Community Event Inspiration: Keep it Intimate and Meaningful
Editor’s Note: This post is from our Gather Community Consulting newsletter. Subscribe to receive future newsletters and links to more resources!
A few weeks back, I had the pleasure of attending an annual community ritual hosted by a small business located near Seattle, WA. A new friend invited me to observe but told me he didn't want me to know what was going to happen at the event until I got there.
As I arrived, one of the leaders greeted me with a hearty handshake. Then, instead of pointing to a table with nametags and Sharpies, he placed a nametag in my hands. My name had been written in pen already and, under my name, it read: "What people love about me is _____." While everyone else's had been filled in, mine was blank. The host told me mine would be filled out by the end of the night.
The attendees were a select group of this business's clients (those who, in their words, "lit them up" when they were scheduled to come in for a visit), but this wasn’t a typical open house or customer appreciation happy hour. They intentionally crafted the entire, intimate event. The owners gathered everyone around and went around the room and acknowledged each attendee publicly and presented them with a gift. They didn't just thank the attendees either. No, they went far beyond that.
A recent retiree named Dave?* They acknowledged him as an inspiration for how they wanted to shape their lives.
Sharlene, a local artist? She was someone who taught others about creativity and connection through her own embodied example.
A doctor who is also a parent of two young kids? They deemed her the secret founder of an unofficial internal group called "The Badass Momma Club."
People cried. A lot.
All because of a business who really saw them for who they were and who they wanted to become.
Even as an outsider, I felt I knew the others in the room -- every single one of them, not just a few who were singled out. I talked with a few of them after the event. We had different views and life experiences, but I could feel our shared humanity. That matters - the soul, the heart. We need more businesses and organizations to reflect that.
At the end of the night, my friend then wrote what people liked about me on my nametag: "my humor and my skills in bringing community together."
The entire experience left me with a question: Why do we do what we do?
There are no fancy Forbes lists for this work; I don't think that most of us even want that. We don't do this for the external ribbons and bows and trophies. However, too often we (or our organizations) place immense value in metrics and ROI and pushing, pushing, pushing to prove we have value and fit into the order of things. The "order of things" is how we got here, and it's not how we navigate our way into a better future.
That may sound idealistic, and it should. It's a radical, revolutionary idea to declare that businesses (and your work within them) shouldn't only serve to create shareholder or owner value but actual human value. Businesses tout the idea of community, but in the last year, how many of them have gathered you and helped you feel genuinely seen? My guess is, like me, your answer is close to zero. But that is what the world needs. And this is what we are uniquely poised to deliver.
*All names were changed in this story to preserve privacy.