Planning a meeting in December can be stressful. Holiday parties, social obligations and work commitments are all competing for attention. As the days grow shorter, draw inspiration from the season to design events that everyone will want to attend, and to help keep them engaged long after. Below are six tips to incorporate holiday cheer, connect with attendees and create a little magic of your own.
1. Get Festive
Last week, I was listening to research findings from Journal of Environmental Psychology, which confirmed that people who decorate for the holidays early are happier. It allows them to tap into the nostalgia of childhood. Leverage that good cheer and make your own magic by selecting a venue with festive decorations. In San Francisco, California Academy of Sciences becomes a winter wonderland complete with an ice rink and a giant snowman theater that shows a short film on the geometry of snowflakes. Talk about a conversation starter!
In California’s Silicon Valley, the historic mansion, Filoli, decorates the grounds with large trees, holiday market carts and wreath making classes. C-level dinners in front of the mansion can feature a dramatic 32-foot garland centerpiece and pashmina shawls for guests.
2. Hygge Inspiration
Perfect for a rainy December day, take your event design cues from the Danish Hygge concept to curate a cozy and warm experience. Pamper your guests with a pop-up salon offering 15-minute massages. Evoke the joy and pleasure of sitting beside the fireplace with a mug of rich hot chocolate. Elevate the traditional hot chocolate bar with colorful meringue sticks, hand-cut snowflake marshmallows, and seasonal syrups like peppermint and gingerbread.
3. Season of Giving
Dedicate a breakout session to assembling personal care packages for a local shelter or other hands-on activity. Give attendees the opportunity to get in on the maker movement by bringing in a local artisan to head up the instruction. Don’t forget to tie this in on social media with your event’s messaging for increased ROI!
4. Start A Tradition
In the spirit of the season, create your own tradition that attendees will associate with your event and look forward to each year. A quirky ice breaker will get everyone moving and out of their shell at the beginning of the day. Similarly, clinking glasses with a specialty cocktail at the reception afterward will shift the group into party mode after a full day of activities and information. A favorite is a classic French 75 made with champagne, gin and lemon.
5. Tuesday Is the New Friday
Host the meeting earlier in the week to avoid scheduling conflicts with attendees needing to duck out early for holiday parties and other social obligations. Having a Monday or Tuesday meeting will often result in reduced venue pricing as well, as many locations charge more for those key Thursdays and Fridays in December. Additionally, rental companies, lighting and audiovisual vendors, and caterers all will have greater product inventory and resources to support your event.
6. Avoid Re-gifting
Offer your guests a take away memento they will cherish rather than a traditional swag bag full of branded cups and t-shirts that are quickly discarded. Curate a gift that is special to the location or host—think one-of-a-kind items like certificates for a unique experience that complement your meeting’s goals. Leave guests with a memory of your homemade cookies.
Tina Hirshberg Novelo is a program manager and event producer, and has been with Taste since 2010. She has orchestrated more than 1,000 events and programs for Fortune 500 corporations and national retailers.