Full disclosure: I’m an eager (and slightly tense) bride-to-be, so this post is mildly self-serving and inspired by my personal life. My lunch hours are spent researching ideas that will help give our guests an #eventexperience worthy of their time and money to travel and celebrate with us. Through countless hours thinking about my guests and ways in which to make them feel welcome and show them an amazing time, I realized the same thought and detail can (and should) be applied to a B-to-B event. After all, we all want to have memorable and happy experiences whether it’s breaking it down on a wedding dance floor or socializing with like-minded #professionals.
1. Hunger Pains
If you’ve read any of my previous blog posts, you know that #F&B is probably my favorite subject. Food is important and taking a cue from an event such as a wedding is not unusual for a business event. More and more you will see bold menu choices and options that drive the entertainment value of the event. Food is simply a vehicle to create a holistic experience for your guests and truly embrace an offering that everyone can relate to and appreciate.
One of the most recent wedding menu trends is the introduction of the food station where guests can enjoy different food themes and even interactive cooking experiences. Gone is the plated dinner where there is no room to socialize and experience the meal together. Weddings, user conferences and business gatherings alike would do well to plan a food experience rather than just a menu.
Hosting a summer soiree? Try a DIY cocktail station where guests become the mixologists with easy-to-follow instructions and custom seasonal garnishes to suit anyone’s tastes. For dinner in Austin, perhaps it’s a slider station complete with a variety of local meats, sauces and spices to highlight the BBQ of the region. No one says it must be complicated either. A grazing table complete with charcuterie, cheese, fruit and small bites is ideal for any palette.
Photo Credit: Joe Orlando
And an added benefit of this is that you can subtly address the wide range of dietary needs and preferences since food stations have more range and flexibility than a menu where guests check a box for fish or chicken. Your guests will enter feeling welcome and comfortable and, hopefully, leave feeling delighted and excited about your next event.
Pro Tip: Go local and embrace what your event city has to offer. It will be fresher and will help enhance your attendees’ overall experience.
2. Mini Environments
No, I’m not speaking to the tiny house craze (HGTV does play on a loop in our break room and I can’t take my eyes off this show), but this fad touches on the idea that you can transform even the smallest space into something special.
When wedding guests move from one environment to another be it an outdoor garden for the ceremony to a rooftop deck for the cocktail hour, each environment and space is carefully considered for optimal enjoyment.
B-to-B events offer a unique opportunity to expand on this concept as a typical event has your attendees opting in to several days of 8 to 12-hour meetings and after hours functions. Much like a wedding, you can surprise and delight your attendees from the moment the event kicks off by creating mini environments.
This could be anything from a music-filled lounge at the end of the day where a DJ mixes tunes and signature drinks are on display to a special refresh and recharge break area complete with healthy snacks and plenty of space to charge devices. Your attendees will appreciate the change of pace and will have a chance to mix and mingle with new faces.
Creativity and understanding what your audience needs and likes is key here. Tap into the resources of your event management company to help with this since most have many case studies and examples of ways to enhance this element of your event.
3. Venue Variety
While there is nothing wrong with a beautiful hotel reception, there is something to be said for considering the unique or storied for your event venue. For us, the venue plays part in telling the story of who we are as a couple. A business event is no different. Your brand has a distinct voice and your meeting has a specific message you are trying to impart. Why not tap into these unique identifiers and seek a venue that complements?
The great news is that your meeting likely has a full agenda and so you can host attendees in a traditional conference center or hotel and plan spin-off and after hours events outside of the main venue in unusual spaces. Think a historic post office, aquarium or green space in a bustling city where you can tie in your meeting’s theme or elements of your brand. Your event planning team knows the hot spots, the secret spaces and has the expertise to help you meet budget and time constraints while keeping your brand top of mind.
4. Emotive Moments
There is a lot of emotion involved in wedding planning both on part of the bride and groom and that of the guests. These heartwarming moments make up the flow of a wedding and are the experiences your guests will likely recount when thinking back on the day.
You can draw similarities to many modern B-to-B events that touch on human emotion. It’s no secret that tapping into the emotion of an event attendee is by design. You want each person to feel passionate about your brand, your message and even his or her purpose as a professional as this can drive outcomes such as creating loyal customers and influencing purchasing decisions.
How can you create these powerful interactions? One way is by booking speakers and presenters that inspire and tell stories your attendees can relate to. Another is exploring partnerships with charitable organizations that are meaningful to your audience, industry or brand. Just be careful to be #authentic. You don’t want to play your audience or be disingenuous, you want to impart what you care about as an organization and let them experience this in his or her own way.
A powerful and memorable B-to-B event is certainly achievable, but it takes careful planning and a lot of dedicated time and energy. These tips truthfully scratch the surface of the detail that goes in to any event regardless of scale or budget. Decide what’s important to your organization and your attendees and focus on the top 10 things that will make the biggest impact before tackling everything else.
Need a little help with your event planning? Click here to be connected with someone on our events team.