8 Ways to Jazz up Your Evening Reception Events

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Need something new to replace your boring champagne reception? Here are a few ideas to start revving your imagination motor for evening social receptions.

It’s hard to build excitement around the same old, same old kind of event receptions but it’s also difficult to switch something up when it is an event planning tradition. Event planners want to host innovative events but if attendees are fine with what’s being offered, why switch it up and risk attendance dropping?

One day though attendees will get tired of your offerings and they won’t give you advanced warning of that. They’ll just stop attending. So this is something you need to be proactive about.

Evening events definitely matter, but what makes for a creative event reception? Aren’t evening receptions all the same?

They don’t have to be. Remember, innovation is in the eyes of the attendee. If they’ve never attended anything like it, the reception is innovative in their eyes. And that’s all that matters. You needn’t have a truly cutting-edge approach you just have to show them something they think is new and different. Here are several ideas to help you change things up:

Speed Whatever

Speed dating was all the rage a decade or so ago. Then came speed networking, where attendees rotate through a table of other networkers spending 3 minutes or so listening to one another’s elevator pitches. The buzzer rings and you move on. It’s fast and fun and ensures you don’t get stuck all night speaking to the same person.  

If your attendees have experienced speed networking before, use it as the basis for a new twist on an older concept. Host speed skills, where everyone has 2-3 minutes to tell or demonstrate to the other person one thing they’re good at that few people know. Tailor your speed event to the group. You could host a speed recipe exchange for a chef’s conference or speed hot topics that would bring to light the big topics in your industry and the way the attendee feels about them. Or post a different speed topic at every table, such as the future of the industry at one table and one thing I wish I knew last year at another.

Soapbox Speakers

soapbox speakers events

The idea behind this comes from Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park in London. Situate speakers around the room on proverbial soap boxes so that they are slightly elevated from the crowd. Don’t give them microphones and they can’t use notes or slides. It’s all in their oration. Have them speak on topics that would be of interest to the crowd. Attendees are then invited to stroll around, listening to the presentations for as long as they like, and asking questions, and making comments.

The speaker with the best presentation and most interesting topic will draw the largest crowd. But you can also invite attendees to take their place and share their own thoughts.

Selfie Satisfaction

Buy or rent photo props and backdrops and encourage attendees to upload pictures they take at your reception with your hashtag. Then project them on a large screen or wall at the reception for all to enjoy. It provides instantaneous entertainment and gives people things to talk about. You can even create souvenirs out of the shots.


Instead of an ordinary champagne reception, host a tastings menu of appetizers and beverage samplings. Create a theme around your tasting. Tie it in locally to homegrown craft beers or food specialties. Another hot trend in tastings is artisan cocktails. You can hire bartenders to create specialty cocktails for your event and you can name them based on your group.

Encourage attendees to vote on their favorites on social media. Every tweet with a hashtag counts as one vote, and add a picture and it’s worth two. This also drums up a lot of social media attention for your event. You can sponsor each food or beverage and that would give your sponsor reason to encourage people to participate by asking them to vote.

Go Big

Did you ever see the movie Big with Tom Hanks? In it, a young boy suddenly became a man overnight when he wished to be older. He retained his young mind and interests but had a mature man’s body. Most of us can identify with the carefree fun of youth. Reminding your attendees of that fun can make for a very unique reception. You can use things like ball pits, bounce houses, a dodgeball or kickball game, and/or a candy buffet or ice cream sundae bar to bring out the child in your attendees. Bonus if you make them dress up in formal attire for these activities.

New Year’s Eve

new year's eve theme events

Unless you’re actually hosting your event on New Year’s Eve, you can use this theme as a way to add a little more celebration to your party. But instead of just celebrating the New Year, throw a party for New Year’s Eve 2050 or some other date in the future. Create a tech-a-licious reception of how things might be in the coming years. This is an ideal theme for a company who can use it to prognosticate where they will be at that time.

Take It Outside

Instead of a champagne reception, try s’mores by the campfire. It creates a much more intimate setting and promotes small group interaction. You can use several smaller fires so that guests are able to interact. If your guests aren’t the type to want to crowd around a smoky fire, have staff members handling the “grilling” and wait staff serving. The glow of the fire is still very inviting and minimal decor is required.

Bellini Bar

bellini bar events

If you are used to the evening champagne reception at your event and you want to switch it up but are afraid too much change will throw your guests into a tailspin, freshen it up with a Bellini bar instead. Feature an assortment of fresh fruit purees for your bubbly and employ big band entertainment that sings heavy metal songs, lounge style. Or kick your conference off in a memorable way and make it a Bellini breakfast bar.

In Conclusion

Don’t keep hosting the exact same reception every year. You can do better. Use what you know about your ideal attendee and create something that will interest them. Provide a memorable experience and they’ll share it on social media. Their mentions do more for your marketing than sending out 100 cold invites.

Use these ideas or brainstorm your own but give your audience something new so they’ll keep talking about you. How have you mixed up your evening receptions?