In the business of planning events we often use entertainment to increase enjoyment, and we often entertain people through experience, showmanship, dining or delivering the spectacular. But equally as often there is little time given to reflect and collect your thoughts, time that is just simply enjoyable. Sometimes, we are afraid to build it in, focusing on networking, education, programed time that will provide a "measurable benefit". Occasionally, we are learning to build in the valuable "hallway conversation" time that is proving to have the immeasurable value that participants seek. It is critical that we continue to think about this, particularly as we have participants who seek more control of their own programming.
Often when we travel to a new destination, whether it is for work or pleasure, it is the silent moments between events that are the times of greatest pleasure; a coffee enjoyed on a patio solo or with a quiet friend; a walk that takes you down an unexpected street where you discover... well something you didn't expect. It is perhaps that, particularly in North America, we spend so much time focused on work, activities, or getting things done, that we need to be away to enjoy what is the guilty pleasure of "stealing" these moments.
We certainly are not going to shy away from providing appropriate entertainment - it has value in creating ambience and energy, in bringing your messages to life, in creating a special experience guests can't have elsewhere, and ensuring the "special" stays in special event. In building programs, considering both the programmed time as well as allowing time for guests to explore and create memories that are both from their group experiences as well as their individual moments, will be what has participants ready to return again.
Interested to hear opinions on how you balance programming!