In a recent Smart Meetings Accelerator webinar, “Incorporate Unique Coffee Traditions Into Your Next Event & Wow Your Attendees,” Toni Zoblotsky, director of B2B marketing and creator of Meet With Purpose at Hilton, shared various discoveries she’s made in the coffee world, as well as ways planners can incorporate inventive activations in their next meeting.

“We want [our events] to be very Instagrammable,” says Zoblotsky. “We want people to leave feeling really good that they participated, but beyond all of that, our meetings do the best service when we really foster a culture of meaningful connections.”

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The Turkish Story

When Conrad Hilton built his first European hotel post-WWII in Turkey, the builders insisted he have a cup of coffee with them. In Turkey, having coffee is of utmost importance, it’s said to secure you for 30 years of friendship.

Zoblotksy recalled an Airbnb experience she had in New York with a Turkish coffee brewer who combined brewing and fortune-telling using the residual mud from the very strong brew for a unique experience.

After all the fun, Zoblotsky urged planners to not forget the meaning of the ritual. “The tradition is a symbol of hospitality, friendship, refinement and entertainment and it permeates all walks of life within the Turkish culture.”

The Swedish Story

In Sweden, there is a concept called “fika,” which is the country’s daily social break. Accompanied with pastries, sandwiches and coffee, “fika” occurs in the workplace, schools and at home. Zoblotsky calls it “an intentional unplugged old-fashioned togetherness over sweets and coffee.”

Typically, offices in Sweden have designated fika time, around 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. where employees congregate for 20 to 30 minutes. Fika is about connecting and conversing with those around you.

Zoblotsky admitted it may be tough, but she encourages attendees to put away their phones for 20 minutes followed by a 10-minute regular break, where phones and bathroom breaks are okay.

The Ethiopian Story

Ethiopia is the marriage of modern agriculture and an ancient civilization and it is here that coffee beans are thought to have been discovered by a goat herder in the ninth century. An Ethiopian coffee ceremony called “buna” is an important cultural ritual that honors the birth of the coffee plant and celebrates Ethiopia as its homeland.

The ceremony starts with spreading fresh aromatic grasses and flowers across the floor and burning incense. The host then takes green coffee beans and roasts them in a skillet over a hot plate until they turn dark and are ready to be ground with a mortar and pestle. Zoblotsky suggests performing an activation like this in an Ethiopian restaurant for the full effect.

 The American Story

The United States is a young country with an old soul, but we to love our coffee,” Zoblotsky said.  “Coffee in this country is as diverse as our citizens are.”

As an example of fun activations that could be done with a coffee theme, Zoblotksy mentioned an activation Hilton did where they mocked up the Central Perk coffee shop from the television show Friends. “A Friends coffee break activation would speak to a wide range of ages and without doubt really surprise and delight your attendees. It creates a nostalgia for the present and a well-executed experience will inspire appreciation and elevate awareness for something that is already very familiar and much-loved,” she said of the décor that could be sourced as close as the local thrift shop.