How to Turn a Boring Company Meeting into a Friendly Competition

SOU Sioux Falls Golden Can WinnersMandatory all-company meetings. The phrase sends a shiver down the spines of employees the world over.

Businesses everywhere struggle to balance the need to relay critical company information with the need to foster a workplace that’s enjoyable for employees at all levels of the organization. You throw the word ‘mandatory’ and ‘after hours’ into the mix, and there’s immediately a resistance to full-throated participation, no matter how well-intentioned the invitation might be.

At CQuence Health Group, we hold an annual after-hours event called “State of the Union,” where we have a catered dinner, review the year that was and look ahead to what’s next. We host this get-together at our company headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska, and then take it out as a sort-of traveling roadshow throughout the Midwest. Our executives and I fan out to visit our team members where they live, hitting the salient talking points during presentations that have more in common with a fun night out than a standard PowerPoint.

Still, that feeling of ‘mandatory fun’ persists, and that’s why we go a little further to get our entire team involved in these events.

For more than a decade, we’ve put on a competition that brings people together while simultaneously supporting an important charity. The annual “Golden Can” contest, put on by the CQuence Cares committee, invites team members from across the Midwest to donate canned goods to support their local food banks. The catch? Employees from each area are put on their own team, and the team that brings in the most canned goods wins the coveted Golden Can Award!

This traveling award becomes a point of pride for the winning team, and I’m impressed every year by the generosity our people bring to this cause, as they do so many other times throughout the year. The competition becomes something that we look forward to every year, and our Field Service Engineers and Account Executives, perhaps due to their competitive nature, go all out to overcome the tough rivalries.

We had an exceptional year in 2018. In all, we were able to collect $1,493 of food and monetary donations (persons are allowed to donate money as well as nonperishable goods). All of these proceeds go to local food banks in each area of the country that the team is located in.

This year, the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, team came in first place, with an average donation of 45 cans per person! The Des Moines, Iowa, team put forth a valiant effort as well, rounding up their own impressive 42.5 cans per person.

I encourage anyone out there who’s seen dwindling participation and enthusiasm for company meetings to give this or something like it a try. By creating a competition that everyone can participate in, and centering your meeting around this battle for glory, you’ll turn something that a swath of your organization might dread into an exciting event they really look forward to.

Here are a few more hints that will help you achieve corporate meeting glory:

Assign a Project Leader – Ask for a volunteer to spearhead this effort, and then let them own the competition from square one. If numerous people raise their hands to organize the competition, then consider establishing an entire committee to oversee the various responsibilities.

Be Clear About the Details – Make sure that everyone knows the ground rules prior to launching your meeting or competition. Be precise and, just in case anyone has questions, provide the contact information of the person leading the effort.

Offer a Prize – Whether it’s a monetary prize, gift cards, a trophy or some combination of all of the above, create an incentive to participate that really gets people to unleash their competitive spirit.

Provide a Forum for Friendly Ribbing – A company intranet or internal social platform makes a great venue for team members to post their ongoing progress and to call out other teams. Just make sure that the good-natured teasing doesn’t get out of hand.

Select a Charitable Cause – When you select a charity for the competition to benefit, people will have even more incentive to go all out, and they’ll feel great about their participation whether they win or lose. Better yet, let the winning team or employee get naming rights to select which charity will be the benefactor.

Keep the Momentum Going – It doesn’t have to end with the one meeting and the one competition. If you find success, repeat the formula throughout the year and tweak as you go. You’ll find that the entirety of your corporate culture improves as team members pull together to achieve their goals.

Follow these steps, and your next mandatory company meeting will be something that employees circle on their calendars rather than something they try to dodge at any and all costs.

Good luck!


Mike Cassling
About Mike Cassling

Mike Cassling holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in general accounting and marketing. He completed the Graduate School of Sales and Marketing at Syracuse University in 1992. Joining the Cassling team in 1985, Mike worked in sales and served as the vice president of sales and marketing before being appointed president in 1996. Under his leadership, the company earned the #1 spot on the "Best Places to Work in Healthcare" list by Modern Healthcare and Best Companies Group, the Platinum Well Workplace Award, was named a 2011 Best Places to Work in Omaha and Best Places to Work for the Advancement of Women, as well as the 2008 Omaha Chamber of Commerce Business in Excellence Award.

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