As we race toward another Dec. 31 finish line, it’s important for planners to recognize that meetings and events held in the last six weeks of the year can face resistance and higher-than-average anxiety levels from your attendees.
Let’s assume your function is necessary and in no way optional. You can do some simple things to enhance the value of your program and, perhaps, replace attendees’ resentment with some enjoyment.
Don’t avoid the elephant in the room by avoiding holiday references. Embrace the season — and pull up a chair for that elephant — with subtle touches:
- Start meetings later than usual. This allows for a bit of breathing room in gnarly morning travel. Conversely, end on time for punctual departures, because everyone’s calendar is over-scheduled at this point.
- Begin meetings with icebreakers. Sharing gift ideas for grandma, best/worst gift ever stories or easy recipes for holiday entertaining.
- Incentivize attendance. Hold drawings for gift certificates — for mani-pedis, stress-reducing massages or gift baskets with holiday edibles.
- Bring the kids. Use local children’s choirs and music ensembles for your entertainment. This can be cost-effective and charming.
- Use abundant décor to your advantage. Work with your caterer/chef to build simple centerpieces from seasonal fruits and vegetables that don’t scream “holiday centerpiece,” and then donate the fresh produce. Or use platters of festive cookies as the edible dessert/centerpiece and avoid the cost of florals.
- Have fun with menu planning. Address all types of traditions in one menu. This can be educational and include international elements applicable to your attendees. Include copies of recipes for popular specialty items.
- Use seasonal colors in unique ways. Consider linen rentals, printed paper items, stage lighting with fun gobos and inexpensive votives.
- Set up inexpensive holiday photo booth(s). Stock them with props that speak to different cultures and traditions.
Remember, the holiday season is stressful for many reasons, so refrain from over-the-top anything. This time of year, comfort, ease and subtlety should be your overriding thoughts.