Cara Carson, Western University’s 2012 conference co-ordinator, describes the team effort that goes into creating a successful employee education program.

What challenges come from creating a conference based on an advisory team rather than HR or management?
It’s a tricky balance at times: consulting and engaging a group in a planning process while being on a tight timeline and needing to forge ahead. We try to manage this proactively by creating a detailed project plan and ensuring that team meetings are well timed with decisions and consultations that need to happen.

How do you develop a program that appeals to such a broad employee base?
When we are considering the type of speakers and session topics to offer at the conference, we try to provide a wide variety of opportunities for employees to choose from. Not every topic will be applicable to everyone, so having choice is important. We also seek feedback at the end of every conference through an online survey. This allows staff to submit topics of interest and to ensure their voice is part of the process.

How do you encourage employees to engage in the conference (as volunteers or attendees) and maintain that engagement for the remainder of the year?
The conference really has become part of our culture. Even more powerful than our central marketing, word-of-mouth is what creates excitement for participating and volunteering for the conference. The best way for us to encourage positive word-of-mouth is by offering a high-quality conference experience. Delivering a conference doesn’t need to be huge and complicated—getting high-quality speakers on relevant topics is the priority. That’s the foundation to build on.

Tammy Burns is associate editor of BenefitsCanada.com. tammy.burns@rci.rogers.com

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Copyright © 2019 Transcontinental Media G.P. This article first appeared in Benefits Canada.

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