How to brew the perfect managers’ conference

One of my favourite C.S Lewis quotes is: “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

Karen Freberg, Rachel MillerAnyone who has worked with me will know how much I love tea. I’ve always got a brew on the go (I have one next to me in a large Cath Kidston mug as I type).

However, with three children under three and currently being on maternity leave, I rarely get to drink it hot anymore (and microwaving tea is not something I condone!).

How can you take the metaphor of a chocolate teapot and learn how to brew the perfect managers’ conference? You’re in the right place to find out.

I particularly like the video at the end of this post and hope you do too.

When Karen Freberg @kfreberg, Assistant Professor in Strategic Communications at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, and her research colleague Sabrina Page, visited London last year, I suggested we had tea at the iconic Fortnum & Mason store to put the comms world to rights over a pot or two (pictured).

You can read about our meeting here.

A cup of tea can solve all kinds of problems, and today I’ve got a guest post to share with you which busts the myth of chocolate teapots being useless and guides you through creating the perfect managers’ conference.

It’s written by Ashley Freeman, Head of Sales and Marketing at employee engagement company INVOLVE. Over to you Ash…

It turns out chocolate teapots do have a use…

Our Twitter feed @Involve_UK has been awash with pictures of chocolate teapots recently! Why? Because it turns out there is one valuable use for chocolate teapots (if not for tea)….engagement!

By sending our followers, colleagues and customers their own chocolate teapots, we have reminded them of one of our key messages – internal events and conferences can, in fact, be more useful than a chocolate teapot…you just have to know how to run them!

About as useful as a chocolate teapot
It is often said that managers’ conferences and internal events are about as useful as a chocolate teapot. It is true that many conferences and events aren’t effective and fail to deliver on ‘business critical goals’ or improve what they ought to in terms of business performance.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

The opportunity to bring together your most valuable people doesn’t come along very often, so if you’re making the investment, why not deliver a hard-hitting and engaging experience with tangible business improvement goals? (Tweet this)

If you follow a few simple steps, your conferences and events can be far more useful than any chocolate teapot, and even help your employees live your brand internally and improve customer experience.

Here are our ten steps to brewing the perfect managers’ conference:

Step 1: Ask yourself – why am I holding this conference?
Once you identify clearly what motivated the event, and the change attendees want to see, it’s a lot easier to plan content that will help achieve your goals and objectives.

Step 2: Encourage contributions to the content of the conference
Nobody wants to attend a single-minded event that is the baby of one man or woman. They want to see a diverse smorgasbord of rich, engaging content from a variety of creators and minds. It’s a more inclusive way to plan events, both for your employees and your attendees.

Step 3: Minimise one-way communication
A mistake most conferences and events have made in the past is to fill the timetable with dry, one-way talks and PowerPoint presentations. We can tell you now that PowerPoint is dead, and a sure way to make sure your conferences are more useful than a chocolate teapot is to fill them with interactive, collaborative and stimulating discussions, games and seminars.

Step 4: Make the most of the time
It is not often that you get everyone in one room together, so make the most of the time you have. Think about the best and most effective way to spend the time you have together, and focus on what you can achieve. Share a cup of tea or two and get talking!

Step 5: Get involved
Maximise involvement to encourage attendees to get immersed in the experience, and think of a way forward for the business themselves.

“Co-create ideas, solutions, priorities and actions”

Step 6: Set a goal
Define one goal to participants that they need to crack by the end of the event. Galvanise everyone’s energy around that.

Step 7: Have fun
Warm up your event with a little fun – use graphic facilitators, optional sessions, break-ins and break-outs, icebreakers, music and rousing finales to keep people stimulated.

Step 8: Join in
Deploy your top team members as ambassadors to guide the session and facilitate involvement.

Step 9: Feedback
At the end of the conference, ask ‘what will you do differently tomorrow?’ A gentle reality check at the end of the conference will help attendees contextualise what they have learnt in the real world.

Step 10: Share on
Ensure that the outcomes of the conference are taken back to business.

Follow these ten steps, and we guarantee that your next conference will be as tasty, but far more useful tan a chocolate teapot!

Want to know more? Watch this video on how to brew the perfect managers’ conference.

Post author: Ashley Freeman

Thank you Ashley. What do you think? Are these steps useful or do you have other tips to add? You’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC.


First published on All Things IC blog 15 May 2015.


  1. Helen says:

    sound advice

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