Why your annual employee conference is the most important internal communication channel you have

Fresh back from a two-day employee conference I’ve been thinking about how important these events are as part of an annual internal comms calendar.

I think most businesses have moved on from conferences that are simply departmental update followed by departmental update. What we are seeing now is really creative events that give opportunities to engage, inspire, collaborate and align people with business strategy.

Actually, I’ve come to the opinion that your employee conference is the most important internal communication channel available. Here’s why:

– Bring the business strategy to life

If the purpose of internal communications is to engage your people in business strategy and vision, there is no greater opportunity than in a face-to-face interactive environment.

A visionary opener delivered by the CEO will set the scene, create engagement and build the enthusiasm for the goals of the company. Follow this up with sessions aligned closely to the business strategy that create a narrative for the year.

Then mix this up with interactive sessions and workshops to embed the strategy by allowing everyone to create their own reflection on the goals and their own plan for how to contribute.

Get this right early on and you’ll set yourself on the right track for achieving great engagement for the rest of the year.

– Crucial cascade opportunity

Once you’ve got the people in the room on board with the strategy, then conference is an opportunity to leverage this for the whole business. Managers will need to be equipped with the tools to take back what they’ve learnt to their own area of the business. Your conference gives you the crucial opportunity to ask for this commitment, hand out toolkits and set expectations. We issued ‘talking points with your teams’ sheets at conference for managers to take back to their teams to ensure key messages were cascaded down the business. Follow this up with a reminder a week or so after conference with those managers, plus survey frontline staff to check the information got through.
If managers have never been relied upon for this kind of formal cascade approach before, your conference is an even more important opportunity to get this ball rolling.

– A launch-pad for your digital channels

This year at our conference we trialled the use of the enterprise collaboration tool Yammer. Although Yammer had already been established in the wider business (with approximately 30% take-up), setting up a private network for delegates at conference created a closed environment in which this group could experiment with the tool if they hadn’t done so already. With someone on hand (i.e me) to trouble-shoot and help explain how it all works face-to-face, conference gave this targeted group an opportunity to really get comfortable with the tool.  This paid dividends post-conference as the delegates became more active in the general yammer community and championed its use upon returning to their own business area.

Drive traffic to your other channels

Conference provides you number one opportunity to promote your other internal comms channels to the key influencers in the room. Promise to upload photos from conference to your intranet. Promote the use of Yammer. Say that you’ll be writing about the conference in your next internal newsletter or blog.

Even better, take the chance to gather some informal feedback on your channels too.

Content, content, content

Finally, squeeze the most out of every lead you come across for ideas and content. This will see you through the weeks post-conference, but also throughout the year. Take photos of your delegates – you’ll never know when they’ll come in handy through the year; do some face-to-face interviews; and above all, network, network, network, even with those you already know – who knows what you’ll discover.


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