Getting engaged is an exciting feeling. You’re showing a commitment to each other which begins a build up to the big day, when you begin a new chapter and celebrate together. No, I haven’t changed tack, I’ve realised that ‘engagement’ is a word I hear a great deal, when we talk about the build up to an event, what happens during it, and what is followed up afterwards.
A friend recently got engaged to be married. The first thing he did, was to tell everyone….friends, acquaintances, in fact anyone he thought who might be interested. He hadn’t really thought about the ‘marriage’ part at all. He was just excited about getting engaged. So his loose intention for a two year engagement was rapidly reduced by his fiancée, to a more meaningful seven months and some concrete plans! This she felt, was just long enough to get things organised, keep everyone involved and excited, but not so far away that people had forgotten who they were, and that they were ever engaged in the first place.
Then he set about an engagement party. This would be his chance to properly introduce his fiancée to his friends. Her parents wanted to organise it, the couple actually organised it, and afterwards they both wished the parents had organised it…as did the parents themselves! The good news is that they got an insight into the arrangements for the ‘big day’ itself, which involved lots of ‘crossing out’.
About four months before the wedding day, came the invitations. These were the sort where it’s customary to include your middle name, so no-one is shocked when the vicar reads it out, where you talk of ‘carriages’ instead of taxis or the bus, and where a gilt edged card means that it’s intended for the mantelpiece and not the kitchen drawer.
Finally, the engagement period culminated in a ‘stag’ and ‘hen’ do for each. Her friends organised a celebration with champagne and pampering at a spa. His friends organised frenzied and inappropriate behaviour for a man experiencing his ‘last days of freedom’. Either way, it was marking a momentous occasion which was coming their way a week from now.
I’m sure we could all think about our conferences and events and how we engage people before our own ‘big day’. From the moment we announce something with a sense of anticipation, excitement and timing, to the way we involve them and give them an insight into what is to come, the way we invite people (rather than inform them) and show they’re important to us, and how we get them thinking about a significant occasion which will change us all in some way.
If we think about our events in this way, then surely this kind of engagement beforehand, is moving us towards a fantastic ‘reception’ on the day. I won’t push my luck any further with this analogy.