Sweat the Small Stuff
Why the music you play is more important than the date you pick
Broadly speaking, I’m a “don’t sweat the small stuff” kind of person. Having existed in startup land as I launched Holdette, and working at Squarespace, a company that values ideation and testing, I know that sometimes the best thing you can do is put something out there to get feedback, learn, and shepherd it to launch. However, when it comes to hosting, I’m squarely in the other camp. I’m a big believer that the atmosphere of an event can make or break its success. Consciously or unconsciously, our guests read the room of the environment we’ve created to know how they might engage with others. As event planners, when we don’t take the time to intentionally curate the atmosphere, we leave the guest experience up to chance.
Whether to meet an official business goal or just for the joy of gathering, there should always be a purpose for why you’re hosting. When you identify why you’re bringing people together, you unlock the ability to curate an environment that thoughtfully answers that “why”. At Squarespace, we host an annual conference for our professional users. The goal of that gathering is to create an environment for our community members to learn from one another and grow their skills, so they can be more successful on our platform. With this purpose in mind, we thoughtfully curate our speaker lineup, programming schedule, and atmosphere to promote 1:1 connections and skill development. With Holdette, our goal each month is to foster friendships between recent grad women. Our monthly conversations revolve around questions intentionally designed to help women find things in common and highlight overlapping experiences. For each of these gatherings the “why” is clear and in knowing this purpose we’ve been able to layer on intentional details to ensure our goals are achieved. If you need a refresher on establishing meaningful goals, you can check out my post on that topic here.
Once you have your event goal in mind, you have an opportunity to get into the nitty-gritty of planning. The Holdette community was built because making new friends takes hard work and requires vulnerability on the part of everyone involved to establish trust and a sense of camaraderie. Every one of our gatherings has specific key elements that ensure the environment is crafted to promote these values.
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Here are the not-so-small details of every Holdette gathering that have set us up for meeting our goals:
All Holdette gatherings take place in the homes of our hosts. Hosting gatherings in homes means there won’t be anyone overhearing what group members are saying like there might be if groups met in a coffee shop or park. Knowing who exactly can hear what you’re saying is so valuable for inspiring attendees to share vulnerably. Hosting in their own space also means hosts have control over the rest of the details of the event.
Gathering with food helps to foster warmth and nurture community. When members walk in and food is ready, it communicates that the host had been preparing for those that are joining that evening. Especially for new members, knowing that someone had been expecting them and that they are ready for their arrival minimizes anxiety about interacting with new people.
The living rooms that groups are being hosted in are not necessarily large, but this is a huge plus for us. Matching the size of the space to the number of guests you have is key to impacting the vibe of the event. While often in metropolitan areas (New York especially), people are in search of more and more space, hosting our gatherings in apartments automatically creates an intimate setting. As we try to create a space where vulnerability and comfort can thrive, a small space brings members physically closer together, which can provide a step to building an emotional closeness over time.
If you’ve seen the TikTok trend about never using “the big light”, you know how vital lighting is to set the tone for an event. For our gatherings, we encourage hosts to light candles, lamps, and other secondary light sources to nurture a cozy atmosphere.
Music can be an incredible tool for setting the tone for an event. Want attendees to engage in meaningful conversation? Not the time to blast the Top 100. Match the music to the gathering to help dictate the environment. For our gatherings, I’m a big fan of jazz and low-volume indie pop.
Number of guests
All Holdette groups are capped at 25 members, with the understanding that not everyone will be able to join us each month. This group size allows attendees to build intimate relationships both at group and in between. Be intentional about how many people you invite to your event, and make sure you match the size of the space to the number of guests you’re inviting.
When you limit your event planning to selecting a date, time, and venue, you stop short of providing a fuller and meaningful experience for your guests and yourself. Take time to thoughtfully consider and curate each of these elements above to elevate your next gathering. And I’d love to hear what other factors or features you incorporate into your own work and home gatherings. Drop your answer in the comments.