Great meeting planners always have the best interests of their attendees at heart. However, many fall short of creating a truly memorable experience by leaving attendees hanging at the end of the day (no Halloween pun intended). Often, event attendees are not local and don’t have anything to do at night after the event wraps up. This void can be particularly noticeable for events held in cities that can’t rely on their tourist attractions to entertain guests.
Go the extra mile for your attendees and plan fun, local, after-hours activities for them to enjoy. These are great bonding experiences for all involved, and lead to lasting connections.
In Connecticut, where I am located, there are so many fall activities going on that it got me thinking about seasonal activities set the perfect stage for localized, unique after-hours experiences for conference attendees and exhibitors. These offer the perfect opportunity to take customers out after hours without going to a bar or club, can be packaged into VIP-branded admissions for your group, and create memories that attendees will keep talking about long after they return home.
The following focuses on after-hours activities in New England in the fall because that’s where I’m located, but these types of activities can cross over into any location and season. Here are a few of my favorites.
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Frightening, unforgettable memories at haunted houses
Create lasting memories (or nightmares) by being terrified together. “Haunts,” as we call them in New England, are abundant in the fall leading up to Halloween. There is no better way to bond with your colleagues than by screaming and jumping in terror together. One of my favorites is Fright Fest at Six Flags New England. Only 20 minutes from the Mass Mutual Convention Center in Springfield, Mass., and 30 minutes from the Connecticut Convention Center, this famous attraction is open until 9 p.m. during the week and 11 p.m. on the weekend. This activity will definitely leave an impression on attendees, sponsors and others who love new experiences!
Hay is not just for horses
Hay rides make for a unique after-hours activity for which everyone can get on board. They are perfect for a small group and promote engagement and participation through their close quarters. Sitting side by side with your customers and colleagues for the duration of the ride can be great for business. Nobody will want to fall off of this wagon!
Hit the wine trail
There are many vineyards in New England that offer wine tasting and wine pairing menus with fine-dining cuisine. Take a group to one of Connecticut’s 24 vineyards just for tasting, or treat them with a chef-inspired dinner that features local ingredients. This is an intimate dining experience guests will appreciate. Information can be found at the Connecticut Wine Trail website.
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Zip-lining after dark
That’s right, it’s a thing. This may be just as terrifying as the haunted house, but possibly more rewarding at the end. There are several zip-lining adventure parks in Connecticut that will have your group soaring through the trees. Take your group to one of the Halloween-themed zip-lining adventures for extra after-hours exhilaration. Glide through the trees at night while bonding with your team.
Get lost in a corn maze
This is the perfect activity to ditch your group of troublemakers from the conference. OK, maybe don’t do that, but it is a great networking activity that your attendees are sure to enjoy. Bring flashlights, form teams and see who can find their way through the corn maze the fastest. Just be sure everyone makes it back to the bus at the end of the night. One of my favorites is at Sonny’s Place because you can cover more than one activity if you like. Your guests can move onto a hay ride or mini-golf after they conquer the maze.
Sunset dinner cruises
If all this fright has your group ready for some R&R, head to the coast for a sunset dinner cruise. There are also lobster dinner cruises where your event guests can dive into the local cuisine. Most of the cruises last about two hours and are a unique, locally themed way to provide a private dining experience for your after-hours group.
It is well worth the investment to plan after-hours events for your guests. The bonding and memories that personalized activities produce just can’t be achieved in traditional bars and restaurants. Go the extra mile to plan something special, and show your guests you are committed to providing them with a memorable experience.
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