If you’re a planner based somewhere outside the United States, and you were looking to host a corporate event in the U.S. in November, you might look at the calendar and stay away from the fourth Thursday, being Thanksgiving. It’s a national holiday that’s sure to come up in any basic search.
The Wednesday before, and the Friday after, Thanksgiving, however, don’t appear to present any conflict. Neither day is a federal holiday. Banks are open both days, as is the stock market. Most, if not all, schools are closed that Friday, but school closings are handled on a local level, and thus not something one would research.
You might, therefore, seriously consider hosting your event on either day. You’ll get a sweetheart of a deal from the venue sales manager, who can’t believe what a gift of a booking just fell into his lap.
And of course, your event would be a disaster, because nobody would show up.
In talking with my colleague Kevin White the other day, in preparation for delivering a 2-day intensive course on Meeting and Event Management to a group of planners who handle events in over 25 different countries, we discussed the importance of getting local intelligence on checking date conflicts, among other things.
Searching on Google for holidays to avoid will only get you so far. You need someone local to tell you, “The Friday after Thanksgiving? What are you nuts?” If you don’t have a local contact, try the Chamber of Commerce, or Convention & Visitors Bureau. If you belong to a trade association like MPI, PCMA, ISES or others, look up their local chapter and shoot an email to someone on their board.
This kind of intelligence can be invaluable, particularly at the very local level. I’m talking street level. For example, Veterans’ Day is a federal holiday, but many businesses are open, as is the stock market. If you asked someone local, they might very well say it’s not a big deal to host an event that day. However if you book a midtown venue in New York City that day, good luck trying to cross Fifth Avenue, because there’s a big-ass parade going through there. Roughly half the midtown businesses, hotels and venues are east of Fifth, and the other half are west of Fifth, so it’s likely a huge portion of your guests will have to cross Fifth Avenue to get to your event.
It’s a great gift in business to be able to “Know What You Don’t Know.” When it comes to planning events outside your local area, we’re well served to acknowledge that local customs and idiosyncrasies are most definitely something we know that we don’t know. It pays to be humble about this, and reach out for advice.