As an event planner, the last thing you want your attendees to feel is that your event could have been held in any city in the world, and they wouldn’t have noticed any difference. After all, every city has quality hotels, so what else can you offer? Adding local flavor to an event helps to create an experience that sets it apart from any other your event goers have been to.
People today are more traveled, which can make them harder to impress. And, you’ll find you’re planning events for a new generation that want different things to the previous ones. Millennials want something uniquely local to experience as they crave a greater sense of connection.
Adding local flavor to an event will make it more memorable and successful, but you can also use this in marketing your event. It will help potential attendees feel like going to your event will be worth their time, money and the efforts of travel. Not only that but maximizing your resources by choosing to add local flair to an event will help you stand out from your competition. After all, competing for attendees is something every event organizer is familiar with.
Keep reading to find out everything (and more!) you need to know about adding local flavor to an event, including:
- What you want to achieve by incorporating local flavor
- How not to do it
- Experience is the key – why local trumps digital
- Different aspects of local flavor you can include
- Exciting ideas for planning events with local flair
- What to do if you’ve never been there yourself
With attendees today craving more exceptional experience, it’s essential to use aspects of the region to create that. It isn’t about using commodities like the hotel to impress event goers. One way to think about adding local flavor to an event is to break attendees’ expectations.
Use your event data to consider the types of events they may have been to before and find ways to surpass those. Imagine the event goer is on their way home after your event. If you planned a memorable event, they would be able to think back on different moments that stood out to them, with a sense of “wow, that was amazing”.
Adding local flavor to an event should also help your attendees with talking points when they return home. When someone asks them how it was, you don’t want them saying, “oh yeah, good”. They should have some things that excited them so much that they can’t help talking about the highlights. After all, there’s an expectation when you’ve been somewhere new that you’ll come back with stories. Those stories are exactly what you want to achieve by adding local flavor to an event.
You also want to think about your event in terms of it being turned into an extended stay. If an attendee is traveling to your event, they could plan to bring family, friends or a significant other with them, turning it into a vacation. Adding some of the aspects of local flavor we’ll talk about below, can help make that a reality. Think about how you can value-add in your event planning as not just fulfilling the objectives of a fixed event but making it a part of a broader experience.
Before we dive into the best ways to add local flavor to an event, we want to point out things not to do. That way you can keep them in the forefront of your mind and don’t confuse the meaning of adding local flair.
Firstly, you should never go too quickly to an assumption of what the theme of your event should be. Coming up with a theme automatically, especially if you aren’t intimately familiar with a location, means you probably came up with an answer that’s a little obvious and cheesy. What’s more, it’s probably been done a thousand times before and will do little to impress your event goers. As an example, consider Charlotte. NASCAR is an obvious standout for the city, but do you think incorporating checked flag tablecloths and car-themed desserts are going to wow your guests? There’s also much more to Charlotte than NASCAR. It’s important to do the city hosting the event and its people justice in how you choose to represent it.
When adding regional flair to an event, it’s also important to not go too dated. Local history is very important, and you can certainly include aspects of it in your event. But, you still need to incorporate modern elements to complement any historical highlights. Balance is key otherwise the purpose of your event could be lost in an immersion of history.
Importance of local flair in person vs. digital viewing
One of the reasons why adding local flavor to an event creates an experience like no other is because some things just can’t be replicated digitally. Nothing compares to experiencing something in real time, with other people. Videos, images and digital sound are great, but they can’t substitute for that in-person sensory experience.
You can capitalize on that by taking advantage of the senses to provide an immersive experience. When planning your event, try to choose something to appeal to each of the senses. This will help your attendees appreciate the moment for what it is and stay in the present, much like practicing mindfulness. Food, keepsakes and the feelings of experience are all forms of connection with the destination that event goers can look back on for years to come.
Food and beverage
Food may be the first thing that comes to mind when adding local flavor to an event. While we want to show you there is more to it than that, cuisine shouldn’t be discounted because of its value in creating shared experiences. Rather than choosing one particular food the region is known for and incorporating it in as many ways as possible, there are some much more appealing ways to add flair.
Firstly, think about the area in terms of its produce. These days, consumers are demanding healthier, sustainable options. There’s no reason you can’t use this desire and ensure all food served at your event is locally produced. You could even let the guests know about the farmer’s markets it came from, so they can visit them if they choose.
Consumers are also turning to mission-driven brands more than ever for the sense of community they create. Find out if there are any mission-driven local brands that would be willing to collaborate on your event and feeding your attendees.
You could look at featuring a regional signature dish, but it’s important not to be too adventurous, or you’ll risk alienating attendees! A great way to showcase local food, but provide variety is to arrange a few food trucks to attend during event breaks.
There are plenty of exciting options you can explore for beverages too. Local wine labels, craft beers, and local coffee are all tempting and likely to appeal to a lot of your guests. You could also look at providing a juice bar that makes juices from local produce.
Incorporating local cuisine is a fantastic way to customize the event to reflect regional flair. But, it’s important not to go overboard. Choose one aspect to highlight – whether that be a type of cuisine or beverage or an aspect like sustainable produce.
