by Sarah J.F. Braley | February 01, 2013

Coming up with the perfect idea for a special event can be daunting, but sometimes all it takes is a little inspiration from others. We asked creative planners and destination management pros to share their most inspiring and successful concepts from the past year. One common thread is that an "old" idea can be made new again, as long as there's a way to twist the presentation.

Following are details for how our sources carried out their favorite themes.

Mad Men Style
Event: A networking reception called "Thrive in Retro" was created by Kuoni Destination Management for a client during the Global Business Travel Association's Convention 2012, held last July in Boston. About 750 people gathered at Symphony Hall for a Mad Men-inspired evening focused on the early 1960s. The charitable beneficiary of the event was Project STEP, which helps talented local minority children from underprivileged neighborhoods get classical music instruction.

All of Symphony Hall's original leather floor seats (installed in 1900) were removed, and the famous chandeliers were lowered from the 61-foot-high coffered ceiling to as low as 12 feet off the floor, giving it a nightclub vibe. Black leather love seats, club chairs and leather coffee tables sat on zebra-patterned rugs lit by deep-red floor lamps. Cocktail tables with black satin linens and red votives were set throughout, and highboys surrounded the dance floor.

Red lighting added to the atmosphere, and the client's brand colors alternated behind Symphony Hall's Greek and Roman statues above the balconies.

Entertainment: What's Symphony Hall without live music? Conductor Keith Lockhart led the Boston Pops throughout the night (on the playlist was "Zou Zou Bisou," from last season's memorable Mad Men opener), ending with accompaniment by seven students from Project STEP, who took the stage to play some boogie-woogie with the orchestra. The finale featured the 30-member Children's Inspirational Freedom choir, who joined the Pops and Project STEP students for a sweet take on John Lennon's "Imagine."

Food and Drink: The menu offered novelty foods from the early 1960s, but with a modern presentation. Served in spoons, on square plates and in decorative bowls was fare such as deviled eggs, Caesar-salad spring rolls and BLT-stuffed tomatoes. Passed hors d'oeuvres included truffled macaroni-and-cheese fritters and miniature beef Wellingtons. Jumbo shrimp with cocktail sauce was passed in miniature martini glasses. Retro dessert choices included pineapple-upside-down tarts.

Models in red satin and throwback hairstyles served '60s-era drinks, including sloe gin fizzes and classic Manhattans; they were poured at a square mahogany bar set in the center of the floor beneath the lowest chandelier.