Far too often, annual staff celebrations are left to the last minute or simply rehashes of the previous year’s shindig, when they should be something far more. Last evening’s Oscar awards show clearly points out three classy lessons for how to make your annual celebration something memorable.
1. Make it an Event – The Oscars Awards show isn’t just another awards show, it is THE event actors and actresses look forward to attending (as well as movie lovers everywhere from the comfort of their homes). Months of preparations go into the event. From set designs to scripts, from outfits to jewelry, from presenters to seating arrangements, and from the red carpet to the parties afterwards, the Oscars are an event.
Now, obviously, most small and medium-sized businesses can’t afford to put on an event like the Oscars, but you can create AN event that your people will look forward to every year. You can make it a formal affair so that everyone dresses their best. You can put together or hire some local talent for a small “production.” You can allocate enough of your budget to make your employees feel special. You can put together a team three to six months ahead of time to work on it so that they/you have time to make something remarkable happen.
Your annual celebration event doesn’t have to be a last minute affair that’s just thrown together. Make it an event–and your people will look forward to it–and they will feel far more valued!
2. Make Your Comments Heartfelt and Well-Prepared – One of the nice traditions from the past several years is towards the end of the evening when they’re getting ready to choose the best actor and actress recipients, they have one person who’s worked with the nominee get up and say something nice about them. Five nominees, five short “speeches.” Some of the people making these comments are clearly not very close to the nominee. Some of them try to say something funny. But the ones that are most memorable, like Michelle Pfeiffer’s comments last evening about Jeff Bridges, are heartfelt and well-prepared.
She didn’t try to be funny or glib or light. She spoke from her heart and spoke of how much she admired Jeff and his work–as well as his commitment to his family (believe it or not, he’s someone in Hollywood who has been married for 33 years). Jeff was moved to tears, And so were we. I’ve forgotten most of the funny comments (other than Tim Robbins’ comments about Morgan Freeman–which would only make sense if you heard them), but I haven’t forgotten her comments to Jeff–nor the level of emotion they evoked. I doubt Jeff will forget them either.
In other words, don’t just wing your comments about your employees. If you’re going to honor them, honor them. Take the time to say something that’ll move them, that let’s you know how much you appreciate them, and that will evoke an emotion in everyone hearing them. There are times for roasts and light humor. But when you want to honor someone and make them feel it, speak from your heart and let them feel it.
3. Get as Many People as Possible Involved – In far too many SMBs, too many leaders think, “If I want this to be something that my people appreciate, I need to just let them attend. I’ll take care of all the details.” But that’s wrong thinking. How many actors and actresses do you think think, “Boy, I hope they don’t ask me to be a presenter this year!” Buzz! They want to participate. Or how many actors or actresses think, “I hope they don’t send me a ballot or ask my opinion.” Etc.
When something is classy, people want to participate (it’s when it’s just thrown together that they don’t). Furthermore, as a leader, you should know, “What people help create, they own.”
Get as many of your people as possible involved in creating and delivering your annual celebration event. Make it special. Make it the highlight of the year. Make it something everyone looks forward to. And not only will your people want to play a part–they’ll also feel more valued and appreciated–and happier to be on your team–which sounds like a win-win to me!
To your accelerated success!
P.S. If you’ve ever been a part of a great annual celebration, write what happened (or what you did) in the comments section below. Share the wealth.
P.P.S. The three key questions are
1. What would make this year’s celebration an event that people will remember (and not just a rehash of last year)?
2. What can I (or others) say that will move our awards’ recipients emotionally?
3. How can we get as many people as possible involved in this event (starting at least three to six months out)?