“How can we create an event that’s a little out of the box?”
At eCubed Events, we get this question a lot. Most often, it’s from businesses who want to gain attention for (or at) their events by taking an unconventional route. Sometimes, it’s from non-profits who are looking to fulfill their respective missions by attracting much-needed donor support.
Earlier this year, I was approached by The Samaritan Inn, which is located in McKinney, Texas. This organization operates the largest homeless program in Collin County and is focused on not only providing a safe place to stay, but also meeting the spiritual and emotional needs of the people they serve. It’s been my pleasure to work with The Samaritan Inn in the past, so I was excited when they reached out to me just after I launched eCubed Events.
The Samaritan Inn has a number of fundraising events throughout the year. One of the most popular is their annual Rock the Inn event. What makes this event unique is its focus on bringing together a younger audience—essentially the next generation of donors. It’s a fun night, but one with a powerful purpose.
When eCubed Events was asked to join the Rock the Inn event team, two critical components had already been determined. First, they’d chosen a unique venue: The Cotton Mill, a historic landmark which was formerly the largest denim manufacturer in the world. Its open, industrial vibe was ideal for a younger demographic and definitely something unexpected. Second, they’d booked Emerald City, one of the hottest bands in the DFW area.
Why were these event planning decisions so important?
- The choice of event venue allowed The Samaritan Inn to bring in food and drinks, something often not available in traditional hotel ballroom-style settings. It was also the type of location that embraced the dance party vibe they were hoping to create.
- Emerald City is a well-known and popular band with a huge following. Letting potential attendees know who would be playing the event immediately set an expectation for the high-level experience they would have.
Unexpected event choices led to better guest experiences.
With the venue and entertainment in place, it was time for eCubed Events and the committee from The Samaritan Inn to roll up our sleeves and get to work.
Choosing the right food vendor.
One of the best ideas was choosing how food at the event would be handled. The committee opted to approach local restaurants to be food vendors rather than working with a single caterer. The restaurants could provide any foods they wanted—but the kicker was that they would each offer their products and services for free. From apps, wings and subs to handcrafted pizzas, there were plenty of options to choose from, without any cost to The Samaritan Inn, and the vendors were able to promote their businesses in a positive way. It was a win for everyone involved.
(Not to mention delicious!)
Planning the design.
Rock the Inn has grown in popularity since it was first launched and at just $50 a ticket was a draw for budding philanthropists. It sold out weeks before the event date, and we recognized the need to make the most of the space. By replacing many of the large 10-person round tables with cocktail tables, guests were able to move easily throughout the venue, dance, and still have a place to dine. Simple décor choices, including placing glow sticks on the tables, kept sight lines clean and added a “club” feel.
Maximizing attendee experience.
From day one, The Samaritan Inn wanted to ensure that guests would have a great experience at Rock the Inn. That’s why, early on, we suggested bringing on a valet company because venue parking was limited, and the committee liked the concept. This decision proved to be an important one, as it rained on the day of the event. Having a professional company handling the vehicles kept guests dry and left them feeling great about the overall experience.
The Samaritan Inn is a great organization committed to serving the needs of many in our area, so it’s no surprise that people came out to support the event. The band kept everyone hopping, and having non-traditional food options proved incredibly popular. Best of all, guests are already talking about coming back next year—which means ongoing success for Rock the Inn and ongoing help for the DFW homeless.
So what can you and your business learn from this experience?
- Every event has a purpose, but it can also have a “vibe.” How do you want your attendees to feel at your next corporate event?
- Venues play a role in sharing your message. What do you want the location of your event to say about you?
- Ultimately, it’s all about the people who are coming to your event. Are there ways you can both surprise and delight them?