The Value of 'Thinking it Through'

By Debbie Elias, CSEP, CMP

I recently produced three large-scale events three nights in a row for my favorite client. The production time leading up to the events was just six weeks, and I had my work cut out for me. I produced timelines, diagrams and schedules with every last-minute detail carefully outlined.

Three days before the first event, the hotel's audiovisual and electricity quote made my jaw drop. I scheduled a meeting to discuss ways to lower the bill. I was on a logistical roll, halved that bill in no time and was quite proud of myself for going the extra mile and sparing my client thousands of dollars.

The first day went well with no real hiccups. On the second day, however, my ability to adapt was seriously tested. During my money-saving efforts, I significantly strayed from the diagram and moved the stage across the property, which seemed an obvious fix. It wasn't until about 2 p.m. that I realized the stage was now in front of a 50-foot reflection pool, which would make it difficult for attendees to see the screen.

Even worse, this ruined the band's most unique feature: an exciting stage presence that complemented a very hip sound. In a panic, I had the hotel's audiovisual technician implement Plan B and set up a front screen projection placed on a truss. None of this came cheaply in terms of money or convenience.

Event setup for the final night was going smoothly — until a vendor presented a “slight” problem and suggested a change to the event diagram. Exhausted from a trying three days of too much sun and too many questions, I almost made the change … almost.

Perched atop a folding arm chair, I emphatically made this statement: “Attention, all my wonderful event vendors in the room. If you come to me with any changes, additions or deletions to the event, please say the following words to me: ‘Think it all the way through.’” Having just avoided disaster, maintaining a bird's-eye perspective to circumvent a decision-making domino effect became my first priority.

The vendors gladly settled down and followed suit. Business went on as usual as I absorbed questions and fielded problems, carefully analyzing and implementing a straightforward resolution. The daytime setup was exceptional, and the event itself was phenomenal. Perhaps more important, it forced me to reflect on the value of sound judgment in aspects of life outside the realm of event setup.

Here's why you should think things through in business and in life:

  1. If you move the screen, make sure that you can still rear- or front-screen the projector. For a rear screen, you need at least 25 feet. For a front screen, you might need to rig the projector in order to display images.

  2. If you rent linens from a vendor for a property that already has the tables, be mindful of table size. Most properties have 60-inch rounds; some carry a 72-inch round.

  3. Verify your projector's compatibility with other technology components, wires, computer and screen/display size. I recently got a new Mac, and when I tried to use PowerPoint, I found out that I needed a particular extension to work with a standard projector.

  4. Never assume your vendors will share information, even among their own staff. Always verify that the appropriate people receive firsthand information for accuracy, then follow up with a thorough conference call. Despite its convenience, e-mail often leaves too much to interpretation.

  5. Electricity availability can be troubling and cumbersome. Be mindful of power/energy/electrical requirements and costs associated with a given project. This can be an expensive mistake that is easily avoided with proper planning and understanding.

These are just a few suggestions. Now challenge yourself to come up with a few more. How easily they flow might just surprise you.

Name: Deborah Elias, CSEP, CMP
Company: Elias Events LLC
Address: 6214 Beverly Hill, #24
Houston, TX 77057
Phone: 713/334-1800
E-mail: debbie@eliasevents.com
Web: www.eliasevents.com

Next Page: ISES Members Invited to Get Involved in Wish Upon a Wedding

S Members Invited to Get Involved in Wish Upon a Wedding

On Oct. 14, 2012, Wish Upon a Wedding granted its 50th wedding since the organization started back in 2009.

Wish Upon a Wedding is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides weddings and vow renewals to couples facing terminal illness and serious life-altering circumstances, regardless of sexual orientation. This organization was created to celebrate the courage, determination and spirit of these couples by granting their dream wedding wishes.

My hope is that recipients can inspire other couples facing similar situations to find hope and strength.

I invite ISES members to learn more about Wish Upon a Wedding—and get involved!

Wish Upon a Wedding’s 50th wedding was for Ashley and Brian, who met at a very interesting point of Brian’s life. He had been home for almost two years following a nine-month tour in Afghanistan, still suffering from emotional stresses and haunting memories, not to mention an almost debilitating disease known as active ulcerative pancolitis that was an unfortunate result of his deployment.

Emotionally, Brian was in a dark hole and unsure if he would ever come out. Brian stumbled upon a dating website and decided to give it a try.

One day as he was searching through profiles, Brian came across a picture of a girl with the most amazing green eyes he had ever seen. He hesitated for a moment thinking she was not going to answer, so why even bother? But he contacted her and hoped for the best.

Within an hour, she answered. They started dating in 2011 and six months later, on Valentine’s Day 2012, Brian proposed. Ashley and Brian exchanged vows in front of their family and friends in Chicago with the support of Wish Upon a Wedding.

Learn More about Wish Upon a Wedding

As an event planner in Northern California, I came up with the idea to start a nonprofit wish-granting organization in 2009 while I was producing a large-scale wedding giveaway in San Francisco. More than 350 participants entered to win a contest where there could only be one winner. There were so many couples in need and, at the same time, so many generous business owners offering to donate their time and services to the couple. I found myself wishing there was a way to donate dream weddings to couples across the country.

With my experience as a wedding planner and my background in nonprofit work, Wish Upon a Wedding now allows me to help people celebrate love while encouraging those in the event planning industry to give selflessly to others. It’s a magical organization—one I hope you will join as we continue to make these special wishes come true.

To learn more about Wish Upon a Wedding, visit wishuponawedding.org.

Name: Liz Guthrie
Company: Wish Upon a Wedding
Address: P.O. Box 1141
Santa Clara, CA 95052
Phone: 877/305-WISH
E-mail: info@wishuponawedding.org
Web: wishuponawedding.org

Next Page: Performance Stations Help Caterers Create Memories from Scratch

Performance Stations Help Caterers Create Memories from Scratch

By Vince Early

Off-premise caterers are often asked to be magicians.