You can get cultural when adding local flavor to an event by choosing a venue that reflects the region. Consider local museums, art galleries, and historic architecture. You might find that’s suitable for hosting your entire event, but this idea works well for holding just part of the event in such a venue too.
Alternatively, you don’t have to hold your event in the venue, but you could have it somewhere overlooking it. Somewhere with an excellent view of the historical architecture, for example, would work well too. It’s a subtler option, but worth considering if the buildings have a greater impact on the outside than the interior.
You don’t have to choose to include a historical or cultural venue though. There’s a lot you can do to build wow-factor on a blank canvas by adding local flavor to an event. For instance, you could work with local artists to customize the venue. Omni Hotel at Louisville serves as a great example – they decorate their hotel with art purchased from local artists.
You should also think outside the box when it comes to design elements. There might be a particular aspect of scenery that’s beautiful or exciting. Sometimes it can be challenging to incorporate directly, and that’s where you need to get a little creative. For example, there’s a distinct smell in Arizona when it rains. But, it’s hard to replicate that when it doesn’t rain a lot in Arizona. Further investigation will show that the smell is not the rain, but when the rain hits the native creosote bushes. This can be replicated with sprinklers raining upon the very same bushes – something to keep in mind if you’re ever event planning in Arizona!
You can have a lot of fun choosing entertainment for your event that reflects the destination culture. If there is a particular style of music or dance the region is known for, then that makes a great option. Alternatively, using your data on potential attendees, you could look at their favorite style of music. Then find a local band in that genre to perform.
If it’s a good fit for your audience, a local dance club could put on a performance. Another idea is to look at the performance scene. Does the destination have a reputation for their stand-up comedy or improv? See if you can find local comedians to provide some light relief at your event.
Now that you have a good idea of what adding authentic local flavor to an event means let’s dive into some awesome ideas for doing just that.
Gifts and souvenirs
Giving little gifts, souvenirs and gift bags to event goers is one of the fun parts of event planning for sure! But finding something with local flair can go wrong when you choose something that isn’t relevant or useful. Those types of gifts are unfortunately a waste of time – you don’t want it going in the bin back in their hotel room!
To do it right, you need to find a connection between the interests or business of the attendees and the local area. For example, if you’re holding a business conference, there’s a likelihood your attendees work at desks. A paperweight with the city’s top landmark is a pretty standard gift. But, what about if you took it up a notch and sourced glass-blown paperweights that were made by local artists? We think that would be something your attendees would love to have on their desks. Not only is it useful, but likely to be a conversation-starter! Remember that people love to have stories to tell of their travels.
One of the best ways of adding local flavor to an event comes with supporting attendees for the entire period of their stay, not just for the hours or days of your event. When event goers are traveling to attend your event, it’s likely they’ll be staying for some time either side of the event. As we mentioned earlier, they could even be turning it into a vacation with loved ones. In this case, you might want to do some of the hard work for them, providing them with resources for planning their destination leisure time. Try these ideas:
- Incorporating some “after-hours” activities that they can opt-in for to help them explore the local area
- Providing suggested itineraries that they can follow
- If your event spans a few days, you could plan to give attendees some free time to explore (e.g. ending each day at 2 pm)
- Create best-of guides you’ve tailored to your attendees’ interests
- Organize a tour promotional offer
- Best of all, you could look at setting up your own tour for attendees as a part of your event – a major drawcard!
While it’s important your attendees are here in person, experiencing everything on offer, it helps to find ways to make it translate well digitally. People love to take share-worthy photos to flaunt on social media and make others envious. You can help them with that by finding Insta-worthy landmarks and backdrops to show non-attendees what they’re missing out on! For bonus points, you should even build on the previous idea and facilitate getting them there. If others can see them having a great experience, it tends to consolidate that feeling in themselves too!
You might be wondering if it’s possible to create a memorable event with local flair if you’ve never been to the destination before. Yes! You can still plan a powerful event without having any personal experience with the city. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Read personal travel blogs to gain real insights. It’s one thing to read what tourism websites have published, but it’s quite another to find out about the gems that well-traveled people have discovered off-the-beaten-path.
- Reach out to locals. Who better to give recommendations for what makes a region truly special? When you explain to locals you want visitors to have an authentic experience so that they can see the true beauty of their hometown, they’ll want to help!
- Contact the local Convention Visitors Bureau (CVB). They are a veritable treasure-trove of information on holding events in their area and only too happy to help in your event planning.
- If budget permits, you can also look to a destination management company (DMC). They’ll act as an extension of your team in planning an unforgettable destination experience.
Our best advice when adding local flavor to an event is to steer clear of the predictable or somewhat cheesy route. Choose local aspects that are genuinely interesting, and that will stay with attendees when they return home. A good guideline is to incorporate things that locals themselves are proud of, and you’ll be wowing attendees in no time!
We’d love to know if you’ve ever planned an event with local flair that your event goers loved? Let us know in the comments!