In the Thick of Things…(You know you’re an event planner when)

Being event planners one of the worst things that can happen at one of our client’s events is to spend months creating an event, putting out all kinds of hard-earned money to make it exceptional and then having no one show up or at least a small percentage of the guests that were invited.  Let’s take it to a more personal level…you invited eight of your closest friends over for a gourmet dinner, sweated all day in the kitchen, got gussied up in your finest clothes and no one knocks on your door. Not a great feeling!

You would think that might be one of the worst scenarios you can encounter as an event planner but truthfully, you only feel bad for your client. I mean after all, you can’t control who shows up. I say all this because, from an event planner point of view, one of the worst things you can experience is quite the reverse.

Nightclub Overload: We held an event at a nightclub that can host 800 people at max capacity. Halfway through the party we realized that we were not only at max capacity we had hundreds of people still waiting to get inside the club. Coat check was so overrun we had 4 extra staff helping out the people who were assigned to coast check. Food was devoured, a LOT of alcohol was consumed and we did our best to allow guests in as other guests left but…..

….when you are throwing THE party to attend that night a lot of guests don’t always want to leave in consideration of the poor sods that are standing outside in the cold winter air praying for warmth and that some of the food will be left when or if they ever get inside. When you are being overrun by unexpected guests everyone feels overwhelmed…the client, the guests, the event staff and most assuredly the event planner whose job it is to make sure everything runs smoothly. (Insert BIG sigh here)

Storming the Gate: Okay so it really wasn’t a gate but that is how it felt. A few years back we had a client that rented out a famous venue in Seattle to host their annual holiday party for 2500 people. Now, this event should have gone like clockwork. We had done this event every year for several years. We had it down. We knew all the key details and only minor things changed every year but this year, we changed venues.

That isn’t a big deal. However, a couple of factors came into play that created an event planning nightmare. First, we had an extra 800 guests arrive. Yes, you heard me right – an extra 800 guests! That isn’t a few extra guests…it’s an entire mob of people. So….what could possibly go wrong? Well, just about everything. Coat check was backed up beyond belief and when the planners managed to get out of the coat check room where they had been assisting with the mad crush they discovered that the lines for the bars were winding through the entire event space. The food you ask? Well, that is where factor number two comes in.

The catering company that we had used every year before had recently gone under a management change just a couple of months before the event and they were “getting their event legs” underneath them but like us, they were confident they could handle the event as they had done in the past. The problem was, we had an extra 800 people! They staff were in crisis and their current management hadn’t ever been through one of our large events and were already overwhelmed and quickly losing control of their staff.

You can just imagine the chaos that was happening in the kitchen as catering staff were constantly expressing they were out of food, Chefs trying to accommodate and watching the food supply dwindle three hours before they were supposed to be done.

From an outward perspective the lead event planner on site managed to handle it all with complete calm and dignity while inside she was praying to God for a miracle. Needless to say, it is entirely possible to have too much of a good thing! That was the last time we planned that group’s holiday party even though we had several years of successes behind us and it wasn’t our fault that so many guests arrived…..after all, WE didn’t invite them.

Oh well, live and learn…plan for the worst…. and hope for the best!


When they look at you strange at Wal-mart

Wal-Mart has a reputation for being THE place for low-income shoppers looking for a deal. It has also been the butt of jokes and at some point in time most people have seen “People of Wal-Mart” on the internet and laughed at the crazy shoppers that often frequent the store. I say all that to point out that some people don’t have very high standards or expectations of Wal-Mart so when you are walking through a Wal-Mart store and you realize that people are staring at you it makes you wonder what people are thinking about you.

In our case, we often just laugh at the crazy looks we get from people because we know our shopping expeditions are not “ordinary” for anyone who most likely isn’t doing some kind of group function or in our case event planning. We have been known to go into a Wal-Mart store and fill our shopping cart with all the flashlights and umbrellas they have in the store or load our cart up with one of every kind of board game. In the past we have even ordered eight hundred eight ounce mason jars. You can just imagine the looks we got when we carted out those sixty-seven boxes to our car.

Of course these shopping expeditions aren’t limited to Wal-Mart. A few months ago we cleaned two of our Michael’s craft stores out of their plain wood 3×5 picture frames so guests could decorate them at our client’s holiday party. Even there we got the “Those people are crazy” looks from other store patrons and staff alike. I guess you just get used to people thinking you are crazy and maybe as event planners, we are just a wee bit crazy, but the next time you see someone with a loaded up cart with hundreds of things you know no in their right mind would buy in bulk…, it may be a harried event planner trying to fulfill a client’s unexpected request.