For years, the Greenbelt Conservancy has played as the host to one of the borough’s most casual and innovative fundraising events: Titled the Blue Jean Ball, the gathering is held under the stars on a warm June evening at the Carousel for All Children and is hailed for its live music, craft beer and wine bar and BBQ menu.
It’s become a popular soiree where borough notables loosen their ties, kick up their heels and celebrate one of the parks and facilities which the Conservancy protects. And over the past decade or so, the group’s not-so-lavish premise has been completely on-trend with other outside-of-the-box corporate affairs throughout Staten Island.
“In today’s social climate, everything revolves around the ultimate Instagram or Facebook post,” explained Marissa Mortimer, a Westerleigh-based event planner and CEO of Lavish Occasions, which plans social events in the New York metro area. “Events have become all about innovation and personalization. Companies are looking to plan an occasion that will create a buzz and become a viral, social media moment. It’s actually pretty ingenious – an annual company gathering or fundraiser not only assembles clients, employees and community figures, it can also serve as a great free marketing tool when your guests talk about the function for weeks.”
So non-traditional party venues – museums, amusement parks, even carousels – have become par for the course.
“In event planning, we focus on an A-6 system,” said Mortimer, who teaches her trade at Wagner College in a specialized division called the Event Professionals Institute. “We create a function based on six criteria: Anticipation, Arrival, Atmosphere, Appetite, Amusement and Amenities.”
According to Mortimer, Anticipation brands the event with an invitation or save the date; Arrival sets the tone with a welcome cocktail or swag bag; Atmosphere greets the five senses – what guests see, hear, touch, taste and feel; Appetite of course focuses on the menu; Amusement is what engages your guests such as live music, handwriting analysis or psychic readings and Amenities is the favor, some kind of take-away that thanks the guests for their participation in the event.
“The whole idea is to give your event legs,” Mortimer said. “You want to create an experience that will circle back to social media, that will be talked about for weeks and months. There’s a science to planning an event and giving it purpose.”
And for corporate events that purpose is either raising funds, impressing clients or finding a creative away to build up your team.
“A lot of companies are hosting their holiday parties and staff retreats at informal locations like Dave & Buster’s, bowling alleys or Escape Rooms because when you take the suit jacket off and relax a bit you really get to know who’s working for you,” Mortimer said. “We’ve done murder mystery nights and scavenger hunts, even indoor picnics at the CEO’s home. Those kinds of client or employee appreciation gatherings are great for building trust and rapport.”
Jessica Bocaya, corporate sales manager for Dave & Buster’s Staten Island location, agrees.
“Employers understand that their staff members may grow weary of the mundane day-to-day tasks and they are exploring out-of-the-box ways to keep their employees engaged so that they can thrive in the workplace,” Bocaya said. “Dave & Buster’s has expertise on delivering the fun with team building activities designed to improve morale, create camaraderie and boost productivity. Workday stress? Don’t complain about it, come play about it.”
Indoor Extreme Sports, which is located in Travis, hosts paintball, laser tag and axe throwing events for many corporate clients.
“The competitive action sports that we offer here have always been a popular option for the team building culture,” explained Ryan Chin, the center’s co-owner. “We have a couple of different interesting ways to break it up – last man standing is commonly used and in the case of larger companies, department vs. department is standard play. But no matter what game or formula they choose, it’s a great way to develop relationships outside of the board room.”