Although the holiday season is often when we’re reminded of what we’re most thankful for, there are many benefits to practicing gratitude on a consistent basis. Studies have shown that daily or weekly reflections of thankfulness lead to a happier, more optimistic outlook and stronger, more positive relationships. This is true in the professional world as well as the personal; employees who are frequently told “thank you” by managers are more motivated and engaged, for example.
As meeting professionals, our purpose is to transform organizations through live events. Seamless and engaging experiences capitalize on the need for human connections, and the energy that is generated when people come together is when the magic happens.
Now, what if we could take the collective human energy in a live event and turn it into gratitude? Can you imagine the impact it might have? We planners know that what keeps individuals coming back to live meetings is the experience, and the experience is more often about how attendees feel rather than what they think.
One way to generate positive, memorable feelings is to create environments, activities, and spaces for attendees to practice gratitude and make the experience truly unforgettable. Here are five tips for practicing gratitude at your next event:
1. Create a gratitude hashtag.
Event hashtags are nothing new, so attendees are already prepared to look for and use them. Create a gratitude-specific hashtag and encourage attendees to use it to share what they are thankful for during your event. Then, display the social stream at monitors around the conference. The hashtag can be as simple as the meeting name with “Thankful For” or “Moments of Gratitude” at the end of it, such as #Meeting2023ThankfulFor or #Meeting2023MomentsofGratitude.
2. Build a gratitude wall.
Designate a wall where attendees are free to share moments of gratitude. You could provide an erasable whiteboard for attendees to write on, or blank notecards that can be pinned or taped to the wall. Simply title the space, “Today, I am thankful for…” and watch it fill up. For a more modern approach, ask attendees to submit their answers through your event app during a general session and create a word cloud on screen as they respond. For digital events, create a virtual bulletin board or activity stream instead.
3. Invite speakers to practice gratitude.
To bring gratitude to the podium, you might hire a keynote speaker who can share strategies for incorporating gratitude into daily habits, invite company executives to call out team members who have gone above and beyond, or ask your speakers to share a brief message of what they’re thankful for at the beginning of each presentation. When presenters model gratitude, attendees are inspired to follow suit.
4. Establish wellness spaces that encourage gratitude.
Wellness or self-care spaces are becoming more common at events, and for good reason. Attendees appreciate the opportunity to slow down and reflect, and it can help discourage burnout, exhaustion, and overexertion. Encourage gratitude in this space and promote a positive, thankful mindset with guided meditations and inspirational signage. This could be the perfect place for your gratitude wall.
5. Say “thank you!”
Before, during, and after the event, show your gratitude to everyone involved. Send a thank you e-mail after every registration and follow up with a “thanks for attending” message after the event. Provide a special thank-you gift to sponsors. Give a thank-you card in the swag bag or include the phrase on the items themselves. Expressing gratitude is beneficial to both the giver and the receiver and establishes a lasting connection beyond the event.
Anne Zambrano is a senior marketing specialist at Meetings & Incentives Worldwide, an event management and program strategy company based in Caledonia, Wis. Reprinted with permission from the Meetings & Incentives Worldwide blog.