It’s physiologically given that we need food to survive. Food primes our organic engines, and much like animals in the wild, if we don’t eat, we die.

But how we differ from our animal counterparts is what we eat is more than a means to survival. Food also offers an emotional connection. You probably have great memories of sitting at the kitchen table and eating a tasty snack with a sibling or parent. Or you could recall the warmth of gathering around the dining room table for a delicious meal with family and friends. 

That is why it’s baffling that, when it comes to planning conferences, meetings, or events, the role of food is an afterthought. In reality, a little planning and creativity can turn your food and beverage offerings from “meh” to memorable! 

Where We Are Now

Raise your hand if this event/conference/meeting food presentation is familiar.

Round tables with seating for 8 to 10 people (most of whom are strangers to one another) are set up in a standard ballroom or banquet hall. At each seat are a plated salad, dessert, and a glass of water. Stone-faced waitstaff serves the hot food (typically some variation of chicken.)

Or, there’s the buffet, another common method of food presentation. Here you have the usual protein (again, most likely chicken), various salads, vegetables, rolls, and dessert. The stone-faced waitstaff is again evident, this time operating the food stations. 

In either case, the food might be perfectly all right. But if you were to quiz your attendees, later on, they might not have any lasting memory about what they ate or how it was presented. If you aim to ensure a memorable event, taking a casual approach to the eatables is not the best plan.

Let’s think of a few ways in which you can make the food at your event a more notable experience. We talked about the mediocre chicken that doesn’t typically turn a head but there are many ways to upscale your food while staying budget friendly. 

If food is being served at your event, be aware of the manner in which it’s being presented. By creating a unique presentation that is exclusive to your event’s brand, you are sure to turn some heads. You can do this through the food’s layout or even by incorporating some different serving platters/utensils. 

Understanding the Eating & Emotional Connections

Religious and historic texts consistently tie food with hospitality. The focus involves inviting friends, family, and even strangers into a home and breaking bread with them. That link between nutrition and hospitality continues today for the following reasons.

It creates memories and warmth

Most people are familiar with the Norman Rockwell painting, “Freedom from Want.” This iconic oil canvas depicts a family at a Thanksgiving table, happily eyeing a large turkey held by grandma, created in response to President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union address. This painting symbolizes family, food, and peace. It also depicts the importance of get-togethers during meals.

The emotional connection of communal eating goes beyond a Rockwellesque interpretation. Peer-reviewed studies note that eating with others leads to higher levels of sharing and communication. As such, breaking bread with family and friends generates positive emotions.

It supports cultural and religious identities

Food is essential for connecting us with our heritage and background. Preparing, presenting, and participating in food-related rituals is vital in reminding us of where we all come from. Different types of eatables are also connected with various religious festivals and observances. For instance:

  • Feasting and sweets are important during the Hindu holiday of Diwali
  • Meat (especially lamb) is a staple offering during the Muslim observance of Ed al-Adha
  • Devout Catholics eat fish on Fridays and many times, during Lent
  • Latkes, or fried potatoes, are regularly consumed throughout the Jewish holiday of Chanukah

It can boost physical health

Research indicates that loner eating can lead to bad habits. Let’s face it; dining alone, in many cases, can be depressing.

On the other hand, eating with friends, colleagues, or family can help slow the rate of food consumption. While dining, interactions with others means people eat more slowly and savor what they put in their mouths. And, unless you are with argumentative people, breaking bread with people you like can also be relaxing. This, in turn, helps with digestion.

Finally, sharing a meal with others can lead to mutual ideas and stronger ties while building lasting relationships. If you think about it, this isn’t too different from the goals and purposes of conventions, meetings, or events.

Putting Food First

The takeaway is that an event’s food and beverage offerings are as crucial as its content and presenters. To help ensure that your meeting or conference stands out in the area of edibles, consider sourcing locally. Contracting with local food vendors can be an excellent idea for the following reasons:

It improves sustainability. The “farm-to-table” and “sea-to-plate” focus means fresher foods. Protein and vegetables don’t have as far to travel and require fewer resources, meaning a smaller carbon footprint.

It highlights the locale. Local meals and recipes can make cuisine fun for attendees. For example, crabs or clam chowder can be a tasty addition to your Boston conference. And consider serving Vienna beef sandwiches or Chicago-style hot dogs at that next Chicago event.

In addition to this, consider the following suggestions for food offerings.

Change the Environment

A large dining hall, conference room, or ballroom may have the capacity needed for your event but many times lacks in personality and charm. The absence of windows and yellow overhead lighting can often feel more incaving than inviting. Rather than setting mealtime in that dull, large ballroom, look for other options. Temperature and weather permitting, outdoor spaces can be great for casual dining (and gives meeting participants a much-needed breath of fresh air).

Or rather than hosting a lengthy hour-long buffet in a grand ballroom, consider taking over a cozier hotel bar and serving bite-size finger foods to be consumed at small tables. This can reduce the “heaviness” of larger meals, while the modest-sized tables can help with more personalized networking efforts.

Personalize the Offerings

Swap out indifferent servers for personable and friendly waitstaff. Or, if you’re planning a buffet, hire outgoing, extroverted servers and “chefs.” Encourage these individuals to make your participants feel “at home” with welcoming conversation or asking questions about their wellbeing.

Make it Interactive

Earlier, we mentioned that food preparation can be just as important as consumption. Take this idea a little further by encouraging meeting attendees to take an active role in planning. This can be done either with a cooking demonstration (with meeting participants eating the results), or your event can offer hands-on cooking classes if the time permits. 

Serve It Family-Style

Rather than plating each meal separately, place an abundance of food on platters, put them on the table, and have attendees serve themselves. Family-style meals are great icebreakers, as their friendly vibe can break the ice, encouraging conversation.

