Last week I had the privilege of running point on a two-day leadership retreat in Atlanta for about twenty-five guests. Now I love a good floral centerpiece and making things pretty, however the guests for this event were all men, so my biggest design challenge was how to create a welcoming and visually appealing environment that didn't look too feminine. From start to finish I tried to craft a full-service experience that was personalized and inviting. Here's a little peek into how we made it happen!
A LITTLE SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY
Over half of our guests were traveling from out of town, so we wanted to craft a welcoming first impression with a touch of true southern hospitality. I started by creating these custom hotel swag boxes, complete with Georgia Peach Jelly Bellies and a true Atlanta staple, Coca-Cola in their stylish glass bottle for an extra touch of class.
With an all-male guest list, I was in search of ways to make these boxes feel "manly." What better way than with gourmet Hot Wings popcorn?! I ordered these custom made bags from our friends at Pink Popcorn in Atlanta, and they were a hit! In fact, I let my husband taste test the flavors beforehand to pick a favorite, and the bag of Hot Wings was devoured in about three minutes flat. Clearly, we had a winner.
I was also in search of ways to make each box personal. Our guests were Lead Pastors from churches all across the country, so in addition to the individually designed name labels on the front of each box, we also had birch phone stands from Black Hat Promotions custom engraved for each guest with their own church logo. (these things are SO awesome..they are even sturdy enough to hold my iPad mini!)
EXTRA MILE SERVICE
Here's a tip on a quick and easy way to enhance your guests experience and "wow" them a little from their first impression of your event: Once the boxes were completed, I pre-arranged with the hotel to personally deliver them to each room. In addition to placing the box and retreat schedule, I opened all of the windows and turned on the air and lights in each room, to make it feel extra cozy and inviting. Just a free, simple trick to make your guests feel like you are anticipating their arrival, because nothing feels less welcoming than walking into a dark, stale hotel room!
For the room that our guests would be meeting in a majority of the day, I included a coffee station and another table that served as both the breakfast station and snack station later in the day. With custom name plates that matched their gift boxes and hints of rustic greenery that tied into the lunch space decor, my goal was to keep the look and feel fluid and consistent from start to finish.
...then transformed into a snack bar!
EXTRA MILE SERVICE
Now to the coffee bar. Let's be honest...how many conferences or meetings have you been to where the only coffee option is (somewhat) lukewarm coffee in a cardboard box? Yeah, I usually pass on that too (especially if they don't have good creamer because let's be real, I like a little coffee with my cream).
So we brought in a couple of Keurig machines and hit up Sam's for a large variety of K-cups so not only were the guests able to select the kind of coffee, tea or hot chocolate they desired, but we didn't have to pour out a bunch of wasted coffee at the end of the day. It was a hit with our guests, especially when we had flavors like Starbucks, Donut Shop and Cinnabon!
Continuing with the natural decor, I was really able to bring out the earthy/rustic style in our meals environment. With touches of moss, wood, metals and succulents in the centerpieces, accented with navy linens and white charger plates, we aimed to make the space pretty while still feeling very masculine.
Now, when it comes to food for this event we catered lunch in, but it wasn't super fancy or expensive food. Our goal was for light and health-conscious lunches so we opted for a salad bar from Zaxby's on day one and a taco bar from Tin Lizzy's on day two (I could eat their chips & queso all. day. long. yes, please). Rather than set everything up in the plastic, disposable containers they come in, we opted to take it one step further and create a buffet display that matched the tone of the rest of our environments for this retreat.
First the salad bar...
And now the taco bar...
EXTRA MILE SERVICE
At the end of the retreat we brought in a fun surprise...rolled ice cream from Freeze Cream! It was a fun way to send our guests off with a little treat for the road. If you've never seen rolled ice cream in action, it's quite the show! If you're in the Atlanta area, I highly recommend these guys to come to your next event...they are hard working, entrepreneurs with a great spirit and phenomenal customer service. They helped us wrap up our event with style!