Clever Carly: Strike the Right Balance at Intimate Events

Three hacks to keep your small gathering professional

Hello, busy planners!

Be it large or small, each project comes with its own set of challenges. For more modest gatherings in particular, often one of the hardest parts is establishing the right amount of intimacy.

It’s a fine line: You want attendees to feel a connection to the event and the people in it, but provide too intimate an experience, and the meeting can feel like—well, a date.

To keep meetings productive and professional, plan with these three tips in mind:

1. Ditch mood lighting and candles.

You might spend date night in a restaurant with lighting that shines barely above darkness, but a dimly lit room is usually inappropriate in a professional capacity. Unless a presentation is going on and you need the room dark, skip the light dimmer, candles and other lighting techniques reminiscent of romance. Choose meeting spaces that are well-lit, either by natural or artificial light, so that attendees can actually see the meeting unfold around them, not to mention other attendees, too.

2. Prioritize personal space. 

The luxury of smaller events is that the room is less crowded with people, which means more breathing room to enjoy the event. As such, give attendees some space. Instead of seating that requires guests to sit shoulder-to-shoulder, for instance, try an arrangement that allows guests to stretch out a bit and get comfortable. Of course, sitting too far apart can cause communication issues, too, so be realistic. You want guests close, just not too close. 

3. Emphasize a group mentality. 

By nature, small gatherings tend to come with an intimate atmosphere: Less people means more one-on-one time with other guests. But too much alone time can inspire the ambience of a first date. That is, a lot of awkward, getting to know you-type chatter. To eliminate any potential discomfort, keep the agenda focused on the group. Prioritize team discussions and activities rather than breakout sessions or tasks that require one-on-one collaboration. Should attendees spark up individual side conversations, so be it—the more interaction the better, after all. But whether they engage in that way should be for them to decide, not mandated by your schedule. 

On the flip side, intimate Network meetings might require guests to break off from the group to get to know each other better professionally. That’s OK, but, again, be mindful of meeting frameworks that can trap attendees in a discussion with one other person. Consider a networking speed-dating game, where guests have a few minutes to talk with each attendee, to ensure that everyone gets a chance to mingle. 

There’s a time and place for intimate events, but professionalism reigns supreme. And as a planner, it’s your job to structure meetings in a way that makes that point clear. When every attendee is comfortable and engaged, that’s how you’ll know you’ve done it successfully. 

Until next time. 

Plan well,
Clever Carly