I'm getting the ingredients together to make a buche de Noel to top off our Christmas dinner. It will not be simple. In fact, it will almost certainly be a total pain. This Yule cake, if it comes out right, looks like a log, right down to the meringue mushrooms sprouting from faux tree bark frosting, a dusting of sugar snow, and pine sprigs as garnish. The recipe involves making a sheet of rollable sponge cake, a buttercream frosting that requires using a candy thermometer to get it right, and a simple syrup (whatever that is).

Why go to all the trouble? Why not just let Mom bring a blueberry pie like last year? Or throw together an apple crisp? Heck, my nephews would be delighted with some red and green Jell-o. I'd like to think it's not about being Martha Stewart. I doubt our napkins will all match and our chairs unquestionably will not. But even if they did, no one would remember that part of the day anyway - which is coming around to my point.

Most event planners tend to use the same basic menu over and over, year in and year out: a networking appetizer, followed by a talking-head keynote entree, and finishing up with hour-long breakouts for dessert. These are courses that work well together, that attendees have come to expect, and that make a fairly satisfying meeting. But are they memorable? Will your meeting stand out from all the other events your attendees go to each year? I'm not trading in pie for buche de Noel because the pie's bad. Rather, I'm heading out on a limb (pun intended) in the hope that our meal together may make a more lasting memory.

You won't find the Yule log recipe in this issue, but I hope you will find some other food for thought, ideas that can help your meetings and events to make a lasting impression. Check out, for example, the MessageBlaster service Comdex used to communicate with conference attendees, a conference center that has a Broadway actor available to lead role-playing sessions, or the six-story projection globe that can be used as a VIP lounge.

It may be more work, but for your next meeting, drop one tradition and try something unexpected.