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Five Tips to Engage New Hires at Meetings and Events

The start of a new year often means new employees or employees transitioning into new roles within the same company. This translates to what can be an adjustment for everyone in the work place. To alleviate any feelings of anxiety or stress that such changes may bring, we suggest getting on the right track with a fun event that includes everyone from the top brass to the newest employee. Encouraging fun in the workplace strengthens relationships between co-workers and helps break the ice for new hires.

Over the past 30 years, we have picked up a few tricks on encouraging fun and breaking the ice. Following are five tips for putting together a successful program aimed at engaging the newest members of your team.

Laughter Breaks the Ice
Not only is laughter the best medicine to cure a foul mood, it is also the elixir that makes a group of co-workers get along. Plan some silly activities that get the whole crowd laughing; if possible, bring in an emcee (or select a person from your team with a playful and outgoing personality) to lead the activities. According to Andrew Tarvin, an engineer and humorist, humor connects us with others, reduces status differentials, builds trust and encourages people to work together. Humor breaks down barriers and makes people more comfortable because everyone is on the same playing field. Laughter sets a playful tone and kicks off the event in a positive spirit.

Senior Staff Should Lead by Example
It’s important for all members of the company to join in the fun. If you see the VP of Accounting doing her best to balance six dice on a tongue depressor, a new hire is less intimidated to give it a try himself. If the higher ups think it is important to do a team building program in the first place, then they should walk the talk and be on a team with their new hires and other employees.

Taking it to the Beach

Promote Playful Competition
Choose challenges that don’t require a lot of skill, but do require teamwork to accomplish. As guests look around the room, they might see play zones set up with different challenges. One challenge we like is Moving Forward Together. Teammates’ interests are definitely piqued when they see 120 pool noodles spread out on the side of a ballroom. Guests place a pool noodle between themselves and the teammate in front of them. As one long chain, they move from one end of the room to the other without dropping their noodles. No hands allowed! Choose activities that are fun and fast, involve a little strategy and force the team members to solve a problem within a time limit. It might take them a few tries, but they will get it!

Vary the Challenges
If you need to slow down their heart rates a bit after completing a physical competition, word puzzles or visual challenges are a fun activity that the team can do together at the table. Create several pages of puzzles so that there is enough for every two people to work on together to solve the riddles. These challenges are good for people who might feel more confident solving brain teasers than they are at physical challenges. By adding both types of games at your event, everyone feels that they can contribute to the team’s success.

If you are looking for puzzle ideas, try Pinterest or for inspiration. Take note of your puzzle questions though – be sure they are accurate and can appeal to a number of your guests.

Bright Horizons – Artsy Teambuilding

Get Artsy
BYOB painting classes are popular at art studios around the country and people are getting in touch with their creative sides. A collective art piece is a fun way for a new hire to literally put their mark on the organization. Serving adult beverages may help their juices flow, so this activity might be particularly fun as a pre-dinner/cocktail party event.

When we organize this activity for our clients, we use six panel murals and set up paint stations around the room. As people wander from station to station, they can contribute to the mural. At the end of the event, the panels are put together and the group can see their masterpiece. Our professional artists put some finishing touches on the artwork and it is delivered to the offices for display. The artwork is a tangible reminder of a fun-filled company outing.

Back at the Office
New hires want to be part of an organization that is fun and promotes good energy…

Don’t let the fun stop when you get back to the office. According to a study conducted by Warwick University, happiness makes people more productive at work. So keep your employees engaged and having a good time in the workplace. Here are a few more ideas to keep the fun going:
• Put board games in the lunch room so employees can play a quick game during their break.
• Paint one wall with white board paint and encourage employees to write positive messages on the wall for all to see.
• Start a fantasy football league competition or Oscar pool, but consider organizing it by department rather than by individual.
• Surprise each other with random acts of kindness – leave flowers, cards, jokes, treats, etc. on each other’s desks.

You can also create an office competition to encourage well-roundedness. Staffers can earn points for working out, bringing their lunch rather than ordering out, sitting with someone new in the break room, volunteering at a local charity, etc. Change the challenges every week or month or quarter to offer variety.

