When it comes to work related events, emulating events from The Office is usually not the best idea.

Having nothing to talk* about might be your biggest fear when planning or even attending a work event but there other factors to consider.

We’ve got a few tips to help minimize the awkwardness and ensure everyone has a good time.   

Don’t make it a one man show

No matter the event, don’t let a handful of people steal the spotlight. Steve Jobs might have been able to get away with commanding the stage but that doesn’t mean you should.  

Create opportunities for numerous people to be involved, featured or have a chance to present.  If the event is broken down into several sections or activities, let a different person led each one. This will be especially exciting for your guests and team members as they will be able to benefit from hearing different points of view, personalities and presentation styles.  

Do be inclusive

Being friendly and inviting aren’t the only ways to be inclusive to your attendees and team members -- it also extends to things like accessibility. Always ensure that your events and activities are easy to navigate for those who have accessibility difficulties. Also, consider if you will need a translator for your event.

Next you’ll want to be considerate religious holidays, food allergies and other sensitivities.

Be mindful of the date of your event, does it fall during a time where attendees might be fasting or abstaining from certain foods?  How awkward will it be if you’ve planned a Luau type event and half of your guests don’t eat pork? Plan ahead and provide options for people who have special dietary needs. But don’t make it a scene. Be tactful as no one likes to be singled out.   

Don’t exhaust your guests

Don’t go overkill with the activities, number of speakers, etc. Do you really need to have 6 hours of back-to-back speakers at that conference or should you really start your company offsite or retreat at 8am and end at 8pm? You don’t want your attendees trying to nap in the corner because they are so exhausted.

To combat overstimulation or information overload, find interesting ways to break up the content and monotony of sitting all day. Add activities that give your brain a break or encourage physical exercise. This could be a simple as walking a few blocks from the event venue to the restaurant where lunch is being served.  

If you’re concerned about not being about cover all of the planned topics for an internal event, consider adding a second day. If that’s not option, try making the event a part of a recurring monthly or quarterly series to work through everything.  

Do consider a variety of activities

Don’t assume that the attendees will automatically be interested in the types of activities that you enjoy.  Just because you like Comic-Con, doesn’t mean your colleagues will. Try to get a pulse for the types of activities your team would be interested in.

Also be open to compromise. Perhaps paintball isn’t a good idea but laser tag might be.  Encourage your attendees to try new things but don’t push them too far. Steer clear of events that invoke any phobias like spiders or a fear of heights.

Avoid any activities that require a safety waiver, you don’t want your team offsite to result in a trip to the emergency room.

Don’t encourage inappropriate behavior

It goes without saying that you should avoid drunken, offensive, and illegal behavior at all costs.  

While you want the event to be enjoyable and memorable for all of your attendees, it shouldn’t be infamous.  Be cautious about creating an atmosphere where things could easily escalate and get out of hand.

Enforce a no tolerance policy for any behavior that is offensive, or harassing and intimidating others. If you’re worried about attendees, or even your colleagues, becoming intoxicated, consider limiting the number of drinks they are served or change from a full bar to beer and wine only. Beer pong is always a bad idea, as is making a drinking game out of buzzwords used during the keynote.  

Be mindful of the time.  My mother always said nothing good happens after midnight, so keep events from going too late in the evening. Good rule of thumb is to end at by 8 or 9, 10 at the latest if you’re holding an after hours or after party type of event.

*Here are a few good conversation starters if you get cornered by a coworker that you have nothing common with.

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