Boosting Your Event Connections

While the goals of any meeting or conference you produce might involve networking and education, another overall objective is to encourage your participants to talk with one another. When handled properly, food and beverage can help in this endeavor. People forge great connections by breaking bread with one another. Bringing this idea into your planning can help create a memorable event. Let our seasoned team here at eShow help you create a unique event, one that is both tasty and impactful!

By now, doing things virtually has become a way of life. For event planners, this often means working with clients that you rarely or never see in person. While things are slowly starting to return to “normal,” many people are still working from home and attending events virtually. Living life behind the laptop is now commonplace.

In the competitive world of event planning, it’s vital to cultivate solid client relationships – but how do you do this in a virtual environment? From improving your communications to taking steps to build trust, it’s essential to nurture your connections continually. Here are a few simple ideas that you can implement right away. 

1. Respect Communication Preferences

When it comes to nurturing relationships, communication is key. However, one size does not fit all. Before you reach out, take the time to learn how they prefer to communicate. While phone calls and emails may be standard practice, many people prefer to receive text messages or direct messages through social media.

Communicating in the virtual world has its own set of challenges. By leaving face-to-face interactions and phone calls behind, direct messaging can easily be taken out of context. This is why it is essential to approach your client with clear and transparent goals in mind, allowing little room for confusion or misinterpretation. Positioning ourselves in an assertive, authentic, and concise manner will likely boost response rates.

When you choose the method that makes your client the most comfortable, you’re showing that you respect their needs. Doing so also increases the chances that you’ll receive a positive response.

2. Find Valuable Reasons to Reach Out

Time crunches and constraints are standard now, so getting your clients’ attention can be challenging. When you reach out, make it a point to provide materials that demonstrate true value. Whether it’s a quick check-in with an update on a project or a creative new idea, make sure they know that your communication will be worth their time.

Make an effort to customize each message. It may seem like a time-saver to send out a bulk check-in email, but your clients will notice. Instead, craft your message so it’s entirely relevant for the client you’re reaching out to. Also, make sure your relationship-building communications don’t overlap with sales calls. It’s important to occasionally let clients know you’re thinking about them without trying to make a sale. 

3. Get Personal   

To develop a real relationship with your clients, you’ll need to remain open and welcoming. This means making time for personal chatting, even when you’re busy. Remember that clients want to do business with people they know, like, and trust. Taking a minute to ask about their personal life will make you likable and will help build a firm relationship between the customer and seller. This is even more important in the virtual world, where many people are craving personal interaction. These small conversations will have long-lasting effects with potential to enhance productivity and customer retention.

4. Turn on the Camera

While you may not feel entirely comfortable seeing yourself on the screen, you’re doing yourself a disservice by holding meetings in “audio-only” mode. When your clients can see your smiling face, your home office, and your dog lying in the background, they’ll automatically feel more connected to you. So, make sure you clean up your office, run a brush through your hair, and turn that camera on.

5. Pay Attention to Body Language

Using video in your conference calls also gives you another advantage. When you can see the person you’re talking to, you’ll be able to pick up on the signals they’re subconsciously sending to you. If you’re 15-minutes into a call and you see the person constantly checking their phone or reading email on the second screen, you’ve lost them.

This is the time to either switch tactics and try to get them re-engaged or wrap up the call and suggest a follow-up in a few days. Remember that clients often aren’t intentionally trying to be rude, but they may be under pressure or distracted by something else going on in their life. Remain flexible and be willing to make adjustments based on their needs. 

Dr. Nick Morgan, the author of “14 tips for holding engaging video calls” offers specific examples and insight on how to keep energy and morale high during video calls in the workplace . Providing the person you’re talking to with an agenda for the meeting will help retain engagement throughout the call. Another helpful way to keep the meeting upbeat and conversational is to hold brainstorming and icebreaker sessions. Use these helpful tactics in your next conference call of 30 minutes or more.

6. Show Your Appreciation

One of the best ways to create a connection with your clients is to show them your appreciation. You can do this by periodically sending small gifts or branded promotional items. This simple gesture shows your clients that you’re there for them and that you value their business. This can lead to longer-term, more fulfilling relationships.

7. Take Notes and Follow Up

In the virtual world, it’s easy to jump from one meeting to the next with little follow-through. There’s a good chance that your client will forget about you and your discussion within a few minutes of hanging up.

You’ll show that you’re engaged and make things easier for your clients by taking detailed notes, sending meeting recaps, and helping to keep everyone involved accountable. Using an abstract and committee management tool to keep all your planning materials in one place will also keep things organized, adding even more value to your client relationship.

8. Offer Total Transparency

When you’re communicating from behind a screen, it’s important to build trust. To do this, adopt the practice of being an open book. If an issue comes up while you’re planning an event, never try to hide it. Instead, be upfront about it. Explain what’s going on while also showing that you’re in control by describing exactly how you plan to solve the problem.

Even when everything is going smoothly, you’ll want to communicate openly. Tell your clients about your personal mission and how it can help them grow their business. Be transparent about your goals and always look for ways to build credibility.  

Elevate Your Client Experience          

Keeping your clients and leads engaged is critical for those who want to compete in this ever changing landscape. To do this, it’s essential to elevate every aspect of the client experience. Having the right tools in place will help you with everything from communication and management to lead development and follow-up.eShow offers an all-in-one event management system to help take your in-person, virtual, and hybrid events to the next level. Our experts will help design a customized solution to meet your needs and show you exactly how to use our system to cultivate and strengthen your client relationships. Contact us today to learn more and schedule a personalized demo.