2014 is around the corner. With the start of the new year, many companies will hold annual meetings with their employees to reflect on 2013 and prepare for 2014. Annual meetings offer an opportunity to engage, ignite, and inspire individuals and groups to perform and achieve in the upcoming year. To ensure that your annual meeting meets your goals and inspires your workforce, incorporate one or more of the five ideas below.
Winston Churchill once sent back a pudding, saying that it had no theme. Theming can boost the impact and success of your annual meeting, as it gives direction and links meeting activities together. Think of theming as the heart and soul that gives life to your messaging.
It is important to consider, though, the type of theme for your business. When morale is high, you can be more creative and take larger risks with your theme. Steve Martin, a well-known trainer and keynote speaker, says the best theme he ever witnessed was “A Night at the Oscars.” Teams were tasked ahead of time with creating videos that depicted a day in the life of their role. In less high-spirited times, consider themes that inspire growth, such as “Better, Stronger, Faster” or “Agents of Change.” And if your business is going through a merger or acquisition, choose themes that promote teamwork, such as “Winning Together” or “Connect, Collaborate, Differentiate.”
Build a Tower, Build a Team
Annual meetings are prime opportunities to foster collaboration among teams. Select a team-building activity to match the demographics of your participants. For example, a team of recent college graduates might relate well to an outdoor challenge while more experienced staff may engage better with a problem solving or business simulation activity. Present teams with a challenge; ask them to build something representative of the organization, its history, or its future; or pose a problem to solve, providing clues to success in each presentation.
Peter Skillman and Tom Wujec are the masters behind the “marshmallow tower” exercise used with many Fortune 50 companies. This exercise gives teams of four 18 minutes to create the tallest possible freestanding structure using only four components: 20 sticks of spaghetti, one yard of tape, one yard of string, and one marshmallow (which has to be on top). It sounds simple, and perhaps a bit silly to some, but remarkable learning comes through the planning, collaboration, and decision making that is needed to produce a tower that stands tall.
Stimulate the Senses
We live in a fast-moving world with media all around us competing for our attention. Take advantage of technology to engage your audience. Use music, video, multimedia presentations, photo collages, lighting, and sound effects to reinforce your messaging or introduce activities. Be sure your media choice supports but does not overwhelm your message. Use slide presentations sparingly; set ground rules with speakers to use no more than five slides each. Enhance slides with graphics and avoid bulleted lists.
The research tells us that people are usually able to focus for 20 minutes at a time. Use this guideline to switch up your presentations. Change presentation approaches by using Q&A, a panel discussion, small group breakouts, mini-breaks, team presentations, exercises, feedback, and voting.
Make It a Game
Today’s employees enjoy the challenges and overcoming the obstacles presented in electronic games. Consider including simulations, business games, and competitions throughout your meeting. Challenge your employees mentally or even consider adding an appropriate level of physical activity in the games. Oftentimes critical learning elements are hidden within games. For example, hold a Quiz Show in which employees answer questions on a certain topic for points or prizes. Opt for a mix of questions that stimulate laughter and learning simultaneously. Create a game to support your meeting theme, such as the “Amazing Race to the Top.”
Tell the Story
For centuries, human beings have used storytelling to convey the meaning of concepts and ideas. We use stories to explain how things work, to help us make decisions, to understand our place in the world, and to create our identities, both as individuals and as organizations. Harness the power of storytelling in your annual meeting. Craft the story of your organization and its vision—where you have been and where you are going. Ask individuals to share their success stories and their visions for their teams through the use of analogies, pictures, and images. Using stories, identify behaviors to emulate. Invite your top performers to be interviewed in a talk show program format by an experienced moderator. Panels of this nature are usually an effective way to convey stories around best practices and lessons learned.