The WebiNerd has always been fully remote, and we like to think of ourselves as…
How Invoca, the leader in AI-powered conversation intelligence for revenue teams, infused their virtual event with their company culture.
We recently had the pleasure to work with Director of Corporate Marketing, Sandy Pell, and her team at Invoca, the leading active conversation intelligence platform for revenue teams, to assist them in delivering their annual “Company Connect” conference to hundreds of internal staff.
We’ve been talking a lot with folks about better representing organization culture and company culture in their virtual events. There are many approaches to addressing this topic:
- Improving audio and video best practices
- Developing virtual rapport-building skills
- Developing top-notch presentation delivery
And, of course…
- loading your brand into your event with your slides, virtual backgrounds and more to bring everyone together, in one virtual space, as one team, in the ether…/wink
The energy was palpable throughout the two-day event with upbeat videos, a secret package sent to all employees in the mail, engaging presentations, and a vigorously active chat full of praise, celebration and ongoing encouragement. Invoca threw it down for their employees, and it was so entertaining! This is the second time that The WebiNerd had the pleasure of working with Invoca. We helped them bring their Company Kickoff to life in February 2021 as well.
As the spearhead of these internal virtual events, I asked Sandy a few questions to see if she could share some of the secret sauce that made these an ultimate success.
Sandy, your Company Connect event was inspiring for me to assist, and not just because you let me pick the music. It proves a point that I’ve been eager to express to others: instilling and infusing your brand, culture, and spirit into virtual events has a direct payoff and ROI in what could be called the “culture feedback loop” and employee engagement.
The theme for your Company Connect event was represented from the top down. From the slide deck to the virtual backgrounds, gift cards and boxes, costumes delivered to leadership – it was a lot of effort and so fun to witness. I feel like this heavily-branded theme and all of the fun surrounding it helped tremendously to bring people together for a greater purpose and with greater excitement than there may have been without it. Kudos to you and the team on that.
What theme did you choose and why? What’s its significance, and how did you find your teams embracing it and carrying it forward?
We knew that planning an all-hands virtual event for such a large team, especially when everyone was used to being physically together, would surface several challenges. So we began by asking the basic questions:
- Could we replicate the in-person, all-hands experience in a virtual way?
- Could we find a theme that would excite and inspire everyone to get involved in their own way?
- Could we time the event to ensure people didn’t feel a content overload?
- Could we build a communications strategy to add excitement prior to the event?
- Could we make the technology an invisible part of the event?
- Could we find creative ways for speakers, including external partners and customers, to share our passion and commitment to the theme?
At a high level, our goals were simple:
- Support executive messaging and strategy alignment
- Drive brand awareness and category thought leadership internally
- Navigate change management and transformation
- Attract and retain our top talent
- Live the corporate culture and values
- Inspire and engage our employees
In Invoca’s case, back in February, we decided on our outer space theme: “All Systems Go!” This theme set the foundation of our new fiscal year, so when we ran our second all-hands event this August, we elaborated on that initial theme. The expanded theme was: “Sky’s the Limit” – as in there are no limits to what’s possible.
I genuinely believe that when planning a virtual event, for a theme to be successful you must incorporate it into every detail of the overall experience. First, we “fueled” our team by providing them with gift cards so that they could order themselves food over multiple days.
Second, we ensured that all company-wide communication related to the event spanned all channels, including emails, Slack, newsletters, social, and more. We hinted at what was to come and encouraged teams to prepare for the activities. We used custom, space-themed emojis and kept “in character.” All messages, for example, related to the administration and planning of the event came from “MISSION CONTROL” along with **beep** **beep** notes and italicized/bolded fonts. We didn’t make our theme a surprise either. Instead, we heavily publicized the theme two weeks before the event to encourage everyone to get involved in their own way.
Finally, while keeping the budget in mind, our design and marketing teams also prepared physical swag boxes that we opened together from our home offices right when the event began.
Was it hard to get your executives to buy into dressing up to match your theme and bring that fun, or was that natural for them? Some of the outfits “didn’t breathe so well,” as Marty said. They were great sports all around. How did you make that happen?
Haha, nope! I wouldn’t say getting our executives to dress up was a challenge (although maybe Marty may have ordered one a little too small!). When we first launched our space theme in February, Debby Sopadjieva, a member of our corporate marketing team, was the initial “convincer” of the costume. Without hesitation, she ordered space suits for our entire executive team.
In May, Invoca acquired DialogTech. As part of the acquisition, we welcomed several new executives to the leadership team. When I suggested that they too order space suits, yes, they were surprised, but knowing that other speakers would be wearing them brought comfort. Once everyone came together at the Zoom speaker prep-meeting, it was just spectacular to see the theme come to life. I’d go as far as saying that getting our speakers into costumes helped ignite their sense of excitement and add new elements of “character” to their presentations.
The presentation design was top notch, and we took some extra time to make sure that everything displayed just right (heads up: we learned that Mac and Windows use different emoji sets). It was really fun and furthest away from corporate/stuffy to see leadership faces superimposed on astronauts. There were many screenshot-worthy moments. Was it easy to get your designer on board and your leadership to love the ideas? Were there any challenges overcome in collaborating to achieve that unified feeling?
Our Senior Director of Creative, Matt Brodersen, is a next-level creative perfectionist, so no–it wasn’t hard to get him on board. Matt led the entire internal brand for our Company Connect event.
We started by narrowing down the theme, then Matt created a foundational Google Slide deck template that all speakers could use when planning their portions. This deck kept speakers “on-brand” but allowed them to add content specific to their key initiatives. We also shared a list of space-themed keywords so that speakers could incorporate them into their content.
Matt knocked every task out of the park from our branded slide decks that had incredibly creative “transition” slides between sections to our post-event survey headers, gift notecards, baseball hat designs, water bottles, and more.
So much more. Very impressive collaboration.
Is there anything else you’d share with others about how you brought the Invoca culture and energy into this event? Maybe anything you’d do differently next time?
I’d actually love to share one fun fact: Early on in my career, I had tremendous fears of public speaking. A mentor suggested to me that when I’m presenting to a group, that I act 25% more energetic than what I’d consider my normal. His theory suggests that it’s very natural for presenters to hold themselves back, so if we force ourselves to go beyond our comfort zone by 25%, we end up coming off just right. When I was helping prepare our speakers for this event, I shared that advice, especially as they were recording video content. I’m confident this quick tip helped them deliver a fresh sense of energy.
Finally, yes, there are always opportunities for improvement when planning any virtual event. We always send out an anonymous feedback survey and take that feedback very seriously in planning follow-up experiences. For example, in February, our teams requested longer breaks so they could tend to children or eat meals (vs. the 15-minute breaks). So for this latest event, we ran two breaks, one for 30-minutes and the second for 60-minutes. The feedback was well received.
At the end of the day, my advice is to go above and beyond at every touchpoint related to the event experience. You’ll end up surprising yourself with what’s possible when it all comes together.
We want to thank Sandy and the team at Invoca for having such a fun and creative approach to their virtual event. Have a question for Sandy? She recommends connecting with her on LinkedIn.
We want to hear from you too. How can we help you get more out of your virtual events? Schedule time with our team today!