PC Playlists?

Okay I know I can’t be the only person asked to create a “PC” playlist for a corporate function and wondered just how I was supposed to provide “fun, upbeat, holiday music” that was appealing to the masses but didn’t step on toes in the arena of spiritual practices.

 So the search is on for Christmas music that in no way implies the holiday is actually about Christmas. So no music with words that talks about Christmas, Christmas trees, Santa Claus, Jesus, the nativity, etc. Just looking at common songs of the season it is disheartening to keep crossing them off the list because they don’t meet politically correct standards.

 At least once during every holiday season we are asked to come up with an all gender, all races, and all spiritual practices music playlist. We have struggled through this numerous times and have a great tip to start the process. *Never underestimate the value of instrumental music. Even some of the classics can still be played if it is only an instrumental arrangement.

Here are our current playlist favorites for the holiday season; hope it helps anyone else looking for the perfect “PC” music for their event:


  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen – Manheim Steamrollers
  • Jingle Bell Rock – Bobby Helms
  • Baby its Cold Outside – Leon Redbone/Zooey Deschanel
  • Let it snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow– Dean Martin
  • A Marshmallow World – Los Straitjackets
  • Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer– Los Straitjackets
  • Frosty the Snowman – Los Straitjackets
  • Sleigh Ride – Los Straitjackets
  • Christmas Canon– Trans Siberian Orchestra
  • Siberian Sleigh Ride– Trans Siberian Orchestra
  • Wish Liszt– Trans Siberian Orchestra
  • Carol of the Bells– Trans Siberian Orchestra
  • Silver Bells– Carpenters
  • I Did It All for You– Rascal Flatts
  • Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies – Molly Pauken & Rob Brumfiel
  • March of the Toy Soldiers – The Mystery Renderer
  • Midnight Noel – Mel White
  • The Holly & The Ivy – Richard Souther
  • Bluegrass Jingle Bells – Carl Vasta

The Cure for Holiday Cooking

For most people the thought of the holidays brings up memories of big family dinners gathered around the table with mountains of food and a never ending supply of drinks. However, for some the thought of the holidays brings up nightmares of planning the meal, getting jostled at the grocery store buying all the food, buying all the drink supplies, cleaning the house top to bottom and then getting up at the crack of dawn to make the array of food that everyone is expecting.

Creating the family meal for the holidays can be overwhelming and frustrating but it doesn’t have to be. We have collected a few tips and ideas to save you time, energy and money too.

Tip: Ask guests to bring the makings for their favorite drink.  That way everyone gets to enjoy their favorite beverage and you don’t have to cover the expense or worry about whether or not any is going to like your selections.

Tip: Ask guests to bring the side dishes and/or the desserts. The benefits are threefold; you take care of the main entrée only and save lots of time and money, guests get to bring their favorite side dish or dessert and last but not least you often get a better variety of food than if you had planned the entire meal.

Tip: Don’t mind all the planning, cleaning and cooking but feel like everything costs too much? Tell your guests that it is $10 per adult and $5 per child to attend the dinner. No one can go out and eat a huge dinner for that price during the holidays and it helps you cover the cost of putting the dinner on.

Tip: Hire someone to come in and clean your house for you. There are some great house cleaning services and they aren’t that expensive. Believe me; the relief of not worrying about this during holiday preparations is worth the cost.  Better yet, hire some of your friend’s teenage children to clean the house for you.

Tip: Have a dessert contest. Have everyone bring their favorite dessert and allow everyone to vote for their favorite. The person who brought that dessert gets to take home a prize. It could be as small as a couple of holiday cookies cutters from the dollar store. This could become a family ritual.

Tip: When planning your meal look for items that are easy prep or can be made days ahead of time and finished off the day of. For example, you can make homemade dinner rolls and freeze them on a cookie sheet before you let them rise. Then you can take them out in the morning and bake by noon.

No matter what your plans for the holiday season, everyone can use the gift of extra time. Be sure to pass on some of these ideas to your family’s dinner host. Happy Holidays from PEC!

Giving or Getting a Referral

I grew up listening to sage words of advice; like the best way to grow a business is by word of mouth. Never once did I hear about the correct way to give a referral of business. Years later as an entrepreneur I have learned the truth of that saying and more importantly how to give a business referral and yes, even what to do with one once you get it.

I have also learned that not all referrals are actually referrals. It isn’t beneficial for example, for a client to recommend us to their friend in order to secure a clown for their child’s birthday party. It would be much simpler for our client to ask us who we would recommend and then pass that referral on to their friend.

A good referral should be one that matches your skill set or the person’s to whom you are giving the referral. As an example, if you know someone who is a great real estate agent specializing in commercial property you probably don’t want to refer them someone who is interested in buying their first house. Refer them to a real estate agent who specializes in first time home buyers instead. Using my industry as another example, even though I am a corporate event planner it doesn’t mean that I specialize in non-profit fundraisers. There are event planners out there that make their entire living from those kinds of events.

When you give a referral give the person you are referring as much information as possible. We all know to give the standard name, address, email, phone and address but stop and think about what other information you can provide. How long have you known them? How much do you know about what they are looking for? What kind of person are they? What is the best way to communicate or work with them from your experience?

Once you have gotten the referral it is just as important how you follow up with it. Make sure when you contact the referral that you tell them who referred you and offer up why. Document the progress of the referral and send the referee updates on the referral. If the referral doesn’t pan out thank both the referral and the referee for the opportunity. If the referral does pan out and become a solid piece of business make sure to send a personal, handwritten note of thanks to the referee. A small gift relevant to the amount of business would also be a nice touch.

Referrals are the best form of advertising so it is important to not lose out on this vital piece of your business because you mishandle the situation when it appears.

Selecting a great caterer is like finding a needle in a haystack…or is it?

“Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.” —-M. F. K. Fisher

Well, here at PEC we completely agree with the above quote. Food is one of the most important elements in hosting an event. There are ways to cut corners, find deals and control the bottom line but the food is not where those cuts should be made.

The menu you provide at an event can literally make or break its success. People won’t remember a lot of details about an event years later but they will remember whether or not they loved or hated the food. Unfortunately, food is the one arena that there seems to be no middle ground for people. That is why it is so important to find a great caterer and even more important to find the perfect caterer for your specific event.  Yes, we do recommend that you use more than one caterer. They all have a specialty and it is important to find the caterer that fits the event.

Here are our tips for finding a great caterer:

Reputation: It is necessary to research the reputation of the caterer you are considering. Ask them for a list of references that you can check and make sure the reference they give had an event similar to yours. Ask to see copies of their licensing. You want to know if they are licensed to do fried foods, open fire foods, etc.  Better yet ask the local health department about their history.

Education: I wouldn’t ask my teenager to cook a high end meal for fifty so I am willing to bet you wouldn’t trust that kind of a meal to just anyone either. Ask for the Chef’s credentials. If you are going to the expense of hiring a caterer then you want to know that you are entrusting your event to someone with experience. Find out where they were educated in cooking, where they have worked and perfected their art. Don’t forget to ask about the education and background of the event staff too. They are the people who come in contact with your guests, you will want to know about their experience too.

Cuisine: Every caterer serves a primary kind of cuisine. Find out what they specialize in and make sure it is a match for what you are looking for. If it isn’t, don’t be afraid to ask if they are willing to customize their menus or if they only serve what is on their menu. If they go off menu to accommodate your requests be sure to have a tasting to verify the quality will meet your standards. (You wouldn’t order Mexican food from a Chinese restaurant – follow the same thinking here, just because they offer it doesn’t mean they do it well.) Side note: it may be important to find out if they do children’s menus as well. Not all caterers do.

Style: Any professional caterer should be able to offer you a number of options for service style. Some of the most common service styles are a sit down dinner, a buffet, butler style, family style and food stations and interactive food stations. Ask the caterer you are considering how many of each type of event they do per year. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can attend an event similar to yours that they have on the books prior to your event. It is always a good idea to see them in action.

Tastings: Almost all catering companies offer complimentary tastings once you have selected a menu. The tasting is an important element of selecting a caterer. It gives you a firsthand opportunity to judge for yourself the quality of the food in regards to taste, presentation and style. It is also an opportunity for you to ask for small changes to the menu like a different sauce, less spice, alternate ways to serve the item etc.

Alcohol Policy: Don’t assume that caterers offer alcohol service. Some caterers do and others are licensed only to serve alcohol provided by you. Even then, caterers will often charge a corking fee and/or a pouring fee. Most caterers will ask you to secure a banquet permit for alcohol service. Don’t worry they are simple to get and cost about $10. *Side note: Be sure to ask the caterer what they have in the way of non-alcoholic beverages.

Décor/Themes: Some caterers bring everything in disposable pans and just set them out on the table. (Don’t get me wrong, some events that is exactly what you need) Most caterers can show you pictures of basic service style. Only a handful of caterers can actually provide you with full on themed out décor. What do I mean by themed out? Well maybe you want the buffet décor to match your Egyptian theme or maybe you want the fabrics and flowers used on the buffet to match the colors you have selected for your wedding either way make sure that the caterer offers something that fits your event.

Staffing: Who actually facilitates your events is very important. Ask the caterers what their dress code and personal appearance policies are. Ask to meet your event lead prior to the event so you are comfortable with them and their knowledge of the event. Find out if your catering coordinator will be available to attend your event or at least be available to you via a cell phone in case you have issues. Make sure you know the caterers policy regarding staffing ratio to guests as well as their policy on overtime charges. 

Set Up/Tear Down: Caterers can give you an expected time line for set up for an event. You will need to know this as the set up time varies according to the style of event. Also make sure that you have allotted enough time for tear down prior to the venue needing to be emptied. Don’t assume that a caterer will clean up the space they have used for food prep. Often times you will need to negotiate the clean up with the caterer and it could cost you additional staffing fees.

Rentals: Some caterers offer plastic service ware and utensils complimentary and china for an additional cost. Some caterers offer the reverse. Make sure you know in advance what the fees are for rental items. Rental items can include everything from china and glassware to tables and linens. Coolers, ice, punch bowls, coffee carafes and water pitchers can all cost additional funds. This is the area to pay the most attention to. You certainly don’t want an unexpected charge because you assumed it was part of the caterers service.

Additional fees:  Yes, you need to bite the bullet and ask you caterer about all of their fees. Not every caterer charges the same fees and knowing what those fees are might make the difference between two caterers that are hard to choose between. Additional fees that you may come across when selecting a caterer are service fees, gratuities, taxes, fuel surcharges, delivery, and drop offs.

Contracts: Before selecting a caterer make sure to see what their contract looks like. Their contract should outline policies regarding such things as natural disasters, payments and deposits, final head counts, service timelines, liability, cancellations, and insurance provisions. *Side Note: make sure the caterer is carrying the right insurance. Often time venues request a certain level of liability insurance and you will want to make sure they meet the requirements.

Multiple Events Policy: No matter how good a catering company is, even they have their limits. If you are planning a big event it is a good idea to know how many other events they have booked on the same day and where they draw the line on taking multiple events on a day. The last thing you want is a catering company that thinks they can do it all and end up shortchanging your event by sending substandard staff or worse…food! It doesn’t hurt to check periodically leading up to your event if they have taken on more events that day even if they have told you at the beginning of the planning process that the day is free.

Follow these simple guidelines and selecting a caterer will be a much easier process. We know because these were all lesson’s we learned the hard way.