Creating the WOW

by Jacquelyn Manson
MPR 10.13
Creating the special “wow” at your event was the topic of October’s AENC Association Meeting Planners Roundtable held at The Siena Hotel, a Four Diamond property, in the heart of Chapel Hill.  The event started out with a “wow” when we were greeted at the door and personally escorted to the meeting room.   While networking with fellow planners, we were served a delicious breakfast and after the event, we were given a tour of the newly renovated property by Amy Struble, the Director of Sales and Marketing.

The planners got right to work and broke up into two groups in order to brainstorm ways to create the memorable ‘wow’ at events.  One thing we all agreed on during our discussion, creating the ‘wow’ doesn’t have to be big or expensive, sometimes a nicely wrapped bottle of wine for attendees with a personal note can go a long way in creating a memory for that guest, board member or attendee.

Here are some of the ideas generated from the groups:


  • Offer a ‘you must be present’ cash prize at the end of the event.
  • Give each attendee a ticket with a number on it.  The two people with the matching numbers win a prize. The catch is- they have to find each other.  This idea gets people meeting each other and talking.
  • Hire an impersonator for your event.
  • Centerpieces:  try edible and theme centerpieces.
  • Incorporate your sponsor’s products into the décor.
  • Drink themes: name a drink after the event, award winners, etc.
  • Have a framed picture of the honoree and give people the opportunity to sign the frame with their best wishes.
  • Associate a charity with your event.
  •  Offer fun ribbons people can attach to their nametags that say something about themselves.
  • Ask your board members to wear ‘ask me’ buttons.  Ask me about:  events, sponsorship, membership, etc.  It’s a conversation starter.
  • Have your board president or executive director greet your guest as they enter the event.
  • Offer gift bags.
  • Make it easy to find your event. Well-placed signs on the street directing people to your event are appreciated, especially if the location is easy to miss.
  • Moving your event to a new location can spark new interest and draw new people.
  • Choose a special location within a venue, like the pool area, instead of the ballroom to have your event.  Outside areas are more intimate, especially if you decorate them with couches and other specialty furniture.

Board Meeting:

  • Arrange a behind the scenes tour of the event location during a lunch or dinner break.
  • Pair up new members with established members to be mentor during the meeting.
  • Hire a food truck for the board dinner or lunch.


  • Host a sponsored float race down the aisles. Offer the winning team a prize.
  • Have a number of vendors throughout the show stamp each attendee’s scavenger hunt form.  Offer attendees a prize if they visit all the vendors listed in the form.
  • Hire a digital caricature artist.
  • Have break-dancers, drummers, etc.  lead people into the tradeshow.

Ask who, what, when, where and why when thinking of ways to make your event memorable. Jovita Mask, AENC’s Events & Sales Manager, reminded us there is a fine line between changing something people love about your event in order to create a new ‘wow’ and keeping the thing everyone loves about the event the most.  Evaluate why you think you need to change something.  Is it to bring in more money, attract more attendees?  Don’t change just for the sake of change. You may end up doing more harm than good.

A big thank you to The Sienna Hotel for hosting this roundtable. For more information about the hotel, visit: