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Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Uncategorized category.

Ask the Questions

As a corporate event planning firm we are often surprised how many people don’t know what questions they should be asking their event planner. Most planners offer a free consultation as a way of interviewing their potential client. They want to know if the event is in their scope of work and if they feel they can work well with the client. They always have a list of questions they ask and the answers help them decide if they want to move forward with the project. They are also the basis of the contract between the client and the event planner. What people aren’t realizing is that the free consultation is also their opportunity to interview the planner and decide if they want to work with them. Its very important that you ask the right kind of questions during this process.

So, what exactly, should you be asking? Good Question! This list of questions was provided by the International School of Hospitality but we’ve added our own answers.

  1. What are your services going to cost? Every event has a budget and if the planner’s rates are out of your budget then you should stop the consultation right there. Their rates aren’t going to change and asking them to discount their rates to you isn’t likely. There are planners for every style of budget so pick wisely.  Also, be aware there are different ways for planners to charge so make sure you are comfortable with the way they charge. You can have an hourly rate or a flat rate and both are good for different reasons so be sure to ask if they offer both options.
  2. Will your planner be attending the event? This seems like it has the obvious answer of yes but that isn’t the case. A lot of planning firms have Event Lead’s, Junior planners, or Assistants that are the actual onsite staff lead at your event. This isn’t a bad thing but you should know if the planner you are working so closely with will be onsite the day of the event or passing the fulfillment of the event over to someone else and I f so are they going to be included in the planning process so you are comfortable with them and their skill level. Another thing to note, it may cost more to have the planner onsite rather than their assistant so if you are comfortable with the assistant it may save you some money to not have the planner onsite.
  3. How much time do you need to plan my event? Just like every event is different, every event takes a different amount of time to plan. Some events can be turned around in a week and others take months to a year to plan based on the scope of work that is involved. Knowing if you are working on a shortened timeline can help you in the planning process. You should always ask your planner to give you a work-back schedule from the event date so you know when major milestones in the planning process are. That way you can plan accordingly.
  4. Do you have vendor contacts and are you experienced in contract negotiation? Why does it matter if your planner has a lot of vendor contacts? Well, established relationships can lead to discounts which in turn could save you money. It also lets you know how well known they are in their market. What about those contracts?  Everyone can sign a contract and agree to the terms stated but an experienced planner can often see where a contract request is unreasonable, can ask for different terms or special requests be added to the contract. They also need to be able to clearly communicate with  you the terms of the contracts so you aren’t surprised if something goes wrong. Another question to consider is if the planner will be signing the contract on your behalf or if you have to sign all the contracts. This is a big debate in the planning industry and you would be smart to know how your planner feels about the subject of legal liability on your behalf.
  5. What is your vision for my event and do you have a contingency plan if something goes wrong? This is a big one! If you and the planner do not have the same vision for the event you are likely to be unhappy with the end results and they may be too. It also makes the planning process difficult and painful on both sides. Who wants that? No one. A good planner has a back up plan, and a back up plan to the back up plan. Make sure your planner is thinking about what to do if things go wrong, although, unless its an act of nature a good planner will make sure things don’t go wrong. Still, it pays to be prepared.
  6. What types of events have you done in the past and how successful were they? References. References. References. Ask to see pictures of their work but more importantly ask to speak to previous clients. If a planner doesn’t want you to talk to past clients that is a huge red flag.

 

A successful event requires that the relationship between client and planner is based on trust, experience, future expectations, and a positive chemistry between the two individuals. As a last piece of advice: trust your gut and go with who feels right regardless of their rate. Cheaper isn’t always better and it also isn’t the determining factor on a successful event, as a matter of fact it almost always is a detriment. Planners can make your life so much better when you trust them so pick your planner wisely.

 

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The Hostess with the Mostess

Summer season is often the busiest time of year for people to host parties and get-togethers. The weather is beautiful and people want to spend time with friends and family. It’s a time to celebrate and create great memories that will last a lifetime. So, what happens if you do not feel comfortable hosting a party but you want to have a gathering?

