How do you set strategic direction and strengthen a shared sense of purpose and community during a global pandemic? At Maersk, the industry-leading shipping and logistics company, part of the answer was to rethink the yearly top900 global leadership conference.
The first part of the redesign was to turn the event into a truly virtual event. Two days of physical meeting was condensed into two intensive 3-hour segments that combined live-plenary session with micro-engagements and virtual breakouts.
Secondly, the summit content and flow were adjusted to fit into the ongoing strategic transformation of the company. It was important to lead by example and to walk the talk – e.g. when building trust is a key part of the cultural transformation, then we included candid Q&A sessions with room for sharp questions and trustful discussions.
For the main plenary sessions, we established a tailor-made studio close to company headquarters with two stages – a main stage with news desk and a large LED screen, and a smaller ‘fire-place’ stage for more intimate conversations.
In the design process, we strived to balance a mix of needs and conditions:
- High-quality but still informal
The event needed to stand out from normal webinars and virtual events. The plenary elements were designed as high-end television shows with multi-camera production and comprehensive use of motion graphics and visual content. But at the same time, we tried to keep the atmosphere informal and causal. To support this, we used the smaller ‘fire-side’ stage for intimate sessions with time for deep conversations on key strategic topics.
- Shared direction but with room for adaptation
We wanted to design a summit that was relevant to all participants and that combined an overarching narrative on strategi direction with a deep understanding of the implications for the different parts of the business. To accommodate this, we supplemented the main plenary sessions with a set of deep dive session that explored selected topics. Participants were free to mix the content that was most relevant for them. In addition, we designed a flexible ‘workshop-in-a-box’ concept that enabled all participant to cascade key messages and facilitate local dialogues on how each part of the company can contribute.
- Apart but still together
While the global pandemic prevented traditional face-to-face networking and socialising, we tried to include elements in the summit that brought people together and reinforced a sense of community and unity. From starting each day of the summit with informal networking on MS Teams to virtual breakouts sessions with more 100+ facilitators.