Tips on Successfully Engaging Employees

EPISODE 23|Tips on Successfully Engaging Employees

Developing and maintaining quality employee engagement is the theme of today's podcast. We are joined by Shannon Harrison who like many other event planners was tasked with finding ways to keep internal employees engaged while working from home.

Shannon shares what skills she leveraged from the event planner world to get colleagues engaging with one another. Free and cheap ideas became an instant hit such as Happy Hour Fridays, Talent Shows, and even Bingo! Listen in to hear tried and true ways to boost your engagement.

If you have any tips or tricks to keeping your employees, customers, and attendees engaged and you'd like to be on the podcast, please let us know by emailing us at [email protected]. We would love to have you on the show!


  • Shannon Harrison, Fintech Company


  • Brooke Gracey, Senior Manager, Demand Generation, Cvent
  • Cody Liskn, Team Lead, Event Quarterback Team, Cvent

Related resources

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Brooke Gracey: Shannon, thank you so much for joining us today. Now we know you from our cvent celebrity program. In fact, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you were cvent celebrity of the month in January. Is that right, 

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Shannon Harrison: Yes, it is. 

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Brooke Gracey: Oh my gosh, we're so excited to have you here. We love us even celebrities wanted to start off here, just getting a little bit background from you about how you came to be an event manager for a fintech company. 

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Shannon Harrison: So actually started my hospitality career. Way back in high school I started at the front desk of a hotel in my local town. 

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Shannon Harrison: From there I once I finished college I knew I wanted to be in the events industry. So I worked my way up through sales and worked in several different hotels throughout California in Anaheim area in Northern California. 

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Shannon Harrison: With Marriott Hilton share, share Tim and tour has given my first actual position as an event planner with the CIA as a planning and LOGISTICS MANAGER, and that 

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Shannon Harrison: Was a great experience. And it led me to my my my most current position as the manager for Aqua. 

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Brooke Gracey: Wait, so you said the CIA, like the CIA. 

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Shannon Harrison: Inside The Culinary Institute. 

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Brooke Gracey: Bleeding and LOGISTICS MANAGER FOR THE CIA has to be pretty in 

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Cody Liskh: Yeah. You think that they would revisit that that acronym CIA for Culinary Institute, but I love it. Hey, Shannon. I wanted to ask you, I know that we talked earlier about 

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Cody Liskh: You know your role kind of shifted a little bit as a pandemic began to unfold. 

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Cody Liskh: I mean, you were tasked with really finding a way to keep internal employees engaged. I think a lot of event planners are going through that. Can you walk us through what that conversation and what you said, Like what happened with HR and what your initial thoughts were 

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Shannon Harrison: Exactly. Our company kind of found our spot ourselves in a spot where we didn't have any upcoming meetings. We were actually in the process of 

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Shannon Harrison: Trying to contract a meeting that we backed out of. So I had a little time on my hands and 

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Shannon Harrison: I was kind of, you know, as event planners are seen as the people that get everyone together within the company. And so I had a lot of people that I know with me like that and people that I would interact daily anyways on campus, or sorry, at the company. 

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Shannon Harrison: So I sorry I want to start over. 

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Brooke Gracey: No. Totally. I don't like to dance around so yeah 

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Brooke Gracey: You can just stop start over and Cody could cue up the question again to if that's easier. 

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Cody Liskh: Yeah. Do any queued up. I think I probably should. Sure. 

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Cody Liskh: Yeah. OK, cool. 

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Cody Liskh: Well, let me go ahead and dive right in here. Shannon, you know, as this pandemic began to unfold. You wanted to have a way of keeping internal employees engaged. So can you walk us through that conversation with HR and you know what your initial thoughts were 

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Shannon Harrison: Sure. Exactly. So our company was in a unique position where we didn't have any events that we're currently being planned, we are actually in the process of contracting 

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Shannon Harrison: With a hotel that we backed out of. So I had a little bit of free time on my hand and took it upon myself to come up with some ways to keep our company interacting with each other. We have a lot of different personalities and that company with our sales team. We also have customer service. 

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Shannon Harrison: As well as our engineer. So a lot of different personalities that we deal with day to day in the office. Anyways, 

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Shannon Harrison: So I wanted to make sure that everyone was still getting that individual attention outside of just being an employee and as a person. 

