STRETCHING RENTAL BUDGETS

“Vision” is an important word in the event rental business as it allows us to watch the ever-changing climate of the hospitality industry. In acknowledging our clients' concerns over their budgets, our experienced event consultants ease their minds by offering cost-saving solutions found right here in our warehouse. Adjusting rental budgets by reassigning line-item costs can make a big impact while retaining the integrity of your vision. Here are some guidelines:

  • Specialty linens in a variety of colors and textures provide the must-have “wow” factor. Linens are no longer considered merely table coverings; they are the foundation of your event's tablescape — the ground on which your theme is constructed. Adding a little to your standard linen budget for specialty linens will make a huge difference on your table. For a really tight budget, order the standard linens and use specialty napkins. If you know your table cover will be hidden by china, glassware, centerpieces and assorted other objects, use a standard linen and incorporate folded specialty napkins as part of your decor statement rather than as a hand-wiping afterthought. Specialty linen automatically “upscales” your event.

  • Lighting can make a significant impact at a very reasonable cost. For example, pin-spot the cake, uplight the landscaping, or use a gobo on the dance floor. The wedding cake is usually a focal point at a wedding, but lighting is effective on any display object such as a large floral arrangement, poster, painting on an easel, or fountain. Assigning part of the budget to spotlight one spectacular element, rather than many smaller filler props, creates a bold, cost-effective, visual statement. More is not always better — drawing attention to one spectacular focal point also reduces expenditures on other decor.

  • When using white china, mix up shapes for a unique look. The event industry is experiencing an exciting time of growth concerning the selection of dinnerware readily available in inventory.

  • Many clients want chiavari ballroom chairs for formal events. But wood folding chairs now come in many colors — from the standard white, black and primary colors to tones of mahogany, walnut and natural — all of which bring your theme to life. Colored chairs frame the table and enhance the color palette at a third of the cost of high-end seating.

  • Use standard glassware at the bar and then upgrade the table glasses. The purpose of a reception or cocktail hour is to mix, mingle and get comfortable in the event space. Guests often spend this time talking and moving from one group to another. Guests are more likely to examine a wineglass while sitting at the dinner table than while walking around during the pre-function event. Invest your glassware money where it will be seen and appreciated.

  • Stainless steel flatware — used in place of silver — offers many options. The variety of utensils available enables planners to really stretch their budget. The fact is that at an event, guests are much more interested in tasting the food than they are in reading the stamp on the back of the fork. Planners of parties where people read the silver hallmark stamp are probably not concerned with the rental cost of the flatware. Expect stainless steel to cost 20 percent less than silver.

Customer service has never been more important than it has during these challenging economic times. Nurturing a team that is sensitive to our clients' needs and enabling them to develop trusting relationships with their customers is beneficial both for the personal growth of our staff and for our customers. We want everyone who walks through our door to come back. We want our customers to know that our primary business is to assist them by providing the tools and products that make them thrive.

Name: Kathy A. Newby, Senior Event Consultant

Company: Classic Party Rentals — Sacramento

Address: 900 National Drive, Suite 120 Sacramento, CA 95834 USA

Phone: 916/444-6120

E-mail: knewby@classicpartyrentals.com

Name: Ingrid E. Lundquist, CSEP, President

Company: The Lundquist Co., Event Design & Production

Address: P.O. Box 13207 Sacramento, CA 95813 USA

Phone: 916/719-1776

Web Site: www.events-TLC.com

E-mail: i.lundquist@events-TLC.com

THE EVOLUTION OF EVENT DESIGN

The way we approach event design has evolved along with our objectives and goals for corporate event marketing; it is no longer about decor or props but rather about brand and environmental design. On the corporate level, we have moved in to an era where ROI dictates success, and brand marketers are forced to evaluate their events in a completely different way than they did just five years ago. No longer do we strive simply to have a good time; now we must create impressions, incur digital follow-through and track a future for our customers. And let's not forget that our audience is getting younger. Today's event guests are more sophisticated, more technically savvy and less patient than the guests of 10 years ago. Our events must engage our attendees like never before, and they must make a definitive statement about our brand. This is only achieved through carefully planned and executed design.

