A lot of people outside of the chamber may lack a detailed understanding of what exactly a chamber does. Many people may even know them as the “organization with the giant scissors.” While the chamber of commerce ribbon cutting ceremony may not be what they once were, where the entire town turned out to welcome a new business, they are still a big part of the public presence of the chamber.
Hosting successful ribbon cuttings is a beneficial public relations display that shows how the chamber brings attention to businesses in your community. It makes people feel good and a part of something bigger than they are. It’s a public induction ceremony that provides a lot of positive press for everyone if you do a good job on it.
In this guide, you’ll learn:
- What a ribbon cutting ceremony is
- How to select the best day for a ribbon cutting based on the experience of other chamber pros
- Ways to get more people to attend ribbon cuttings
- What ribbon tying events are and how they can bring your community together
- Creative ideas for ribbon cuttings
What’s a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony?
Ribbon cuttings are traditionally performed for business openings but you can use a big pair of scissors to cut a ribbon for any big milestone including:
- opening a new brand, location, or franchise
- a business anniversary
- a millionth customer designation (or some other number)
- moving into a new building
- reopening a business under new management
- reopening after a devastating event (like a fire)
- or any reason the business feels they need to present themselves to the community.
It’s a time for celebration and while you don’t want a business hosting one every week, month, or even year, you may want to think long and hard before turning away a member who wants to host one.
When Should You Host a Ribbon Cutting?
Chamber ribbon cuttings are a lot of fun but not if you can’t draw a crowd. For the uninitiated, a Saturday may seem like the ideal time to host the festive event because no one has to leave work to attend. But what does that mean for your mayor or chamber ambassadors? It means a lot of no-shows, which isn’t good for anyone. So how do you help a business see the beauty in a weekday event?
Chamber Ribbon Cutting: the Weekday Edition
The point of ribbon cuttings, outside of being able to have fun with giant scissors, is to draw a crowd. That’s why many business people prefer the weekends. But while the weekends may bring in shoppers if you have the right kind of business, you won’t get leaders in the business community or probably your ambassadors. They have other plans. But how do you convince businesses that you’re right about the weekday spot?
- Explain while they may have potential customers show up, the town business people won’t be there. So from a management side, the cutting will look very sparse. This doesn’t make a good showing to people who want to see business support.
- It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. They can host a chamber-led ribbon cutting during the week with the mayor and other key people in the business community and then host a grand opening celebration for customers on the weekend. This way everyone is happy.
- You can set an official chamber ribbon cutting day and don’t deviate from it. Matt Pfeifer shared with the Chamber Professionals Group on Facebook that his chamber sets aside Thursdays for ribbon cuttings. If a business wants a chamber ribbon cutting, it’s done on a Thursday.
Finally, if the business insists upon a ribbon cutting ceremony on the weekend then it should be levied as a community event. Explain that attendance might be low but with marketing, they can increase the turnout. Set expectations that most businesspeople won’t be able to attend a weekend event.
Now that you’ve given some thought as to the best time to host them, let’s talk about how to get more people there.
How Do You Get More Ribbon-Cutting Attendees?
How do you get more attendees at your ribbon cuttings? Should board members be required to attend? Here’s what a few chamber pros had to say on the matter.
Advertise Like the Event Depends on It
East Providence Area Chamber of Commerce admits they, “email invitations to members and post on Facebook and Twitter once a week (for about 3 weeks) leading up to the ribbon cutting. We have a core group of 5-10 chamber members, including some board folks, who enjoy attending these events. (Make sure to get photos of them at the event and post on FB.) I do not expect to fill the room with chamber members.”
Create a Committee
The Newburyport Chamber of Commerce created a membership committee. It is incumbent on members of the committee and Ambassadors to attend ribbon cuttings.
Some chambers have slotted spots for ribbon cuttings so that members always know when they are. These spots are consistent and happen 2-4 times a week depending on the chamber.
Ask “Is It Necessary?”
Another way of looking at the problem is asking whether your board should be in attendance. Is that one of their job duties? Several chambers didn’t think so. The board’s job is first and foremost governance, not event attendance. The Fredericton Chamber admits they no longer perform ribbon cuttings unless it is a very special occasion.
Sometimes getting more attendees at your ribbon-cutting event is as easy as changing up the format. How about making the switch to ribbon tying?
Introduce Ribbon Tying Events to Your Community
This idea can be used as a new form of ribbon cutting ceremony or a standalone event. Traditionally, a ribbon-cutting ceremony designated a building as open for business. In a ribbon-tying event, the business organization is celebrated for being seen as bringing the community together.
There are many ways you can incorporate them in your chamber. Here are a few examples from chamber pros:
Examples of Chambers That Have Used Ribbon-Tying Events
In 2011, the Charlotte (Michigan) Chamber of Commerce used this idea when the community opened AL!VE, “an experience-based destination health park.” The project was described by Bryan Myrkle, then president of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, “AL!VE is going to serve our citizens well and bring new people into the area.”
But they aren’t the only ones to adopt ribbon-tying events.
The Arlington Heights Chamber of Commerce has a program designed around ribbon-tyings. They perform them at no cost to the member (or non-member). In their PDF informational sheet, they explain “A ribbon tying symbolizes the business being united or ‘tied together’ with the resources of the Chamber of Commerce, the Village Government and the community. A ribbon tying is an event hosted by a business for the purpose of connecting with your customers, your vendors, local business people you know, your friends, your family and members of the public who you invite.”
The New Paltz Chamber in New York hosted one for the grand opening of the Riverside Bank. They did so to “demonstrate the connection of this bank to our community.”
If you decide to do them at your chamber, you will need to figure out whether it replaces your ribbon-cutting ceremonies or serves as another type of event altogether.
Maybe you’re not ready to completely change the concept of ribbon cuttings but you still want to shake things up a bit. Why not forgo the giant scissors for a new way to “cut” the ribbon?
Personalized Alternatives for Chamber Ribbon Cutting Scissors
While you could use any old sharp item out there, using something that reflects the business is a way to get everyone’s attention. These ideas work best when the businesses know about them or perhaps even inquired about their options. Using any of these without telling them could mean angering the traditionalists so always check first.
- A torch. When Wichita Falls opened its new career center the welding instructor “cut” through the ribbon with his blowtorch.
- Chain and bolt cutters were perfect for a construction company opening in Hilliard.
- Saber. This one was used for a wine store and later opened a bottle of champagne at the Homewood Chamber of Commerce.
- Chainsaw. A chainsaw cut through a 2×4 to mark the opening of a construction company.
- Jaws of life on a fire hose. When Firehouse Subs opened they had a unique way of celebrating by using the jaws of life to cut through a fire hose. Speaking of fire hoses…
- Firehose. No one said you had to cut. The Dalles Areas Chamber unscrewed a fire hose at the new firehouse instead of cutting a ribbon.
Or how about a rib cutting? When Famous Dave’s held their ribbon cutting, they cut a slab of ribs instead of a ribbon. Now, that’s my kind of cutting.
Tying in the type of business with the instrument used is a great way to get attention, not to mention plenty of social media shares.
Are you seeing a lot of success with your chamber ribbon cutting ceremony? If you’ve tried a few creative ideas and they’re still poorly attended, you’ll need to decide if it’s still a service that benefits your community. If not, don’t be afraid to phase it out. However, know that ribbon cuttings are an excellent way to let everyone see the chamber and its new members in a good light.