Oh Joy! Another Leadership Meeting where we’ll discuss big ideas like STRATEGY and CULTURE and GROWTH. We’ll have breakouts, keynotes, and maybe even paint a local school. Then we’ll head back to our offices, slowly forget the firehouse of information until the next meeting rolls around.
There must be a better way.
Fortunately, Bob Frish and Cary Greene, partners of the Strategic Offsites Group, have penned a great article in this month’s Harvard Business Review. Packed with practical recommendations, it’s a step-by-step template for a successful Leadership Summit, specifically:
- Assign clear roles that have real authority.
- Define a clear set of objectives for the conference.
- Start the conversation before the event (hint: pre-event surveys).
- Design the event around the objectives.
- Engage participants before they arrive onsite (think webcasts).
- Pay attention to pacing and rhythm (mix up presentations, tablework, etc.)
- Be flexible by using real-time feedback.
- Go for three-way communication (stage to audience, audience to stage, peer to peer).
- Use high and low tech to kickstart ideas.
- Be deliberate about connecting attendees to each other (uber-networking).
- Create succinct takeaways for post-event cascade.
- Follow up on promises made at the meeting.
- Keep the conversation going.
Included in the article are: a pre- and post-event calendar, a chart of tools to solicit attendee input, and a list conference of roles and responsibilities.
While I disagree with the relegation of meeting content to a mid-level strategy or communications person, the rest of the article rings true. Any event should be part of an overall corporate communications calendar. Without this context, companies risk over-communicating with employees and diminishing impact. A webcast for one initiative may overlap with the kick-off presentation of another, or employees may receive several teasers, surveys and invitations – all on the same day.
With a Leadership Conference in particular, what is being said – and how – must 1) align with the communication strategy, 2) promote the internal brand, and 3) adhere to corporate brand standards – all 3 of which are driven by senior leadership within the corporate communications department.
That being said, it’s a well-written, thought-provoking article that will help you develop a leadership summit that actually produces results.