In some respects, autumn is all about endings: Summer is gone, and soon the year will be, too. But there's another way to interpret the season. Instead of decline, autumn also gives us an opportunity to celebrate change and abundance -- especially this year, when we could all benefit from finding a silver lining during otherwise challenging times. Fall colors thrive, and so do autumn harvests, the bounties of which symbolize the fruits of hard work, patience and perseverance.
For meeting groups that view it through the latter lens, autumn can be an ideal springboard from which to launch events that emphasize growth, commitment, transformation and plenitude -- all topics of which the meetings industry continues to bring to the forefront as we look toward recovery from the debilitating COVID-19 pandemic. Following, we explore five seasonal-inspired themes that can be incorporated into your virtual, hybrid or in-person events. These ideas can help you harness autumn's best attributes in order to make your meeting as memorable as the fall air is crisp.
Farmers across the country spend spring planting crops and summer tending them. Come fall it’s time to reap what has been sowed. For that reason, Camelot Party Rentals of Sparks, Nev., recommends a harvest-themed meeting that appeals to attendees' inner foodies with an autumnal twist on farm-to-table fare.
"Harvest season means outstanding catering," the company writes. "Picture a dining table adorned with organic seasonal butternut squash, maple-cured meats and fresh pumpkin pies. Organic catering has already been a huge trend among event planners, and during fall your options will be limitless. The unique seasonal cuisine will not soon be forgotten by attendees."
To bring this bounty to your attendees during the time of virtual meetings, many f&b suppliers have begun offering home-delivery catering options for events in which pre-prepared meals or fresh ingredients can be delivered right to your attendees' doorsteps. San Francisco-based catering and event specialists Foxtail, for example, has designed curated specialty appetizer boxes and meal kits created by their chefs and bartenders. Each box can be customized to specific themes or company needs. The company offers nation-wide shipping.
One of the hallmarks of fall is Starbucks' pumpkin spice latte -- and the scads of other pumpkin spice treats that have been inspired by it. But forget artificial flavors. Instead, consider celebrating the season with actual pumpkins, suggests event software company Social Tables, which recommends a pumpkin patch theme.
"Picking pumpkins from a pumpkin patch is a great outdoor event that people of all ages can enjoy," the company says in a post on its blog. "Whether you organize a bus to your nearest farm or bring the pumpkins to your own event space, pumpkin patches are the kind of nostalgic activity that can be enjoyed outdoors, is affordable to host and attend, and often involves delicious foods like ciders, hot chocolate and cinnamon sugar donuts."
Much like how you might send home-based event attendees a meal kit, you can also send them activity kits to indulge themselves in during virtual and hybrid event networking breaks. Social Tables recommends activities like a scarecrow-decorating contest, a fall wreath-making activity or pumpkin carving/paintings, all of which would make perfect complements to pumpkin patch-themed events.
For sports fans, fall typically means one thing: football. Event planners can take advantage of attendees’ seasonal fandom by planning a meeting that celebrates the pigskin. This might mean something as simple as instilling some light-hearted morale by encouraging participants to attend the meeting sporting their favorite team's jersey.
Planners might also be able to incorporate themed giveaways and sponsorship packages into this fan-centric theme.
Nobody does autumn quite like the Germans, whose annual Oktoberfest is not only a celebration of the season, but also an exciting event theme, suggests ExactHire. "Whether you go with a full-on German fare-inspired pitch-in or keep it simple with some Bavarian pretzels and a beer tasting, you can’t go wrong," the company says.
Classy, a maker of online fundraising software for nonprofits, has another idea for an Oktoberfest-themed soiree: a pub crawl. Consider embracing a fall drink menu as a themed happy hour (think pumpkin ales, ciders, mulled wine) event, the company suggests. Catalyst Creative Events, for example, will curate a collection of special release craft beers from local breweries and ship beer tasting kits to each meeting attendee. The company will also arrange a virtual tasting breakout session for your group lead by a certified cicerone, complete with trivia customized to your group or the event's theme.
For intimate, local groups who are able to safely meet in-person and adhere to all CDC, WHO, federal, state and local guidelines and protcols during this time, an outdoor bonfire might be the best way to take advantage of the crisp fall air and an outdoor venue. After all, some of the best meetings "ignite" attendees’ passion. In the fall, event planners have a unique opportunity to plan an event that lights a fire under their group not only figuratively, but also literally, according to Social Tables, which suggests planning a "bonfire bash."
“Simply light one or more bonfires, set up some chairs and set up some tasty food options. Bring tools you’ll need to roast marshmallows, pop some corn and cook hot dogs,” Social Tables advises. “This kind of event also goes well with live music, so consider hiring a professional guitar player to serenade your guests with fun and relaxing tunes.” Just remember to adhere to social distancing guidelines and only use single-serve flatware for food and beverages.