Children stuffed handfuls of buttery popcorn into their mouths in faces aglitter with snowflakes as they eagerly awaited the arrival of beloved Olaf. And the house lights darkened….
Of the many client family events hosted by Burnet, Duckworth & Palmer LLP (BDP) over the years, its annual movie screening is an all-time favourite, and a tradition started back in 2011 with Spy Kids 4. On a Saturday morning this past November at Cineplex Odeon Westhills, BDP treated 700 guests to a screening of the sequel many have been waiting for – Frozen 2. Guests enjoyed an open concession, continental breakfast and airbrush tattoo artists. How nice to be treated to an event your family had already been planning on attending.
With all the pressures and intensity of boardroom meetings and the overall seriousness of being an adult in the corporate world, client family events offer a fun and casual setting to engage with business clients and colleagues. There’s no denying the best time is happening over at the kids’ table.
“A family event is a nice change of pace. The venue is casual, it’s in a low-stress environment, people are dressed casually, they’re relaxed and – they’re not talking about work!” says Jackie Muller, marketing and business development specialist at BDP. It’s also an opportunity to get to know clients in a different way. “Seeing people parenting can be quite humanizing,” says Muller, laughing.
In the 17 years she has worked as a party planner for many large businesses, Calgary’s Jennifer James says while some businesses cannot justify the expense of throwing an adult party during recessionary times – and end up cancelling or scaling it down – the children’s party is the one event that never gets cut. “I think there’s a feel-good element about honouring that relationship with the children,” says James of Jennifer James Events.
Businesses want to make sure their employees and clients know they value family and care about their kids; and, it’s one “work” event that brings everyone together, instead of the optics of the job taking parents away from their children. With people busier than ever these days, businesses strive to align their relationship building with their clients’ personal priorities and interests.
In the same vein as Take Your Child To Work Day, these events can be looked at as opportunities for children to observe their parents in their work habitat and the impact they have on people. “You work with this many people?!” a child will say with wide-eyed awe and admiration. (Though younger ones might also think that a magician pulls quarters out of their parents’ ears every day at the office.) And learning more about clients’ children by seeing them express who they are and their talents at these functions adds another layer to the client relationship.
In January 2019, BDP invited clients’ daughters to a skating and hockey skills session run by several members of the Calgary Inferno women’s hockey team. About 50 girls, aged six to 12, came out to the drill practice at the Stampede Corral, followed by lunch and a panel discussion highlighting the empowerment of women in sport.
For Royal LePage Benchmark – in the business of moving homes, mostly for families – it’s completely fitting to host events that include children. Six years ago, the company moved into its Fisher Park location with a 9,500-square-foot atrium that screamed “host a party!” and that is what they’ve done at Christmastime ever since.
The atrium is divided in half, one side for adults and the other for children. The Royal LePage event committee plans the event for 140-200 guests, hiring different entertainers over the years such as magicians, face-painters, caricature artists and, of course, Santa. The parents really like the Santa visit because it provides another opportunity for their children to see him instead of having to drag them to the mall, chuckles Royal LePage Benchmark broker/owner Corinne Lyall. “We’re really family-focused and all about work-life balance,” she says. “We like to show our gratitude for the business we receive and create a personal touch not just for the parents but for the children as well.”
Royal LePage has had a long-standing relationship with the Children’s Cottage Society, a non-profit organization that supports families and helps them get back on their feet. This past December, in a sponsorship partnership with the Calgary Hitmen, they were excited to create a client family appreciation event that further incorporated the organization.
At the Hitmen games on December 6, 8 and 15, Royal LePage set up a booth to raise cash donations and/or accept new toys for its 10th annual toy drive for the Children’s Cottage Society. Royal LePage Shelter Foundation matched the cash donations and at the December 15 event, the real estate company invited more than 200 clients with their families to a sponsored luncheon in the Saddledome’s Chrysler Club followed by the hockey game. “Everyone loved the event and that we were doing good in the community,” says Lyall.
For the past 10 years, Jennifer James has planned the employee kids’ Christmas party for a large accounting firm in Calgary, which has been held at the most kid-friendly venue of all for the last three years, the Calgary Zoo. (The law firm McLennan Ross LLP also hosts its popular family client event there called Breakfast with Lemurs, Lions & Lawyers!) With a guest list of 500 plus, there are two brunch seatings in the Safari Lodge along with multiple craft tables, a cookie decorating station, face-painting, a fantastic kid-friendly lunch catered by the zoo, photos with Santa and, this year, a s’mores bar.
After the event, families are welcome to spend as much time as they wish walking around the zoo. Prior to 2017, the accounting firm held this event at Spruce Meadows in Congress Hall, and afterward families checked out its hugely-popular Christmas market complete with reindeer.
“Kids’ parties are full of magic and fun! They really do take joy in the little things,” says James. “It’s a worthwhile investment for companies to consider because it makes employees feel good about the culture of their company.”
And the key to a successful event for this young clientele? “You can never go wrong with a great face-painter!” says James.
Oh, to be eight years old….