See + Hear + Heart
The new year celebrations are long gone, but there is a full year of other events to come. Much like an annual celebration of New Year’s Eve, other annual events can become boring quickly. If you plan or manage an annual event, you might be taken aback to discover that more than likely your event has become boring.
Boring events happen by choosing the same routine year-end and year-out including the venue, set up, color scheme, food and the same ol’ everything. The first year was good, but years two, three and four could have been cancelled. When something is perceived as a success, oftentimes the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality governs the day. This formulaic mindset is ideal for repetitive business functions, however; it is not so fabulous for social, professional association and corporate occasions. When it “ain’t broke” is the perfect time to remix it.
Four tangible signs of an event losing its beat include 1) a decline in guest R.S.V.P.’s, 2) reduction in time spent, 3) deviations from the dress code (usually more casual than previous times) and 4) decreasing enthusiasm during the festivities.
We all appreciate the predictability of routine. However, when it comes time to learn, network or celebrate; diverging from the norm is an ideal platform for a new experience. The world evolves. Dynamics change. Styles shift. Let your event, even one steeped in tradition, breathe in new ideas and perspectives that synthesize a rhythm that is alluring to guests. Humans love surprise and delight with glittering sounds and mesmerizing lights.
Here is my 10-point list of considerations to facilitate the creation of something new, fun and meaningful:
- Are you really ready for a change? Be honest with yourself and any participating team members. Even those with the best intentions can easily revert to the same routine out of fear or lack of imagination. Those are temporary moments. If you work through the trepidation and embrace the opportunity with positive energy and enthusiasm, you will experience a creative adventure.
- Is your timetable realistic? Time is an event planner’s friend. It avails you the chance to brainstorm or daydream with freedom and affords you the convenience of clarity. The amount of time devoted to an event reveals itself in the presence or absence of difference-making details that show up in the final performance. If the event involves numerous logistical details and hundreds to thousands of people, a solid nine months to one year is ideal.
- Is the budget realistic? Last year’s line item isn’t necessarily this year’s number. Every year, it seems like everything we buy has an upward price adjustment. If your guest list and event goals expand, then is it realistic for your budget to reflect those expansions. Establish a realistic budget with these two pointers in mind and add a 20% buffer to that number.
- This again? Sometimes tradition may need to hold sway to a needed update. Open up to some new ways to accomplish the celebration of job performances, build teams, launch new products/services/processes, announce mergers or acquisitions, roll out a new location or coronate new alliances. People love the thrill of the surprise so be the one to give it to them.
- Are you reheating the food? Most households fall into a meal trap, i.e. the same meals served weekly. Resist the temptation to transfer home habits to event planning. Events are an ideal environment in which to explore new tastes. Let the experts imagine some new menu mashups for your group.
- Is the venue programmed in the GPS? We can all attest to how comforting familiar locations and even seating arrangements are especially in group settings. Nonetheless, if the same space is on replay, it is time to stretch the boundaries. Sure, there are limitations to the number of venues that can accommodate certain group sizes, room arrangements and food and beverage. Even if you have no other choice but the same location, try a new room configuration. Room configurations are silent partners in setting the flow of the experience. You can create the feeling of a new venue by selecting new surfaces, table styles (round versus rectangle), and configuration flows (continuous U’s versus individual rounds).
- Is the plastic still on the furniture? Room décor is a visual trap that, when corrected, is instrumental in transforming an event’s energy. Imagine people walking in to the space gasping for air with excitement. Rental companies have many new furniture and accessory options available that will literally rock a room.
- Are the same resources contracted? Resources include music playlists, presenters, performers, themes, topics and timelines. It is natural to gravitate toward favorite and reliable resources. However, it is completely acceptable and becomes necessary to seek out and vet new sources of expertise. The key is to keep an open mind and have fun meeting new people who can help you produce an original event.
- Does the event happen at the same time? Perhaps you can put a twist on an event by changing the time of day and even the season. Turn dinner into breakfast or bring breakfast to dinner. Spring into fall or bring summer to winter. Shifting speeds can generate fresh experiences.
- Are we engaging the senses? An event with food and high-top tables in a large empty hall leaves plenty of room for lots of creativity and sensory engagement. The most successful events engage all the senses. If you want a memorable gathering, include an element that touches each sense to mix magic.
Once you evaluate these considerations, you and any team members are on your way to remixing an event of any genre.
It’s that time of year that you have unspoken permission to decorate in excess. For those with a modern aesthetic, there are many new fun options to select from to create an entire space or vignettes that reflect your individual interpretation of the holidays. For some reason (perhaps because I’m a tree hugger), trees grab my attention first.
Abstract designs that symbolize the holiday season are my favorite. While sourcing decor for client events, these pieces popped off the shelf. Their charm and modern design appeal inspired my modern holiday tree and winter tablescapes/vignettes below.
