How To Curate Workplace Events Made for Impact with Reese Byrne

How To Curate Workplace Events Made for Impact with Reese Byrne

Reese Byrne - Equity & Inclusion Program Manager @ Zillow

When workplace events are intentional and impactful for team members, it can ignite a sense of belonging, supercharge productivity and bolster retention rates across the organization. 

Those outcomes are powerhouses for building upon company culture, which means the role of event curation and leadership has become increasingly pivotal. However, the process of event planning involves navigating through various challenges, trends, and the quest for meaningful content.

We were fortunate to sit down and chat with Reese Byrne, who’s deep understanding of the events and the DEI industry has led them to foster belonging and culture at Zillow. They currently manage programming for their respective ERGs supporting employee engagement initiatives and ensuring all community programs function at a high capacity. They provide meaningful value to employees and the business, as Equity and Inclusion Program Manager. 

What is a workplace event?

A workplace event is any planned gathering or activity organized within a company or organization with the aim of fostering community engagement, enhancing company culture, and promoting team bonding. These events play a crucial role in creating a positive work environment, boosting morale, and strengthening relationships among employees. Some examples of events are team-building such as escape rooms to help foster collaboration, or community service to help give back to local causes and organizations. 

“Do you find that workplaces tend to follow trends when it comes to creating events for employees, and do you find that approach to be successful amongst your teammates?

Reese: “So I kind of see it as 50/50 sometimes.” Reese tells us. “When it comes to trends that are happening, it could be related to what’s going on in the world. At Zillow, we always talk about real estate and everything in the real estate world. I kind of see it 50/50 where a lot of folks just kind of continue doing events that have been done before. However, for us in the work that I do, I try not to follow the trend.”

“Do I love a paint and sip event? Absolutely. Do I love having a fireside chat? 1000%.” Reese adds. “But at the same time, I want something different, right? Because that's what's going to keep the audience coming back.” 

It is a delicate balance between embracing trends and offering fresh experiences. While trends in workplace events can be engaging and enjoyable, it’s valuable to company culture to innovate and embrace originality.

“What are some of your foundations or objectives when it comes to building events that are really going to resonate with employees? Be it all team events or specific to certain ERGs.” 

Reese: “​​For us, we stick with our strategic pillars when it comes to events.” Reese mentions. 

“That’s kind of our foundation for social impact, engagement, allyship, and professional development. Sticking to our core values helps us and makes it so any event we put on can cover a wide range.” 

Company Events for Black History Month

“We actually just finished our Black History Month celebrations in February. Those events were planned and hosted by our Billow (Black at Zillow) ERG. I wanted to make sure that we were having a fun engagement event, we did a coffee chat and everybody played trivia. It was like a really great way to kick off Black History Month. The second event that we then did was a fireside chat with Heather McGhee, and she was amazing. She talked about her book, The Sum of Us, and shared with us about what she sees in the real estate market.”

“We are trying to make sure that our ERGs are focusing on the key pillars when it comes to events…” Reese explains. “Plus, there's a lot of allies in our spaces when it comes to our ERGs, we don't keep them separate. So we're wanting to make sure that allies get something out of it as well, too. And we all love a fun event. People are always a little cautious when I mention fun, but I usually put it in quotations where yes it is fun—but it's also educational at the same time too.”

“Can you tell me about a time where an event really impacted you and how that affected your sense of purpose and belonging within your company?”

Reese: “So funny enough, this literally happened yesterday.” Reese begins, they begin to light up when sharing this very recent memory. 

Company Events for Women’s History Month 

“So obviously it's the month of March which is Women's History Month. When it comes to the work that I do, I support five of our ERGs. And my counterpart, Lambert, supports the rest of them, which is four. Pride is one of the groups that I work with and yesterday, we were able to bring in Mercury Stardust. She's known as the trans handywoman who’s very big on TikTok, and is a published author. So we brought her in to talk about her journey, her experience as being a trans woman, but also her experience in DIY and Home Improvement work. She talked about her story, and the adversity she faced but also how she was able to find her chosen family.”

“I kid you not. I was not on camera. I was bawling.” Reese explains.

“Her speaking about her story hit home for me. I'm not trans, but I'm non-binary and just like hearing her story was so empowering. So many of us also got emotional about it, even allies too, because you never know what somebody's going through or their past experiences. I think putting on events like this is so important for our organization to make sure that folks know that they can show up as who they truly are.”

“That's one of the biggest things about Zillow that I feel comfortable about. I can talk about lived experiences that I've gone through, without fear of judgment. So I think the event yesterday made it even more reassuring to me that no matter who I am, or how I show up, I'm going to have a support system behind me.”

“What are your tips for dealing with roadblocks when creating an event?”

Reese: “When I'm working on an event, I like to take a step back and ask myself what do our employees or folks on the call want to hear?” Reese tells us.

“I think event curation is one of those things where you create so many events, your mind can get overloaded at times and you're burnt out from it—which I have definitely experienced before. But I always take it a step back and change the perspective of wanting to make sure the audience gets something out of it. So that's kind of how I take the approach.” Reese explains.

“I'm also a full believer in stepping away from your laptop when you're having a blank space and going on a walk or going to the kitchen. Any little break and time away will help, because no matter what, that's when you can get the refresh moment.” 

Despite the enthusiasm for event creation, challenges inevitably arise along the way—from conceptualizing ideas to overcoming creative roadblocks. By prioritizing personal well-being, event leaders can maintain a fresh perspective and approach their tasks with renewed energy and clarity.

“What would you say to someone who is looking to create and lead workplace events? But perhaps they’re just getting started, or they're new to the team or the council?”

For those embarking on the journey of event curation and leadership, Reese offered words of encouragement and guidance. They emphasized the significance of confidence in one's abilities, the value of seeking feedback, and the power of persistence in pursuing innovative ideas.

Reese: “I'm a big believer in planning things out. I literally am so old school that I write things in a notebook. When I started at Zillow, I wrote down ideas of what I've done in the past when it comes to events and I voiced my opinions to folks. I brought these ideas to people on the team just to see if they're comfortable with doing one of the events I proposed. I think it's one of those things to have confidence in the work that you're doing because you were brought to the team, or you were brought on to this council, whatever it is, for a specific reason. And believe in yourself, believe in yourself is the biggest thing that I would actually say too.” Reese replies. 

Whether you're new to the team or stepping into a leadership role, embracing your unique perspective and leveraging the support of your peers can pave the way for impactful event creation. Remember, each event presents an opportunity to foster connections, spark meaningful conversations, and contribute to a vibrant and inclusive workplace culture.

Remember, workplace event curation and leadership are not merely about organizing gatherings but about creating moments that inspire, empower, and unite individuals. By staying attuned to trends, anchoring events in core values, and embracing originality, event planners can cultivate experiences that leave a lasting impression on employees and contribute to a thriving organizational ecosystem.

You can find Reese Byrne on LinkedIn here.

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Copyright © 2024 BOND

Copyright © 2024 BOND

Copyright © 2024 BOND