“AS LONG AS the kids are happy, everything is going to be good,” says Mistine McNeff of San Francisco-based Capstone Events. And ensuring that everything is good has got to be the goal when the event in question is a $4.5 million international family conference that was more than two years in the making.
Having a dream theme — like the “Highland Adventures” motif built right in to the program her company produced in Scotland for a Texas-based leadership association — definitely helps, she says.
According to McNeff, a highlight of the June multi-day conference was the “Gathering of the Clans,” held on Day Four. Staged at the Gleneagles Resort in Perthshire, the event brought together the conference's almost 700 attendees, including more than 300 children, for a day of tug-of-war, caber tossing, archery and jousting. For adults, a Scotch-tasting station gave the festivities a grown-up edge.
Evening brought the crowd to historic Stirling Castle, site of “Braveheart” William Wallace's defeat of the English army in the 13th century. There, a medieval feast held enticements for young and old, McNeff says, noting “drumsticks eaten by hand, hearty stews and plenty of ‘plain’ options for the kids.” The event closed with a staged “warrior fight” broken up by a costumed Wallace character who rode in on horseback to thank delighted guests and wish them good night.
Sure, Scottish landscape and history lent themselves to a captivating family experience, McNeff says. But basic rules for meeting all-ages expectations are key to the success of any family event. Among tips McNeff offers: “Use your kids as a resource. If you don't have kids of your own, use cousins, nieces or nephews — ask them what they would like to do, and get feedback from them about your ideas. Also, choose the right venues — ones that offer space that is easily divided or compartmentalized to create different activities for different age groups.”
Her suggestions for entertaining elements include make-your-own favors, karaoke (“especially for teenagers and young adults”), family trivia games and fire shows (“Kids love fire!”). And, when in doubt, McNeff says, “Ice cream, ice cream and more ice cream.”
Capstone Events 3288 21st St., Suite 224, San Francisco, CA 94110; 415/558-1680; www.capstoneevents.com