NOV 2018

ConventionSouth magazine is the leading resource for meeting planners who book all types of events, conventions, conferences and group travel in the south.

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⎜ ConventionSouth ⎜ N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 8 w w w . c o n v e n t i o n s o u t h . c o m 10 It's time to break out those favorite cookie recipes and ugly sweaters, because the holiday event season is virtually upon us. Although some organizations plan their parties up to a year in advance, the good news is that there is still time for those who are just now starting the planning process. With that in mind, I recommend securing the event details as soon as possible in order to find the best rates, have access to more in-demand dates and venues, and most im- portantly have time to customize and tailor the experience for attendees. Below are my top tips for planning and hosting an unforgettable holiday event. Time Is Of The Essence The closer we get to the holiday season the less likely planners will be able to find flexibility in choosing an event date that works best for attendees. I've already noticed an uptick in demand over the first two weeks of December, so I recommend that planners book as soon as possible in order to ensure they are not forced into venues or times that are not ideal. Make Time To Customize To me, the most important reason to get the ball rolling now is to allow sufficient time for customization. I always recom- mend that companies poll their group on what date, time of day, and location will work best before securing the details of an event. I've been surprised in the past to see the increased attendance and excitement from attendees based on asking those three simple questions. In addition to the basics, and if tim- ing permits, planners can also poll their group about the type of celebration they'd be most interested in, food and beverage preferences, and entertainment options to further customize the experience. Keep It Relaxed Planners can make holiday parties fun and unique without overthinking it. I find the elements that matter most to guests are good food, drinks, music, and company of course. Don't get caught up in trying to make your event different from years past or overly creative. In fact, I've noticed a trend of companies ditching a formal holiday party altogether and opting for more casual get togethers. Some of my favorite examples we've hosted have been everything from simple bonfires and barbecues, to happy hours with tacky holiday sweaters and white elephant gifts. These more relaxed functions are hugely popular and allow attendees to have a great time with their colleagues and peers. Think Local When It Comes To Entertainment Another trend I've noticed is that more groups are booking musicians or bands as entertainment instead of a DJ. Live music can completely change the ambience and dynamic of an event while also helping to support a local up-and-coming artist. Plan- ners will not only get better sound quality with this option, but many are surprised to find that musician fees can be very reason- able compared to other options. Tis' The Season For Giving With the trend of more relaxed holiday events, casual affairs can be more cost effective allowing more room in the budget for a charitable component. I recommend getting attendees involved in giving back. For example, provide a silent auction that supports a local community organization, or encourage employees to donate canned food items to a local food bank in order to be entered into a raffle or giveaway. Consider Accommodations When planning an evening party, I highly recommend that companies provide accommo- dation options for attendees. We work with organizations to provide room blocks with discounted rates for holiday events. This set-up is not only a safer option without the hassle of coordinating transportation, but it can help to ensure that the guests can fully enjoy the celebration. n planner advice: Erin Cook Director of Sales and Marketing at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa There's Still Time To Plan An Unforgettable Holiday Event Erin Cook is the Director of Sales and Marketing at Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa near Austin, Texas. She has more than 10 years of experience working in the hospitality and meeting industries.

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