How to Create Off-Sites That Keep People Talking

Brand evangelism. How do you architect it? How do you ensure it?

First, let’s define it. Brand evangelism is that warm feeling you get when you‘re passionate about a brand — both what it stands for and your relationship to it. In the case of the brand you work for, it’s enthusiasm for the work you do, why you do it, and the intrinsic motivators associated with it.

So, how do you turn your team into brand evangelists? You design memorable, impactful, events that call upon intrinsic motivation, lure camaraderie building, inject about 25% vulnerability, and create cavities for connection.

Insert Thumbtack. A platform that connects people with skills with people who need them. For this quickly-growing, ambitious startup, we were enlisted to take their all-hands quarterly offsites to the next level.

To do this, we conducted a brand audit, where we invested in their mission, core values, and culture, and designed an experience to de-layer their team’s skills, and match them in a way that would bring their brand full circle. By the end, we’d woven a brand new layer of brand evangelism for the team, forging bonds with local and satellite employees, across varying levels of tenure and department, inclusive of C-suite and newest hire.

To break it down further, we were tasked with interpreting Thumbtack’s brand and homing in on their core value for Q1, Go!, and designing an impactful all-hands around that. We, quite literally, interwove the brand with each guest selecting a colored old-school thumbtack upon arrival.

Later, guests were broken up into a series of sub-groups, by color. Each color represented a rapid-prototype learning opportunity, ranging from rhythm motion dance instruction, to an improv workshop, magic, amari education, coffee cupping, muraling and more.

dance class on the left, coffee cupping to the right

Because thumbtacks were chosen at random, we were able to intersperse organic diversity in the group, ranging from tenure levels, to department, role, and geography across the company. At dinner, after the workshops, attendees were invited to share dinner with no more than 2 people from the same group at each table, once more shuffling the guest interaction and mingling.

The final “experiential design” element involved filling out a form, which, earlier, had been thumbtacked by each attendee to the cork board wall, that prompted: “I can teach you how to ____” and “I would like to learn to ____.” The intention behind this closing exercise was to bring the experiential elements, culture, and brand full-circle, as well as provide an opportunity to keep the experience alive back at the office, 1–2 months down the line when the office manager would match employees with their respective skill sets.

The serendipitous bonus of this exercise was that as we began reviewing the responses, we were actually able to match most employees with skills they wanted to learn, and wanted to teach. Without this additional layer of experience design to an otherwise standard quarterly “social” offsite, it’s likely the company wouldn’t have unearthed that so many of their team organically had interests and skills the others’ wanted to learn, and could thereby, with a bit of design, strengthen the cultural fabric and retention potential of the organization.