they care?

Once you have absolute clarity of your purpose and why it should matter to your team your message needs to be underpinned by:

Your objective – When they leave the summit to journey home, what do you want them to do with the knowledge, information and insights you shared when they return to work.

Your intention – We live in an information age; most of us are already overwhelmed with information and are struggling to take much more in. There has to be an emotional connection to your message and that all starts with your intention. What do you want your team to feel?

Once you are clear on your objective and intention make sure you tell your team (more than once). Don’t leave them guessing.

– Relevance

Ironically, this is the simplest and most powerful key to a successful summit yet the most often overlooked.

The human mind is conditioned to wander; research suggests by as much as 47% of the time. That means that summit presenters have to work extremely hard to not only get, but keep their audience’s attention.

The moment you share a story, piece of information or number with your audience that isn’t relevant to them, they will switch off. If the entire day is filled with formal presentations that offer little value or meaning to them you will bore them and leave them feeling resentful.

Key 2: Content – Ensure that your content is both compelling and aligned with your objectives

In the absence of rich, compelling and inspirational content your summit will fail. Far too many events of this type are focused entirely on top-down information sharing. The mistake that we see leaders make time and time again is that they use the platform as a means of telling their team what they want them to know. When little regard is given to what people truly need and want to know, you create a recipe for mediocrity.

The typical summit normally consists of:

A sequence of paralysing presentations given by the leadership team

Bullet points and data regurgitating the year’s high/low lights

Information that attendees will forget before the speaker gets to the next slide.

– Their shoes

Many leaders are so detached from their team when it comes to presenting to them that they forget who they are. Put yourself squarely in your audience’s shoes by asking yourself:

What do they really care about?

How do they see things?

What matters the most to them?

How will this information help them?

How much of this do they already know?

Once you have a very high level of clarity around these questions then there is one critical question you need to ask yourself.

So what?

In other words, imagine one of your audience interrupting the flow of your presentation at any point and asking you, ‘So what, why are you telling us that, why should we care?’

– Speak normally

Too many company summits are fraught with ‘corporate speak’:

‘Does anyone have the bandwidth for this’

‘Thinking outside of the box’

‘Singing from the same hymn sheet’

‘Wash its own face’

‘Button down the risks’

‘Low hanging fruit’

‘It is what it is’

It’s all so tiresome. Would you say to your friend, ‘Let’s take this offline’?

Key 3: Interaction – Make your team feel as invested in the event as you

Once you are certain what your message is and why it’s meaningful, you have clarity of your objective and intention, ask your audience what they want and need from you.

Don’t make assumptions

Don’t drown them in data

Don’t do what you always do

Tell your team exactly what you are planning and why you are calling the summit. Ask them what they would find interesting, helpful and of value.

Get your team’s views on your objective and intention and find out what would help you to fulfill both. Explain the opportunity the summit is presenting for them to have their input to.

– Ask them:

What one question or issue aligned to the theme of the summit that they would like addressed.

If they could speak about one thing which would improve the company’s prospects what would it be.

Don’t wait for the day of the summit to present all of your ideas and information to your team. Share as much as you can in advance of the event and ask them to come along ready to discuss it. Whether it’s a round table discussion, open forum or idea wall, let them speak. Don’t talk at them all day.

– Give them everything you’ve got

Whether you’re a hosting a room of 50 people or 500, you owe it to them to give them everything you’ve got. They’ve given up a whole day of their lives to listen to you speak and you can be certain that everyone could find something better to do with their time. In return, we have to give them the very best of ourselves in terms of our energy, passion and focus.

Your team work hard. Many of them spend, 7, 10 or even 12 hours a day working. Whatever your industry, it’s highly unlikely that your team’s average day will be filled with great joy and fun.

When you take the opportunity to gather them all together, do whatever it takes to ensure they have some fun too.

Key 4: Measuring success – Evaluate your actions to improve for next time

If you would like to know whether your presentation or summit was a success then wait until the end of the day, approach a handful of attendees and ask them 3 questions:

– What do you remember from today?

– How do you feel now compared to how you felt when you arrived this morning?

– What difference has today made to you, in other words, how will it help you?

Mindfully crafted and executed company summits can serve as very powerful catalysts for:

Change
Alignment
Action

A company summit or conference provides an invaluable platform for collaboration, team development, meeting challenges and introducing new strategies. Far too many organisations waste this incredible opportunity to harness the talent, intelligence and creativity of their team by boring them with data.

Being professional doesn’t mean we have to be deadly serious all of the time. Following the status quo leads to mediocrity and lethargy.
Don’t squander the opportunity; build your summit with these 4 keys at the forefront of your mind to ensure its success.

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