Well, we have a few tips for you on how to be the “Hostess with the Mostess”. There are a few simple things to think about when planning a party that will make things go smoother and easier for you.

Step One: Give yourself plenty of time to organize the event. We often underestimate the amount of work it takes to throw a “simple” party together. Not giving yourself enough time puts stress on you right from the start that is not needed. Give yourself more time that you think you need. Seriously!

Step Two: We like to think we are Superman/woman but the truth is we can only do so much and a big mistake in party planning that people make is not asking for help. We often have a bigger support network than we think we do and people really don’t mind being asked to assist when asked. Especially when they get to participate in the fun afterwards.

Step Three: Food can make or break a party. You can do everything else right but if the food is bad or mediocre its all your guests will talk about so keep your food choices simple. Parties are not the time to try out new recipes. Stick with favorites that are tried and true and easy to make. Better yet, find recipes that you can make ahead so you have less to do the day of the event.

Step Four: Set the tone for your party before your guests arrive. Turn on music that creates the environment that you want. Light those scented candles that invoke smells you want to linger in guests mind. Post a little sign by the door if you want guests to take off their shoes. Open the patio door if you want guests to head out to your backyard. All these little things will set the tone and you will relax knowing that the feel for your party is set and ready to roll.

Step Five: Once the party starts – relax. People do not expect you to be perfect and in fact, relax more if they feel like you are just like everyone else. Watch the flow of the party and the guests. Keep conversation going, make sure people’s glasses are full and that they have eaten enough.

Step Six: Relax and enjoy your own party. The whole point of having people over is to enjoy their company. To have good conversations and make memories. You don’t want to be so busy “hosting” that you don’t even enjoy your own get-together.

Step Seven: Say Thank You! It only takes a minute in our day of technology to drop a quick thank you for attending. Choose your most convenient way of contacting people but be sure to say thank you. Especially to the friends that helped you out or stayed late to help you clean up.

With a little bit of pre-planning and learning how to keep it simple you can have a great party. You may even decide that you are quite good at hosting parties. Before you know it, you might be “THE” hostess of all your friends.

 


Christmas in July

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I know…..you are wondering why on earth we would be thinking about Christmas in July but the truth is, now is the perfect time to start planning for the holidays. I know you are probably thinking this is taking advertising for holidays prior to when the previous holiday is over to a whole new extreme but really it is an attempt to avoid the crazy chaotic rush that happens once October hits.

You know, we’ve all been there, Halloween is fast approaching and it heralds a down hill race to Christmas and New Years. Before you know it the end of the year is here and everyone is wondering how it happened. So we like to be a little more prepared than the average person. Okay, maybe a lot more prepared.

The main reason we like to get started on planning your holiday parties now, is the more time you give yourself the easier time you will have to schedule the date and find the perfect location.  Believe me, you don’t want to be making do with what options are left by the time you get around looking.

Next, you want to give your employees, family, or friends, as much notice as possible so they can plan their holiday season early. The more notice you give the better chance you will get a large turnout. This is especially true when both spouses work outside the home. We’ve all had to try and juggle multiple parties because of last minute notifications.

Third, vendors get booked early so your choice of entertainment get less and less as we get closer to the holiday season. You don’t want your boss to be super excited about having a dueling piano show only to find out that they have been booked for all the prime December dates months ago. It sucks. It really does.

The more time you give yourself to plan, the easier it is to make decisions. You can sample food from different caterers before signing a contract, play around with different themes, colors and décor until you have it exactly as you want it.

Thinking about Christmas may not be the way you want to spend your warm, sunny July but later in the year you will thank us for prompting you along.


That Creative Spark

Creativity is the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work. Anyone who has been involved with the creative process knows that getting stuck or hitting a wall is part of the process. Everyone struggles sometimes to renew their creative spark. Being in a business where we need to stay creative makes that a bit of a bigger challenge so we have to have ways to re-energize that creative spark. Here are the just some of the ways that we do that:

  • connect with someone you think is creative and let their creativity generate some new ideas for you.
  • change up your routine.
  • doodle
  • play a game
  • free write
  • listen to new music
  • keep an idea journal with you at all times
  • play with toys
  • color
  • listen to a TED talk
  • take a class
  • get cooking in the kitchen
  • explore the outdoors
  • research on Pinterest
  • create a vision board
  • talk with children
  • walk through an art gallery
  • watch movies

Creativity is all about being open to the impressions of life as they flow and swirl around us. Its about letting that energy flow out of you and create something unique to you. Enjoy the process and don’t give up when you feel like you’ve hit a snag in the creative process. It’s easy to spark again.


