What Is The Virtual Equivalent of An Arrival Drinks Reception?
Pre-COVID the drinks reception was the one of the first impression areas of a live event, where guests arrived in glamorous outfits, navigated through the entrance and were offered first drink of the night to pick up and start socialising.
In making that first impression Event Planners have pushed the boundaries of the drinks experiences in recent years for drinks receptions, ensuring the arrival drinks had instant WOW factor and Instgramable appeal.
As a guest it’s when you want to be photographed, at the drinks reception, perfectly poised and holding a fabulously crafted cocktail. Gone are the days of a trestle table with a options of a bottle of beer, sparkling wine or orange juice.
Cocktails that tied in with themes were very popular, I remember an evening at The NEC for an African themed evening where the bar team had drilled and emptied 300 real coconuts in advance so they could serve them full of a delicious rum cocktail, it was all about the theatre of the serve and the connection with the guests in an impressive an immersive moment.
Personally I think every live event needs three big ‘WOW’ elements to be a memorable event, one at the start, in the middle and near the end. So the drinks reception was the place for the first big impression.
Venues are set to open again in October but many conference and events have moved into the virtual world in 2020 and early 2021, how can the ‘drinks reception’ be recreated in the virtual world?
People are viewing virtual events from their homes, distraction rates are high and the need to delight, excite and engage participants is paramount. One element that unifies participants together in a shared catering experience and this can be achieved by delivering arrival drinks to participant’s homes, for all to drink together at a set time.
The most important thing to think about with this type of service is that opening the box HAS to have instant photographic social media appeal. If the majority of participants don’t want to upload an image of it immediately to social media, the box contents were not strong enough.
Creatively is the key to engagement here, participants should be able to simply put together 3 or 4 cocktail ingredients from a ‘drinks reception’ delivery hamper, garnish it beautifully and enjoy it in unison online. Alternatively the cocktail be be crafted already and bottled with event branded labelling, for the participant to simply pour over ice and add a special garnish.
The hamper or box itself needs to look stunning, it will likely be the first physical touchpoint from the event.
Vibrant video content from a professional mixologist guiding what to do or a carefully crafted instruction card will bring to life this moment and create the first WOW of the virtual event.
If budget doesn’t allow for every participant to receive a hamper or box delivery, feature video content of a mixologist and send everyone a simple list of alcohol and ingredients needed to make up the arrival drink at home. Rename the cocktails after the types of products or services the conference is built around and ask the mixologist to add WOW factor with creative garnishes that add value to the participant’s dinner party drinks making skills.
Layla Mullins, Event Planner for the DevOps Institute Virtual SkilUp Day Conferences did exactly that. The monthly virtual conference, which is focussed on the ‘how to’ of industry practices (https://devopsinstitute.com/virtual-skilup-days/) now features a cocktail mixology element for all participants with themed cocktails and mocktails every month. “After finding Murdo from Zest Mixology via Delegate Wranglers, we had a call and he shared some videos. My clients loved him and booked him for a virtual cocktail/mocktail experience for the the June conference. One event in and everybody loved this new feature and of course, Murdo’s sequin jacket! We then booked him for the next 6 events and he’s now a permanent feature on the agenda!”
Every virtual event is different and the arrival drinks reception needs to be different for every event too, in order for it to be memorable. Virtual is pushing the boundaries of the events industry and every part of the event needs to evolve with it. Let’s break the mould of the drinks reception and delight & excite online participants in a creative and unified drinks experience that they want to shout about.
Murdo MacLeod is MD at Zest Mixology, a leading supplier of pop up drinks experiences, virtual cocktail experiences and delivering unique drinks creations in hampers to homes throughout UK & Europe. https://www.zestmixology.co.uk/latestoffers/virtualcocktailmaking
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