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Shannon Harrison: So I came up to our head of HR, who was actually my boss at the time and we create a small task force, there's three of us to come up with some ideas of how to keep people interacting from home. 



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Shannon Harrison: And 



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Shannon Harrison: From that we were sorry I'm just starting sentence over 



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Shannon Harrison: And so we wanted to keep people active at home. 



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Shannon Harrison: So what we needed is something that was free or very cheap because we didn't have any funds to be paying for this and it was something above and beyond. Normally what we do. 



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Shannon Harrison: And we wanted to make it easily adaptable from working at home and your new environments. So we wanted to see what tools we already had available and one was our office chat. 



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Shannon Harrison: Which we would normally put office announcements of what's going on in the building, but everyone is in that chat. So we wanted to make sure that everyone had access to the events that we're going to be holding 



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Brooke Gracey: I think you, you said something there obviously resonated with our audience, which is we had to find something cheap or free because 



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Brooke Gracey: All the budgets are kind of frozen right now. So you probably had to go find the resources like the chat that were already available to you super excited to hear about some of the ideas you came up with. Can you share some of them with us. 



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Shannon Harrison: Sure. Exactly. So we came up with kind of themed weeks. Our first week, we did a photo share challenge. So every day we came up with a different thing that we asked everyone to share a photo of in the in the office chat. 



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Shannon Harrison: There, things like, What are you eating for lunch now to be used to cater lunch. So what is your lunch look like now from home. 



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Shannon Harrison: What is your work from home station look like which that one. I really enjoyed because it gave us insight to you know people's personal lives, but not too personal 



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Shannon Harrison: We also gave or asked everyone to give a photo of your new view. We had a great view of the San Francisco Bay. So now you know you maybe you're looking on something a little bit different but just a new perspective. 



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Shannon Harrison: And also your new co workers. So we had a lot of adorable photos of some new pets and some also kids that were, you know, hanging around your new office space. 



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Shannon Harrison: And after that we did. I found this great website called bingo Baker, where you can build your own bingo site or bingo pages. 



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Shannon Harrison: So I created work from home. Bingo. And on that. It's all virtual, you can click the link to create your own bingo cards that everyone had a different bingo card and all of the activities are scrambles and no one had the same card. 



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Brooke Gracey: And then we would ask every lap to like 



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Brooke Gracey: stop you right there because I am obsessed with bingo asked 



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Brooke Gracey: Anybody I know she's literally my favorite thing in the world. It's quite sad actually 



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Brooke Gracey: Definitely 



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Shannon Harrison: Check it out. 



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Brooke Gracey: So you went to bingo Baker and you can create cards for everybody. And then like everybody has their own card. You can play virtually 



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Shannon Harrison: Right. So what you do basically is you can customize it a little bit, but you just add a list of either tasks or questions, you can even add pictures in the different 



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Shannon Harrison: Squares, and you just list that and you hit generate and then it comes up with the link that all of your employees or whoever you're sharing it with 



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Shannon Harrison: Can then click on to to randomize all of those things that you added to create your individual card. 



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Shannon Harrison: And so I suggested I did more than what the spaces where. So not everyone had all of the same challenges so they wouldn't end at the same time. But yeah, it's a great resource. And then you can just bookmark your bingo page and keep going back to it as, as you check things off. 



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Brooke Gracey: That is literally the coolest thing ever. And it sounds like you could even like almost I mean you're customizing it to so sorry if you guys can see my face right now. It's like my jaw drops super excited 



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Brooke Gracey: Fingers happening right now. So, very cool. What else did you guys do virtually 



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Shannon Harrison: And so we started as everyone is doing a happy hour. So we did those on Friday afternoons and on those we we requested everyone to use our video so we could see everyone's faces. So we haven't seen each other in such a long time. 



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Shannon Harrison: And then we actually scheduled a kids talent show as part of that we had a lot of kids, you know, interrupting during this happy hour. And so we thought, hey you know they need a bigger audience to probably perform for her or besides just their parents. So we scheduled that 



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Shannon Harrison: As well as a Fitbit group. We got everyone who has a Fitbit you can just sign on it. So I created different challenges to keep people active and also we all have that little competitive streak in us that we like to compete and win so 



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Shannon Harrison: Another thing that we so 



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Brooke Gracey: many good ideas. 



