Internal communicators may be involved directly or indirectly in organizing and communicating internal leadership forums that connect and energize the community. It is a crucial activity since a lot hinges on how well the leadership team converge ideas, coalesces as a group and moves the company agenda forward.
These forums are coined different names at each organization – ‘engagement’, ‘off-sites’, ‘workouts’ or ‘connections’.
However, there is immense value and impact the internal communicator can bring to such forums in planning, internal promotion and communication. Here are a few pointers that can help you deliver a successful session.
Keep the outcome in mind: What do you expect the forum will deliver? Very often these forums are expected to launch a new vision, revisit current business needs, explore opportunities or ensure leaders are aligned on company goals. However, it is important to also consider ‘soft’ goals such as connection, relationships and culture building. Remember to measure the outcomes in relation to the objectives at the end of the forum.
Make the most of the opportunity: As an internal communicator you may not get many opportunities for gathering leaders in one spot. Take the opportunity to collate video and audio footage as well as photographs you can leverage for promotions and communication. Be it interviews on the forum’s impact to a group photo that can be included into your staff handbook or a video message for new hires, capture it all.
Appreciate the diversity among people: If the group is converging for the first time it helps to understand the diversity among people interacting at the forum. Think of cultural dimensions and bias as well as language issues among participants. Be sure to avoid people from the same geography sitting with each other – very often, it can be the case! While people do find comfort in known faces, they also need to understand that the need to integrate better with others.
Craft messages that resonate: What leaders communicate verbally or non-verbally sticks in the minds of participants. That means, if leaders are supportive, demonstrate intent and participate actively the energy rubs off on others. Branding and communication before and during the event also can aid recall to the goals and expectations from the community. If you need them to deliver to standards, then call it out in the collateral. If there is a need for growing the team’s capabilities include messages in the agenda.
Communicate expectations: The success of the forum is directly related to the level of expectation setting done before and at the start. Participants clearly need to know their role, how they should take back lessons and learning, the rules of the game and why the organization has invested in their time and effort. Likewise, it is useful to inform stakeholders on the reasons for conducting such forums (especially, when the economic scenario around the world looks unstable) and how it relates to the organization’s strategy and goals.
Close the loop: Every such forum will lead to action plans and next steps for leaders. Ensure you have note takers who synthesize the output into a format which can be reported out. Take feedback on the impact of content, messages, logistics and branding. Set up an online community which can connect beyond the face to face forum. Publish an update on the content you curated from the forum and take explicit permission before using images and footage in any communication.
Flexibility and open mind: The agenda may get tweaked, presentations may come in late or speakers may expect more time to conduct their sessions. All this can be frustrating for an internal communicator holding together a critical event. However, it will be helpful to stay focused on the final outcomes and help steer the forum so that they can be relevant and successful. By providing speakers with a consistent presentation template, giving guidance on fonts and transferring of data securely you can provide a healthy experience to the program.
Have other experiences and tips from running a leadership forum? Share them here.