In addition to supporting the corporate brand, events must create environments that enable our guests to be comfortable. Comfortable guests make more favorable decisions, which is one of the reasons we are seeing the growing trend of including lounge furnishings as opposed to traditional tables and chairs at events. We want our guests to relax and thought-fully consider whatever product or service we are presenting to them. We must engage them visually with an overall environment that stimulates and entertains them in a meaningful way. Everything that we do must support the brand initiative.

The world of event design is as dynamic and exciting as the marketing world it supports. Event design follows on the heels of fashion, interior design and architecture. If you are wondering what colors, patterns and materials are going to be hot for 2009, you need only browse the pages of Vogue, Dwell or Architectural Digest to be informed. We tend to be slower to engage and then hold on to trends longer than other areas of the design world, but we embrace all of the same components. From color to materials, from texture to tone, we manifest environments using translations of the same elements.

Corporate mission statements are starting to play a larger role in event design by way of sustainability platforms. For an industry that is known more for waste than for recycling, it is encouraging to see such a focus on implementing change and making a real difference. What is good for the environment is good for the corporate meeting, and we are starting to see a concerted effort by all members of the event industry to become better citizens of the planet. We are cutting back on paper and increasing recycling; we are also taking a closer look at raw materials and measuring carbon footprints. This is great for the earth and great for event design. There are many emerging products that are either sustainable or recycled that can be used to create imaginative and beautiful environments for meetings and events. Designers all over the world are finding unique ways to implement green initiatives into corporate platforms and the result is unanimous: Green really is beautiful.

So as you contemplate your next meeting or event, don't forget to consider design as a significant and meaningful part of your program. Allow design to be the strength behind your brand, the platform for your corporate initiatives and the singular element that can both define and inspire your success.

Name: Rebecca Coons

Company: Ethos Design/Lounge 22

Address: 1805 Flower St. Glendale, CA 91201 USA

Phone: 818/502-0700

E-mail: rebecca@ethosdesign.net

ISES AND NACE MAKE ONE FAMILY'S WISH COME TRUE

Austin International Special Events Society and the National Association of Catering Executives members gave themselves a huge helping of Christmas cheer by producing a joint fundraiser to benefit a family who was nomi-nated — but not selected as a finalist — for the Austin American-Statesman's “Season for Caring” campaign.

This family has had no shortage of hardship. Two disabled grandparents took on the task of raising their four granddaughters — ages 4 to 13 — since the girls' fathers are not in their lives and the mother has a drug problem. One child has sickle cell anemia and another has severe asthma, both of which require medication. The grandparents are also ill — one with rheumatoid arthritis and another with diabetes. The family rents a run-down house with a cracked foundation; the girls slept in beds so old they were held together with baling wire. But despite all these hardships, the three school-aged girls have been on the honor roll every semester since they moved in with their grandparents, and the 13-year-old is president of her school's student council.

Before the fundraiser, Austin Party Central — an Austin, Texas, event rental company — and ISES-Austin held holiday parties and raised $450 for the family.

The turnout for the joint fundraiser was terrific. More than 70 ISES and NACE members and their guests attended the event hosted by the iconic downtown-Austin music venue Maggie Mae's, which donated all the food and drinks for the event. An ISES board member deco-rated the room in silver spandex-covered cocktail tables with silver chiavari bar stools. The tables and room were lit with more than 100 votive candles, giving a soft warm glow to the chilly evening. NACE members designed floral arrangements of red and white blooms in square glass vases.

More than $3,000 was raised that evening through ticket sales ($15 each) and donations. Word spread quickly, with donations pouring in from families of ISES members; a large caterer took up a collection from its employees, who bought and wrapped gifts for each girl; an ISES-Dallas member shipped a used computer complete with software to Austin; gift cards for groceries and canned foods were also brought to the fundraiser. Premier Bridal, which hosted its launch party the following night, took up a collection as well.

Due to the generosity of so many people, Austin ISES and NACE were able to purchase four twin beds for the girls, two dressers, two rocking chairs, a king-size mattress for the grandparents, a washer and dryer, matching bed linen for all the beds, and a lot of clothes and toys; gift cards for groceries, gasoline, shoes, McDonald's and Wal-Mart were also donated. An Austin Party Central truck delivered the furniture, which was assembled by NACE members; members installed the computer as well.