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Brooke Gracey: I love the kids talent show to you know what I think we need to figure out, Shannon. Maybe you can help us with this is a virtual karaoke. 



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Shannon Harrison: Because, like, Yeah, I didn't miss karaoke right now. Right. 



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Brooke Gracey: Yeah, I have. Along those same lines. 



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Shannon Harrison: That's definitely my wish list. 



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Cody Liskh: And Brooke, you're hitting all your favorites. I mean for our listeners out there brick was not exaggerating. She is obsessed with bingo, and 



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Cody Liskh: karaoke to, I would imagine, right, Brooke. 



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Brooke Gracey: Who knows, you know, 



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Cody Liskh: I love this idea to the you mentioned SHANNON ABOUT THE KIDS talent show. Do you have like an example like one that stood out of like a really like funny talent show subject that somebody came up with. 



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Shannon Harrison: Yeah, I'll have to stop. I love the question, but unfortunately I wasn't that the company anymore. 



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Cody Liskh: Oh, crap. 



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Cody Liskh: I will edit that out. I'm 



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Cody Liskh: Sorry for going off topic there but 



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Shannon Harrison: I wish I was there, but 



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Brooke Gracey: Like somebody juggled 50 orange. 



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Cody Liskh: I will edit that out. I promise. But, um, 



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Cody Liskh: So I love this idea of the kids talent. So Shannon, like what kind of reaction, did you get from everybody who participated 



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Shannon Harrison: In the kids talent show 



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Cody Liskh: Oh, just in general, let me go and rephrase that question. 



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Cody Liskh: I'm not making kids talent show centric. So I love all these ideas Shannon so much fun. This looks so cool. What kind of reaction, did you get from everybody who participated 



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Shannon Harrison: I got really great interaction or reaction from everyone. 



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Shannon Harrison: We had an internal call with the company and we actually had people that were submitted questions and someone had to put in a little note like. Thanks for putting this together. Really appreciate 



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Shannon Harrison: Everything because it's totally above and beyond what we normally do. And then we also have like an online portal where you can send people recognitions through HR and I got a few 



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Shannon Harrison: recognitions from just people just really appreciate it. I was just thinking about them more people than just the employees. 



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Brooke Gracey: Why do you think you got such good engagement. I mean, clearly, I would have been all over the bingo game and probably the talent show too. But what like tips can you take away from this was, it was easy wasn't because it was fun. What did you learn 



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Shannon Harrison: I think that the first thing is making it really easy and really adaptable, since we used the office chat and something that people were already used to using it. What we didn't have to do a training. 



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Shannon Harrison: For that some people aren't used to zoom that can be complicated to to learn that and intimidating also keeping the challenges. 



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Shannon Harrison: Different spicing it up doing different things with trivia working with the bingo, and the fitness challenge so someone can find what really resonates with them. 



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Shannon Harrison: And then keeping it not company or employee focus, keeping it light hearted instead of just, you know, telling everyone to keep working hard, you know, their people and we're all going through this together and we want to just interact personally instead of performance wise. 



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Cody Liskh: I love that giving a personal touch to it that's really going to be what is needed, and I know that your original job was, as you know, the event planner. It wasn't just putting together these cool activities. 



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Cody Liskh: But, you know, things changed, obviously. So what skills. Did you leverage from your event planner world. The translated to getting your colleagues to engage with one another. 



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Shannon Harrison: I think that as an event planner. We have a huge skill set that we don't normally realize how that can be used in other areas and and one of them is the need and the want and in the passion to get people together and networking connecting 



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Shannon Harrison: I think we all are looking for ways to do that within our events and being able to use those skills for the employees just interaction is was very valuable. 



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Shannon Harrison: Also we you know we look at an event and the attendees, as a group, whole 



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Shannon Harrison: And what will be best for the group in that conference but also having those opportunities for individuals to find what works for them and how 



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Shannon Harrison: The events going to resonate with them and using those for these events. These as well. Looking at your employee base and all of your co workers you use all the different departments and different 



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Shannon Harrison: Functions that they do on a day to day basis. But finding those individual touch points is really important. 



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Shannon Harrison: And as well as you're already. Like I said, I'm kind of already looked to as the person who's planning the party. So people are kind of looking to me that one be a leader in that aspect in that social aspect. 



