Clever Carly: Plan for Spontaneity

How to create standout unofficial moments in your meeting

Hello, planners! Clever Carly here.

We all know that as much time as you put into planning your events, sometimes it’s the under-the-radar moments that stick out most to your guests. That is, even with your careful attention to detail, sometimes the things you don’t plan can be just as meaningful as the things you do.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we should stop planning. (Could we stop even if we tried?) It just means we have to plan the type of events that invite spontaneous moments. Planning for spontaneity might sound crazy, but it’s true. People regularly rate unofficial interactions as standout moments, so why would you want to deprive your event of that?

One of the best ways to create standout unofficial moments is to let your guests connect. Because they are likely coming to your event with similar interests or a similar purpose, give them the opportunity to network. Here’s how I would do it:

The Pre-Meeting Breakfast 

People say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that’s never truer than on the morning of a big event. Instead of leaving breakfast up to your guests, make it a free-form part of your meeting. Invite your attendees to an optional breakfast, where they can prepare for the day by eating a satiating meal and talking among themselves. That way, come start time, their stomachs will be full, introductions will have been made, and they’ll have a better grasp on who they are working with and why you’re all there.

That said, you don’t want your breakfast to go stale—and I mean that literally and figuratively. If your idea of an event breakfast is coffee, fruit and scones, think again. Create a standout breakfast menu experience that will get your guests talking—and keep them talking throughout the rest of the event.

The Breakout Session

Sitting in one place for a long time at any event can be, well, long. Having a breakout session to divide up official meeting time can be a nice remedy—if it’s done right.

Breakout sessions can look different from meeting to meeting, but the overall goal is to inspire participation and collaboration. So, think about the meeting’s purpose and how a breakout session can contribute to that. Are you trying to solve a problem or generate ideas? Or is your meeting’s breakout session simply another opportunity for networking?  

One way to leverage participation and keep up energy levels is through a little healthy competition. Find a way to gamify your event and offer up a prize to the winning team.

The Post-Meeting Cocktail

After a long day of work, who’s ready for a cocktail? Me, definitely—and my guess is a lot of other people, too. Set up a post-event cocktail hour to give guests a chance to decompress together after the meeting. It’ll give them a chance to talk to each other, yes, but it’s also likely that it will keep them talking and thinking about the event. After all, alcohol does have some work-related benefits: A recent study showed that after a day of learning, alcohol can improve memory. So add a little liquor to the post-meeting agenda, and the knowledge you’ve shared throughout your event might stick with your attendees longer.

Spontaneity can’t always be planned, but for us meeting planners, it isn’t for lack of trying. Giving people the opportunity to experience your meeting in unofficial moments with other guests is one way to do it. For the sake of being spontaneous, I’ll let you plan out the others on your own. 

Until next time, planners.