Kickstart Your Next Appreciation Event

Appreciation events are a fun and exciting way to show your staff just how much you value them. We know just how much time and energy goes into planning the actual event itself, but we can’t forget the importance of the buildup to the event.

It is in the weeks prior to your event that people start to get excited and the buzz starts to build (not start looking for an excuse to bail, wonder if they can afford to get away from their desk, or perhaps worse yet, forget about the event entirely!)

Don’t make the mistake of waiting until the last minute to drum up excitement. And don’t think one email or invite is sufficient to get people’s hearts, minds and bodies there! A recognition event, done well, builds excitement, energy, engagement; what you do before, during and after must all align to the message: thank you for choosing us, we are so grateful to have you, we are better together.

Great Recognition Starts Before Your Event!

Last year I had some healthcare leaders reach out about how to recognize healthcare professionals in the depths of COVID. I decided to film a video with some ideas, and because we were launching the Nurses Week Resiliency ReBoot that year, I tied the ideas to Nurses Week. However, all of the ideas in this video you can adapt to any industry, any event, any week, so I’m sharing it again. (PS – sorry in parts the sound quality isn’t perfect but hey, progress is better than perfect right, so sharing it all the same.)

Here are 5 ways I’ve seen clients create some serious lasting buzz. Maybe there’s something here you can use to help kickstart your next appreciation event and even to inspire your own ideas!

#1: Buttons

Create fun buttons that people can wear in the week leading up to the event. Have custom messages that represent what the event is all about printed onto the buttons. For example, if your event is focusing on increasing resiliency, create buttons that say things like “I am resilient” or “I am strong.” Then, allow people to pick a button that best represents them. Not only will excitement build as everyone walks around wearing their buttons, but they also act as a great conversation starter to generate more interest in your event. Afterward, wear your button, make extra available in public spaces, and bring them into team meetings. If it’s important to focus on at a recognition event, it’s important enough to reinforce afterward too.

#2: Fun T-Shirts

image of colourful t shirts to kickstart your appreciation eventWho doesn’t love a punny t-shirt? (Okay, not everyone, however even the most serious among us can’t help but crack a smile at something seriously witty, especially if it’s the person you least suspect would be wearing it!) Get custom t-shirts made that represent the group you’re celebrating. Make it something fun and catchy that will get people talking. The more people talk about it, the more likely they will be to show up to your event.

I was donating blood a few years ago, and a whole team of folks came in to donate blood wearing a grey t-shirt that said, “Oh ahead, make my day. Ask me how…if you dare…” with a picture of Clint Eastwood below it. I was so intrigued that I, you guessed it, asked. Turns out they were in the midst of a “team competition” volunteer challenge during the week of Employee Appreciation Day, and on the back of their t-shirt had the name of the company and “Volunteer Challenge 2019.” The t-shirts were a way to get people asking about philanthropy, the shirts reminded each other they were all connected by being a part of a company that deeply cared about their community, and they said they wore them for years to come as a source of pride.

#3: Postcards

Get the recognition flowing early with postcards. Have a stack of branded cards that show gratitude and appreciation with statements like “I admire your hard work,” “Your dedication to your patients is inspiring.” Or, have blank cards where people can write in their own messages. Give these cards out to people as a gesture of generosity. You can promote the event by adding at the bottom a message like “Don’t forget to join us on [date] for [event].” This will be sure to get people in the recognition spirit prior to the event.

#4: Invitations

Make people feel extra special with an invitation formally inviting them to your appreciation event. Send out cards to all attendees and keep some posted in common areas. Not only will this make people feel important and show your dedication to the event, but it’s also a great way to get people to remember the date.

For a leadership retreat I facilitated a few years ago, the Chief Nursing Officer didn’t just send a meeting invite to everyone’s calendars. He worked with his assistant to create “you have cordially invited” cards and send them with a copy of my autographed book to every leader through interhospital mail. The invite came later after leaders already has a positive feeling about being invited, rather than a day of their time being stolen for “another meeting.” At the retreat, although we had a lot of serious business to get down to, there was recognition throughout. He meant it when he “invited” them, and that was echoed before, during and after the event with a handwritten thank you to all who attended.

