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12 steps to a remarkable corporate event

Leadership skills

It is no surprise that corporate events are very popular. They provide the attendees with a means to lift their head above the operational parapet of their daily responsibilities to find out what is happening in the wider world and how they might turn that into value. A remarkable corporate event does just that. It triggers attendees to remark to others about their great experience.

Event sponsors have latched onto this, particularly those who understand that establishing relevance and trust in their markets has a more positive impact on their business health than hard-nosed selling techniques.

The challenge event organisers face is that prospective attendees have a surplus of options in respect of which events they attend, particularly at the senior executive end of the market.

Having been a professional public speaker for over twenty years and spoken in over 35 countries, covering events ranging from intimate CxO dinners through to multi-thousand arena events, I have seen what works in terms of creating a remarkable corporate event. Attendees and sponsors naturally see value in remarkable corporate events. There is thus a very strong correlation between remarkable and your bottom line.

Here are some suggestions on how you can turn a ho-hum / good event into something remarkable.

Avoid wooden panelling

Ensure panellists and moderators speak and meet before going on stage. Don’t overly script the discussion unless there is some risk of creating an international crisis. Being known for creating the event that triggered a major conflict would certainly be remarkable. But that’s a risky strategy. For most events a free-flowing discussion works best. At the other extreme, remind panellists that the panel is not a competition to see with who agrees with the others the most.

The panel discussion should be sufficiently insightful and stimulating to engage the audience. So, plan to involve them at the earliest opportunity.

Ensure the moderator is sufficiently skilled to ‘follow the energy’. I have seen too may people wing it at what are high profile events, missing ‘tells’ that might well lead the discussion down a more interesting path. This doesn’t reflect well on the organisers and it frustrates the attendees and panellists.

Start the gossip

Be loud and proud in respect of your event hashtag, unless it is a private event. Make it very visible on all materials and media. Encourage speakers and sponsors to use it. Create momentum by having your own people bootstrap the social buzz. By referring to speakers and vendors, they will join in as will the delegates.

Avoid appointing a ‘Chairman of the bored’

Like moderators and speakers, there are plenty of people who can ‘wing’ the role of chairman. I occasionally chair events. I don’t like it because it requires significant preparation and laser focus on the day. Many organisers do not appreciate the ‘behind the scenes’ preparatory work. Chairmen need to be value adding. Anybody can read the profile of the next speaker, including the audience. Worse still, I have been introduced with a variety of accolades I don’t deserve because the chairman had only a vague notion of my biography. Similarly, they need to ask smart questions of the speaker and know when to hold out for an audience question when faced with silence. Most importantly they need to understand what the audience cares about. The quality of your event is in their hands once the event gets underway.

Remove roadblocks

remarkable corporate eventSpeakers and attendees, particularly at senior executive events, represent two major risks for your remarkable corporate event in respect of their attendance. Professional speakers know this and make the appropriate arrangements to reduce travel risk. VIP guests have a lot of pressure on their time and so could easily decide to opt out of your event to address a more pressing matter.

You can reduce this risk by arranging the transportation of the senior executives. This might be a limousine to pick them up from their office and to deliver them home after the event.

Similarly, you could let them know you are creating a document to share with the other invited senior executives that includes their biographies. Many executives will not want to be seen as a visible ‘no show’ in front of their peers. You could imply that biographies will be shared in a printed document, perhaps amalgamated with the dinner menu, so this might serve to increase the pressure on them to attend.

Avoid making your event an amateur hour showcase

Many people like the idea of being a public speaker. They perhaps offer to do it to address their deep fear of public speaking. Amateur speakers do not have time to do the preparation necessary to create remarkable material and deliver it impressively. It is painful to watch them work their way through their bullet-laden PowerPoint deck seemingly having a-ha moments as they recall at the last moment why they have included certain bullets.

There are many people who have accomplished great things and / or have had experiences relevant to the audience, but if they are not accomplished professional speakers their wisdom will go to waste. Better to have them on a panel where the moderator can manage the contribution.

Avoid your audience becoming a slave to the rhythm

Many event planners have the role thrust upon them and thus believe that they must create an event that is ‘value packed’, ie a continuous conveyor belt of speakers. Worse still, they factor no time in for Q&A, thus leaving the audience as passive observers, increasingly brimming with pent-up tension as the day progresses, because they did not have the opportunity to ask questions or challenge the messages.

Often time for networking is sacrificed in order to get yet another speaking slot into the programme. Better to think a relaxing ‘perusable Apple store’, rather than frenetic ‘conveyor belt cash and carry’ in this respect.

Your attendees are your guests, not your victims.

