When you think about an event, what are the details you usually remember? For most people it is the food and wine, or the relevant details because that is what makes people feel seen and taken care of .
So how do you personalize the experience of your event? Get into the mind of your guests and what they want. Once you identify the experience you want to create you can use food and wine to create a memorable event!
Never accept a Menu at Face Value
When you start your food planning for an event, never take a catering company or venue’s menu at face value. It’s easy to think you’re are stuck with what they’re offering but instead go to your vendor with the ideas you have in mind and lead with your vision for what the menu should be. In my experience, they are usually very happy to work with you to execute an idea that will turn your event from cookie cutter to a memorable, personalized event. I’ve had many a caterer end up adding things we ideated up together to their menu after our event because it was so innovative and successful!
Think Like Your Attendees
When planning an event, it’s easy to think about what you would want instead of getting into the minds of your demographic. My mom, an interior designer, taught me early on that she had to adjust her style and recommendations based on a particular client and I apply the same ethos to event planning.
If you associate comfort and pleasure with sweet baked goods and sugary beverages, you may be inclined to set up breaks for people that are sweet laden. Is that what your audience wants? For example is you’re hosting an event for tech execs from Facebook or Google, these executives care about local, sustainable foods and often have dietary restrictions. Instead of junk food, a a super foods bar is more likely to put them in their comfort zone and in the optimal mindset to take in the content and details you’re sharing with them at your event.
Don’t know what your audience likes? Just ask. When I’m planning executive events I go to the assistants and ask what foods and wines each person likes and anything that absolutely dislike.
If you have audience segmentation, you may have groups who want different things; personalize the experience by providing options for everyone.
Examples Of Personalized Events
Google Capital Security Summit
Event Overview: As part of the event, we provided a high end c lunch for professionals and executives while presenting thought leadership cyber security.
Obstacle: Want a themed event but how do you do that with a dry topic like cyber security?
Personalized Experience: when thinking of cyber security, executives want to feel safe, so we created a beautiful lunch with greenery, outdoor, table settings and a healthy take on comfort foods like cauliflower mac and cheese.
A Real Life Example
Event Overview: At Google Cloud Next, we plan a cloud event industry for 30,000 attendees who attend keynote sessions where they hear from Google leadership about new products and roadmap, attend technical breakouts, trainings, and certifications, and have opportunities for demos, meetings, networking and social events.
Obstacle: we had 30,000 attendees who needed to eat lunch while trying to make it between breakout sessions, training, certification and meetings.
Personalized Experience: We provided over a dozen different lunch options for attendees in different styles, cuisines and locations. Yerba Buena Gardens had live music, with picnic blankets and comfy seating out in the lawn so attendees who wanted a break from the content could enjoy a festival-like atmosphere. We bought out the entire food court at the Metreon Theaters so attendees had access to eat at any of the restaurants ranging from Mexican to Thai to American Grill. We also provided pop-up hot dog and ice cream carts, food trucks, and grab and go lunch bags at all the hotel venues for folks in a rush on their way to a breakout session.