For the first time in more than a decade, I got to stay home and give out candy on Halloween. One of my kids was now old enough to be beyond trick-or-treating; the other traveled with a band of other tweens so fleet of foot that one speedy parent was assigned to vaguely trail them through our neighborhood.
Many asked if this was a bittersweet occasion for me. No. For me, the magic of accompanying my kids as they made their rounds through the neighborhood had already begun to fade. As a parent, the golden days of trick-or-treating were when my kids were around five or six: they were old enough to knock on the doors themselves, but young enough that the terrain covered was fairly limited. As they got older, they got faster, bolder, and less adorable in the process — meaning my job increasingly was to carry discarded beards, swords, and flashlights while simultaneously jogging with other parents, disgruntled that our cups of “coffee” — or actual coffee — were spilling as a result.
A lot of associations hold on to certain events because they add real value to the member or attendee experience. Receptions for first-time attendees are a great example of an event that is retained but engages new people each time it is held. Other events — such as the annual business meeting — can often feel like a macroeconomics lecture as an undergrad: large, formal, and brimming with inaccessible content. At MCI USA, we delight in partnering with our clients to shake up some of those rituals. Why not play cornhole in the exhibit hall as a way to meet the national board or bond with members from different regions? How about bringing the leadership to an urban makerspace to build machines and compete, or on a culinary team building excursion to connect with one another vs. more traditional roundtable interactions? Try skipping the opening reception and give back to the local community at a corporate social responsibility program.
I enjoyed my new role, comfortably sitting at my spider-webbed candy table, surrounded by flickering candles and creepy sound effects, and had meaningful interactions I wouldn’t have otherwise had. I met neighbors whose kids weren’t the same age as my own. I got to ask kids about their costumes — including one princess cat that only appears each Halloween (it seems she may have played this role multiple years in a row, based on her dad’s eye roll). I told the trick-or-treaters to take generous handfuls as I topped off their parents’ “coffee” mugs. I even got to spend time with my older son and his friends, who came back early to help distribute during the final half hour.
We all have an opportunity to take a fresh look at treasured traditions, determining what elements have value and which could benefit from change and innovation. I hope all of you had a chance to celebrate the fall season and wish you a successful final few weeks of 2018 — “coffee” completely optional.
Erin Fuller is the president of association solutions at MCI USA. Her crowning Halloween achievement was creating a lobster roll costume for her older son in 2015.