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Special Events
ISES Pages July-August 2009

ISES Pages July-August 2009


With shrinking budgets in both corporate and social events — and shrinking portions on some restaurant plates — the big shrink that is being welcomed around the industry in catering is the shrinking dessert. More and more of us are becoming very health-wise and portion-conscious, so when it's time for dessert, the request we hear most often from event guests following a splendidly delicious dinner or cocktail buffet is: “Could I have just a bite?”

New York's Framboise Catering answered the challenge by doing just that. At the conclusion of a dinner or buffet, Framboise offers, quite literally, a taste of some favorite flavors and sweets: a spoonful of creme brulee, a bite of tiramisu, a spoonful of balsamic-glazed strawberries or a taste of chocolate pots du creme, for example. Each dessert is no more than one bite. Some come on interesting spoons, some in tiny tartlet shells or in demitasse cups. They can all be butler-passed to your guests or displayed interestingly on a buffet. While the desserts are nothing new, the presentation is new and exciting — and it gets everyone talking.

Mitchell's Catering & Events, based in Raleigh and Durham, N.C., offers up small bites but with a big nod to the seasons of the year and the local farms that are so prevalent in the area. The springtime strawberry bite-sized dessert buffet consists of mini crepes of fresh strawberries and cream, petite white chocolate mousse strawberry parfaits, strawberry cheesecake lollipops, little sips of strawberry lemonade, dark chocolate-dipped strawberries and bite-sized wedges of fried Camembert cheese topped with house-made strawberry preserves.

As the year progresses, the single fruit-focused buffet changes seasonally with what's available from the local growers. Blueberries are featured in the early summer; late summer gives way to a mini-buffet of desserts made of peaches from the North Carolina Sand Hills. In the fall, an array of mini pumpkin-inspired dessert bite creations becomes the shining star at the end of the meal. For seated dinners, Mitchell's will incorporate three or four items from the single fruit-inspired buffets into a served dessert tasting course.

Some new twists are also being dropped into the bite-sized mix. Joanne Purnell of Good Gracious! Events in Los Angeles pulls her latest inspiration from breakfast and childhood comfort foods. At late events and after-hours parties, her team passes sticks with little cubes of French toast topped with Nutella and whipped cream. It's a big hit, and the dessert combinations they can create using small bites of French toast are innumerable. Good Gracious also gives a humorous treatment to some of their small bites: A menu may show the bite as a “Baby Ruth” or “Butterfinger,” but it's really a small opera bar bite with similar flavors.

So take some enjoyment with economizing and downsizing, and indulge your guests. Start incorporating a spoonful, a taste and “just a bite” into your next event, and let the dessert be the fabulous end of the party it should be!

Name: David W. Casteel

Company: Mitchell's Catering & Events

Address: 1732 Capital Blvd. Raleigh, NC 27604 USA

Phone: 919/847-0135

E-mail: [email protected]


These days, clients are scrutinizing every penny. They are more concerned than ever about stockholder, employee, customer, media and public perceptions of the scale, budget and necessity of their events. Corporate events must justify their existence by delivering measurable benefits. One solution to these perception and budget issues is the creative use of entertainment as the foundation of your event design. Creating high-impact entertainment experiences does not require a big name or big money — just a big idea.

Corporate clients really want their guests to have purpose-driven experiences at their events. Entertainment is perfect for setting the mood, telling a story and sending a message, so create atmospheres that capture and involve your audience — take them on an adventure!

To keep costs down, whether at your home base or on the road, use local entertainers whenever possible. Keep up with the entertainment scene at home, and if you're going on the road, research local talents. Short on time? Call an ISES entertainment professional who knows the area. It's our job to know what's out there.