Whether at an off-site event or in the confines of the office, the key to engaging new hires is to provide opportunities that foster camaraderie among coworkers. Create situations that promote team building and communication. Soon colleagues will not only find the things they have in common, but will have fun while interacting with one another. This strong sense of connection will lead to a happy, engaged team.

If you are looking for ideas to engage your new hires, contact us!

Corporate Event Interactive

CASE STUDY: Philanthropic Event for Pharmaceutical Company Multi Focus Event for 1,200 people

This pharmaceutical company wanted to provide a meaningful charitable team event for 1,200 attendees during their National Sales Meeting. The event would support the client’s larger overall Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative and annual day of service, benefiting local non-profit organizations in the Las Vegas area where the meeting was taking place.

Corporate Event Interactive sourced four charities in the Las Vegas area, identified their needs, purchased all supplies and executed a three hour CSR program for 1,200 attendee volunteers. Guests were welcomed to the event with a musical performance by the children from two of the school choirs in the Clark County School District. When the children finished, participants were divided into four teams to build, assemble, and create requested donation items for four charities, including:

Creating stuffed animals for children at St Jude’s Ranch

St. Jude’s Ranch, a community of homes for abused and neglected children ranging in ages from 5 years to 17 years old. Teams built and decorated a toy box for each home on the ranch and filled them with items that the children had on their wish lists, from skateboards to art supplies to board games. Team members stuffed and dressed plush animals for each child to accompany their toys while others built bicycles, tricycles and wagons for the children. A final group of participants helped the St Jude’s Ranch staff create decorations for their holiday fundraiser. Items included large candy canes, decorated trees and jumbo lollipops.

Making bicycles for Boys & Girls Club of Southern Nevada

Boys & Girls Club of Southern Nevada – With an increase in single-parent families and families with two working parents, a growing number of children turn to the Boys & Girls Club for after school activities. Participants assembled 50 bicycles, tricycles and wagons in addition to 20 pieces of furniture, including sports benches and storage boxes, for the children to use at the club. Participants also created 100 story time kits, which included books, handmade book marks and stuffed plush animals.

Adding Notes of Encouragement for Clark County School District Students’ Backpacks

Clark County School District has the task of preparing children for the future in an ever-changing and demanding world with shrinking budgets and cuts in funding. Over 11,000 students in the CCSD also have the challenge of being homeless. Purchasing necessary school supplies places an added stress on these families already in need. Participants created assembly lines and packed 360 student backpacks filled with school supplies. They also made 240 teacher kits and 100 story time kits that included classic books, handmade book marks, and novelty pillows. Participants also put together 150 solar car kits used to teach robotics and engineering lessons. Last, but not least, team members painted murals on pre-drawn canvases to beautify the walls of the schools.

Activity kits for NCCF

Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation improves the quality of life for critically ill children and their families. Participants created care packages for the patients and their siblings who were to attend Camp Cartwheel, a fun-filled 3 day camp where kids could take a break from their illness and have fun with their siblings. Teams decorated and filled summer swag bags with items needed for the camp such as sunscreen and sunglasses. Others made family care packages filled with activities such as games and puzzles to keep family members occupied during visits to the hospital. The last group of participants created 300 story time kits which included classic books, decorated book marks, stuffed plush animals and novelty pillows.

At the end of the event, donation items and gifts were presented in a surprise reveal to each benefiting charity. Representatives and children addressed the company volunteers to say thank you and accept the donations. A special thank you gift made by the children at St. Jude’s Ranch was presented to the company’s Senior Leadership eliciting tears of joy and gratitude.

These four organizations, St. Jude’s Ranch, Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada and the Clark County School District received a total of 1,932 donation items. Each item was presented with a handwritten message crafted by the volunteers who had built, assembled and packed each donation item. While the charities received much needed donations for their organizations, participants left the event with a sense of accomplishment and pride in the social responsibility commitment of their company. The CSR event was a fantastic way to end the company’s week long National Sales Meeting conference and send colleagues home having made a significant contribution to the local Las Vegas community.