#5: Kudos Cards

Pass out kudos cards that align with the purpose of your event. For example, teams getting ready to celebrate participating in the upcoming Nurses Week Resiliency ReBoot, could have cards that say “You deserve a reboot because…” and they could be handed out to all healthcare professionals. You could fill them in yourself, or have your staff write personalized messages to one another. This is a great way to kickstart a peer-to-peer recognition movement and get people in the appreciation mindset.

At a team event for insurance fraud experts (sadly we need such amazing professionals like this), we wanted to give them a lift as the work, as much as they loved it, was heavy, to say the least. We splayed compliment cards (FROG Tributes) on the table and didn’t tell them what they were for, but they were curious enough to check out what they said, realizing that each card had a different compliment. They started to give them out, “hey, this one must be for you” and then we made it intention with asking them to take 5 and give them out to someone at the break that deserved that compliment. The VP said he’s never heard such a buzz of energy during a nutrition break. He said the challenge with the recognition tool helped to set the stage for an entire day of a positive regrounding in the team’s collective great work, meaningful impact, and pride in the individuals in the team.

An appreciation event – for a milestone like an anniversary, to celebrate a special day or week like Nurses Week, or even because the team simply needs it, is a great way to show people just how much you and the organization value them.

Getting Going!

Which tip will get the ball rolling on your next appreciation event? Have any more suggestions? Leave a comment below! I’m creating a robust resource of recognition event tips that will go with a brand new juicy resources kit launching next month, so let’s share the best tips for fellow recognition rockstars like us! If you want that resource kit as soon as it’s ready, simply email us with the subject line “KIT PLEASE!”

Psst… healthcare friends – have you started planning your appreciation event for Nurses Week yet? Let us take some of the planning off your plate and let’s chat about how we can help.

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

Douglas D Swift

President & CEO, Swiftco Inc.

"I have had the Sarah experience in numerous settings: As a keynote, around a table with several other business owners, one on one over coffee, chatting with others at a conference reception, dining with a small group of colleagues. No matter the setting you always get the same Sarah: engaging, attentive, interested, inspiring, motivational, genuine. And always with an infectious smile. Do yourself, your company, your association a favour. Get the Greatness Magnified (Sarah) experience. The payback is priceless."
Judy Kucharuk

Director, Marketing and Special Events, Encana Events Centre

"Funny, full of energy and incredibly motivating – all words to use when describing Sarah and her passionate stage presence. We were fortunate to have Sarah join us as a speaker for Spark Women’s Leadership Conferences and her presentations about leveraging greatness hit the core of our objective at SPARK: “A rising tide lifts all boats”. I would not hesitate to recommend Sarah to other organizations that are searching for a well-prepared, well-organized, thoughtful and passionate storyteller."
Shelley VanVeen

Learning & Development Manager, Libro Credit Union

"Sarah brought so much energy and enthusiasm to our International Women’s Day event at Libro! Her message was uplifting, thought-provoking and truly appreciated by our team. Dealing with Sarah was wonderful – she was open, professional and willing to work with us to customize her message to incorporate our culture and connect to our topic and participants. During the session, she was a pro with a powerful message and a fantastic delivery. We had wonderful feedback from all that attended and can’t wait to have Sarah back for another session in the future!"
Sylvia D’Intino

Executive Director, Community Living Hamilton

"THANK YOU so very much for leading the engagement activities today! You’re a constant professional, with an amazing attitude and always seeing the great in everyone. I am grateful for how you have helped us this year to transform our in-person staff recognition events into virtual and on-location events. Our staff feel more inspired, appreciated and motivated after they hear you speak, and I know our amazing in-house team here looks forward to designing engaging appreciation events with your support."
Melissa Chaulk

Manager of Professional Development

Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

"We work hard at CDHA to give our members a wonderful conference experience, so we were thrilled to have received resoundingly positive feedback on Sarah's opening plenary keynote. It was the highest attended of the entire conference for both dates!"
Jamie Campbell

Director, The Center for People in Organizational Development, Sheridan College

"Smart, challenging, innovative, committed, dependable, and reliable, I highly recommend her for all your recognition needs. I have brought Sarah into my last two organizations to help build a culture of recognition and celebration. The focus on appreciation is more important now than ever."

Some of the Great Organizations We Serve