By Gayle Gilberto, Event Designer & CIS
Thanksgiving comes late this year, which means most holiday parties are being planned within the first two weeks in December. That’s not very far from now but it’s still not too late to plan your gathering or to add some extra spice to the existing one! If you haven’t booked your venue or suppliers yet, Kristin O’Conner, Director of Sales and Marketing of Capers Catering advises the following: “Be willing to be flexible! Thursdays in December are the quickest dates to go. If you’re willing to do a different day we can play around and make it work for you. But, we almost always can make it work for our clients.”
Get People Excited About Your Holiday Party
You may also consider moving your party into the New Year. January and February dates a offer better venue and supplier availability and your guests can relax and enjoy your celebration without their personal Holiday plans getting in the way.
Build up excitement for your upcoming celebration by advertising through your company social media. Hint at the activities to come. If you haven’t told your guests already, consider “teasing” the theme to build anticipation. For example, if you are having a carnival theme, pass out popcorn or cotton candy during lunchtime or after a company meeting. Or invite a salsa dancer into your office to perform in advance of your “Havana Nights” theme event.
Another great way to build excitement for your Holiday party is to add an awards component to the affair. Create a few fun categories for your employees to vote on to get them involved and pumped up. Or look for in-house talent and have them participate in some way. I had a CEO who leads a company sing-a-long for his employees at the end of a Holiday celebration. This quickly became the beloved company tradition guests look forward to every year!
Brainstorm Ideas With Others
Kick up your food and beverage choices by chatting with employees and don’t be shy about brainstorming fresh ideas with your catering manager
Kristin O’Connor offers this advice: “We’ve had clients collect a few family recipes that we can incorporate into a menu. This spices up an event and makes employees experience all the feels when their own holiday traditions can be represented to their colleagues. Also, say yes to all the desserts- don’t make it an afterthought. Whether it is a fun unique station, like make your own s’mores, smashed cake bar, boozy hot chocolate station, or passed cookies and milkshakes, people love to put their healthy lifestyles on hold this time of year.
Plan Fun Activities For All
More active crowds love games of all types and there are plenty of options available! From casino games to arcade and video games, space, taste, and budget are your only limitations.
AC Anders, VP of Corporate Events at Fun Enterprises recommends activities that can double as company giveaways:
“All too often we are at an event and take photos that live in our phone or on our social apps. Switch things up and get a photo program that the guest leaves with the photo in a snow globe or snowflake. Also, personalization and DYO programs give your attendees something fun to do and take home.”
The Gift That Keeps on Giving
”Gifting this year? Check out the many companies offering to buy one give one options now (Bomba socks, One World Play and Smile Squared are just a few) guests can feel great knowing their gift was also donated to someone in need. Or you can empower your employees to be even more actively involved in the spirit of the season.
AC Anders: “Some companies decide that since it is the time of year for giving back it is a perfect time to sponsor a community project. Here are a few suggestions:
- Caroling at a senior center or hospital
- Volunteering at a food bank
- Collecting coats for the Winter Season ahead
- Donating Toys for a good cause”
Finally, don’t forget to make your event sparkle— try dazzling guests with a great theme. Glitz is always popular this time of year and themes that blend well with interactive activities are particularly hot right now. Brainstorm with an event design professional to find the theme that best suits your company’s demographic and image. This is your party and you can customize it in myriad ways that will make all your attendees feel like the VIPs they are!!!
Art of the Event
Are you planning a big holiday bash? Let Art of the Event’s Production and Design team help!
By Gayle Gilberto, Event Designer & CIS
After working as a supplier in this industry for 16 years and in another for five more, I’ve had every kind of working relationship with meeting and event planners. I’ve also had the privilege of supervising others in their working relationships. From my experience, I’ve gained insight into how different clients’ techniques, systems, and working styles affect their programs from the bidding process to the final on-site results. I’ve compiled a list of some ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ that will help you get what you need and perhaps something extra from your suppliers.
Do: Take three bids, and tell your suppliers you are taking bids. The competition will drive your suppliers to sharpen those pencils and create quality proposals.
Do: Compare apples to apples! When sending out RFP’s, make sure each supplier is working with the same information. Be as transparent as possible, and let the suppliers know which elements are most important and which ones are not.
Don’t: Hedge on the budget question. I understand that there are times when you legitimately don’t know what your budget is; however, I recommend using past experience or event as your guide. Also, make sure to give each supplier the same budget range to avoid getting wildly different proposals back at various price points. Even if you have to modify the budget after receiving the bid, you’ll start with information you can use to access your three bids properly.
*Helpful Hint*: If you do know your budget, shave a bit off the top when sharing with suppliers. That leftover “padding” can be used in the future to add elements you don’t see in the initial proposal!
Do: Ask for other suggestions. You don’t have to be an expert on everything yourself. You are reaching out to experts in each of their fields. Let them share their knowledge with you by encouraging them to add suggestions and different options. You might end up liking the new ideas better than the ones you initially thought of!
Do: Be realistic with your proposal, timeframe. Try to get RFP’s in as early as possible and ask the supplier how much time they need for the turnaround. There is an old rule from my days in the film industry that equally applies to event production: “Good, Fast, Cheap!” Pick two!”
After the Bid: The Working Relationship
There are two ways to get what you need when you need it:
Be an ally
We all enjoy doing beautiful things for our friends. That’s why clients and suppliers who are “friends,” even if only in the working world, tend to get better service and extra bonuses. Being thankful, considerate, and fostering a positive relationship with someone can go a long way.
Be a ‘Squeaky Wheel’
We are all constantly busy in our industry. And although your suppliers genuinely want to give equal time to all their clients, the reality is that some clients make sure they get more attention than others. The ‘squeaky wheel’ is someone who is both present and persistent in getting what he or she needs. Clients who call consistently tend to get pushed to the head of the line.
Don’t: Be mean
Try not to confuse being ‘squeaky’ with being rude. Beating people down is not the same as being present. I’ve seen senior suppliers jump away from the phone in fear when they see a certain number come up on their cell. I’ve seen others pass on potentially lucrative projects just because their point person proved to be complicated. Suppliers can make or break your next program; keep them on your team by treating them like professionals, not servants.
Do: Feel free to ask for that extra something. Even if you’re pretty sure the answer is “no,” it never hurts to try. You’ll be surprised at how often you’re happily surprised by the outcome.
Event or Program Start Day
Do: Arrive early to make sure things are progressing smoothly. Get ahead of last-minute changes and potential snags during your set up.
Do: Act before you react. As we all know, unexpected contingencies arise on site. Elevators and trucks can break down, backups happen on loading docks, and people get sick. If your set up isn’t going as expected, find out what the challenges are, and ask for solutions.
Do: Request a walkthrough before anyone is dismissed.
Do: Request a rehearsal, run-through if AV, talent is involved.
After the Fact
Give feedback! Everyone wants to know how they are doing, and feedback is always appreciated. Suppliers should welcome constructive criticism so we can adjust and improve in the future. Leaving a review, especially when someone hits a home run, can forge a friendly feeling that will surely benefit you the next time around!