How to Hold a Successful Company Leadership Summit


Chuck Cohn

September 7, 2016

Company leadership summits, which involve a tremendous investment of time and financial resources during their planning phase, are often only as successful as the preparation that is devoted to them. This preparation involves more than selecting a location, securing hotel rooms, scheduling flights, and drafting a list of potential speakers—in fact, it can, and should be, as detailed as considering the types of specific programming that you will offer throughout the event. Further complicating matters is the perception among some team members that leadership summits are ineffective.

But it is possible to hold a successful summit. Here are three pieces of advice to guide you as you plan your organization’s next leadership event:

1. Create space for a variety of interactions

Large-group presentations are a key component of company leadership summits, but successful summits also create space for hands-on work, small-group discussions, and one-on-one meetings. These sessions can be both formal and informal, as well as company-wide, team-specific, and mixed team.

Larger organizations may find cross-team conversations especially valuable, as team members in one department may typically have little opportunity to collaborate with staff members in other departments. A company leadership summit can thus serve as the perfect chance to exchange ideas.

Varied interactions can also assist with engagement. While it may be difficult for team members to maintain focus from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. if the entire day consists of formal large-group presentations, shifts in pacing can effectively recapture their interest.

2. Establish opportunities for staff members to share their ideas and thoughts

A great summit is not just top-down information sharing (which is more commonly accomplished via the distribution of newsletters and reports). To maximize your summit time, consider distributing materials like readings and reports before you meet to prime your discussions.

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Providing attendees with multiple methods for sharing their ideas and thoughts is also key. For example, team members could voice their opinions aloud during a panel or roundtable discussion, or they could write their thoughts down on Post-its and affix them to an idea wall. More than one mode of participation can help to ensure that all staff members feel comfortable speaking their minds.

3. Clarify what you wish to accomplish, and set follow-up action items

Prior to your summit, try to meet with senior leadership to discuss and agree on objectives. You are likely not holding a summit for the sheer sake of meeting—do you want to increase staff engagement on specific issues? Or do you have a particular deliverable that you want to have in hand by the conclusion of the summit?

Once you have determined your objectives, communicate them clearly to your team members and reinforce them throughout the duration of the summit. Explain what action items you will follow up on and when you will do so.

For some companies or departments, a project tracker can be a useful way to monitor action items, and to gauge the efficacy of your leadership summit. Even if you opt against a project tracker, a post-summit survey can help you evaluate whether or not your summit was effective.

Despite the response that company leadership summits occasionally engender, they are powerful business tools when executed correctly. When you explicitly outline your goals and create space for varied interactions and the free flow of ideas, you can transform months of careful planning into a successful leadership event.
Chuck Cohn is the CEO and founder of Varsity Tutors, a live learning platform that connects students with personalized instruction to accelerate academic achievement.

This article was written by Chuck Cohn from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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