Home For The Holidays? Stay On The Lookout For Conference Ideas

2013.12.18_Starved rock fireplace

Some families have everyone in close proximity. They share day-to-day life experiences all the time. As one with family spread from coast to coast, I have to admit, sometimes I envy that proximal edge.

But when families like mine board planes, trains and automobiles to spend the holidays together, it’s quite a celebration. Interesting, but as I reminisced about our family gatherings, I started to see similarities with the conference celebration.

1. Anticipation

In the weeks leading up to our reunions, we’re all on the phone and swapping emails to plan for the big gathering. There’s the foodie calls to map out the game plan for meals. My brother issues weather alerts. Our sons always have some new travel app to recommend. My aunt is big on scouting out a show we might snag tickets for to make the most of our time together.

Applying this to conferences: How are you helping attendees prepare for the big conference experience? Beyond the obligatory “Know Before You Go” email, how else are sparking anticipation? Are you enlisting volunteers to help with this? The more voices, the better.

2. The Welcome

It started when I was in college and continues today — No sooner do we pull into my parents’ driveway and they run out to greet us with open arms. Everyone’s grabbing luggage to get us in the house quickly because each and every moment is a precious gift.

Applying this to conferences: When attendees arrive, do they feel that same sense of joy that you’re glad to see them? How can you help them settle in quickly and get started faster?

3. Story Swaps

There’s a non-stop stream of stories running through the entire family gathering. The funny stories, the wild stories, even the scary ones that keep you on the edge of your seat. This is one of those organic share things where one story prompts three more. It’s a critical component that strengthens our bond and fills in the gaps since our last gathering.

Applying this to conferences: Are you creating an environment rich in stories and shared experiences? Are there storytelling prompts and open spaces (at the venue and on the agenda) where these stories can unfold and multiply?

4. Unexpected Surprises

Despite the abundance of Type A planners in my family, there are always those unexpected surprises. One year, my brother-in-law proposed to my little sis. The video capturing that special moment is one way replay year after year.

Applying this to conferences: Do you hold back a few surprises for attendees? Do you capture these best moments so you can revisit them again?

5. Tribal Moments

At some point during these family gatherings, there’s the stay-up-late pajama party where my sisters and I indulge in some not-ready-for-prime-time chats. My brother organizes a similar tribe gathering for the guys over choice beers and cigars.

Applying this to conferences: Are you paying attention to the tribes within the big tent experience? How can you help them find each other faster and enjoy special moments together?

6. Impromptu Dance Party

My husband is the unofficial family DJ, always making sure there’s a good music groove going on. This sets the stage for some wild and impromptu dance moments, often as we’re clearing the dinner table. For one New Years’ Eve party, we had a pal stop by before his gig and play sax. People were dancing in our backyard… in the snow!

Applying this to conferences: Imagine if there was a soundtrack playing throughout your conference. A joyful sound that sparked movement and smiles. You might even have a sax player jamming down the center aisle. Now that’s an experience that would get talked about!

7. The Closer

This usually happens over morning coffee, where we do an instant replay of highlights from our past few days together. More importantly, we all get our calendars out and figure out the next time when we can do it again.

Applying this to conferences: Do you run a quick highlights reel of best moments on the final day of your conference? Do you announce a few next time gathering opportunities?

As you reflect on your own holiday reunions with family and friends, are other ideas emerging? Ideas that with a little tinkering, could easily be repurposed to enhance the conference experience?

Adapted from Donna’s Meeting Innovation post on Cvent’s Event Planning blog. ©2013

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  1. […] Holiday happenings that can spar conference ideas and innovations.  […]

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