For more Information, please contact:
Corporate Event Interactive, Inc. or 312-540-1000

Creating a Yes, and… Atmosphere

Bringing improv techniques to the workplace.

Mention improv in almost any business setting and people think of “Whose Line Is It Anyway,” “Saturday Night Live” and pretty much any Judd Apatow film. The idea of getting up to perform in front of a group of peers can be terrifying. The idea that improvisational acting is only about being funny is a common misconception.

Improvisational acting is a great skill for many to incorporate into their repertoire. The basic constructs of improv allows one to think quickly on their feet, listen intently to the person with whom they are speaking, and support another’s idea or suggestion, even if it may be different from your own. Mastering all of these tasks is not easy, but with practice, people find skills that come in handy in the office and in life.

Chicago is known for its improvisational actors from Bill Murray to Melissa McCarthy to Seth Meyers, among many others who got their chops at Chicago’s famous training centers. (If you are wondering who else is on the list, check out Time Out Chicago’s February 2015 article by Brent DiCrescenzo). Improv has some basic principles that you can incorporate into your everyday interactions at the office. Following are three principles that you can test out for yourself.

Principle #1: Always be Positive
An improv scene comes to a screeching halt if you use the word “no.” Therefore, the first rule of improv is the “Yes, and” technique. Working with a partner, one person makes a statement such as “It looks like we are all going to get big bonuses this year!” The other person’s comment begins with “Yes, and,” continuing with a phrase such as, “I can’t wait to put a down payment on that yacht that caught my eye.” The conversation continues in this fashion, with each partner building on the ideas of the other. Improv actor Tina Fey explains the” Yes, and” method during an interview at Google.

The Yes, and… technique creates a positive environment and can have favorable effects on business as well. University of Michigan professor, Kim Cameron and his coauthors published a research article in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Science finding many good outcomes come from a positive workplace. According to the article, these outcomes include:
• Caring for, being interested in, and maintaining responsibility for colleagues as friends.
• Providing support for one another, including offering kindness and compassion when others are struggling.
• Avoiding blame and forgiving mistakes.
• Inspiring one another at work.
• Emphasizing the meaningfulness of the work.
• Treating one another with respect, gratitude, trust & integrity.

This key improv skill can help you build your team and move your organization forward. As you try it for yourself, you may find that affirming others brings out the best in your staff.

Improv Shenanigans – Taking Chances!

Principle #2: Take Action Without Fear of Making a Mistake
Another key element to improv is when you are on stage, show, don’t tell. Choose what type of action you are going to use and stick to it, really commit. The more specific you are, the easier it is for your teammates to work with you to respond and build off your movements. You cannot fail in improv…you take an action and go with it. Every action is considered an opportunity.

It’s the same in business. Sometimes we fear making a decision because we think we might fail. In the end, we take no action at all. One of our favorite quotes is by Robert H Schuller, “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” Improv gives you the permission to make decisions without fear of failure because you learn to look at “mistakes” as opportunities. Perhaps you should ask yourself, “Which is worse…making a mistake or missing an opportunity?” Action moves things forward. So take action without fear, both on and off the stage.

Team building with Improv!

Principle #3: Teamwork
Improv requires at least two people interacting with each other to move a scene forward. An important part of this is listening intently to one another and not overshadowing your partner. In addition to listening, rely on body language and other signs that enhance your communication. In doing so, you commit to creating a team environment on stage.

With teamwork in mind, one of your main goals is to make your partners look good. By acting in this way, everyone is free to create without the burden of competition or defensiveness. Successful improv emphasizes the relationship and interaction between people. When people feel supported, they take chances. Taking chances as a team creates great opportunities and fresh ideas.

Business is often an act of improvisation. Implementing some of the basic improvisational guidelines into your day to day interaction can help you and your team create a positive and supportive environment where the opportunities are boundless.

To learn more about the key elements of improv in a safe and supportive environment, try CEI’s Improv Workshop: Imagine the Possibilities, we would be glad to help you set up your workshop.

