how to (graciously) end an event

view from Newseum Terrace | credit: Sam Kittner/Newseum

If you had a view like the one above, which is the view of the US Capitol from the Newseum terrace in Washington DC, where I had at an event Tuesday night, you would have a hard time getting your guests to leave, too.

Having to kick guests out of an event at the end of the night is a good problem to have, right? That means that they are probably enjoying themselves and your event (by some metrics) was a success. But it seems to be something that planners have some unease around.  Here are some of my suggestions, but my golden rule is that whichever method you choose, have a smile on your face.

Note: these suggestions are meant to clear guests from a space at the end of an event, not because they are misbehaving, causing trouble, don’t belong, crashing, or any other reason. That’s another topic entirely.

Close the bar

This often works like a charm. Close the bar and the room clears. Although, if you have something that guests may value even more than the bar (such as the view from the Newseum terrace) this may not work.

End the entertainment

If you have a band or a DJ, once they stop playing, it’s a pretty clear sign that the event is over. You can even enlist them to help by announcing the last song of the evening.

Host an after party

If you think your attendees are going to want to keep, ahem, networking beyond the timeframe you are willing to keep paying for drinks, think about hosting an after party at a nearby bar. You can find an additional sponsor to cover the tab or you can have guests be on their own. If you’ve been paying the tab for a few hours, most guests won’t mind paying for one more drink on their own dime.

Have a parting gift

Lure guests to the doors with a parting gift!

Ask politely

If all else fails (and this is what I had to do on Tuesday night), just ask politely. We had closed the bar 40 minutes prior but a sizable group was still going strong on the terrace, taking in the view and the (unseasonably) perfect weather. I went around to each group of guests, apologetic smile on my face, and said, “I’m so sorry to cut the evening short, but we promised the venue we would be out of here by now. Thank you SO much for coming.” Almost all of the guests started meandering toward the door and the few stragglers got a bit of a nudge from me until everyone was gone.

What NOT to do

Personally, I hate flickering the lights – I know it’s standard practice but I hate it. It just seems to passive aggressive to me!

I hate shouting announcements. Making a goodbye announcement into a microphone isn’t a bad idea, but if you don’t have a mic, don’t shout!

I also hate having the venue and vendors start taking everything down while guests are still in the space. I know this is often unavoidable, but I try to always overestimate how long my event will run. I’d rather end early and have the staff be able to go home early, than keep them waiting because of a bunch of slowpokes. Things worked out well at the Newseum because everyone who was left was on the terrace and the Newseum staff was able to break down the meeting rooms while we were outside.

Do you have any suggestions of your own? Please share!

Photo via the Newseum and Knight Conference Center. Credit: Sam Kittner/Newseum.


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