If you've ever been an event guest, you know the feeling: you walk into a large industry reception in a giant ballroom and experience a slight wave of panic, followed by "where's the bar?" After you've got the cocktail in hand, then what? Stand around for a while and wonder when it's OK to leave?
Having been a guest at numerous large-scale cocktail parties in my time, I've got to say, a number lot of them fell a bit short in the fun department. So when I'm doing the planning, I insist that fun is on the menu. And adding it doesn't necessarily require a surprise set by Jay-Z or a fireworks display (though if you have the cash, by all means go for it). Fun can be simple and impactful without necessarily blowing the budget, if you plan smart.
For particularly large groups, my strategy is to include as many interactive experiences within the party as the budget will reasonably allow. The mission is to make the event feel more intimate, give guests something to do, to create buzz during the event and engage them enough so they'll want to stick around.
So how to make a large event a bit more intimate, inviting, and memorable? Depending on the type of guest you'll be hosting and your budget, consider incorporating a few of the following elements into your next event:
Hit the lights: The fastest, most inexpensive way to make a ballroom feel less cavernous is to dim the lights as much as possible. Light cocktail tables with bunches of battery operated tealights in votives, which look very much like the real thing, but are safer and don't heat up the room. To add a club-like vibe and strategic amounts of light, rent a few light-up side tables or light-up bars to scatter around the room.
Play with your food: Don't pass hors d'oeuvres, make the guests search them out. Set up multiple stations around the room offering a different light bite or tasting at each location so guests are more likely to circulate, from one station to the next to sample the other offerings.
Play with your drinks: In addition to a standard bar, if specific drinks such as specialty vodkas, sparkling wines or martinis are on the menu, give each of them their own dedicated bar. Not only will guests gravitate toward their favorite bar, but it will also disperse guests across several bars so they're not all clumped six deep at one main bar, clamoring for drinks.
Add fun stations: As much fun as a platoon of sword-swallowers, snake wranglers or belly dancers can be, some crowds may find roaming performers a bit too invasive. Instead, go for quieter, yet interactive one-on-one activities that have a sense of fun about them. One of my favorite activities to include is palm reading, which never fails to intrigue event guests. The only problem? Their popularity breeds long lines, so be sure to hire twice as many palm readers as you think you'll need!
You can take it with you: With budgets being as tight as they are these days, and gift bag contents more difficult and expensive to come by, instead, consider sending guests home with dessert. It doesn't have to be anything elaborate, just a little treat will do. Among the sweetest send-offs: a few mini cookies, customized cookies or chocolate bars, presented in a pretty little mesh bag or gift wrapped with a gift tag. Guests are always pleasantly surprised and appreciate the gesture.
For more ways to contain costs, read Event Smarts: 5 Painless Ways to Trim F & B Costs or find out more about how Cvent's corporate event planning software can help make planning events online simple, fast, and affordable.