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After a long day of airports, travel, and hotel check-ins, a welcome reception can help set the tone for the big event. But it’s important to remember that while your employees are excited to mingle with co-workers, it’s already been a long day. Applying the KISS (keep it simple stupid) sentiment to your reception planning can help make the experience fun without too much pressure.

Even if it’s been just a few months since your last in-person company gathering, a welcome reception is a good time to show appreciation for your employees while giving them the time to connect casually—while also promoting attendee engagement right from the onset. 

Here are some corporate event ideas and best practices to try for your next welcome reception:

Plan the Time of Your Reception Strategically

Typically, you’ll want to plan the welcome reception on the day most of your employees are arriving. This allows them to get acclimated before the bigger team-building or conference event. A long day of travel means they’ll appreciate the time to check in, settle into their rooms, and take a breather. It will also give them time to catch up with a co-worker or two in a more intimate setting, grab a bite to eat, head out to explore the locale, or even take a quick snooze.

Socializing with colleagues helps build relationships and boosts company morale, but it also takes mental and emotional energy to engage. Giving your employees time before the reception allows them to do whatever refreshes them before converging on the venue you’ve selected for the reception that evening.

Personalize the Experience

When your guests arrive, either at the hotel or the venue for the evening, providing a themed or custom gift always personalizes the event. A welcome cocktail or mocktail served in a custom glass they get to keep is always a nice touch. If it’s cold outside, a company-branded beanie or jacket speaks to the season or locale, while sunglasses or a water bottle are always good gifts for warmer times of the year or sunnier locations.

You might also think about gifting something from local artisans to make it specialized to the host city. Whatever you decide on, personalizing items to the person, region, or event theme is an effective way to show your employees you value them while reinforcing company loyalty. And who doesn’t love gifts?

Keep the Setting Casual

You don’t have to plan anything too fancy. Attendees will have arrived only a couple of hours or so before, so they may not want to get too dressed up. This is a time for attendees to casually socialize and catch up with co-workers in a fun and relaxed environment.

Choose a venue with the right vibe, so it’s low-key but also provides guests a taste of the host location. This could be an activity center if you’re looking for built-in entertainment or a nice, but-not-too-fancy local bar and restaurant with a private room. Or, keep it simple by renting out a rooftop lounge or restaurant at the hotel venue everyone is staying at so they don’t have to coordinate transportation to a different venue. All they’ll have to do is take the elevator.

Don’t forget that if the venue you choose is too loud, attendees will have a harder time talking and connecting, so planning for a private space set apart is ideal.

Take a Pass on the Formal Dinner

Think food trucks, food stations (always a fun change of pace), or passed appetizers—all ways to fill your guests’ stomachs without doing a whole sit-down dinner situation. This allows attendees to move about at will, munch when they want, and keep mingling the night away.

Personalizing the experience for your attendees also means considering each person’s allergies or dietary restrictions. Make sure to offer a variety of food selections so everyone can eat as they please.

By passing on a formal dinner, you’re giving your attendees the freedom to socialize while still offering them the sustenance they need to enjoy themselves and feel attended to and seen.

Keep the Entertainment Simple

While it’s not necessary to have entertainment planned for a successful welcome reception, if you do want to add something extra, keep it simple.

Hiring a cover band for evening welcome receptions can turn up the night’s excitement. You can also choose a venue that has entertainment built in—or have it brought to your hotel venue.

This can include ax-throwing,, custom-themed escape room activations, or Karaoke. Another fun but casual entertainment idea could even include a caricature artist available to capture smiles with your teams and co-workers.

Maintain the Element of Fun

It goes without saying that your welcome reception should be fun, which goes hand-in-hand with your entertainment of choice and the tone you set. However, the main thing to remember is there will be plenty of time during the main event to get into company updates, initiatives, and goals for the future.

The welcome reception gives your employees time to transition from travel to easing into your internal company event, all while building new relationships with colleagues and rekindling familiar ones. Keeping the atmosphere light and casual helps set an energetic and engaging tone for your attendees to carry into the next day—and they’ll have had the benefit of bonding time with co-workers, ultimately creating a more connected event.

Connect with us to learn more tips for your next corporate event.

Call us at 800-290-0311.