Experiential Events

I recently was talking with someone about what makes an event a great event. I think there are several factors like hitting your core objectives, staying in budget, and how easy the planning process is for your clients but if you really want to know what makes an event a great event for your guests then here is my opinion:

  • Touch – Guests need to be able to touch aspects of the event. Hands on, if you will. They need to be able to physically feel components of the event. That can be everything from hands on activities to the texture of linens. Finding ways your guests can engage in the event through touch is rarely thought about but it matters. It really does.
  • See – The eyes are the first sense that must be engaged. Lights, color, activity all of it engages the guest first through visual anticipation. How many times have you taken more food than you can eat because your eyes found all the food appealing? Events are the same. Engage people’s eyes with things to look and experience visually and you will have made a huge impact right from the beginning.
  • Taste – Well, of course. Taste is a major sensory function and a party is not a party without food and beverages. Not all food and beverage is created equal though. Make sure that the things you are offering match with the vibe and feel of the event. You wouldn’t want to go to a BBQ and have them serve 5 star cuisine on paper plates. It just doesn’t work. Don’t be afraid to experiment with taste through textures and spices. Be creative it can pay off in a big way and great food and beverages will be remembered long after other things are forgotten.
  • Feel – This concept is a little more esoteric. Guests need to feel the core objectives without you stating them. For example: We appreciate you, thank you, we’ve reached our goal, we need to work harder, etcetera. If all the components of your event work together cohesively guest will walk away with an overall feeling, a concept of enjoyment, that they can’t exactly express but feel nonetheless. You want guests to believe that how they feel is of their own making and not something you designed into the creation of the event.

It’s important to think about these things when planning an event. If you have a hard time figuring out how to encompass these things in your event effectively – I would recommend working with a seasoned event planning professional. Nothing surpasses experience and event planners know when to go lavish and when to be subtle to get the point across.


Preparation & Planning

When you are in the event industry preparation and planning are your bylaws. You have to think of things that others don’t and you have to be ready for anything. We jokingly call it Plan C, D, E & F. Meaning that you plan and prepare beyond a Plan B.

No matter what part of the event industry you are in, you will have your own particular set of preparation steps that are required. For us, as corporate event and project managers we carry around an event kit. It’s basically our Mary Poppins magical bag. We can pull out just about anything for any situation as long as we keep the bag stocked.

It’s a great idea to create one that is specific to what you do. (Even working in an office, you can have a magical drawer where you keep those crazy items that you surprisingly need now and again). Here is what we keep in our event kits:

  • Nail polish remover/cotton balls
  • Ear plugs
  • Pills for ill guests: Advil, tylenol, tums, immodium
  • Hand lotion or body spray
  • Scissors
  • Nail clippers
  • Unscented bug spray (for outdoor events)
  • Baby wipes
  • Spray deodorant
  • Sunscreen
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Granola bars and water
  • Travel sewing kit
  • Hair Goods: hairspray, bobby pins, hair ties, brush or comb
  • Safety Pins, double-sided tape
  • Charger with different charging tips
  • Lint Roller
  • Tide Sticks or Clorox bleach pen
  • Tissues
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Mints or gum
  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss and mouth wash
  • Small first aid kit
  • Screwdriver, pliers, wire cutters
  • Blades or pocket knife
  • Different types of tape: scotch, electrical, masking, gaffers tape and double sided tape
  • Paper clips, binder clips
  • Power strip, extension cords, converters
  • Twist ties, fishing line, zip ties
  • Sharpies in all colors
  • Pens
  • Measuring tape
  • Adhesive hooks and tape
  • Floral tape
  • Windex
  • Paper Towels
  • Flash drive
  • Flash light
  • Velcro
  • Batteries
  • Ziploc Bags
  • Notepad
  • Thumbtacks, Push pins, Rubber bands

Believe me….no matter what event it is, I always need something from this kit. It is a necessity of event life. As a side tip: we use a rolling hard shell toolbox to carry everything in. One with lots of little compartments helps you keep things organized too.


