THE COMPANY CONFERENCE CHALLENGE

blog: The need for company conferences and events

The need for company conferences and whole-team events has never been greater.

The feeling of isolation, separateness and disconnection that people felt during the COVID pandemic levels hasn’t been fully overcome, in part due to remote working. With fewer of the typical unplanned ‘water cooler’ moments, kitchen catch-ups and hallway chats that used to take place at work and naturally build rapport this has had a knock-on effect on relationships at work and team cohesion, So has the absence of the usual pre-meeting check-ins due to the more functional nature of online meetings.

This is where the need and demand for company conferences and whole team events has grown so significantly of late as business leaders urgently search for a way to bring their people together to restore and rebuild the rapport, relationships and community spirit of their people.

The real challenge for conference organisers now is the practical difficulty of managing the large number of people in one place and getting the most out of the session, which in our experience is met by ensuring that each event delivers on three key must-haves…

In our experience, the best conferences are those that meet three key strategic deliverables and that the best results come when these three seamlessly overlap:

1. Engagement

There are practical challenges of keeping large groups of people engaged and this is far harder than is the case for smaller and more intimate groups.

A quality experienced facilitator is an essential prerequisite as is a strong and relevant theme that is directly connected to the business need. It’s also essential that the event is designed to be fun and include highly interactive activities to engage the group that directly relate back to the central message the company leadership want to make.

In our sessions, we also break the group into teams in a fun competition with special prizes to fuel their competitive spirit, with a variety of individual and group tasks and exercises designed to test and challenge the participants, bring out their spirit of creativity and provide a platform for everyone to share, shine and celebrate.

The gamification of the session with its highly interactive nature keeps the energy levels up and our storytelling approach and charity-focused subject matter is designed to inspire engagement and energise the group.

A good example of this in action was the company conference we ran for Coca Cola ASEAN and South Pacific, which was the first time in several years that the whole team had come together, with 120+ delegates from Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Pacific Islands.

“We recently had our first opportunity in more than two years to have our entire 130 Coca-Cola South Pacific associates together F2F. We wanted our teams to engage, learn, support and have fun together. We chose Team Building with Purpose on recommendation from one of our Senior Leaders who had experienced their work previously.”

Rob Priest, Vice-President – South Pacific (Australia, New Zealand & Pacific Islands, The Coca Cola Company

They chose our Clean Up Australia ‘Change Makers’ team building session as its central sustainability message was close to their heart and business focus. This was a whole day event out of the office. After a morning session full of discussion, debate and team challenges and a hearty lunch the teams spent the afternoon doing a physical clean up along the streets and beaches of Manly, followed by a debrief and afternoon drinks wind-down.

“Our team loved it, they worked together to build on our current ideas, we learnt so much, we enjoyed each other’s company and we had fun. It exceeded what we set out to do and we are now planning our next event with Team Building with Purpose.”

Rob Priest, Vice-President – South Pacific (Australia, New Zealand & Pacific Islands, The Coca Cola Company

2. Memorable

With all the time, money and effort put into these large company conference and whole-team events, business leaders naturally want their sessions to be remembered long afterwards and deliver some sort of long-term impact, change or transformation. This expectation is not without its challenges as attitudinal and behavioural change is always difficult to deliver, especially in tandem, from a one-off one or half day event.

The key lies in the session structure and follow-up communications post the event to maintain the momentum started in the session and how you leverage the session moments to deliver quick wins to mobilise the energy and enthusiasm of the group into longer-term practical steps, culture change and organisational evolution.

The inspirational storytelling in our sessions and human-interest nature of what we share allows us to connect emotionally with the group and foster greater dialogue and personal connections between colleagues. As the group gains unique insights into the charity our skilled facilitators explore the learnings with the group to help inform improved ways of working for the participants.

Participants leave our sessions with a profound learning about the charity and importantly themselves and their colleagues. This is further reinforced by the openness of our sessions where colleagues willingly share their personal views, experiences and history in the space and topics that we cover which brings colleagues closer together as they deepen their relationships beyond purely professional working ones.

A good example of this was the company conference we ran for GE HealthCare that was the first time the whole team had come together of 100+ delegates had come together since the group split from its parent company General Electric.

“We run around in our own bubble world consumed by often petty issues. To help someone else, particularly children actually requires little effort for us to look away from ourselves and do something, even small to help someone else.”

Paul, GE HealthCare

GE HealthCare chose our Starlight (Children’s Foundation) ‘Sparklers’ team building session as its central messages mirrored their own five strategic pillars. The strong alignment was further emphasised in the session by the number of stories shared by colleagues of special memories of having worked with the charity in one hospital or another. This special connection was evident in the enthusiastic levels of participation and nail-biting tie-break quiz finish and emphasised by a special share by one staff member who twenty years previously had been a Starlight kid herself. These are the goosebump money-can’t-buy moments that naturally surface in our sessions that serve to deliver meaningful moments and memories as the group connects on a deep personal level.

 “Loved the emotional connection that was connected.”
Emma, GE HealthCare

3. Meaningful

Today, meaning, aka ‘Purpose’, is something that people expect from employers and are actively looking for as highlighted by the 2022 Gartner Return to Work Survey that reported that 56% of employees wanted to contribute more to Society.

This focus on purpose is driven by a need for a strong sense of belonging to something meaningful and making a difference, which companies have responded with a greater emphasis on their Corporate Social Responsibility strategy and community engagement, increased charitable donations, and much greater support and initiatives for general, skilled and corporate volunteering for employees.

Our team building sessions by their very nature and design also meet this need by connecting employees to a charity and cause that our facilitators themselves are vested in, which sets the session up for success.

The real power and ‘stickability’ of our sessions come from the important social issues and human-interest stories that we talk about that touch the group and prompt great conversations and personal shares that resonate on a deeper level possible than usual ‘work talk’. On top of that, the knowledge that 50% of the net profit from each session goes to the charity, along with any hamper or similar gifts from the session activities, serves to deliver a sense of having made a real difference to people in need.

A good example of this was the company conference we ran for Cisco’s 50+ CX Extended Leadership group and high potential team members. It was the first time that the whole team had come together this way in some time and was part of their two-day planning conference.

“Authentic, driven, empathetic, engaging.”.”
James Comer, Head of HR – Australia, New Zealand and Asia Pacific, Cisco

Cisco chose our Drought Angels ‘Rainmakers’ team building session as its central message around mental health and the importance of country culture resonated well with their diverse cultural workforce. The levels of enthusiasm in the session and strategic thinking that the discussions sparked was testament to the power that meaningful engagement can deliver. This was poignantly illustrated by the number of staff who publicly shared a connection with the farming community and evidenced by the large number of hampers the group put together that exceeded our original expectations.

What I enjoyed most was making impact for others less fortunate, and doing it with a team of my colleagues who I hadn’t met before in person.”
James Comer, Head of HR – Australia, New Zealand and Asia Pacific, Cisco

These three strategic pillars lie at the heart of what we do and why our groups leave our sessions inspired, energised and activated.

That’s Team Building with Purpose.

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