Every company and team has the potential to be more than the sum of its parts. But you will never know if you don’t make the effort to regularly bring staff together. One of the best ways to do this is a regular or annual staff conference.
A staff conference, or away day, can deliver huge value in terms of improved focus and cohesion. There are costs of course: the direct costs of the venue, catering, accommodation, speakers etc. – and not forgetting the cost of everyone missing a day or two of work. But it helps to see your staff conference as an investment and think of the savings from higher productivity and lower staff turnover.
An investment mindset from leaders will set the tone for the event and everyone will get more out of it as a result. Seeing the event as a positive opportunity for individuals, teams and the company’s commercial prospects will also mean that you approach the event more creatively. Here are a range of staff conference ideas to get you started.
Staff conference ideas
First, be clear about your objectives
What do you want to achieve with this staff conference? Take the time to be consult key people – maybe even everyone – about what the priorities should be. The more input people have, the greater a sense of ownership and engagement they will have with the conference. The event is certainly an opportunity to reinforce goals and leadership and provide information on future plans and industry updates. Beyond that, be clear about what success would look like before you start putting your plans together.
If this is an annual event, it’s a great opportunity to celebrate team and individual achievements. Saying thanks is the most powerful motivator there is. Having an awards ceremony is one way of doing this. It can be fun or glitzy, whatever fits best with your company culture. The key thing is to try to include everyone. Again, ask for input from your staff – what serious and fun awards would they like to see. The light-hearted ones will always go down best if they really reflect your company culture and in-jokes. See here for some ideas for fun awards categories to get started with.
As a leader, you’ll first have to thank everybody, not just for coming to the staff conference, but for all their hard work. This is where employees will really feel valued and a part of the company – not just a cog in the machine. Your speech should also give a little insight into what the conference will entail, as well as some details about company plans for the near future and what goals you’d like to achieve. This simply makes everyone aware that this staff conference has a strong purpose.
Depending on what your industry is, it’s often a fantastic idea to bring in an outside public speaker. Speakers can be industry experts or more general motivators. People who have done something exceptional in their life can open eyes and broaden thinking. Hearing someone who really is special makes your team feel special and can motivate them to do better and bigger things too.
Team building exercises
Although many people start rolling their eyes when someone mentions team building exercises, they don’t have to be awkward or lame! Staff members rarely want to get up in front of the group and talk about themselves, but in order for them to know each other better, the team building exercises could be fun and a little silly. These can be something like a paper plane contest between two teams (whose plane can go the furthest), a treasure hunt, pub-style general knowledge quiz, or even a karaoke battle. Or if you want to keep it business focused, set up a team challenge. The point is that these should all be team-based so there’s the opportunity to strengthen existing bonds and form new ones.
A staff conference is a great opportunity to focus on improving skills. Indeed this could be the whole focus of the event if there are issues that the entire team need to get up to speed with. That could be related to improving communications, customer service, new software etc. If you can get a trainer to develop a bespoke session especially for your company even better.
One of the easiest ways to make the event feel special and memorable is to hold it in a fabulous or unusual venue. Ideas include: a country hotel with spa facilities; a nature reserve or wildlife centre; a museum; Center Parcs; the Eden Centre; an outwards bound or adventure centre. Given relative costs, it can even be worth taking the event overseas. An out of season hotel in Spain, with flights, could easily work out as a better deal than a smart London venue.
The best way to make your staff conference a success is to involve your crew as much as you can. Consult staff on where they would like to go and what would make it a success for them; ask them for their ideas. And don’t forget to get their feedback after the event, so that you can make sure that next year’s is even better.
A great staff conference will make your employees feel better about themselves, their colleagues, and the company and its leaders. It can take a lot of effort to pull it off, but the resulting team spirit and increased productivity will speak for itself.