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Get Back in the Groove

4 min read

As we try to move away from talk of the pandemic, a few topics brought up in that period inevitably became ongoing conversations.

Perhaps the most popular discussion post-March 2020 is whether working from home or remotely is a better option than working in office.

Can We Do It? Yes, We Can!

Remote working gained popularity during lockdown, and the effort to get employees back in the office is causing a rift in the workforce. According to a Pew Research Study, around 35% of people are doing their work remotely, up 7% from pre-pandemic levels.

So what does this mean for conferences, group meetings and company retreats?

Well, for Arkansas companies like Rock Dental Brands and Stone Ward, getting employees back in the swing of group events came naturally.

“We were pretty quick to come back into the office after COVID,” said Kelly Grappe, vice president of marketing with Rock Dental Brands. “You get a lot of synergies from that face-to-face connection, and in our type of business, our providers have to be face-to-face. So it’s important from our perspective to make sure we’re kind of modeling what we expect there [in group meetings].”

While large-scale conferences bring in attendees from farther distances and can be appealing depending on where they’re held, it might be best to start reintroducing group events on a smaller scale.

Company retreats are fun ways to build trust and rapport within an organization and can ease employees back into the groove of socializing.

“For almost two years, we all worked from home, entirely,” said Millie Ward, owner of Stone Ward.

While the company was remote, Stone Ward decided it couldn’t give up its annual company retreat. So they took their annual day-and-a-half, off-site retreat and hosted it online.

The Stone Ward group at the company’s annual retreat (Stone Ward)

“We didn’t want to give that up. It’s a big tradition in our agency, and it’s the one time of year when we can focus on ourselves as well as our clients,” Ward said.

When the time came to return to in-person meetings, Stone Ward went back to its roots.

“People were so excited to see each other. We had gone a year and a half and not been together,” Ward said. “We had missed each other. We missed that opportunity to be face-to-face. There was no resistance. There was no one that said they felt uncomfortable coming.”

Like Stone Ward, Rock Dental Brands has seen an almost eager return to in-person meetings, with providers enjoying “the camaraderie and the sharing of ideas and best practices.”

“These types of meetings are important to be able to have those conversations,” Grappe said.

With Rock Dental’s providers spanning five states, reinstating in-person conferences wasn’t a guarantee. But with a couple of successful post-pandemic years under its belt, the company plans to continue the tradition.

In-person Pointers

Planning an event well in advance and getting the word out about scheduling is one of the best ways to get a good turnout from employees — remote or otherwise.

“People have busy lives and busy schedules. We talk about our provider event for months. We set up a page where they can go get information,” Grappe said. “Consistent messaging. In some cases, if we see somebody hasn’t registered, we reach out personally and say, ‘Hey, we see you haven’t registered.’”

Rick Steiner, owner of Steiner Event Group, said the best way to get employees out of that work-from-home mindset is to make sure the event has a purpose.

“The event has to be focused on a goal or brand of the host. From the beginning, there has to be a sense of excitement created to draw interest from attendees,” he said. “At the event, the program has to allow for participation rather than a lecture. This creates a desire from the attendees to know more about and feel a part of the event.”

According to Ward, group meetings and events “have to have more value than they probably ever had before.”

“If all you’re going to do is convey information — you can do that 1,000 ways now. I think everybody’s really having to look at those events and understand what the value of those events are to their audience and understand what has value about being person-to-person,” Ward said.

As offices figure out where to work, the hybrid method is appealing to some. And it transfers to the group event setting as well.

“Recently, live streaming has been a huge factor in many events… Many people were not comfortable traveling, and many venues limited the number of attendees that could be at an event. Live streaming allows for a larger audience… from various areas,” Steiner said. “[It] has been more prevalent in engaging a larger audience.”

No matter the method, having a safe space to convene with coworkers and employees will never go out of style.

“People still need human contact, positive affirmation that they matter, that they’re important and that they’re learning and growing,” Ward said. “And I think a successful meeting will do all of that. People enjoy being with people they’re not usually with every day.”

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