Major Multitasker?

According to the dictionary, multitasking is the ability to do more than one thing at a time. For a long time people focused on developing the ability to multi-task as a vital skill in the workplace. The better you were at multitasking the more productive you were. After all you were getting more done right?

Well, its been over a decade and now they are saying that multitasking is bad for your brain health. Some research says that multitasking actually reduces your brain’s productivity by 40%! That’s huge. The research says that our brain actually has a problem switching from one task to another rapidly and some research goes so far as to say we actually lose time when we are multitasking.

So what happened to the concept that doing more than one thing at a time produced more results because you are getting more done? I think the question here is, what is the quality of the work? Personally, I find that when I focus on one project at a time I get better results with the finished product but I still say there is something to be said about multitasking. (Of course, as Project Managers we multitask all the time so its hard to give it up) However, I think there is a time and place for both.

It is important to eliminate distractions and focus on the job at hand when you can but there are just times when you can’t and the ability to do more than one thing at a time is necessary. My suggestion is to practice the art of focused, intentional tasks whenever you can. You will most likely be happier with the end result of your task and you will most likely be less mentally tired at the end of the day too.


Building a network

Networking – Networking – Networking!

I don’t think there is a person working that hasn’t had to network at some point in their life. Networking is such a part of business that often times it becomes a huge portion of our job whether we realize it or not. It can also be one of the most stressful things for people to do so here are some tips for building a network or at least making your network opportunities work for you when you have them.

  • Make a goal list of the people or type of people you want to meet at the networking event. Believe it or not it helps you stay focused and it makes it easier to ask people to introduce you to a certain person or type of person if you know what you are looking for in advance.
  • Your appearance matters! Make sure you look professional and for goodness sake ditch the gum or spit out your mint before talking to someone.
  • It might seem silly but put your nametag on the right side. This actually puts your name in sight line when you shake hands with someone.
  • Its okay to observe the room before engaging in conversation. Some people like to talk to those people they know first but be careful you don’t get caught up and never move outside your comfort zone. *perhaps wait to talk with those you know until after you have met the people you came to meet first.
  • It’s time to be BOLD – introduce yourself and tell them you have been looking forward to meeting them. This is NOT when you go into an elevator speech about your business. It’s now time to listen and ask open ended questions like, “What brought you here this evening?
  • Always ask the people you are meeting how you can best help them. Perhaps you can work together or perhaps you know someone they should meet or maybe you can refer them to a resource they need. If you are truly listening to them you should be able to come up with your own idea on how you can assist them.
  • If you are being introduced to someone – always stand. It is a sign of respect. If you are making the introduction remember hierarchy. People of lesser importance get introduced to people of greater authority. For example, “Mr./Ms. Greater Authority, I would like to introduce Mr./Ms. Lesser Authority.” Also, don’t forget to include a connector – like you both love exotic cars.
  • Names are very important. If you are meeting someone new, repeat the person’s name at least three times in your conversation so it sticks with you. If it is a difficult name, ask for the spelling and if you are saying it correctly. Don’t be afraid to admit you have forgotten their name and ask to be reminded.
  • DON’T hand out your business cards like you a professional dealer in Vegas. Have them accessible but only give them out if you are asked for your card.
  • Breaking into an existing conversation can be difficult. Pay attention to the ongoing conversation and break in when there is a lull in conversation then introduce yourself.
  • Breaking away can be difficult sometimes too so just simply say it was nice to meet them and promise to follow up with them within a few days. *If you make this promise – note it in your calendar before moving on to your next conversation and whatever else you do – don’t forget to reach out like you promised.
  • Its a good idea to limit alcohol consumption at networking events as anxiety can make the drinks affect you like you’ve had multiple.
  • Practice juggling a glass, a plate and anything else you may have in your hands at a networking event before you go. Remember to keep you right open for shaking hands.
  • Before you leave take a minute to thank the host of the networking event for setting it up and providing the opportunity for you to meet new people. It’s just good etiquette.
  • Last but not least – send thank you notes to everyone you connected with for taking time to meet you and reiterate your offer of assistance in helping them. Don’t forget to send thank you notes to people who referred you or helped introduce you to others as well. Let them know they helped you out and offer to do the same if they should ever need it.