A stretch limo donated by The Transportation Consultants de-livered the packages a few days before Christmas, then took the family to a holiday dinner with officers of ISES and NACE courtesy of the Embassy Suites Hotel. The four little girls squealed with delight at the sight of the limo, but the real treat was watching them open their stockings and be thrilled with each little item inside. “I just wanted these girls to have gifts to open this year,” the grandmother said. “I never imagined that you would do all of this for us. Please tell everyone how much we appreciate what they have done for us.”

For a holiday season that was dubbed “dismal” by the retail and event industries, it was a truly magical one for ISES and NACE members who understand that the true meaning of the holiday is love and compassion for people who are struggling. After all, “to whom much is given, much is expected.”

Name: Diane Lyerly

Company: Austin Party Central

Address: 8868 Research Blvd. Austin, TX 78758 USA

E-mail: diane.lyerly@austinpartycentral.com

SPACE PLANNING

All spaces need to be designed with function in mind. Sometimes a great-looking room is only that, once everything else is taken into consideration. But you never want to sacrifice functionality for the look. Space planning requires that you look at the flow of your event — including access to different areas of the room, guest access and service entrances — and sightlines issues.

  1. Don't use the online capacity guide that is posted for most venues. Most of those capacities do not take into consideration pillars, weird angles for sightlines, rear projection, front-of-house, dance floors, staging or a plethora of other elements. Unless your event simply consists of rows of chairs, a flashlight and a bullhorn, you are going to run out of space if you use the guides.

  2. Space requirements are based on a lot of different things, including demographics (children attending versus all adults, larger adults, older adults, male or female, etc.) and the actual venue (types of chairs, etc.). Use these guidelines as a starting point:

    • 10 square feet per person for a cocktail reception

    • 12-15 square feet per person for cocktails with food stations

    • 20 square feet per person for a seated dinner

    • 3 square feet per person for the dance floor (based on assumptions regarding how many of your guests may dance at one time).

  3. Plan for one bar for 100 guests at a minimum (although I like to negotiate the venue to one bar for 75 guests). A great way to make an impact and have functionality become part of the decor is to use a central bar or in-the-round setup.

  4. Try to avoid allotting more than 50 percent seating for the guests in a lounge environment (sometimes the percentage must be higher due to the age of the guests). Anything higher, and guests will stay put instead of mixing. Choose a menu that allows guests to stand and mingle while eating rather than forcing them to sit.

  5. Arrange lounge seating in “pods” or groupings so it doesn't look like a mess of seating. Keep pods at 12 by 12 or 16 by 16 feet maximum. The negative space around the pods will encourage people to move around the room. Think of it as an adult playground.

  6. When working in a new venue, take the time to ask about the maximum power that is available. Count out those U-grounds and request plans from the venue showing which U-grounds are on iso-lated breakers. Consider what power you need for AV, as well as where you may need standard outlets available for registration or simply to recharge your phone and laptop battery.

  7. Just because the ceiling is full of grid work doesn't mean you can hang items everywhere. Spend some time determining if the space will be suitable for flying things or if everything will need to be ground support. Remember, if you can't fly your AV and you don't want to see the projector, you have just added a minimum of 14 to 26 feet (depending on the projector and size of screen) of extra space behind the screen for rear projection.

While every event is unique, I hope these simple guidelines will give you a starting point to plan the space of your next project purposefully.

Name: Kenneth Kristoffersen CSEP, CEM

Company: experiential events/experiential weddings

Address: Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Canada

Phone: 866/921-9801

Email: ken@experientialevents.ca, ken@experientialweddings.ca

ISES EDITORIAL TEAM AND STAFF

Ryan Hanson
Volunteer Editor
BeEvents
ryan@beeventsdesign.com

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Editor/Coordinator
ashak@smithbucklin.com

Kevin Hacke
Executive Director
khacke@smithbucklin.com

Kristin Prine
Operations Manager
kprine@smithbucklin.com

Lauren Rini
Education Coordinator
lrini@smithbucklin.com

Jamie Devins
Membership Services Coordinator
jdevins@smithbucklin.com

Tom McCurrie
Membership Services Associate
tmccurrie@smithbucklin.com