Our honored attendees and distinguished guests are so important, but it’s easy for our recognition traditions to fall stagnant. From announcements in the program to event website profile pages, we work hard to provide well-deserved recognition. Following are some pretty cool ideas that help keep our recognition practices fresh and some even integrate creative food trends.

  • Create souvenir style coasters with the name and achievement, or a personal quote, of each honoree. Don’t just throw them in the goodie bags people get upon registration. Put them on the tables in the dining area. It’s a great way to keep the honorees top of mind while providing conversation starters.
  • Personalization can be a fun, fresh way to recognize honorees. This article suggests personalized champagne bottles, but there are plenty of options that might fit the event and the cause. Put them on display for maximum exposure and recognition. Then make sure each special guest gets to take home their special gift.
  • This article suggests integrating an honoree or award winner’s favorite dessert, drink, or appetizer into the menu. Having a signature drink named after the top guest(s) can be a fun way to infuse name recognition into the event. 
  • Let’s take the signature drink concept a step further and provide recognition by designing an entire menu theme around the nationality, ancestral food culture, or dietary needs of the honoree. If they are gluten free, create an entirely gluten free menu. It IS possible. If they are Native American, create a menu around Indigenous foods that are free of European influence (free of sugar, flour, and dairy, for example). Absolutely everyone has an ancestral food culture that can be integrated. And since most every event involves food, it’s natural to combine the two in recognition of the guest of honor.
  • Make the dining experience a platform for the honoree. We all have our causes and messages we want to get across. Just because the guest of honor is being recognized for a non-food related cause, doesn’t mean they don’t have preferences about their food choices. Give them some say in the menu by allowing one “food rule,” rather than the specific “food choices” mentioned above. If they avoid shrimp because of overfishing and bycatch, add a bullet in the menu or program specifying the honoree’s call for support. Farm-to-table, locally sourced, mocktails instead of cocktails – these options are a great way to help attendees get to know the evening’s star without their overall message being drowned out. Keep in mind, a platform isn’t the same as a soap box. A true professional can craft this tangential platform for the honoree in a meaningful, non-preachy way.

I’ve been writing a lot about inclusivity and meetings by calling for the meaningful inclusion of those with food allergies through better menu planning and by anticipating needs. While writing this article on honoring our honorees at events I, of course, would be remiss if I didn’t make a final call to all of us to honor all attendees. We can do that by offering best practices in engaging events, the latest food trends, and by respecting our duty to care for all event attendees who have special needs, whether dietary, accessibility, or other.

Have a creative way to honor attendees or guests of honor? Comment here and let’s keep the dialogue going.