Networking is about meeting people and connecting people. Smile, laugh, be personable and remember that they are probably just as nervous and anxious as you are. You can do this!


Less Stress, More Stress, De-Stress

There aren’t many people who don’t have some form of stress in their lives. Unfortunately stress has become a common part of the LIFE experience. People expect to experience stress and sometimes they subconsciously make choices that create more stress in their lives. Its a horrible pattern that people have a hard time breaking. Its one of the reasons that stress management has become such a huge priority in people’s lives.

Work is one of the biggest stressors. There is a lot of pressure on people to perform at their best and they do more, causing more stress to do better, achieve more and the cycle continues. Since this is the start of the year, it is a great idea to figure out some ways to have less stress in your life. Think of it as a New Year’s Resolution!

Here are some tips to get your started:

  • Focus on your breathing – keeping it calm and even
  • Visualize a calm relaxing place
  • Meditate
  • Smile! (Yes it really does help)
  • Compose a mantra or an affirmation
  • Exercise
  • Go Decaffeinated
  • Use essential oils
  • Just say NO (Yes you can do this!)
  • Try acupressure
  • High Carbohydrate snacks give you a release of endorphins
  • Boost your vitamin intake
  • Get a massage
  • Day dream
  • Listen to music
  • Goof off

 


Beat the Heat

We are in the middle of a heat wave, here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. I know most people believe we are the rainiest place on earth but in reality we have beautiful weather here. Yes, there is rain, lots of it at times and there can be a perpetual overcast that gives off a kind of dreary feeling but for those who call this region home, we know to get out and make full use of the beautiful days when we have them.
The thing is, not everyone is prepared for these hot days and nights. You can generally tell because there will be a run on fans and air conditioners. However, there are other ways to beat the heat in the hotness of summer. Here are a few tricks we’ve unearthed to help keep you cool:
• Hang a damp sheet in front of an open window. The incoming breezes will be cooled by the evaporating water. (Unfortunately – this may have to be repeated often depending on how fast the sheet dries in the sun)
• Purchase curtains that have sun blocking white backs. Believe me – they work!
• Place a bowl of ice in front of a sweeping fan. As the ice melts the fan will blow the cooler air into the room.
• Keep windows and doors shut, even though it is tempting to create a breeze, its deceiving, the open windows and doors only let the hot air in to make the inside warmer.
• Keep a spray bottle of water in the refrigerator and mist yourself when you need to cool down.
• Turn electronics off during the heat. On they are an extra source of heat you don’t need.
• Wear thin, light weight, light colored, loose clothing
• If you like it spicy – now is the time to eat up! Hot spices used in ethnic foods make you sweat which in turns cools the body down.
• Drink lots of WATER, and fruit smoothies. Avoid drinks like alcohol and caffeine because they actually dehydrate you and that is a big no-no in the heat.
• Keep your meals light too – avoid those fatty, heavy rich foods because it is harder for your body to digest in the heat.
• Avoid using your stove- no one needs the extra heat generated from a cooking stove or stove top. It’s all about grilling this time of year.
• Take advantage of air conditioned businesses. Go see a movie in the evening or enjoy a meal at a restaurant.
• Find a swimming hole or at the very least take advantage of the local community swimming pools.
• Place or tie an icepack behind your head.
• Run cold water over your wrists for 10 seconds on each hand. This will reduce your temperature for roughly an hour.
• Soak your feet in a bucket of cold water.
• Stock your freezer with flavored ice treats.
Regardless of what you options you take to stay cool we hope you find a way to enjoy the sunshine without being miserable due to the heat.