Turn your remarkable corporate event into an experience

You can dramatically increase the value of an event by turning it into an experience that extends beyond the event date. Particularly for senior executive events, sharing content associated with your speakers prior to the event can help create anticipation. Post event, particularly with respect to dinners, a summary of what was discussed along with key action points is perceived as valuable. Be careful to seek permission to attribute quotes before publishing. I find it easier to anonymise the commenters (Chatham House Rule).

Also creating some sort of service such as a forum that enables the guests to continue the discussion will help extend the experience. Low cost webinars / digital boardroom chats can be used too. As can relevant books. In respect of senior executives, 

Put the audience at the centre of your remarkable corporate event

Remarkable corporate eventWe are not designed to spend extended periods of time sat down. I have been involved in several programmes where the content designer has not factored in basic requirements such as the need for attendees to visit the bathroom.

As social animals, conferences and smaller events are ideally suited to our need to belong. Not everyone realises that it is in the breaks where the real value of the event is unleashed. So, it makes sense to build our basic human needs into the programme. As well as mobility and sociality, providing an experience that cultivates curiosity, a real sense of purpose and provides an opportunity for creativity will be valued by attendees because these are anthropological drivers that if met determine whether we are living as we should. It would be wise to make nature your business partner at your next event!

On a related note, I have attended many events where the exhibition hall is structured to align with the products and services of the exhibitors as opposed to the needs of the attendees. Well-designed events focus on what the attendees care about and ask the vendors to set up their stall accordingly. Smart vendors looking to influence at the c-suite level will see the value in this. Event organisers will need enough expertise built into their content team to guide in this respect.

Get personal

Some events are populated with attendees who have been sent along on behalf of their organisation. They have specific operational matters they need to explore at the event. But this is only one dimension of what is important to most professional people. Another dimension is strategy. Senior people in particular want a zoom-out perspective that puts their issues into context in respect of global trends and macroeconomic forces. This may well cause them to leave your event with a more energised sense of how they will take their organisation / department forward.

The third dimension is personal interest. You might say operational and strategic matters benefit the attendees’ organisation, whilst personal guidance benefits the attendees directly. So, content that covers topics related to careers, the future of work and personal performance provides the attendee with a real sense of having gained something of value by attending your event. Experienced speakers with a track record in this space can integrate strategic, operational and personal and still be aligned with the event theme.

Build a booster into your programme

Even the most attentive attendees can lose interest when the day is made up of variants on just one theme, particularly as the day goes on and the content seems to increasingly repeat itself. Having a speaker who covers a high impact topic that is not directly related to the overall theme can act as an audience reenergiser.

Done well this seemingly unrelated theme might well provide the delegates with an alternative way of thinking about the core theme of the event.

Don’t be a copycat

It is quite natural to see what themes are used by the top tier conference organisers / leading executive publications and replicate that. Very soon the conference scene is awash with cloud, AI and customer experience events all saying much the same thing.

Sometimes attendee adviser groups are created to ensure the content meets the needs of your specific community. Like focus groups in general, these don’t work.

Ensure you have access to genuine experts in the field because they know not only what today’s associated issues and opportunities are, but how the landscape is likely to change. As uncertainty and market volatility increase, these insights about the future are often the reason for attending your event.

Build a fail-safe on-stage team

As mentioned, speakers constitute a major risk to your event, as do panellists and moderators. Even the most detailed of planning cannot foresee an emergency board meeting that requires the attendance of your opening keynote speaker or an unscheduled Icelandic volcano eruption that makes it impossible for your moderator to get to the event.

Attendees in my experience tend to be quite accepting of these realities. But it is still important to ensure the delegate has a great experience because they are an important advocate in promoting subsequent events. Such realities can turn your potentially remarkable event into one that is just great, or worse still, good.

You can build fault tolerance into your event by involving people who can adapt to what could be a fluid situation. So, the chairman who can deliver a keynote, the panellist who could become the moderator or even the delegate who could do either would be valuable covert operatives in ensuring your event is fail-safe.

Closing curtain

Live events are not dissimilar to theatre. The difference is that with events the performance only runs once, the troupe / players have generally been spared the ‘tedium ‘of rehearsing and your event might well last several days as opposed to a couple of hours!

We are entering the attention age, or more accurately the inattention age. We have never been more distracted because there has never been a time where we have had more options to become distracted.

Good events won’t cut it. You need to create a remarkable corporate event. Hopefully the advice you have just read will play some part in the remarkability of your next event.

The author

Ade McCormack is a world-class keynote speaker focused on helping organisations, societies and individuals thrive in the digital age. His anthropological take on what is shaping our future resonates well with all audiences.


  • Has spoken in over thirty-five countries
  • Has lectured at MIT Sloan School of Management
  • Was a columnist with the Financial Times for over a decade
  • Has written six books on digital matters, including one for the European Commission
  • Is a former technologist who studied astrophysics and has worked for the European Space Agency, as well as with some of the world’s most well-known brands.

You can find out more about Ade at