Originally published on November 22, 2016. Updated on November 21, 2022.
Although most of the US celebrates Thanksgiving as the official day of gratitude, there are many benefits to practicing gratitude on a consistent basis. Studies have proven that daily or weekly reflections of thankfulness lead to happier, more optimistic outlooks and stronger, more positive relationships. This is true in the professional world as well as the personal; employees who are frequently told “thank you” by managers are more motivated and engaged, for example.
At M&IW, our purpose is to transform organizations through live meetings and events. We believe seamless and engaging experiences capitalize on the need for human connections. We also believe that the energy that is generated when people come together is when the magic happens.
Now, what if we were to take the collective human energy in a live event and turn it into gratitude? Can you imagine the impact it might have? As professional event planners, we know that what keeps individuals coming back to live meetings and events is the experience, and the experience is more often how attendees feel versus what they think.
One way to generate positive, memorable feelings is to create environments, activities, and space for attendees to practice gratitude and make the experience truly unforgettable. Here are five tips for practicing gratitude at your next event:
1. Create a Gratitude Hashtag
Event hashtags are nothing new, so attendees are already prepared to look for and use them. Create a gratitude-specific hashtag and encourage attendees to use it to share what they are thankful for during your event. Then, display the social stream at monitors around the conference. The hashtag can be as simple as the meeting name with “Thankful For” or “Moments of Gratitude” at the end of it, such as #Meeting2023ThankfulFor or #Meeting2023MomentsofGratitude.
2. Build a Gratitude Wall
Designate a wall where attendees are free to share moments of gratitude. This could be a white-erase or chalkboard wall that attendees can physically write on, or you can provide blank notecards that can be pinned, taped, or otherwhile stuck to the wall. Simply title the wall, “Today, I am thankful for…” and watch it fill up. For a more modern approach, ask attendees to submit their answers through your event app during a general session and create a word cloud onscreen as they respond. For digital events, create a virtual bulletin board or activity stream instead.
3. Invite Speakers to Practice Gratitude
Ideas include hiring a keynote speaker to share strategies for incorporating gratitude into your daily habits, inviting company executives to call out team members who have gone above and beyond, and asking each speaker to share a brief message of what they’re thankful for at the beginning of their presentation. When presenters model gratitude, attendees are inspired to follow suit.
4. Establish Wellness Spaces that Encourage Gratitude
Wellness or self-care spaces are becoming more common at events, and for good reason. Attendees appreciate the opportunity to slow down and reflect, and it can help discourage burnout, exhaustion, and overexertion. Encourage gratitude in this space and promote a positive, thankful mindset with guided meditations and inspirational signage. This could even be the perfect place for your gratitude wall.
5. Say “Thank You!”
Before, during, and after the event, show your gratitude to everyone involved. Send a “thank you” email after every registration and follow up with a “thanks for attending” message after the event. Provide a special “thank you” gift to sponsors. Give a “thank you” card in the swag bag or include the phrase on the items themselves. Expressing gratitude is beneficial to both the giver and the receiver and establishes a lasting connection beyond the event.