10 tips: Employee events with an inconvenient message

How to deal with an employee event that is less fun?

Not because of the venue or the speaker line-up, but because of an inconvenient message that has to be shared: budget cuts, poor performances or even job losses. How can you as an organization prepare a storyline for such a delicate, yet important and strategic, event?

Here are 10 tips for those who have to bring an inconvenient message:

1. Tell what it does to you

Express your sincere concern. Obvious maybe to yourself, but by putting it out in words, it helps to build rapport with your audience. Also: tell people what they don’t need to be afraid of. This way you take away possible obstacles that prevents your team from further listening.

2. Underline the sense of urgency

Explain what will happen if you continue without any intervention. People need to understand the negative scenario of not stepping up.

3. Check-in with your audience

Keep a constant connection with your audience. It’s easy to become too rational when you do all the explaining. Ask every now and then: “how are you?” and encourage short interaction moments.

Picture of an event where the audiences answers question via their mobile phone by using Sendsteps

4. Get straight to the point

Don’t take too long to make your point. People are tensed and will lose you when your story becomes too extensive. Make your point loud and clear. Support every point with slides that give a compact summary.

5. Round off personally

As personal and empathetic as you’ve started your presentation, make sure to round it off in a similar way. Use an inspiring poem or text: as long as it works and still is matching your management style.

6. Ask for a first reaction

Use Sendsteps to answer the question “How do you feel now” and let attendees respond anonymously by selecting an answer option. The results on the presentation screen might be conclude negative sentiment, but at least it is clear, people feel heard and it’s easier to address than live reaction.

Photo of employees during a meeting

7. Space for live comments

Answering live comments might be challenging, but is important to make people feel heard. Allow digital input for those employees who find it difficult to raise questions out loud. When your board compromises more members, then also invite fellow board members on stage to participate in the audience Q&A.

8. Follow up with unanswered questions

Not all questions can be answered. Tell people in advance. However, also communicate when and how the audience can expect feedback of those questions that can’t be answered now.

9. Stay for drinks

For those who like to approach you more informal, it is helpful to stay during the drinks afterwards. Being present [as a leader], is an important sign on itself already. Leave your inner circle of colleagues for what it is and mingle with as many of your team members as possible: from juniors to seniors!

10. Practise and prepare

Such an important meeting requires a joint effort. You might be the messenger, but there’s a team to support you: an event professional to take care of an appropriate setting, a Head of Communications to guard the tone of voice, fellow board members to support and a moderator who takes care of time management, proper introductions and a streamlined Q&A session. Your prep mostly comes down to practise, practise and practise!

Robert Daverschot

Robert is a professional moderator, presenter and speaker coach. Robert has years of experience at home and abroad and works for a broad range of industries. He has interviewed ministers, captains of industry and even His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In his dealings with the audience, he always uses Sendsteps. With it, an audience is able to voice their opinions, whereby attendees can cast votes or send in comments to speakers and panels on stage. As such, events turn into lively dialogues with everyone being able to speak up!