Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Let's talk events...

 I thought it was timely to post on events. Some of you do events as a part of your daily duties and others of you volunteer or attend or give feedback. Below are my tips and tricks, some tried and true, some may be new to you and some may confirm your philosophies. I would live to hear from you.

1. In 2011 there is no excuse for a hand written name tag. EVER. There are Dymo name tag printers, Brother label makers, and portable wireless printers... Simple, cheap, effective ways for you never to use a sharpie for name tags again.

2. I have NEVER had a drop of alcohol at an event I was working or volunteering. Don't get me wrong, I've had plenty after, but never during. And, for that matter I usually never eat unless seated with guests. That's what tastings are for. If a crisis or medical event were to occur, I want a clear head and the ability to transport someone and meet their needs should something happen. If you need to appear like you are drinking, have a tonic or ginger ale with lime. Seriously, not worth it.

3. If I am doing a seated dinner, I Always negotiate a complimentary private room from the hotel or space. If something happens, you will need somewhere private to be able to take a guest so they aren't publicly embarrassed or for done elderly or those who have overindulged, having thought ahead about a place for them to rest is priceless.

4. Being prepared is necessary. I always have the following with me: Sewing kit, safety and bobby pins, Shout wipes or tide pen, first aid kit, hairspray, cuff links, and pony tail holders... Believe me, I have rescued many a million dollar donors' evenings with one of those items and amazed them in the process.

5. I spend good money on food, sometimes sacrificing flowers or other items because the food is memorable, especially in certain crowds. When you plan the food you should always have a tasting, any caterer that won't let you isn't a good caterer. Take it from a former pastry chef here, it matters. Here's why... It may sound delicious and the photos of it may be grand, but what is the actual eating process going to look like for your guests? Will it be awkward? Will the dipping sauce drip on my new Versace? (I HATE dipping sauces at events, they're landmines) I don't know any society lady that wants spinach or poppy seeds in her expensive veneers... I could do a whole post on food... Hmm good idea...

6. If you are responsible for the entire event, don't work registration. Staff your event wisely, have someone with a meh personality? Don't have them serve as a greeter...
put them somewhere useful but don't let them be the first or last impression of your event. When staffing your event, make sure to communicate your expectations to your volunteers and follow through.

7. Invest in some communication devices. Buy good walkie talkies/ radios with the neat secret service headsets. You won't regret it. Don't forget to give one to the venue and the caterer for clear communication, then train your volunteers to find someone with a radio for questions or situations... Amazingly helpful, and discreet...even in small venues... And you get to look like a spy talking into your lapel or wrist... Ha! You can co purchase with the team that does commencement and share, they will really appreciate it!

8. For your president, CEO, host, whoever is your key person, have a tray made with dinner and some fresh fruit to go. Most of them don't eat, they are busy with the schmooze and presentation and will really appreciate your thoughtfulness.

9. Don't let your decor go to waste! We spend good money on flowers... I order a bunch of the below pictured poly vinyl vases (at a dollar a piece!) and have the florist arrange them so at the end of the night I can treat some of the ladies to beautiful take home flowers! MUCH better than a silly tchotchke... If you have to do a giveaway, I am strongly opposed, think edible, like a chocolate die cast of your logo or symbol... Or you can do what I do now, take 1/2 of your budget for gifts and give it to your general scholarship fund. How will you let donors know?? See #10 the next year you can have the student who received the money from your event speak... Donor relations full circle moment... And your attendees will love it!

10. Stop wasting money on printed programs, menu cards, scrolls of honor, and table place cards. Go green and Invest in technology and wow your attendees. I invested in digital photo frames with my logo and place two on each table or on cocktail tables with the slide show of program, menu, and notes about forgoing the giveaway, etc... Now I would purchase tablets on sale or use iPads.... You can reuse them over and over and at the end of the night aren't throwing away money on printing. And it is so green!!! Take it a step further and buy individual gobos with company logos to project onto their tables so they know where to sit, you can even project individual names on to tables to prevent those pesky name card swappers.... Hard to move yourself if your name is projected on a table!!! Muahaha!

I hope that not all of these ideas were old to you and that you feel invigorated for your next event....
I would love to hear your comments or questions and if you need vendors for the items I mentioned, email me.

And as a parting holiday present to you all, here is a cautionary tale why tchotchkes are dangerous and why checking your data on your list is VITAL....

Happy Holidays, Lynne