Meetings and events are a great way to connect. Far more effective than email and phone calls, gatherings can be used to promote your business and brand, increase employee cohesion and reward hard work.

What is

Major corporations spend upwards of 4% of their revenues on Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE). Annual budgets can easily exceed 100 million dollars and are serviced by a staff of full time Certified Meeting Planners (CMP). Big business has seen the value in MICE spending, and so can you.

You do not need to be CMP or have a million dollar MICE budget to have a successful MICE program at your business. The focus of this article will be producing a well-rounded event with speakers, entertainment, and team building. These types of events both motivate and reward employees and can be much cheaper to produce than you might think.

Tired of Hearing about Your Coworkers’ Cats?

Placing a bunch of employees in a room with some sheet cake and forcing them to socialize is indecent. Not only does it make people uncomfortable, but they do not feel rewarded or appreciated. Remember poor Milton from Office Space?

Say hello to the new office party.

1) Save Money by Consolidating and Networking

Instead of recognizing each sales goal, birthday, or milestone with its own event, consolidate. Your people will appreciate the quality over the quantity. One well-planned event, even on a tight budget, can be much better than multiple events. Consider the time lost gathering people together each time there is a birthday. The simple act of singing a song and eating some cake could take an entire hour, times the number of employees, by the time you factor getting people back to work and refocused.

Why not consolidate and throw a Summer Birthday Party and a Winter Birthday Party? Save your money on cakes and hire a comedian or magician to drop in and entertain your team and break up the day. This can be done for just a few hundred dollars.

You might not even know it, but that comedian or magician might already be part of your own network. Ask around at the office and through your personal network. You will find people offering dance troupes, improve groups, musical acts, the list is endless. These people are always looking for places to perform and will name you a great price if not do it for free or for trade.

2) Rock Out

If you are looking for the big wow factor at your event, consider hiring a band. Groups like Earth Wind and Fire and KC and the Sunshine Band will play at your event for much less than you might think. You might even partner with another business and split the cost. If you partnered with some other businesses and raised fifty thousand dollars or more, you could easily both feed and entertain a large group. When you book the talent, the booking agency will provide the production services. All you will have to do is coordinate the refreshments and venue.

Companies like Sports Marketing and Entertainment can provide larger name acts. If you do not have the budget, call your local wedding planner and see what bands perform locally and get their rate.

3) Lend me your Ears

If you have a certain theme for your event like technology or leadership, book a speaker. Speakers bureaus will be able to get you access to the big names in motivation, business, and leadership, but be prepared to pay well.

If you are looking for something smaller scale, you might be able to find someone through the local chamber of commerce or university. Having a professional or academic authority speak on a certain topic can be a very enriching experience for your employees.

If you are going to handle the booking yourself and choose not to go through an agency, be sure to have a handle on the production side of the event. Make sure to provide your speaker with adequate audio capability. Perhaps at least hiring a small audio visual (AV) company would be wise.

4) Build and Bond

Team building events like treasure hunts, geocaching, and even good old fashioned softball do not cost much of anything but time. Another popular trend is to involve your team on an interesting community service project.

Be careful to not confuse team building with incentive planning. Team building activities should be used for enrichment, not reward. Jennifer Walker of Yahoo! Associated Content warns “If only one person supports an idea, it's very easy for the idea to fall by the wayside.” So if your goal is to reward, then it might be difficult to achieve critical mass with a team building exercise. Some people might not view the exercise as a reward, but rather more work, especially if it is done during personal time! Achieving critical mass will be difficult and might defeat the purpose of the event.

However, if you’re planning on team building in addition to booking Elton John and serving dinner, I doubt too many people would object to spending some of their personal time with their coworkers!


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