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Shannon Harrison: And know that because I'm not their boss or I'm not HR that I'm just, I just want them to be happy and I want them to be involved as a person and not have any expectations from that. 



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Brooke Gracey: That's kind of interesting, though. I mean, it is like you know it's not coming from HR, it's coming from like the fun party, you know, then planning. You guys are probably always coming up with super creative ideas. 



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Brooke Gracey: I like how that you think that maybe that kind 



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Brooke Gracey: Of changes the perception from the people who are joining, which I think is really interesting. 



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Cody Liskh: Definitely. And I love that you know as the meeting planner or the party planner like one of your roles is really to get everybody included 



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Cody Liskh: And I imagine that I think what we talked about before, was that you focus a lot on reaching out to people on an individual level. And what was your strategy and doing that. I thought that was very interesting what you said. 



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Shannon Harrison: I think that just making sure that you are 



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Shannon Harrison: Focusing on one individual can start. Let me start that over sir can I can ask exactly what you're referring to, which point 



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Cody Liskh: Yeah, yeah. So it's, it's a, f down there kind of where your strategy is like you know the extroverts they really need to have human interaction but then the introverts. I think that the point I really want to drive home. Is that like they'd be checked on to 



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Cody Liskh: Like, okay, so during queued up again. 



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Shannon Harrison: Cheerfully 



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Cody Liskh: Go. Yeah. So one of the things that I'd love talking to you about before was that you put a big emphasis on reaching out to people on an individual level during these times. So what was your strategy for doing that. 



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Shannon Harrison: I think just looking at all the different departments and different personalities that you have within the company. 



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Shannon Harrison: I know for me, my company. I could always count on the extroverts to want to be there and they're going to participate. So you are going to have people that are going to participate. 



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Shannon Harrison: But it's really the quiet or people and that I can kind of resonate with that you know don't always volunteer. They don't jump out but they're still there and they're still watching and listening and they still see other people 



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Shannon Harrison: Interacting. And so I think just making sure. You're taking that personal time to I made sure that I personally touched out to a couple people that I know that I talked to in the office, but maybe don't 



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Shannon Harrison: Outside of work. Maybe those people that can't see their family. They live at home or 



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Shannon Harrison: So work was kind of a social point for them. So, just making sure that you're you're thinking about those individuals that could just use a high or hey, or, you know, reach out to them text message or a message them just to 



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Shannon Harrison: Just to say, hey, I'm thinking of you and also he sent out a couple you know postcards. I had some extra note cards in my desk. And so just little note to say hi and thinking of, you know, and get some real mail anymore. So I thought a little fun trick or a treat. 



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Cody Liskh: I totally agree with you. I think that getting that one little piece of mail you know in your in your mailbox makes all the difference. For some people, 



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Cody Liskh: But we can't forget about the quieter people out there in the office. They also need a little bit of attention to. So I just love that point. 



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Cody Liskh: So Shannon, if you had to leave our event professionals with just one takeaway or, you know, piece of advice for keeping employees engaged, what would that be 



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Shannon Harrison: I said it's really, you know, you're going to have those people that are going to stand out there and evolve, but it's really trying to think of everyone. 



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Shannon Harrison: And like I said, look, there's like on Facebook, you have people that you're friends with and you know that they're there, and you know that they see what you're posting, but they never really interact, but they're still involved in what's going on and just 



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Shannon Harrison: Keep that in mind, just to take a little time to think of those people like Ray. 



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Brooke Gracey: What's really sweet. 



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Brooke Gracey: As far as resources or things you'd want to share anything that you think could benefit our listeners, I'm 



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Shannon Harrison: Sure you can find those bingo cards are at bingo Baker. COM. It's a really great site. It's really simple and easy to use and we can also reach out to me. I'm on LinkedIn and Shannon Harrison one on LinkedIn. 



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Shannon Harrison: I'm here to help. If you have any other for free. Have any need any other suggestions or ideas. I'm available. Awesome. I might 



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Brooke Gracey: I might hit you up, we can figure out that karaoke idea. 



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Brooke Gracey: Well, thank you so much. Shannon for joining us today. Such great ideas. I think our listeners are really going to benefit from this. So thank you so much for joining us. 



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Shannon Harrison: Great, thank you.