Learning from Thanks

Close of kids saying grace while having Thanksgiving dinner with their family at dining table.

It’s the grandpappy of all gathering days: THANKSGIVING! Here’s a fun exercise you can deploy during this most sacred of holidays that might inspire even more emotional and meaning into your corporate events. You know, those moments that make your heart swell, give you goosebumps, remind you why you love your tribe or remind you why you do this only once a year.

Here are 10 moments you’re likely to experience this long holiday weekend. Take a moment to savor them and tuck them away for future reflection, for a time or event where you want your audience to fall deeper under your spell.

  1. Traveling to Thanksgiving. You know your destination, but the journey is largely uncharted. When you face snags and challenges, do you remind yourself that it’s all worth it? Do these moments bring you closer to your travelmates or even strangers? Will you have stories to share once you arrive?
  2. Arriving at your destination: the Thanksgiving venue. Is it a familiar setting, complemented by a sensory windfall of aromas and sounds and touch? Or is it exotic, a place where you need to adjust your bearings? What would make this experience more comfortable for you?
  3. It’s official: I’m where I want to be. What is the moment when you can relax; is there a moment? Maybe it’s hugging your mom or having the dog jumping on your lap. A glass of wine or bite of a favorite treat. How and when do you “cross the threshold” into the event?
  4. How can I help? Is there a role for you to play or an activity to volunteer for? Maybe it’s a chore like raking leaves or running for a gallon of milk or picking up other guests. Do you gain satisfaction from pitching in? Does it make you want to contribute more? Do you feel more connected with those you assisted or teamed up with?
  5. Preparing the feast. Are the dishes prepared by everyone or just the host? Is there a way for the others to pitch in, even if they don’t know what they’re doing? Savor the smells and tastes; is there laughter or music in the background?
  6. Traditions. What are the large aspects or small details that have become must-have moments at this gathering? Are there games to play or parades and games to watch? Are there obligatory snacks or drinks to enjoy? Does the gathering include volunteering and charity? Any quibbling siblings, salty-mouthed aunts, long-simmering tensions. What tradition do you add to the tribal lore?
  7. Time out. Do you or others feel the need to step away from the action? Why? Maybe it’s fresh air you need, or a side conversation with a friend. What makes you comfortable to return to the group?
  8. Take your seat. If there is assigned seating, can you decipher why the host positioned your where they did? Are there pockets of the action that are more active in conversation? How might you rearrange the scene for a more effective scene? Would open seating be preferable?
  9. Notes of grace. A lot of families and gatherings at Thanksgiving share what they are grateful for this year. Does this deepen your empathy for individuals? Is anyone too shy or ill-at-ease to contribute. What can the group do to empower them to share? Do your own comments feel inclusive? Or are they more selfish – which is fine. Is anyone competitive in their insights? These moments certainly define the culture of the group.
  10. Time to say goodbye. How do you say goodbye? What are you feeling when you hug a loved one and let them go? Who is the last person you say goodbye to? Are you in a hurry to exit or wish you could stay on? What are you thinking once you have left the group for the final time?

Enjoy yourself this Thanksgiving, whether you stay alert to your feelings throughout or just let it go with the flow. This is your attendee journey, and I’ll bet there will be a number of times when it strikes you: I’d love to create this emotion for others to enjoy on their journey.

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