Contact us!
Corporate Event Interactive

How to Plan a Conference Welcome Reception That Keeps Them Talking

Conference Attendees Embracing the International Theme

Conference opening receptions are a perfect opportunity for guests to meet and greet each other before the meetings officially kick off. In this casual setting, participants can get to know each other, get a feel for the venue, and even get a taste for the host city. With more and more people working remotely, an opening reception can also offer a face to face networking opportunity for colleagues who may not see each other at the office. Here are some tips to set your conference reception above the rest:

Casino Night with Roaring ’20s Theme

Make it an Event with a Theme
A theme helps pull an event together, sets the tone for the evening and can help break down networking barriers. One of our favorite themes is our Casino Night. Guests can mix and mingle as they place bets at the craps table or chat over a hand of poker. Our dealers teach people the basics if they need a helping hand. No money is actually exchanged, so people can lay it all on the line!

If you are hosting your conference in Chicago and have out of town visitors, they might enjoy our Chicago-centric theme Windy City Welcome. Harry Caray, the Blooz Brothers and other notorious characters entertain your guests while they nosh on deep dish pizza and Chicago style hotdogs. Add a piano player to the mix for some sing alongs and you are guaranteed to knock this party out of the park…Wrigley, that is!

In It To Win It Cookie Competition

In it to Win It: Game Stations are always a hit with our guests. People love competition – either participating themselves or watching their colleagues. The more ridiculous the game, the more fun people have! Your guests will have a good time trying to beat the clock as they wiggle a cookie from their forehead into their mouth using only their facial muscles or sort Skittles by sucking each candy with a straw and dropping them into separate cups. Each challenge is sixty seconds long and creates a lot of laughter.

Grab their Attention with a Unique Invitation
An invitation is their first impression, so you want something that reflects your theme. You have an opportunity to catch people’s attention with a clever idea that may increase excitement for your kick off party.
• Video Invitation – Create a short script and include the pertinent information for the Opening Party including the location, date and time. Dress up in a costume and use some props to grab your guests’ attention. Be brief! A minute or two should be plenty of time for your message. For easy video instructions and a good looking finished product, you can try Inviter.

• Email Invitations with Movement – We like Punchbowl for the movement that the invitations have. When you send an invitation via email through Punchbowl, the recipient receives an “envelope” that moves once you click on it. The invitation pops out of the envelope with the details of the event. There are many different theme choices and you can browse their pinterest pages for theme decorations, food recipes and drink specialties for more inspiration.
• FedEx their invitation. This is a pricier option, but it definitely makes your invitation stand out.
If you are going to make an investment in a welcome reception, consider the invitation as part of your marketing expenses. A dramatic invitation that will have your guests sending in their RSVPs tout de suite.

Twitter Hashtags Engage Your Guests

Announcement Board – Social Media Style – Before, During & After
Twitter hashtags are great tools for any conference, especially for an opening reception. Keep the hashtag short, make sure it isn’t already used, and consider using the same one from year to year. Following are ideas for how to use your conference hashtag before, during and after your kickoff event.

Before: Share the hashtag often and post it prominently on the event page of your website prior to the event. Begin the conversation with the conference opening reception details. To encourage participation, use the hashtag to distribute secret passwords for special access to the event or to win a prize.

During: No doubt guests will have phones in hand as they mix and mingle with other attendees. Event organizers can send notifications throughout the party using the dedicated hashtag, updating their guests on when the entertainment starts or where they can find the shortest line to the bar. The key is to engage your guests so ask them questions and encourage them to continue the conversation.

After: Continue to use the same hashtag throughout the conference and after the event is over. Track who used the hashtag and notify them as preparations begin for the next year’s event. By doing a simple search of the event hashtag, you can find the handles that used it.
1. Create a list for the event then add those users by clicking on their handle
2. Click the gear icon
3. Click add/remove from lists.
4. Finally, click on the list name and the user will be added.
If you want to tweet directly to previous attendees, your Twitter list is one of the best ways to do that.

