8 Creative Ideas to Celebrate a Special Occasion
They Will Treasure the Experience Long After the Day is Over
I admit it! I am a sucker for high impact, emotional displays of happiness from people. I like to make people feel good and to show them how much they mean to their friends, co-workers or their families.
These ideas can be applied to birthdays or any other milestone occasion like graduations, weddings or anniversaries.
I've done most of these ideas at work (I work with a bunch of very creative people who will actually put up with this and even occasionally admit to liking it!)
The first three ideas involve using some sort of slide show presentation - I call it soppy slideshows! Yes it is soppy but they do love it! There are tons of ways to be creative with PowerPoint or any other slide presentation software you may have. Here are just a few ways that I have used it.
1) Bubble Speak - Ask everyone in the office to write their favorite/funny memory or quality they most admire about the person. Presentation is key - it does not have have the same impact if you just present a list. Add a colored background to each slide by drawing a box that covers the entire slide. Use different colors. Then draw a call out or speaker bubble using the autoshape tools. Insert a 'comment' in each one of these bubbles. One bubble per slide. Add appropriate music.
2) List Mania - If it's a milestone birthday (30th, 50th etc) ask the whole office to come up with 30 things that are special about the person - the funnier the better. List one on each slide or a couple on each slide and add appropriate photos or clip art.
3) Crazy Lyrics - Ok this requires some creativity but not a whole lot. I usually think of the lyrics on the drive to work (I have a 30-minute commute) or in the shower the morning of the b'day. I work well under pressure! Try to find a song that already has the person's name. If it is not a common name then find a song that sounds like the person's name. If you can't find that then just find a song!
Pick a song that has a catchy tune that sounds good without background music. Popular hits from the 60's and 70's always work for me. Google the lyrics unless you know them by heart. Then copy and paste them into a document and start editing. Set yourself a 15 minute time limit or you'll drive yourself crazy. Start changing a word here or a sentence there but do NOT change the 'sound' of the last word or you'll screw up the rhyming. This is important so that people can still recognize the song.
Copy and paste your lyrics into a slide. Create the title slide and write some credits to make it look more official!
You can then YouTube the song or use Songza (love this new site - it's YouTube for music but with a really cool interface!). If you are brave you can sing Acapella. Then play the song and show the slide show simultaneously (keep the volume low so people can hear the words) and sing away!
If you have a very brave team you can do a whole song and dance routine. We once did a "Don't you wish your girlfriend was 40 like me" by the Pussycat Dolls. We wore black pants and pink T-shirts. My boss kept wiping her tears from laughing so hard!
4) YouTube Karaoke
People pick a list of songs that they'd like to dedicate to the person in question. You cue them all up in YouTube and then open up different windows or tabs with links to websites that have the lyrics (Try A-Z Lyrics) . Press play on each YouTube video and follow along with the lyrics. This is always a hit in my office.
5) Personalized Pictionary
Come up with clue words that are specific to the person. Then split up your group into teams. Have them draw or act out the word and watch the whole place erupt. You'll have lots of ROTFL moments!
6) Wish Wiki (for when you can't be there!)
When I was young (ahem!) we didn't have wikis so I used to ask people to email me their wishes for the grad, birthday girl, bride to be and basically cut and paste them onto a website for the special person. With Wikis now of course your work is half done. Just set up a wiki and send the link to your near and dear. Then on the special day get the person on the phone, Skype and in front of a computer at the same time (if at all possible) and have them review the wish wiki or website with you. I did this for my mom's 60th birthday and one of my girlfriend's graduations - they both found it very touching. Wishes poured in from all corners of the planet. Try to give your contributors at least 2 days to come up with something but not too much more than that - a short deadline always generates better responses!
A wiki to try - Wikispaces
A website to try - FreeWebs
I've used both of the above and they are fairly easy to use. I love the web 2.0 functionality of Freewebs.
7) Smilebox - Animated Greeting Cards
Smilebox is a site from Hallmark that I think is pretty cool. It does have a paid version but the basic free version works just fine for me. Simply upload your pictures to the dozens of high quality templates they have, add music and text and watch a beautifully animated slide show. I once borrowed a projector and projected this on to the wall at the birthday girl's residence so when she walked in to her surprise party she was able to see it being played.
If you have any other "Ultimate Celebration Ideas" I would be very interested to hear them. If you try some of these and would like to share your experiences please leave me a comment. Happy Celebrating!
8) Framed Certificates
A certificate printed out on high quality paper inside a matted frame can also make an attractive statement. The internet has several sites that allow you to create both fun and poignant awards that will be appreciated by both friends, children and staff. MyAwardMaker.com has some cool award certificate templates in pdf format that are free.
And that in a nutshell are my top 8 ways to make those around you feel extra special. I have met people years later who still cherish these. So go ahead and try one of them. I'd love to hear how it turned out.