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IoIC President’s blog: Harnessing the buzz of ‘collective effervescence’ for employee engagement

The magic, connection and unique sense of community formed when large numbers of people come together is an opportunity for comms gold, says IoIC president, Suzanne Peck.

When was the last time you felt the buzz of 'collective effervescence'?

It's a great term that describes that sense of harmony, connection, of being a part of a community and something sacred and bigger than ourselves.

It was first coined back in 1912 but brought up to date by researchers and US research professor and author Brené Brown in her 2019 book Braving the Wilderness.

Although we're settling into our post-pandemic ways of working, there's some caution about being at bigger gatherings and this is impacting on company culture and the when, what and how we communicate.

Team meetings and socials, smaller departmental meetings, fine. But taking part in all-staff events and conferences?

From my work with FEIEA (European Association of Internal Communication) I'm talking to comms associations around Europe and the feedback is the same. Although internal conferences and events are pretty well attended, organisations are still picking up a hesitancy about stepping back into larger events.

The desire and demand for face-to-face is evident. In surveys, members say they really want in-person events to network and to balance the day-to-day diet of screen meetings and online events.

Aside from respecting the fact that some people may have health and personal reasons for not jumping straight back in to large scale events, for those who do attend, conferences and in-person events are what fuel the positive and magic of 'collective effervescence'.

Researchers say that the unique sense of community formed when coming together in this kind of "collective assembly" contributes a sense of meaning, increased positive effect, social connection, and decreases loneliness.

And hybrid working isn't helping, proving a barrier to building engagement.

During the pandemic we retreated, many of us holed up in our home offices or venturing into the office just once a week. Zoom and Teams calls weren't a substitute for real and meaningful interactions.

But we're not in 2020 anymore.

With employees working different days from different places, communicators are working harder to make sure consistent and clear messages reach and connect everyone. Collective effervescence doesn't happen if you're on your own so we need to find opportunities for this 'firmer connection' where we can.

I know from my own comms work at Sequel that clients are using innovative ideas and ways to engage people, more human, interactive and experiential, to cut through business as usual comms and to make the important more meaningful.

So it would be a shame to not explore the wider comms benefits that bigger staff events can offer, even in more cautious, time-poor and budget challenging times.

When we come together as employees at a Town Hall or conference, we're present and focused on what's happening. We're less distracted by the day-to-day. We see others like us, we catch up with people we know, we connect with new people. We properly listen to one another, we better read expressions, hear and feel the emotion from speakers and we know that we're part of a community and feel a stronger sense of connection, meaning and purpose.

And that's comms gold.

We also shouldn't neglect our own development and the benefits of the magic that happens when you get a load of communicators in one space.

I saw it and felt the brilliant effervescence twice last year at IoIC events – the gala Awards night and the national Festival. Yes, we were coming together after lockdowns and challenging times – that accounted for about 20% of it with the novelty of wearing proper shoes, being 'out, out' and doing awkward elbow greetings.

But the other 80%? I swear it was the buzz from being with a larger and connected community of people. At the Festival, delegates said they valued the quality of sessions and the learning but rated even higher the meeting of new people, seeing old colleagues and friends, and having the chance to stop, to chat and to reflect. In person.

One delegate commented: "It highlighted how lucky I am to work in IC. There was such a community feel which is something I have NEVER experienced before in any other role!"

Collective effervescence in action…

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