A few respondents to Convene’s most-recent Salary Survey cited coming up with new ways to engage attendees as their biggest challenge. The recently published book Rituals For Work: 50 Ways to Create Engagement, Shared Purpose and a Culture That Can Adapt to Change, by Kursat Ozenc and Margaret Hagan, has a few answers for that. In the book, Ozenc, a strategic design consultant at SAP Labs, and Hagan, director of Legal Design Lab at Stanford University Law School, share 50 activities that spark meaning for participants in the workplace, and many of them easily translate to the events space.
“We use the term ‘ritual’ to capture practices that have a special power to make a meaningful moment,” the authors write. “They have unique factors that elevate them above normal experiences.”
We’ve picked two ideas from Rituals For Work that can elevate your attendees’ experience — and even better, are easy and inexpensive to implement.
The Idea Party
An Idea Party serves a dual purpose. It’s a celebration of the end of a team workshop or hands-on session, and also a way “to loop the rest of your organization into the creative work through a lightweight event,” Ozenc and Hagan write. The Idea Party should take place right after a creative session in which the product of the session is laid out like a gallery where “ideas and insights are displayed on big foam boards or walls.” During this party, everyone in the organization should be invited to mingle, ask questions, leave comments, and rank which ideas should move forward.
How It’s Done
- Once a creative session finishes, make each team responsible for making their work into a poster.
- Designate a facilitator to kick off the party by outlining the goals of the session to the entire organization.
- Make sure the idea poster with the most votes to move forward gets a special prize — “a basket of gifts, funding for the project, or something else,” Ozenc and Hagan suggest.
- Leave the posters out after the party to increase exposure.
At an event, the Idea Party could be a way for workshop participants to share their brainstorming work with a larger audience — attendees who weren’t in the workshop. The Idea Party can benefit those who weren’t in the workshop by sharing the main takeaways from the session, and engage them by having them vote on the best ideas.
The Anxiety Wall
The Anxiety Wall is a physical space where colleagues are encouraged to let their collective worries out. The authors suggest that teams use this during performance review time, a reorganization, or a busy season. This should be a space people frequently pass. Small chunks of clay are made available for participants to play with and then stick to the wall. “It allows for nervous fiddling — giving a common action to perform to release worried energy,” Ozenc and Hagan write. “And it helps build a sense of shared emotions by showing that many others have similar feelings.”
How It’s Done
- Close to where the anxiety-inducing event will take place, find a blank wall to cover with a durable surface, which colleagues can then stick things onto or even write on. This could be a canvas or whiteboard paint, for example.
- Write “Anxiety Wall” on this surface and leave simple instructions: “Take some sticky stuff. Play while you wait. Roll it, smash it, twist it, whatever. When you’re called in, stick it to the wall. Feel free to sign and write a message too,” Ozenc and Hagan suggest.
- Set up a station with modeling clay or putty, with different colors to choose from.
The Anxiety Wall could serve a few different audiences at your event. There may be attendees who feel anxious for all sorts of reasons — they miss home, their inboxes are filling up with emails while they’re at your event, and/or they might not know any other attendees. By putting an Anxiety Wall near registration or in other areas in the meeting venue, attendees can share their mutual concerns and feel less alone. It would also be a way to help subject matter experts, panelists, and inexperienced speakers work through any stage fright or release some nervous energy.