Reinventing the In-person, All Company Meeting During a Pandemic

November 17, 2020

Our annual in-person company meeting is a not-to-be-missed highlight of the year for ROI team members. With consultants spread out across the country, coming together in person is an important way to strengthen our connection to the business, our values and each other. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we were confronted with the challenge of creating an experience that was valuable, engaging, inspiring – and fully virtual.

The Challenge: Extreme Makeover Required

As thought leaders in employee engagement, we knew our 2020 All-team Meeting had to be more than an eye-straining, four-hour Zoom meeting. Instead the entire event needed a makeover.

The solution? Our first-ever ROI Homecoming, a week-long experience designed to reinforce our culture, connections and community; build insights and knowledge about the latest trends in the profession; and provide alignment and excitement about our future.

The Strategy: An Integrated Experience

When designing a virtual experience, it’s crucial to have a unifying theme that ties it all together. ROI Homecoming Week consisted of themed activities such as Pre-Game Warm-Ups, a Tailgate Lunch, the Big Game with a Half-Time Show, and a fun Post-Game Party with competitions, awards and the annual group photo. Key elements that worked well:

  • Develop an outstanding visual brand: Our design team created an engaging visual campaign to ensure a seamless experience, with a full suite of digital, print and branded materials such as email banners, PPT templates, t-shirts, Zoom backgrounds and much more.
  • Appeal to all the senses: Although everyone attended virtually, we wanted to incorporate a physical touch. Care packages were delivered to team members’ doorsteps throughout the week, such as branded gear to wear at the Big Game, lunch delivered via DoorDash, dessert provided for the Post-Game party and more. This helped to set the tone for the week and was a teaser for events we would enjoy in real-time together.
  • Keep it short: To keep attention and energy levels high, we designed a series of three 30-minute, interactive sessions each day, versus one all-day meeting with breakout sessions.
  • Offer a rich variety: Team members were invited to choose from a mix of sessions, ranging from business strategy updates, case study discussions and professional development workshops to more relaxing offerings like stretching, baking and doodling.
  • Launch a dedicated channel: A dedicated group on our enterprise social platform, Workplace by Facebook, served as the sole destination for organizers to promote sessions and for team members to contribute and connect.
  • Use new tools: Thoughtful use of the latest technology made a huge difference in the experience. A polling and quiz tool, a virtual photo booth, a visual collaboration space and live video were just some of the tools that kept things fun and interactive.
  • Provide intimate connections: Live events naturally enable informal networking. We tried to replicate this important dynamic through frequent breakout sessions for pairs and small groups.
  • Honor traditions: We wove familiar elements of past in-person All Team Meetings into the fabric of this year’s event. Whether it was digitizing our traditional wall display of team member profiles or moving to a virtual photo booth, we leaned into our beloved traditions.

The Result

ROI Homecoming was able to deliver on our goal of greater connections, growth and inspiration. Engagement throughout the week was high, with an average of 81% of team members participating in each event. We also saw a 300% increase in team member engagement on Workplace, compared to the rest of 2020.

  • 98% said that ROI Homecoming was a valuable use of their time.

“The most engaging, intimate and connected team building event I’ve ever experienced!”

  • 96% would recommend ROI Homecoming to others.

“I found it to be more intimate than the in-person meeting. I felt more connected to everyone through all the workshops and activities.”

  • 98% said that they gained new insights or knowledge.

“I feel I have a better understanding and appreciation for what we do for our clients.”

  • 96% said they feel more connected to others at ROI.

“I felt so connected to the larger team in a way I didn’t think was possible during these current crazy times.”

  • 92% said they feel more confident about ROI’s future.

“This was a great experience. I feel a part of everything, I feel recognized, I feel safe in our company’s future.”

Can Virtual Actually Be Better Than In-Person?

In some ways, yes! While we’re all eager to come together for an in-person meeting again one day, team members told us in the post-event survey that this virtual event was better in three ways:

  • It was easier to attend.

“I didn’t have the usual stress of travel (childcare or pet care).”

“We didn’t have to waste time on logistics, travel, and physically moving to and from breakout sessions.”

  • Team members felt more connected to one another.

“I was actually able to interact with and talk to more members of the team, than at the in-person event.”

“ROI Homecoming allowed me to see my colleagues’ families, pets and personalities more, so I’m pleasantly surprised at feeling so connected to my colleagues even though this was 100% remote.”

  • Everyone had an opportunity to become more proficient in the latest technology tools.

“We all tried new technology, making our exposure hands-on, not merely theoretical.”

“Using and seeing new virtual technology was a major benefit.”

We learned that a well-planned virtual experience can deliver just as much value and connection, if not more, than an in-person event. It was one of our most memorable gatherings in our company’s 20-year history. Here are some tips to consider if you are looking to produce a truly inspiring virtual gathering:

  • Make sure the virtual event is aligned with and honors your culture
  • Combine a blend of online and offline elements to create a holistic experience
  • Embrace new technology that will enhance the event
  • Know that virtual events are not necessarily easier to plan and execute than in-person meetings and events. In fact, you’ll need to build in extra time to carefully plan, strategically design interactive elements, prepare presenters for new technology and manage engagement throughout the experience.

Reinventing the In-person, All Company Meeting During a Pandemic

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