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September 1, 2008

INSIDER EXPERIENCE:Is it time for corporate events to become more experiential?

With people being bombarded by more and more marketing messages, companies need to make sure that when they are communicating with their staff they do so in a way that cuts through the marketing clutter of their daily lives. Current experiential techniques can really help meetings and events planners to deliver something that is creative and will engage staff on a personal level and help them to feel part of what their company is trying to do.

"Audiences are becoming increasingly savvy about different communications techniques, which means that messages have to be delivered more imaginatively if they are to make an impact,” says Justin Isles, account director of Event Marketing Services (EMS). “Adopting a more imaginative approach will ensure that your internal communications campaign leaves a longer-lasting impression on the individual."

Ian Irving, sales and marketing director of Sledge. “We are all consumers,” he says. “Just because Fred is an employee doesn’t mean that he isn’t marketing savvy and aware of who’s communicating with him and why. When an employee shuts his computer down at the end of the day he may go to a gig, a shopping centre or a museum. He is a sophisticated consumer and familiar with modern communication methods.”


Audience participation: the future of internal events lies
with dumping the PowerPoint and going for a much
more engaging and immersive experience

Creativity's what you need

This is where creativity comes in. Too many companies still create dull and uninspiring internal events that do little to raise the interest of their staff. How many people do you know that actively look forward to their internal meetings and events?

But as Sarah Trumble, group events director of Gyro International, points out creativity must be tempered with relevance: “The creative element plays an important part in creating this personal and engaging experience but you have to ensure the creative output is relevant to the message you’re trying to convey.”

But more than that it’s about really engaging and holding the attention of your audience. “Most face-to-face events and business conferences simply don’t work; they don’t deliver long-term return on investment; they don’t provide any tangible business difference. At the most basic level, delegates are happy because they’ve had a break from their daily routine, but ultimately the business hasn’t moved on,” says Jeremy Starling, managing director of Involve. “Really these events should be seen as an enormous opportunity to move the business forward and to do something really dramatic with that time. Few events come anywhere near achieving that, the reason being not just that they are not creative but more importantly, that they lack true involvement.”

So what else can conference and meetings planners learn from the techniques used by experiential marketing agencies?

Creating a connection

“Experiential marketing directly engages with consumers in innovative ways, with the emphasis on the engagement and emotional connection,” says Trumble. “I think that planners can really learn from this to ensure that the same engagement and emotional connection is gained from their conferences and meetings. If you want to build brand loyalty then creating unique, relevant experiences for your customers can help achieve this. If delivered in the right way the experience will enable the brand to share knowledge, challenge negative perceptions and as a result establish trust.”

Irving agrees: “The best way for planners to learn is to study what experiential agencies are doing for consumers, as mentioned earlier we are all consumers so the same methods can be used for an internal audience. Conference and Meeting planners need to appreciate that brand experiences are a more effective way to fully immerse their staff in their brand, its products and services. Many brands now recognise the power of face to face activity for internal communications so planners should look to be engaging people in deeper more immersive experiences - akin to those being used for consumer audiences.”

The reality is that you wouldn’t run a boring advertising campaign, so why put so little effort into looking after one of your prime assets – your staff? Internal communications should have as much thought invested in them as any consumer-facing communication. While experiential marketing techniques shouldn’t be seen as a panacea, they can certainly help take your internal events to the next level.

Next week we look at what types of techniques can be used and how to decide which best fits your corporate objectives.

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