Interactive entertainment is in demand. Use your imagination to incorporate art, entertainment and your audience into the event. Need to get creative juices flowing? Involve guests and allow them to participate in the look and sound of the event. For example, you could invite guests to paint on large canvases and watch the decor evolve. Or, have guests send text messages that, after you screen them, appear on screens around the venue. PlayMotion — the latest in video game technology — is a must. This game projects a large image on the wall; guests can manipulate images or play games with their shadows. Add some tried-and-true components like Party Hats, Dance Heads and flip books. Top it all off with live-band karaoke. Imagine a great dance band that integrates karaoke into all or part of its performance, allowing the guests to literally be in the band. These bands are almost everywhere now, and many are surprisingly affordable, as are all of these interactive elements.

Message-branding ROI for corporate events is essential today. Over the past few years, a lot of acts specifically designed to communicate messages have emerged: performance painters, vocal groups, comedy troupes, sand painters and shadow dancers to name a few. Some are affordable, some, not so much. In the latter case, creative thinking might make an act more cost effective.

For example, take shadow dancing, which features choreographed dancers behind a large backlit screen who create images and words using their bodies. It's an awesome act, yet if they're not based in your event's city or if you don't have the space or budget for the staging, audiovisual and travel, they may be cost-prohibitive. However, if the troupe you prefer is willing (and there are several out there), ask them to design a program for you and videotape the performance in their own studios or one convenient to them. They can provide you a high-quality DVD to play at your event. It's a win-win — the troupe gets the work, and you save money!

Communicating your client's message through a collage of entertainment is not new, yet it is still effective. If the message is “Keep the Momentum,” designing an event using rhythm as the common thread is one solution. Begin slowly and increase the cadence with each new performance, keeping the focus moving through the venue and eventually bringing everyone to the dance floor. I have used this concept in many configurations over the years, most recently and most successfully in a stunningly successful event in Calgary, Alberta. My hats off to the team at experiential events for their achievement!

In the end, you can keep costs down by using local performers, being creative, combining elements, changing things up, and making it eclectic and fun!

Name: Debbie Meyers, CSEP

Company: BRAVO! Entertainment

Address: P.O. Box 670625 Dallas, TX 75367-0625 USA

Phone: 972/960-2525

E-mail: [email protected]

Web site:

ISES landed on my desk in an interoffice envelope on a mundane day in June 1994. Inside the envelope was a brochure with a sticky note that read, “Are you interested in this?” I knew nothing of ISES before that career-altering moment in time. I immediately joined the Greater Philadelphia Chapter, at-tended the Charlotte ISES Conference for Professional Development that August and was sold! It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship.


ISES and I grew together. I volunteered for myriad local, regional and international leadership roles. ISES emerged as the premier association for event professionals, now exceeding 6,000 members in 50 chapters worldwide. With great enthusiasm, I will begin my new role in August as 2009-10 ISES president. I am deeply grateful to the ISES mentors who played an integral role in my leadership path.

No one can dispute that our industry has faced unprecedented global economic challenges this past year. Under the leadership of our outgoing president, David DeLoach, ISES has been an active voice on behalf of our industry and our members. In August, when I assume the role of ISES president, I will strive to ensure that ISES continues its vital contributions to industry matters and builds its brand worldwide.

Our 2009-10 ISES Plan of Work was approved by the Board of Governors, and we are poised to begin. The plan was developed from our mission to educate, advance and promote the special event industry and its network of professionals. Our international committees have been appointed, and together with our headquarters staff, they will execute the Plan of Work, which are our goals and objectives for the coming year.

We have an exciting year before us. An education council will be appointed to implement our newly developed strategic educational plan. ISES' vision is to be recognized globally as the preeminent authority for educational development at all levels throughout the special event industry. The education council will be responsible for implementing this vision.

Our Esprit Awards submission and judging process will convert to an electronic format. The use of technology will enhance the Esprit process and offer our members the opportunity to submit their spectacular events in this new easy format in today's technologically advanced environment.

The ISES Community is our new social networking site connecting members worldwide. It is the place to share your expertise, create blogs, post articles, find event partners and correspond with ISES members on industry matters. A task force will disseminate the information to our members to ensure the ISES Community grows and serves as an integral communication vehicle among members, committees and special interest groups.

