Rapport won an award for Best Conference/Exhibition of the Year and Corporate Event of the Year at The Drum UK Event Awards 2017 for its work with Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health. Here, it explains the strategy used to make this award-winning team conference.
Bring together 170 global leaders from 19 different countries; unite two separate leadership teams together as one; reveal new branding; launch new values; announce new strategies; allow delegates time and space to get to know each other; ensure delegates leave on a high - connected by a single purpose. And it all has to be done in 58 days.
This was our mission, should we choose to accept it, and of course we did. Excited by the opportunity to take a 'dry' subject like integration, and create something exciting, 'One with the power to shape the future' would be the exact opposite of what delegates were used to.
Less focus on senior figures and presentations, down with PowerPoint, away with hours and hours of just talking at people. Taking place in a four-star hotel, in an enviable European city, at a venue that was perfectly positioned to allow time and space for networking, discovery, reflection and understanding. This was a conference that would shape culture, inspire people, build teams, and define leadership.
'One with the power to shape the future' was, for all intents and purposes, a staff conference. But it also had to be much more than a conference. Because it was all about the coming together of two businesses. As such, their values and beliefs had to be challenged and changed.
Our brief was to create a memorable event that could achieve three key objectives: To unite two former businesses as one; to give global leaders the power to perform; and to transform the company by agreeing shared visions and ambitions.
The ‘Unite’ objective would be tackled through team building and networking opportunities. Our aim was to build trust and unity by encouraging delegates to get to know each other; to understand their respective backgrounds, their passions, their aspirations and fears. And ultimately to help leaders from both sides of the merger see how much they have in common.
The ‘Perform’ objective would be communicated largely through delegate activities. Our aim was to create an event with 80% of plenary time dedicated to ‘doing’. Workshops, exercises and group activities, all would allow delegates to define the culture of their own workplace.
The ‘Transform’ objective would be engaged through presentations and activities around the new Vision, Mission and Purpose. In particular, delegates would be made to focus on the year 2025, a vision of the future and Boehringer Ingelheim's place within it.
Ultimately, the overall objective was for delegates to leave the conference as confident leaders, inspired by the vision, and able to spread the excitement and positivity throughout the organisation.
Therefore, the primary challenge was to design an event that was truly inclusive, that reflected the family feel of Boehringer, and would empower delegates. This impacted everything from venue choice and stage design, to the theme and content every session.
'One with the power to shape the future' sought to create a personal connection for all delegates. By leveraging the powerful and intertwined history of human and animal interactions, we drew parallels to this symbiotic relationship, and the strength of two businesses merging as one in BIAH.
The challenge to pull this off, in terms of the time we were given, was immense. We were appointed on 23 March, giving us just 58 working days to refine the idea and deliver the event.
It started with the search for the right venue, eventually visiting eight sites in 24 hours. In order to deliver the high quality production we'd conceived, we required a four-star venue, with 200 bedrooms, in a major European city. Good links to international airport hubs were essential for delegates arriving from 19 different countries. And due to the nature of our conference, many buildings were rejected due to height requirements and the size of what would be our plenary.
Our Keynote speaker also presented a significant challenge, because he was in fact not just a speaker, but an orchestral flash mob led by an internationally renowned conductor. A pivotal session in our event, we had to compose a bespoke piece of music, rehearse it and deliver it live at the event in a completely unorthodox manner befitting the overall concept.
In addition to this, the day-to-day production and staging was paramount to our success. Our venue had to be adaptable and scalable, allowing us to time-release certain features and spaces over the course of 4 days. We needed the actual environment to take twists and turns, just as the delegates would.
Simultaneously, we launched an internal communication campaign, pre-event. This was not just an invitation, it was our first opportunity to demonstrate the strength and skills of the 170 delegates - we mapped out each of their locations, creating the chance to network and unite.
First day proper of 'One with the power to shape the future' was referred to as day zero, signalling a new beginning for everyone. Delegates arrived through an immersive tunnel - a canvas for digital experiences throughout the event - and saw their name and information travel through the tunnel, joining with other delegates.
The 'welcome evening' was informal, with purposely low-key production. It was hosted by a member of the Boehringer Ingelheim family, extending the idea of delegates joining one family. Attendees had 360-degree views of Lisbon as they networked with new colleagues, creating a feeling of openness and vast possibility. Subtle photographic columns of animal categories that delegates support was the only collateral, offering common ground on which to connect.
On day one, delegates entered a previously hidden BoehringerIngelheim Animal Health expo. This acted as a soft-reveal of the new company branding. The immersive tunnel was used to showcase a legacy timeline of the two heritage companies. Eventually joining their histories and futures together.
When delegates took their seats in the main plenary, hidden among them were musicians. The room plunged in to darkness and composer Charles Hazlewood took to the stage. He began his performance, conducting a flute, horn, and a violin from within the audience. They were joined on stage by percussion and cello as they performed our bespoke composition for the event – this was our keynote, a dramatic example of how a variety of specialists come together to form one harmonious unit.
During the rest of the day, delegates participated in a chat-show style session with the new Executive Committee board members; created their own healthcare magazine covers; before spending the evening off-site learning what makes for a perfect blend of wine, and what that has in common with teams.
Day two was all about vision, mission and purpose. It started by revealing digital versions of the delegates’ own magazine covers in the immersive tunnel. All our attendees then had the chance to meet with 15 'millennial inspiration leads' from within the business. Delegates saw newsreels from the future, revealing key challenges faced by the animal healthcare industry. And our millennial leads introduced emerging trends in themed zones, sharing disruptive, eye-opening facts and figures.
In groups, delegates were then asked to decide which of these hypothetical global trends were most likely to happen. In this way, deciding which challenges the company should resolve to face.
Day three was about empowering our leaders. Taking the ideas, values and trends from the previous day, delegates were asked to come up with their own taglines for the new vision of BoehringerIngelheim Animal Health. Throughout the day, the options were whittled down, until they agreed upon a final three choices.
Instead of having a tagline given to them, the delegates’ crowd sourced their own line, their purpose and statement of intent.
The closing performance featured musicians, live video, and edited footage from during the event – all brought together to showcase the connections that had been made.
Throughout the conference, delegates were challenged on the future of animal health, and the obstacles they will encounter. They got face-to-face with colleagues and leaders, which helped to unite them. They created their own set of common goals, giving them a greater reason to perform. And they were inspired by the ability of different voices coming together for a common purpose, helping them to transform.
The goal was to bring together two businesses as one team. The three-minute standing ovation at the closing ceremony suggested we did just that. The stats, including some of the highest feedback scores ever received for an Activation, prove it.
- 1300% more global leaders feeling a part of one team and one culture
- On a scale of 1 to 5, the 170 delegates scored 'One with the power to shape the future':
- Overall conference experience: 4.81 out of 5
- Excited about the future: 4.44 out of 5
- Clear on key strategies: 4.26 out of 5
- Excited about the new Vision, Mission & Purpose: 4.68 out of 5
- Made contacts and extended their network: 4.69 out of 5
- On the overall quality of the sessions, delegates scored the event: Very Good or above 100%: Excellent 63% Very Good 37%