In a recent meeting, we were discussing an upcoming event, and I was struck by the difference of opinions being shared. I love debate; I love contrarian views; I love outside the box ideas; but this felt different. Were we even talking about the same event? It seemed like some were planning a wake and others a wedding.
After a few questions, I was able to confirm my hunch – we were not on the same page. We thought we were, but our assumptions couldn’t have been more different. As we continued to talk, it became clear to me the individuals involved were envisioning fundamentally different events. By different events, I mean gatherings with radically different desired outcomes.
That conversation led me to describe the five different types of events outlined below. Now, before you read these, I need to acknowledge, the types are not mutually exclusive, but I think you’ll agree, the keys to success could be very different for each type.
Catalytic – That’s the type event we’re hosting this week. The primary outcome is action. We want to motivate, inspire and inform action. Often, these events are created to launch a process. That implies you’ve also designed the post-event process. These events can turbo-charge unified, and even synchronized, activity.
Training – This is an event in which the primary objective is to equip people to do something they couldn’t do when they arrived. Many elements of these events are different from other events – everything from room setup, facilitation and the agenda itself will need to be different to accomplish your objectives.
Cultural – The objective of these events is not always tangible. The primary outcome can be a feeling… appreciation, gratitude, belonging, affinity, or whatever cultural values you want to promote. Leaders often use events to align and strengthen their organization’s culture.
Appreciation – Often positioned as an award or recognition event, these settings are the perfect venue to reinforce behavior you want to see repeated. Done well, this is a chance to clarify and reinforce what matters in an organization. If you operate a non-profit organization and you host an event to recognize volunteers, that sends a strong signal to current and potential volunteers.
Entertainment – Don’t be deceived by the label on this one. There is power in fun. The common experience of a fun, entertaining event can be a unifying element in an organization. People still talk about the time we invited Jeff Foxworthy to entertain us. There was no “content.” It was just fun. And, we’re better because we laughed together.
As I mentioned, combinations of the above types are certainly possible. In these scenarios, you actually have events within events. The challenge in this case is to avoid compromising your primary objective in order to accomplish a secondary outcome.
Events are a strategic bet – an investment leaders are willing to make because we anticipate a return. The more you try to accomplish in a single event, the less likely you are to get the return you desire. Don’t miss the power of focus. It amplifies success in events as it does in life.