Clients want us to create a memory for them from scratch. Normally when you spend $25,000 or more on something, you have a product to take with you like a car, jewelry, a house, etc. When you purchase an event, all you have afterward is the memory. It is the responsibility of the caterer to make that memory positive and enduring.

The most lasting memories are those that touch all the senses: sight, touch, taste, smell and sound. This is why the holidays we just experienced induce such vivid childhood memories that bring a sense of nostalgia: the twinkling lights, the chill of the snow, mom’s cooking, the scent of pine boughs, choirs singing. We are asked to create memories with this kind of strength for families, companies and organizations.

When we create a menu, we attempt to touch as many senses as possible. It is this component that leads to the popularity of interactive stations that we now call performance stations.

The muse for a performance station can take many forms. We may be at a restaurant and experience a brilliant dish that we aim to re-create in the catering world. However, creating a new dish from scratch can put a strain not only on the food budget but also on busy chefs and designers, who already have too much on their plate.

Instead, try reinventing an existing menu item into an attention-grabbing display. All that you need to add is a bit of creativity in the design.

The design of a station often depends heavily on the venue. You never want the appearance of the station to fight the space. The space may be modern with clean lines. In that case, you could utilize shelving with sharp edges and primary colors to keep the presentation sleek. If the space is industrial, you might present food on kitchen shelving for a manufactured look. Kitchen shelving is just one example of items that may already be in inventory.

When you are at a home store, such as Ikea or Target, always be on the lookout for new and interesting items on which to display your existing menu items. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just repurpose it.

A well-designed station should make the food an event within the event. This approach does not have to break the bank, but it does take some creative thinking. It doesn’t matter where the idea comes from--you may have seen a station design in a magazine or at an event you attended. As long as you put a bit of effort into personalizing it for the customer, it will resonate with the guests.

Always keep in mind that the strongest memories hit the most senses. Your food stations should help create that personal connection for your client. You don’t have to look for the newest idea, just look for the best idea.

Name: Vince Early
Company: Thomas Caterers of Distinction Inc.
Address: 4440 N. Keystone Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46205
Phone: 317/542-8333
E-mail: vince@thomascaterers.com
Web: www.thomascaterers.com

Next Page: Five Keys to Safeguarding Your Business Relationships

Five Keys to Safeguarding Your Business Relationships

By Carol Roleder, Immediate Past President, 2012-2013, ISES Greater Los Angeles Chapter

There’s no question that business is built on relationships. Sometimes, our personal relationships grow from our business, and sometimes it’s the other way around. There are times when we form a relationship based someone else’s referral and then have two relationships to which we are accountable. The truth is that relationships drive 99 percent of what we do in life—from business to pleasure. But relationships can get a bit sticky when our personal, business and professional worlds collide in the form of friendships, contracts and ISES involvement. With increased success in our businesses, there is also an increase in the amount of overlap those relationships encounter. If we are not careful, undue stress can challenge our ability to keep things in balance. After 10 years as a business owner and five years on my local ISES chapter board, I quickly learned that navigating the inner workings of those relationships requires a set of skills that doesn’t always come naturally. Here are some things I learned along the way, from people far more experienced and wiser than I:

1. Never let a situation ruin a relationship. Situations are temporary and passing. The people involved in those situations will come across our path more frequently than we think. It may mean removing ourselves from the situation in order to preserve the relationship, or it may mean making some concessions while staying in the situation. Either way, those involved will always remember your commitment to remaining professional as well as cooperative.

2. Before you put someone in their place, put yourself in their place. What do you already know about the other person’s schedule, business, home life or challenges that may be playing a part in your current dealings with them? None of those things may be an excuse for the current situation, but they can shed light on how you decide to navigate around them in order to get your job done.

3. Learn to “listen” to what someone is saying between the lines and ask really good questions. If we let people speak and we listen long enough, the “real” story often comes through, and then we are able to address what’s really going on. Oftentimes, what’s happening between you and another individual has nothing to do with the situation at hand.

4. Learn to use your own network of advisers. Discretion here is key, but the benefits are endless. If you don’t already have a solid network of peers, mentors and advisers, then start building one. People are generally happy to lend an ear and a word of advice when called upon, and there is nothing new under the sun that we can ask that someone else has not already experienced. 5. You can choose to respond or you can choose to react. A well-thought-out response is always the best choice. It’s not about what “they” do. It’s about what we do. Making that choice will go a long way to preserving those relationships, even under the most stressful circumstances.

Name: Carol Roleder
Company: Craig’s Crew Inc.
Address: 115 W. California Blvd., #120
Pasadena, CA 91105
Phone: 626/398-0559
E-mail: carol@craigscrew.com
Web: www.craigscrew.com

Next Page: The Credits

ISES Editorial Team and Staff

ISES Editorial Committee

Caroline Sewell
Volunteer Editor
Encore Events Inc.
Greater Triangle N.C.
caroline@encore-events.net

Christina Currie
Christina Currie Events Inc.
Chicago

Carol Roleder
Craig's Crew Inc.
Los Angeles

ISES Staff

Kelly Rehan
Managing Editor
krehan@smithbucklin.com

Kevin Hacke
Executive Director
khacke@smithbucklin.com

Kristin Prine
Operations Manager
kprine@smithbucklin.com

Lauren Rini
Senior Coordinator of Specialty Programs
lrini@smithbucklin.com

Tom McCurrie
Chapter Services Sr. Associate
tmccurrie@smithbucklin.com

Caitlin Cusack
Membership Services Associate
ccusack@smithbucklin.com