As we head into the holiday season, you're likely thinking of a celebratory way to wrap up 2019 for your team. If you run a startup, you're probably also wondering how to celebrate in style without a huge price tag that could tip your balance sheet from black to red.
It isn't as much about how much a memorable event costs, as it is about the well-considered planning of it. Prioritize experience over expense.
In the same way that you start preparing for a presentation (with your audience's takeaways in mind), think carefully how you'd like your guests to feel at the end of your event.
Maybe the priority is for your staff's connection to your organization to be refreshed, or to be established in the first place. Maybe the priority is to reward their work, and for them to feel appreciated for their contributions. Whatever you want the outcome to be, start with a clear statement of it in mind and then back into the steps you'd take to get them to that point.
Here are three suggestions I've experienced recently that raised the bar from "get together" to "memorable event."
1. Hire a fortune teller
A few years ago, I decided to throw a birthday party for myself for the first (and so far the only) time in my life. I asked a dear friend to help "style" the party and, as a gifted event planner with a special focus on wedding celebrations, she agreed, and then immediately asked the question that she knew would set the tone for the event.
"Would you like to have a fortune teller?"
I blinked. A fortune teller...? I thought. Yes! Even though I had exactly zero experience with fortune telling or what that would entail, my knee-jerk response told me that this would be a hit. And it was.
Her name was Phoenix and she was both captivating and professional. Everyone wanted to talk with her, and friends who attended that party still speak of her, years later. It mattered less, whether or not guests who spoke with Phoenix fully believed the fortunes they were told. What mattered more was that Phoenix was fun and unusual, and the guests were entertained by a very memorable experience.
2. Host a storytelling session.
Telling stories, especially with a gifted narrator at the helm, taps into something very old and elemental about the intimacy of the human voice. Pair that voice with the spark and shadow of a live fire, and you've got a primal experience that at some level echoes one of the oldest expressions of community: our shared origin story.
I've seen storytellers at a fire pit retell legends from long ago, and I've seen them spin tales both spooky and inspiring. Whatever the tone you decide to set, be sure that it aligns with the purpose of your organization - its own origin story - and each guest's role in that purpose.
3. Try a scavenger or "special product" hunt.
In the wine world we call the impossible-to-get bottles or vintages from iconic producers the "unicorn" wines, emphasizing the unlikelihood of ever experiencing one or more of those bottles in our lifetime.
It takes some digging, and definitely some calling in of favors, but unveiling a unicorn bottle or two at a celebratory occasion is worth the effort. When the premium is on the experience of the event, and wanting attendees to know how uniquely valued they are to your company's mission, securing a "unicorn" bottle (or its equivalent, for your industry) elevates the company holiday party to something far more special.
As you prepare to wrap up 2019 with a celebratory appreciation of your team, start with how you want them to feel at the end of the occasion. Entertained? Part of the community? Particularly valued? Carefully choose the event's activities that will generate exactly those sentiments.