Can you have a Halloween-oriented client appreciation event? Should you?

I’ve written in the recent past about client appreciation events for a number of holidays. Halloween isn’t on the top of many people’s lists, but it’s hard to deny its popularity. Think of all of the billions of “fun-size” candies that get sold every October! Just like Christmas decorations seem to arrive in stores earlier every year, Halloween candy and decorations can be seen even before Labor Day in some parts of the country.

However, the cultural differences that surround Halloween are important.  Many American families decorate their houses and welcome trick-or-treaters. On the other hand, many families don’t take part in Halloween celebrations for religious reasons or personal preferences. Knowing whether or not a Halloween event is advisable or even welcome is far from a foregone conclusion.

Always know your clients.  
It’s always in your interest to know a great deal about your clients, including a bit about their background and personal preferences. My advice is that any event that excludes a client is simply inadvisable, regardless of the reason. If you are comfortable that all of your clients would welcome such an event, it may turn out well. But just as you would do a “Holiday” event as opposed to a “Christmas” event for a religiously diverse client base, you would not want to hold any event where even a single client might feel awkward or excluded. Keep this sensitivity in mind going forward.

Get the family together.
One event that you may try that isn’t (strictly speaking) a party would be to have a Family Halloween Safety Event. Invite families with children of trick-or-treating age to see a special talk from a local law enforcement official (one with experience talking to families or at schools) dealing with how to have a safe Halloween. (You may already have such an official among your clients!) Encourage the kids to bring costumes, but make it clear that there’s no requirement. Round out the evening with party games that bring parents and their kids together. Parents and grandparents might appreciate it if you have pies and punch rather than candy bars. And, considering that this is meant as a fun but informative safety event for families, it’s unlikely to alienate your clients who don’t take part in the holiday.

Avoid “Adult Halloween.”
A quick note on Halloween parties that are for adults, but not children: While it’s true that, with very few exceptions, your clients are going to be over 21 and responsible adults, I’m going to strongly suggest avoiding a Costume Party for adults as a client appreciation event. These parties are very common around the country, but they are largely about drinking and dancing in an unusual or exotic costume, and it has too much potential to alienate your clients. While it may be fine to serve drinks at certain events, they should never be a centerpiece. It’s important to remember what separates a Client Appreciation Event from just a party. Your event should be about thanking your clients for their business and showing them your appreciation.

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