Firstly, there is no point plan to purpose...I do however have 5 ways which I believe any event professional, conference planner or business can add social purpose (beyond profit that’s important) to any event in your annual calendar.
‘Social Impact’ is a broad term which means your business is having a positive effect in the wild turbulent world of society outside of your office building. Any solid, reputable business should have social impact in their agenda and with that, a ‘purpose’, and no, it can’t be ‘let’s make loads of money’. Consumers, clients, and employees, demand more substance from the brands they buy from and the companies they work for. The endless studies on millennials and generation Z are a testament to that.
Weaving purpose into your day to day business life should be seamless – if you're doing it correctly – but what about meetings, conferences or away days? Those necessary but often, fun events that ‘should’ be having a social impact but perhaps are lacking.
No need to fear, flying in like a proverbial superhero clad in lyrca, I am here with a cape load of suggestions:
1: Use a community venue
I can hear you all swallowing with disgust as I type ‘community’; you are having flashbacks of damp cold halls and taps with no hot water. A corporate client does not want to hold an away day in-between pre school and yoga classes. But think again!
One of my favourite places to hire is St Luke’s Community Centre in Old Street, London. It’s a purpose built modern community centre that boasts five different sized meeting and conference spaces. They also do delegate rates. So not only would you be supporting an organisation that gives back to the community, you are still getting a highly professional meeting space.
You can also take advantage of the rejuvenation of libraries up and down the country. These temples of knowledge are being refurbished and rebuilt to include meeting rooms which are often designed to suit smaller budgets, but not lacking in facilities.
This is an easy way to prove your purpose to your clients and staff. Show that you support your local community and at the same time get top quality rooms for a lower price than your usual supplier.
2: Make your purpose obvious
This may seem in itself an obvious point. But we are all guilty of missing the obvious.
What is the point of your conference? Make it clear throughout the day so that your employees know what your company purpose is and where you want to go with it.
Some businesses I’ve worked with will have a thought-out clear purpose, however may struggle to communicate it clearly with employees. If for example your purpose is to teach the world to high five – a silly but strong goal we should all strive for – start your company financial meeting by having everyone high five. Explain why, and how they can carry that high five to others. Write it on every piece of paper, every slide, hell make it part of your tagline!
I think my favourite example of this is Lego. Not sure if you have heard of them but their strapline is ‘Inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow’ however all they do is make small plastic bricks for kids. Go figure.
A little known fun fact: 25% of the lego business is owned by their foundation. That means 25% of Lego’s profit goes into their mission, it also holds them accountable for this mission. I have been to their offices and they breathe their purpose. Every new design, each movie made is all to further the mission. It has made them the brand they are today
This is on an international scale; that said there is no reason why SME’s can’t make a bold statement like Lego, and build their purpose into all and any events, buy having it part of who they are.
3: Use a Charity speaker
Let’s all consider charities in another way: they are amazing businesses where their profits go into doing good and making the world a better place. Why wouldn’t you use their expert knowledge to teach and inspire your workforce?
The SR Group, or to be specific, Frazer Jones UK host the Expert Charity Speakers Network and it’s a great place to find charities to help your business, it’s a revelation! We can all learn from charities, this network from Frazer Jones, creates a platform for top charity professionals to help businesses develop new working practises. Only a few days ago they hosted Macmillian at Work to deliver a free introduction to managing cancer in the workplace. Other great examples are Mind and Stonewall but there are loads of charities who have programmes for businesses.
If you already have strong ties with a charity ask them if they can come and talk at your next staff or director meetings.
Surely this just makes sense? Where else could you ever get expertise like that!
4: Breakout sessions? You mean impact sessions.
We have all sat at a conference, tired and over worked. Using the last half an hour clock watching until lunch, so we can take a moment to refresh and rehydrate. If it’s not the call of lunch that makes us giddy, it’s the breakout sessions or perhaps drinks (we will get to that in a minute)
I think it’s safe to say we are all fed up with facilitators coming in and showing us how to make towers of cups, or marshmallows and spaghetti. I am leading a full revolution against out dated, tired and frankly boring teambuilding sessions. So let’s turn those sessions into something impactful. That way we can have fun and do good, right?
Volume48 do exactly that, creating events with purpose. With events conceived with charities that will add social impact to whatever event or activity a business wants to put on.
As a simple example, take breakout sessions. How about mindfulness canvas painting, where the completed paintings are hung in a local hospice? You will get the headspace you need to go back in and concentrate on the conference, plus you have made an impact in 30 minutes. Really think about how you can show your employees, and stakeholders how purpose is at your core.
5: Use a local charity or community caterer
I feel the collective sighs, ‘but the food won’t be of the same high standard my client needs it at’ I call Banana’s! (referencing a bit of Gwen Stefani there, you are welcome)
What you client wants is good tasty food, and lots of it. Oh and drinks.
Then really when you think about it, why waste your clients money on a well branded, but otherwise regular caterer, when if we are super honest, all we want is delicious food.
There are many ways you can achieve this, the best way is by using local small businesses – cafés, restaurants or takeaways, if you just ask them, they’ll be delighted. Your impact on them will be tremendous - Support local businesses and your community - plus chances are it will be cheaper.
Or if your client or CEO couldn’t do without the servers dressed in black chef robes, then ask your caterer to use an ethical supplier. We work very closely with the charities like Foodcycle and City Harvest in London who source and use surplus food to supply communities. Just chat with your caterer about their food wastage policy and check to see what happens afterwards. I’ve been to countless events that are over catered to meet client needs, and the food is simply thrown out as it seems like too much effort to think about how to ethically give the food a next step in it’s life.