Bring the Destination to Your Event: How to Add Some Local Color
You’ve found the perfect spot for your event. It has all the amenities you want. There’s plenty of space. Parking and transportation are a breeze. And the building is beautifully designed with a mural in the lobby by that artist; it’s very impressive.
But, once you start down a hallway, it kind of feels similar to all the other places you’ve attended events. It’s not that your unhappy with the venue – quite the opposite. You just wish you could bring something special to it.
You can. And the answer is right around the corner – in some cases, literally.
Incorporating the flavor of the location into your event is a great way to get attendees interested in coming and invested once they are there. Attendees want to get a sense of the location where they’ve traveled. The content of your event is key, but attendees also expect the event to be memorable, something they experience. They don’t want generic. They want to leave feeling that their time was well spent, and their five senses were engaged.
In addition, some attendees may bring their spouses, who view the trip as a vacation and are coming to experience the destination.
It’s Easy to Add Some Local Flavor to an Event, Right?
Yes and no.
It is not extremely difficult to enhance your event with some local pizzazz. However, you don’t want to go the easy route. For example, if you are having an event in Texas, you don’t want to just put out a bunch of hay bales topped by cowboy hats and throw some barbeque brisket on the table and call it a day.
There are several reasons for this. Primarily, it’s been done a million times. This is not adding local flavor to your event. It’s adding a heavy dose of schlock.
Photo Credit: Ultimate Ventures
Now, this isn’t to say you can’t embrace Texas’ western history – just find a way to make it interesting. Yes, slow cooked, smoked brisket tastes amazing (and Texans are fond of eating it), so if you want to include it on your menu, find a place that has been cooking their beef the same way for decades. Maybe a place where the restaurant has been passed down through generations. Instead of just hay bales and cowboy hats, why not have an instructor provide lessons on how to two-step or line dance.
However, it’s also a trap to become too bogged down in the past. Again, using the Texas example, cattle drives are a big part of Texas’ history, but what can you tell people about what’s happening now in the current area? Many parts of Texas have a burgeoning culinary scene, craft beer is booming, major and minor league sports are available year-round, and a variety of artistic movements are happening across the state.
The venue you choose can be just the start of the cultural journey. If your location has some historical importance, make sure to highlight that while promoting the event. Or the location may provide a view of the city or specific landmarks. This can be especially effective if you are able to watch the day turn to night, maybe during a cocktail hour or networking session.
Another idea is to hold a portion of your event at a museum, art gallery, or a historic landmark. A specific area of these facilities is usually available to rent for parties and events. Immersing attendees in the culture of an area will help them get a feel for what makes the destination unique. Or, if getting out for an evening is not an option, you could find some
local artists and use their works to decorate your venue.
Food and Beverage
As already mentioned, the food of the area can best provide the local flavor (pardon the pun), but to really make it interesting, you want to dig beneath the surface. Find out what is going on in the local food scene. Your venue’s chef should be able to suggest local eateries where the menu best represents the area. Think about offering a regional signature dish as one of the menu options. Also, there are plenty of local options for beverage– breweries, wineries, juice bars, coffee sellers, etc. – that can quench your attendees’ thirst while educating them about nearby options.
Photo Credit: The Travelling Dawg
You could also plan a trip to nearby farmer’s markets or a ranch or farm. There’s even a term for this kind of venture: agritourism. You could take your attendees to a working farm and let them sample locally-grown goods fresh from the vine or tree.
Also, do some research to discover if any mission-driven brands are in the nearby community. These are restaurants where the majority of the profits go toward a cause or where the staff is comprised entirely of people looking to rebound (former youthful offenders or previously homeless individuals, for example). A mission-driven local brand would likely be willing to feed your attendees in return for a donation and the ability to promote its cause.
Many places are known for their arts and music scene; Austin, Nashville, and New Orleans spring immediately to mind. However, with just a little digging you’ll discover that every area has its own specialized music and events. Bringing in musical acts with ties to the local scene is yet another way to immerse your attendees.
Of course, music isn’t the only possible form of entertainment. For example, the Second City comedy club is a major part of the personality of Chicago. Maybe your area has performers (comedy, dancers, improv, etc.) that you could bring in as entertainers.
With just a little research, you may find local speakers who dovetail with your event’s message and can also bring some local color with their speech. But don’t just look for motivational speakers, local poets and authors can also provide inspiration and may be able to speak specifically on some of the area’s unique and special characteristics.
Photo Credit: Quick and Dirty Tips
There’s likely someone at your venue (or reach out to planners or local city-guides) who could give a presentation or insider tips about unique, local places to go and things to see. Also, if these people have the bandwidth, it can be nice to provide private, guided walking tours. Or if you have a connection with a museum, a behind-the-scenes excursion is always fun.
This can be especially useful for attendees who brought spouses looking for a vacation. Not only will the spouse be able to visit (and scout) local attractions while the event is going on, he or she will then be able to show the highlights to the attendee.
Finally, allowing attendees to take some of the local color home with them is always welcome. Work with home-grown vendors and artisans to create gift bags that are filled with memories of the event. Just be sure that these gifts will be useful or appreciated by your attendees. It won’t do you and them any good if these swag bags end up left behind in the hotel room because they weren’t relevant. Use the data you have on your attendees and work with these vendors to create functional, memorable keepsakes.
By providing some local color, you are ensuring that your attendees have an experience they will remember – and will want to share! For more tips on providing the best possible event experience, give Event Architecture a call at 972-323-9433.