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How to align corporate events with corporate values

Karen Nichols

Creating events that align with your company culture and values is an excellent way to display your unique philosophy to both clients and employees. The past several years have seen a dramatic reduction in both the number of companies producing events and tighter budgets for those annual gatherings that have been retained. Starting our company, Red Carpet Events and Design, in this atmosphere has led to greater creativity on our part to help our clients see how these occasions provide a unique opportunity to demonstrate the values that are most important to your company. We are capable of planning high-end parties, but for the purpose of this article, we will focus on events that have a limited budget. There are an endless number of tenets that can be emphasized, but let us address some common ones such as creativity, teamwork and integrity to illustrate our ideas.

Atlassian Software Systems, an Australian company had a very creative video made to illustrate their company values and what their employees thought of them (Google it, you will love the video as long as you aren’t offended by profanity!). One of their values (abbreviated for this article) is “Creativity.” Invite all of your employees to an after-hours get together at the office call in for pizza and wings or go with a fun “street food” such as “pupusas” from El Salvador along with chips and salsa. Have sugar cookies baked for the event and then have a variety of frostings and cookie decorations available. Create a competition for the best decorated cookie and any other interesting categories with the group voting on the winners. Afterwards the team can bring the cookies to a local charity, or they can bring a box of the cookies home to their family!

Another way to promote creativity is to have your employees produce the party themselves. Make it a team project, give them a budget and some basic parameters and let them build the party that they always wanted. Several ground rules are needed; the first one being that everyone needs to be a part of the process, second is that creativity in both the planning and the content of the party are paramount. I am always impressed by groups that have never planned an event before. They usually come up with some of the most innovative ideas because they don’t have any preconceived notions on what a “typical” party should be. Make sure to recognize the group with either a gift or your undying gratitude!

Our company promoted teamwork at our last holiday party by having our staff help with the food as well as participating in games during the event. We have a multi-cultural staff and have had parties in the past that were catered so that everyone could enjoy the occasion (we thought). This actually turned out to be incredibly awkward, with lots of standing around in small groups and forced conversations, ugh! This past year, we purchased carnitas and marinated steak from a local carniceria, rented a BBQ in December and had a good old-fashioned fiesta in our warehouse. One of our supervisors barbecued the meats, we purchased tortillas and then every employee brought one homemade dish. The entire team complimented each other on what they had brought, and everyone learned something about their fellow employees that day; how they learned to cook Italian dishes, who made the best salsa, etc. The food was served buffet style and then we played a variety of games including a Pop-a-Shot basketball tournament, with everyone cheering on the players. Afterwards, we purchased gifts for the entire team and displayed them, unwrapped; we then started with the most senior person, who chose their gift, on down to our newest employee. We bought extras, so no one was forced to have the last gift. As each employee obtained their gift, both Julie and I said something special about that person to the entire group. As everyone left that day, they all said that it was one of the best parties ever and asked when we could do it again. It was a success!

If integrity is something that your company values, planning your holiday event around helping others is a perfect way to highlight this. For a recent association event, we proposed a chili cook off between the members at the Food Bank of Northern Nevada. The group would help to box food for the Food Bank at the beginning of the evening, then go to the Food Bank’s large reception room to sample chili made by the separate teams. The association provided condiments for the chili (shredded cheese, sour cream, Fritos, ask your members what they like!) salad, cornbread, beer, wine and sodas from a local caterer. The group would then vote on the winner of the chili cook off, with a grand prize for the winners and additional prizes for the other teams for participating.

We have always wanted to do a geocaching event for one of our clients, but just haven’t had the opportunity as of yet. Sort of a combination “Amazing Race” and the aforementioned geocaching, this event would involve teams finding hidden treasures by using their smartphones and then meeting for a fun dinner or lunch. The organizers would give each team a set of coordinates for the first location and then leave clues and prizes for the next location at each spot that was found. The final destination would be where the food and drinks would be, with awards for each of the teams. This type of party definitely involves logistical coordination and transportation for the teams, so plan accordingly. There are lots of great transportation companies in the area that can offer reasonably priced cars or mini buses for the day, or operate the event in an urban area and have everyone walk or Segway to the different sites?

Finally, something that I feel is paramount for company planners to keep in mind is to create events that not only illustrate your values, but that are inclusive. Not all of your employees are socially adept, so create a party that offers all types of activities and will make it equally easy for everyone to talk to the CEO or a new employee. Happy Holidays!

Karen Nichols is vice president of Red Carpet Events & Design in Sparks. Contact her at 775-355-1505 or through http://www.redcarpeteventsanddesign.com.