Over the years we’ve been to a lot of events, and have therefore learned the do’s and the don’ts for a successful event. Follow these tips to make the event go as smooth as possible!
- Reconsider the balloons – I often come into ballrooms to find balloon bouquets on the tables. It’s not that I don’t like balloons (Okay, I don’t) but when balloons are used as decoration it immediately sets the tone for the event… think kids party tone. In my experience, it’s hard to take the CEO’s speech seriously when balloons are waving throughout the room. I certainly understand budgetary issues when it comes to décor. However, with a little foresight, creativity, and even a quick Google search, you can easily create elegant center pieces for next to nothing. The only exceptions to this suggestion are beautifully styled balloon walls or tunnels and balloon drops for celebrations.
- Choose low center pieces – Having tall center pieces at your event can inadvertently cause obstacles for your performer(s). Anything above 10″ tall in the center of the table makes viewing the stage difficult without the guests needed to bob and weaving to see what’s going on. Much more importantly, however, is the fact that tall (no matter how beautiful) center pieces make it virtually impossible to have a normal dinner conversation. With tall center pieces you are forced to talk to the person immediately to your left or right, and then more often than not someone is left out. And, isn’t the purpose of the event to bring people together? Make sure your décor lends itself to easy conversation and uninhibited vision of the stage area.
- Play some dinner music – I’m always shocked when I get to an event and there is no music playing during dinner, or even worse, dreary music playing helps lull everyone into a bit of a hypnotic state. Planners spend a fortune on decor and flowers but can often leave the most important mood controller, the music, to chance. No matter what mood you want the audience in, nothing beats well thought out music to help set the tone. Personally, I like to use music that brings the energy up after a long day of meetings.
- Skip the five course meal – It’s amazing how often I get to a corporate dinner and after a full day of meetings, a five course meal is planned. No matter how quick the service is, at a minimum you can count on a two hour dinner, before any speeches or entertainment. Have mercy on your guests! Of course good food is important, but let’s face it, no one came to this meeting for the food. No one has ever complained an evening is too short. A salad or appetizer, then a main course, dessert, entertainment, and good night.
- Create intimacy through your seating arrangements – People like to be near people. It creates energy. Put the tables as close together as you possibly can while still allowing your servers to serve. Just because it’s a large room or your group doesn’t fill it completely doesn’t mean you need to use all the available space. Pack them in closer to create the feeling of intimacy and connectedness. Also, there isnt an entertainer in the world who doesn’t like the audience to be as close together as possible. Creating an “air wall” between the audience and the entertainer makes it doubly hard for the entertainer or speaker to bond with the audience. Think about a Broadway show, for example, the first row is right next to the stage. Or, when a late night host does their monologue, they are basically in the audience. As close as you can get the tables to the stage, the better for everyone.
- Consider having the entertainment perform in between dinner and dessert – Recently I’ve been seeing a new trend in the timing of the entertainment at events. For years, speeches and entertainment always took place after dessert was dropped. It’s still done that way frequently, but more and more, corporate groups are starting the entertainment right after the main course has been cleared. It seems to work well for everyone. One planner I work with has always done it that way, as she likes to give her guests time to digest before dessert. Another planner likes this timing trend for a completely different reason: she says that once dessert is served, the majority of the guests think the evening is over. She has found that people aren’t in as much of a hurry to leave after the entertainment or speeches with this set-up, since the guests like to sit around and discuss what they just experienced….and it gives them time to digest before dessert.
- Pre-plate the salad course – This is an easy way to cut dinner service time! Although it might seem simple, pre-plating your salad saves anywhere between fifteen and thirty minutes of waiting time. And, the guests are usually ready to start eating once they sit down, so it’s a win-win situation!
- Remember, this is not a romantic dinner – One of the biggest mistakes we see are the lights set for dinner, way too low. The maître d’ often sets the lights as if it’s a Valentine’s Day meal. While it might look nice, in actuality a room that has the lights down low suppresses conversation as everyone feels like they have to speak in hushed tones. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not advocating for bright fluorescent in-door gym setting lights, but, notice how when you bring the lights up to a normal level, the conversation gets louder and more people talk with one another. And isn’t that what the dinner is for?
- Consider an earlier start – Oftentimes with conferences or large meetings there are attendees travelling in from opposite sides of the country, or even coming in from out of this country. Typically, dinner starts at 7:30 and ends at 10:00 pm, which for many if the guests might feel like 1am or later depending on the time zone their travelling in from. If your guests are coming in from all over, consider starting your dinner earlier, especially if it’s the first night of the conference.
- Close the bar during the show – One of the biggest comments I hear from speakers and entertainers is when the bar is kept open during the presentation. It’s very disruptive to any presenter if audience members are constantly getting up to refill their glass. If you close it off, just during the presentation, your problem is solved.
- Don’t introduce a break before your speaker or entertainer. – Many times, a host will get up and announce a bathroom break “before the entertainment starts”. You might as well say goodnight to a percentage of them at that point! During these well intentioned bathroom breaks, people leave, get caught on the phone, get into outside conversations, run up to their room, etc. If they need to go to the bathroom, they will…with or without your suggestion.
- Never plan the entertainment for while the guests are eating – In my opinion, this is the golden rule to follow when planning an event! It’s not only unfair to the presenters to try and grab the audience’s attention between bites, but silverware is clanging, waiters are running around, and the focus is on everything but the presentation. It’s also unfair to your guests to ask them to focus on anything but the food during dinner. It’s fine to give speeches, entertain them, or give out awards between courses, but when food’s on the table, let them eat in peace.
- Whenever possible, keep the presentation indoors – There isn’t an entertainer or speaker in the world who would prefer to speak outside, no matter how beautiful the setting or temperature. Granted, sometimes it can’t be avoided, but by being outside you are adding numerous other distractions to your event that are hard to combat during the performance. From the sound of ocean waves, to planes flying overhead, or even trees rustling in the wind, it can be distracting. Not to mention, it’s much harder to control the lighting outdoors. A great solution is to have dinner outside, then move the party in for dessert and presentations if you can. If there’s no way around it, make sure you speak with the entertainer or speaker before the event to let them know, as there are a few things that can be done to make it go as smoothly as possible if they are aware ahead of time!
- Let the wait staff know about walk around entertainment- If you have a walk around magician performing close up miracles during cocktails, make sure the wait staff knows what’s going on. I’ve seen too many servers get dirty looks from the guests who think they are interrupting a trick by offering them an hors d’oeuvre during a trick. Of course, they are only trying to do their job, so giving them a heads up about the plans will make it easier on everyone. In fact, it can be equally as frustrating for the magician who is at the climax of a trick, only to completely lose the finale because an arm is thrusted into the middle of the group offering a mini crab cake.
- Make Sure Your Entertainer is Ready- Although it sounds elementary, always check with your speaker or entertainer to make sure they are ready to go on before you introduce them. Every entertainer I know has stories of being introduced early because the host thought it was time to go, but they were either making last minute preparations, were in the bathroom, or were simply mentally getting into their performing space. A quick “are you ready?” will do it the trick. You can find more tips for introducing your entertainer here, too!
Follow these tips to help you make the most of your event! Still looking for the right performer? Give us a call and we’ll help find the right fit for your event’s needs.