Swag They Can Use

Parting Gifts
Give aways that are easily portable and useful tend to be favorites for most attendees. Here are some ideas for gifts that they will want to take home:
• Mobile chargers are small and useful. An added bonus is that the chargers themselves can help attendees stay engaged throughout the conference as their devices won’t lose their charge.
• Compact umbrellas that can be tucked into briefcases, purses and car glove compartments are another handy item.
• T-shirts may not be the most unique give away, but people will wear them especially if they have a unique design. If you want to make them special, set up a t-shirt making station and invite guests to make their own.

Whatever your give away, be careful not to overdo your branding or else people won’t use it. Keep your self-promotion clever and tasteful. Think about how you can incorporate your give away into your theme. For example, a give away for a Chicago themed event could be an umbrella with the Chicago Skyline on it, or a customized deck of cards for a Casino Night giveaway.

There are a lot of details in planning a successful conference opening reception. If you want assistance with creative theme ideas and execution, we are here to help.

Contact us!
Corporate Event Interactive

Dos and Don’ts of Communication in the Workplace

Good communication is a key ingredient for a successful company. Employees experience an increase in morale, productivity and commitment if they are able to communicate effectively with one another. Here are some do and don’t tips to improve communication in your workplace.

Do Know Your Style
People have a variety of communication styles and it is easy to misunderstand a co-worker if you are not on the same page. Some folks base their communication on facts and figures while others go with their gut. Knowing what style you are, and also knowing the styles of the people working with you, can help you communicate more effectively. For fun, try Mark Murphy’s assessment to learn more about your communication style.

Do Affirm Your Preferred Method
It’s good to reflect on how you like to communicate with others– do you prefer face-to-face meetings, emails, phone calls? It is equally important to understand how your co-worker best communicates and find common ground. Once you have determined your preferred style of working together, then you can move forward and hammer out next steps.

Do Define the Objective
If you are getting together to shoot the breeze, then have fun chatting… preferably over a pint of something on draft at the local pub. But if you are meeting in order to get something accomplished for the company, start by defining the objective. This basic step is often overlooked. Be clear about your end goal and agree on the steps that will get you to that end. Decide on who will be responsible for which steps in the process and how to measure whether or not the step is achieved. These clear goals and strategies will set up your future conversations for success as well.

Don’t Ask the Wrong Questions
For example, don’t ask leading questions. Leading questions presume that you know the answer. A leading question might be, “Do you think we should host the next meeting at the hotel down the street?” This presumes you know what the answer will be. Perhaps you can say instead, “Where do you think it would be best to host the next meeting?”
In general, ask short, open ended questions that allow your colleague to give their own thoughtful answers. They might have a great idea that you hadn’t even considered!

Focus on Good Communication

Do Actively Listen
Listen to your co-worker to understand what they are saying, don’t listen in order to reply. If you are concentrating on what you will say next, then it is much harder to truly listen to your colleague. You actually might miss what they said! To help you concentrate, remove distractions at the start of your conversation. This could mean turning your phone over, closing your laptop or simply putting your back to your computer screen.

Don’t Show the Wrong Body Language
Your body language can give you away if you are not really listening to your co-worker. Shift your body in such a way to demonstrate that you are engaged in the conversation. You can do this by leaning forward, uncrossing your arms, and looking them in the eye. Without saying a word, you can show your colleague that you understand what they are saying by nodding.
Think of someone in your life who is a good listener. What do they do when you are talking together? The next time you are engaged in conversation with them, make a mental note of their behavior and then try to mimic their actions.

Practice Makes Better
Good communication takes practice. Start by trying one of the above strategies for a few weeks until you feel like you have mastered the concept. Once you feel confident, move on to the next idea. Hopefully you will find your conversations and meetings are more productive and create a positive environment.

If you are looking for a creative way to practice communication with your teammates, consider trying one of our workshops such as Improv Workshop: Imagine the Possibilities or Team Development Challenge. Other benefits to these programs include increasing group effectiveness and strengthening leadership skills. Our Team Building programs also exercise communication skills, stimulate camaraderie and relieve stress. Whatever type of program suits your group; we are here to help you.

Contact us!
Corporate Event Interactive