My intention is that these modern holiday trees and accessorized vignettes will inspire you for some of your upcoming celebrations or just make you feel warm and fuzzy with glee. Oh, I threw in a transitional rustic vignette for you as well. Enjoy!
The tables are set with beautiful centerpieces, the candles are lit, a welcome drink is awaiting you at the door and the music is pulsing with the party beat. The thrill of walking into a party still makes people’s heart beat.
Invitations to personal or business events connote an element of importance, favor and acceptance. In today’s lax environment of anything goes behavior, it is my belief that we could all benefit from a refresher on showing more appreciation and respect for invitations and to possibly relearn how to be a gracious guest.
Here are my tips for behaving as a gracious guest:
1. Most invitations contain a R.S.V.P. which is a French phrase, “répondez, s’il vous plaît,” which means “please reply.” A final guest count is important for a host for numerous reasons. These include:
a) Responding to a caterer for food count.Whether the caterer is on-site or the host orders and picks up from a restaurant, both will require a final count to accommodate preparation timelines and to confirm the host’s food costs. An on-site caterer will need time to secure an adequate staff to facilitate the planning, set-up, presentation, management and clean-up of food. This process requires a lot of work and organization. Additionally, most caterers will quote a price based upon a start and end time. If the timeframe is extended due to a variety of reasons, the host may have to pay them more.
b) Responding to a bartending service firm for staff and/or purchasing enough alcohol and/or non-alcoholic beverages to accommodate the guests.
c) Adhering to a venue’s maximum capacity as set by local law.
As you can ascertain, these three factors alone require planning and coordination. It is less stressful for the host, if a planner is not hired, to avoid having to make lots of last minute adjustments due to a lack of timely R.S.V.P.’s. Besides that, hosts and guests want to keep the party fresh and alive with plenty of food and libations for all.
Conversely, if you R.S.V.P., it is completely acceptable to inform your host that your availability has changed and you will not be able to attend. We all know the feeling of anticipating guests and then not seeing them.
2. Rentals. At times, it is necessary to rent tables, chairs, linens, dinnerware, etc. If that is the case, then the host will need an accurate attendance count for the rental company so that they can fulfill the order as needed.
3. Dress appropriately to honor your host, yourself and the venue. It is a matter of courtesy and respect. Once you R.S.V.P., you are a participant who agrees to partake in the host’s planned festivities. Have some fun and make some fun (please see tips five and six).
4. Bring a gift. Like a R.S.V.P., a gift is a gesture of gratitude. A gift does not have to be expensive. Something relevant and thoughtful is ideal.
5. Avoid overindulgence. Yes, the memo on this topic is still is either unknown or ignored. Please be conscious of the amount of food and especially alcoholic beverages you and your guest(s) consume. A free (open) bar is not a license to overindulge to the point of behaving belligerently including acting aggressively and slurring words. I have seen grown adults lose their bodily functions at professional events and it is never a shining moment for them or the host. Please demonstrate some discipline while at celebrations.
6. Act responsibly. This includes not damaging the venue, whether it is an employer’s private residence or a local venue. It also includes socializing with the other guests and participating in the fun.
7. Adhere to food etiquette. Do not put your hands in a platter of buffet food, stand over a buffet and begin eating, take multiple helpings prior to fellow guests receiving their first, use multiple plates when one will do, ask for containers to take food home in or stuff food into pockets or purses. This is disturbing behavior that I see at nearly every event. This is not your personal meal or kitchen space. The food is accounted for and set for numerous people to enjoy. I have also seen a brazen, arrogant guest put their fingers in a pan of cooking food at chef-attended private functions. This behavior is disgusting and inappropriate. Let’s stop being so self-focused and show some respect for everyone, starting with yourself.
8. Do not hover over or block pathways of chefs, caterers or other staff that are in the process of setting up food. Wait away from the area for the set-up to finish. Then wait for announcement that dinner is ready for everyone.
9. Clean-up your area. Even though staff are usually at an event to help with clean up, it is completely acceptable to take a moment to clean up your personal area and gather your plates, napkins and cups for disposal. If you dining with china, await the staff to gather your plates and silverware. There is a system for collecting dishware and disposing of food.
10. Thank you host upon leaving and mail a personal note of thanks. In your note, you can mention some of the event highlights for you and your guest(s) as a wonderful way to further build your relationship with the host and share happy memories.
Events are meant for everyone’s enjoyment. When we all do our part to behave like gracious guests, then more fun is typically had by all. When you host an event, you’ll appreciate your guests abiding by these same tips.
Modern Monday features geometric lighting that makes an artistic and metallic statement in one configuration. Notice the monochromatic paint on the ceiling and walls. This room is a reminder that functional items can easily serve multiple roles in your space.