Putting the ideal corporate conference together involves a dizzying number of stakeholders to please and objectives to achieve—not to mention a budget to stick to. Thinking of new, interesting agendas can feel more challenging than planning the entire event.
For the past few decades, keynotes have been the go-to for corporate conferences, and there are two important reasons for this. First, in the eyes of event planners, a keynote speaker is a relatively low-risk option because you know what you are going to get. Secondly, they can be informative and perhaps pique the interest of attendees, especially if they are famous or well known in the industry.
However, the keynote may not be as universally effective as it once was. In a busy world, events can feel like another thing to do. Event attendees’ expectations and learning styles have evolved. This has led to event planners employing alternative options, such as experiential learning sessions, competitions, breakout sessions or team-building activities.
Here are three reasons why it may be time to consider something other than a keynote at your next corporate conference:
It’s More Interactive and Engaging
By nature, keynotes are often more passive than other options, which creates the possibility for attendees to get bored or restless. By creating an experience for attendees that utilizes activities and games to make things more interactive, attendees get the chance to escape from their everyday stresses and do something they usually would not get the chance to do.
Alternatives to keynotes can be designed to impact all sorts of topics, including teamwork, communication and workplace culture. Keep in mind, this will all depend on the goals or objectives of your event and your audience. Whether the elements you choose to include give attendees the chance to move around, interact, network or engage with others, they all build a shared experience among attendees, something that will stick with them when they return to work.
It’s More Likely to Be Relevant and Applicable
Keynote speakers inherently rely on personal stories to deliver their message, whether those stories are light-hearted, entertaining or inspirational. You have very little control over the content. For example, while an Olympic athlete may appeal to attendees, do their lessons on leadership actually apply to the leadership challenges your attendees are facing at work?
Alternative activities or sessions may be more relevant, as they often allow you the freedom and flexibility to control what you deliver based on your event’s objectives and even the characteristics of your audience. Let’s say you decide to forgo that Olympic keynote, and you replace it with breakout sessions led by your company’s leaders. This step beyond the keynote could better optimize the investment in time and resources.
It’s Something New or Unexpected
It’s never too late to try something new or unexpected. By doing something that may at first seem outside your company’s comfort zone, may encourage attendees to reconsider their feelings and go along with what you have planned. Consider it an opportunity to increase pre-event excitement and curiosity by promoting (or even hinting at) what you have in store for attendees when they arrive.
There is no one way to plan a perfect corporate conference, but there are strategies that can make both attendees and stakeholders happy. In fact, don’t rule out keynotes entirely. There are cases when they can be exactly what the event needs. Instead, the next time you find yourself planning an event agenda, take a few moments to weigh your options and choose based on what’s in the best interest of attendees, stakeholders and the entire event.
Sue Wigston is the chief operating officer of Eagle’s Flight. Her extensive senior leadership experience and facilitation skills have established her as a trusted partner and organizational development expert. She has a proven track record of successfully leading culture transformation in Fortune 500 companies and has established herself as an authority on training and development.