Holding an Event During the Winter Olympics? Meeting Planning Ideas to Make Your Attendees Feel Part of the Games
The 2018 Winter Olympics are around the corner and with them the opportunity for everyone to show their pride and support by rooting for their countries’ finest athletes. Unfortunately, the business world doesn’t come to a halt just because the Olympic games are underway, and you may have no choice but to schedule or participate in important meetings or events during the games.
This can be a real blow to employees that were hoping to watch their favorite events, from figure skating and hockey to skiing, luge, and even curling, and cheer on their favorite athletes. In other words, it can be tough on morale, and it can distract from the focus of your meeting or event.
As a meeting planner, conference organizer, or the person spearheading activities, you may be aware of how to make the best of this difficult situation and provide guests with some measure of access to Olympic coverage so that they can buckle down and focus on your event the rest of the time. How can you arrange for meeting or event attendees to feel like they’re part of the Winter Olympics while attending a work event? Here are a few suggestions that could help to split time and attention between the two:
Have the Conference Organizer Schedule a Break to Broadcast Opening Ceremonies
There’s simply no substitute for the spectacle of opening ceremonies, where Olympic teams and participants parade through the central stadium, the head of state opens the games, the Olympic flag is hoisted, and the Olympic Torch Relay ends in the lighting of the cauldron flame. This is followed by other official elements of the ceremony (oaths, anthems, and such) before the host country’s artistic program commences, complete with a variety of performance arts meant to display the height of local culture, values, and talent.
If you want to show your support for this international assemblage of friendly competition, working with your convention planner to set up a viewing of the opening ceremonies for a meeting or conference attendees is a great way to kick off your own event. It should help to create a relaxing and social atmosphere, an uplifting mood, and a spirit of unity that can only improve your event.
Provide Country Lapel Pins or Flags as a Fun Freebie with Welcome Packets
Many companies elect to provide meeting packets, goodie bags at check-in, or gift baskets in hotel rooms as a way to welcome event attendees. If your event happens to fall during the Winter Olympics, you could include Olympic or country-specific lapel pins, or even small flags.
This will not only get attendees into the spirit of the games, but it will allow them a way to display their national pride and make for a good ice-breaker, since wearing a lapel pin automatically conveys a piece of personal information, such as which country an attendee comes from or supports.
Give Meals an Olympic Theme
A convention planner will likely have to work with catering staff to come up with suitable menus for event attendees, and this provides an opportunity to have some fun. If you serve a morning buffet with doughnuts or bagels, you could display them in the shape of the Olympic Rings. Or you might ask the chef or catering service to come up with an Olympic-inspired dessert for your attendees.
Caterers could even have fun creating Olympic-related names for dishes on the menu, even if the meals themselves are relatively standard fare. This is chance to get creative, have some fun, and get everyone involved in the spirit of the games.
Text or Email Olympic Highlights with the Morning Events Schedule
Says John Cotter, COO, of American Meetings, Inc. (AMI),
“Technology provides an easy means of delivering information on a mass scale. If attendees register with email or SMS you can push notifications with information about your event, like scheduling and updates.”
A savvy conference organizer can also use this medium to include tidbits and highlights from ongoing Olympic events. Naturally, you don’t want to pepper attendees with dozens of updates throughout the day – that would only distract from the purpose at hand. However, you could definitely include a brief highlights reel in your morning missive as a way to keep everyone in the loop so they’re not fidgeting and checking outcomes on devices when they should be paying attention to speakers or participating in networking or team-building events.
Post Updates via Social Media for Your Event
If you’d rather keep it professional where your morning updates for the event are concerned, or you’re trying to curb instances of attendees scrolling through their news feeds in search of Olympic coverage when they should be involved in meetings or other activities, you might want to take a step to redirect attention. Pull the focus back to your event by posting Olympic updates throughout the day on your company or event social media accounts.
This is a great way to offer bite-size pieces of information, in order to keep attendees involved in the games even though they’re technically working. However, it serves the double purpose of keeping them on your social media and engaged with the information you deliver, rather than straying to other sites and getting sucked down the rabbit hole.
Have Your Convention Planner Schedule Olympic-Themed Team Building Exercises
The Olympics are a double-edged sword, in a sense. The games are a way to bring countries together to celebrate the very best of humanity, but they’re still a platform that pits one country against another in skills competitions.
Team building exercises are much the same. They rely on individual skills of team members, but demand that everyone works together to reach a common goal. Incorporating an Olympic theme into team building exercises could be as easy as setting up a relay race with teams representing different countries to get everyone engaged and working together, while observing the fun and competition that are part and parcel of the Olympics.
It’s not easy to compete with the allure of the Winter Olympics when you know event attendees would rather be glued to monitors, watching their countries or favorite athletes compete. With a creative problem solver like AMI as your partner in strategic planning, you can come up with incredible ways to incorporate the spirit of the Olympic games without necessarily detracting from your own event.