ISES continues to provide real value through our annual Eventworld® conference. This year I am delighted to travel to the beautiful city of San Francisco to attend my 13th ISES conference, taking place Aug. 6-8. For me, the opportunity to learn, to network globally, to find new ISES partners and to renew friendships is a big part of Eventworld. It is also the venue each year where I develop my professional goals. Some career-changing “aha” moments have transpired for me at past conferences.

There are many reasons to attend Eventworld. Aside from phenomenal educational sessions and social opportunities, you can enhance your career, expand your contacts and make new friends. This year of all years, you cannot afford to miss it. If you find you are asking, “Can I afford to attend?” I challenge you to think, “Can I afford not to attend?”

It has been 15 years since I joined ISES. I reminisce fondly about my ISES experiences, knowing they made me a better event professional. The power of ISES is self-evident; the opportunities, endless. My relationship with ISES continues in a role I never dreamed possible. At a time when choosing wise investments is at an all-time high, ISES remains the best investment for event professionals.

See you at Eventworld!

Name: Kathleen DeLuca, CMP, CSEP

Company: Events Plus Inc.

Address: 102 Dayton Ave. Collingswood, NJ 08108 USA

Phone: 856/854-7257

E-mail: [email protected]

With all the “i” gadgets that we have today, the world is quickly becoming automated. Whether it's a boombox, a “DJ in a box” or an iPod, there is still absolutely no replacement for the professional disc jockey in the special event industry. While clients will quickly find themselves slicing up large pieces of their virtual budget pie and serving them to the venue, rentals and the like, the professional disc jockey is 8 percent of the pie that will affect 100 percent of the event's success. A professional disc jockey in the special event industry has the ability to lead a crowd, make announcements, stick to a timeline, make introductions, foresee and address timing issues, and … oh yeah — play music to match the mood of the event.


Choosing the right professional disc jockey can be a very difficult task, especially within major metropolitan areas. These regions can be inundated with literally hundreds of individuals who market themselves as professionals but have very little training or experience. So much of what a true professional disc jockey in the special event industry comes down to is experience and involvement in the industry. You can rest assured that there are three major qualities to look for when choosing the perfect professional: preparation, professionalism and presence. These qualities are equally important.

After initially reaching out to a professional disc jockey, approach the selection process as a job interview. Whether it's over the phone or in person, the vendor or the company should be prepared.

  • Does the vendor have a file or record system created for your event?

  • Does the individual or company have an idea of timing structure?

  • Does the vendor know the pertinent contact information for the event leaders?

  • Was the individual or company punctual for your meeting? (This is a big one.)

  • Has the vendor prepared a proposal for you or your client?

This is a word that is often overused and diluted in any industry. A professional disc jockey's professionalism is especially important. This will allow you to predict their ability to follow up in a timely manner, use solid customer service skills and maintain their cool under pressure.

  • Is the vendor able to furnish a business license, if applicable in your area?

  • Is the individual or company involved in local industry trade associations?

  • Does the vendor have proof of liability insurance?

  • Does the individual or company have professionally written contracts and proposals?

  • Can the vendor display professional references?

This is where a personality can paint a picture. Your professional disc jockey's presence is what your client or guests are going to “feel” at the actual event. An individual's overall presence can fall into many categories, such as tone of voice, look, charisma and mannerisms, just to name a few.

  • Does the individual or company make you feel comfortable?
  • Does the vendor have experience with the type of event you are creating?
  • Is the individual able to convey confidence without seeming arrogant?
  • Does the vendor show the ability to adapt to change?
  • Would you trust this person with your own event?

Finding the right DJ can transform your event into a true experience, a set of memories that your guests and your clients will enjoy forever. Be sure to reflect on the “Three Ps” — preparation, professionalism and presence — when looking for a professional disc jockey.

Name: Patrick McMichael

Company: Denon & Doyle Entertainment

Address: 2245 Morello Ave., Suite B Pleasant Hill, CA USA

Phone: 800/944-9585

E-mail: [email protected]


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