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Think ISES: July-August 2014

Think ISES: July-August 2014

Updates from the International Special Events Society for July-August 2014

The Improving Economy and Its Impact on Caterers

Ingrid NagyHallelujah! The economy has improved immensely, and it’s time to dust off those same boring menus and have some fun again! 

What does this mean in the off-premise catering domain of the creative events world? We’re finding the client has moved away from feeding their guests for the least impact on their budget and instead are investing more funds to make the event a unique live experience.

Our clients are giving creative license to our culinary, design and operations teams to craft new menus and display concepts that step beyond the plate. The events we are catering now are planned for an adventurous palate and exploratory spirit, which we thank, in part, to the food television channels but also to the increased spending confidence. Our clients are privy to the gastronomic world and have the desire to be unique and modern … and are willing to pay for it!

Caterers continue to bring a form of entertainment to the party, and we’re seeing a growing trend toward engaging interactive stations that are centered around quality ingredients and the theatrics of display. It’s not just about the food any longer—clients are concerned about how the food looks, what the guest experience is going to be, and how the stations will be adorned to make them special. 

To exceed our client’s expectations, we have to raise the bar and continually take into account how our menu selections will be displayed in addition to how they will be prepared. Our event decor division has been able to invest time and resources to create custom-designed display elements, and increased inventory of furniture, lighting and draping materials to complement our catered events. Our culinary team creates new station concepts, and it’s matched by an even more exciting custom display with unique serving vessels.

We’re still seeing events booking short term, but we’re seeing a vast improvement on this. Dates are already closing for the December holiday season, which we haven’t been able to do this early in the season since 2007. The event size is getting larger, and the money spent per guest much more robust. 

It’s been busy, it’s exciting and it’s a refreshing change from the typical buffet dinner. I'm looking forward to a long and happy ride, and I’m crossing my fingers the trend keeps going toward bigger and better events. 

Name: Ingrid Nagy, CSEP
Company: Catering by Design
Address: 11095 E. 45th Ave.
Denver CO 80239
Phone: 303/762-7305
Email: [email protected]

Nonprofit Versus Corporate Event Planning

Cindy Y LoIn the world of event planning, the devil is in the details. Every aspect of every event has to resonate. The bottom line? When money is no object, virtually anything is possible.

But in many cases, money—or the lack of it—sets the pace, tone and feel of an event. Which brings me to a topic that comes up often enough to warrant some discussion: Nonprofit versus corporate event planning. Is one easier to manage than the other? Are the two drastically different or remarkably similar?

Yes, there are some obvious differences.

Money Matters Nonprofit organizations are typically on a pretty tight budget, but their events still need to be memorable and make a lasting impression. The nonprofit finds ways to prioritize objectives in clever and efficient ways. Much will depend heavily on donations and in-kind gifts, and the nonprofit will be extremely particular about how it utilizes its dollars.

Think performance over panache. Decor may be less of a priority than food, for instance. And that expensive Cirque du Soleil dance act may not fly.

Corporations are typically better able to splurge a bit on the nonessentials. The corporate budget may allow for an amazing “wow factor” booking (sure, bring in the whole Cirque du Soleil troupe!) or over-the-top design. And if more money is needed to bankroll those innovative, never-before-seen ideas you want to execute, it can usually be found by taking on a “who can we make love this?” approach, dipping into another department pool, or simply requesting more funds from a higher-up.

Collaborative vs. Directive The nonprofit will typically be working with an event committee. These committees are made up of staffers and community volunteers all working on some aspect of the overall plan. Where the nonprofit is concerned, it takes a village to create a successful event; a strong event planner will be sensitive to all the many willing cooks in the kitchen donating their time, their ideas and their contribution. This also means there are that many more people with which you must effectively collaborate.

The corporation, on the other hand, will have an executive team and a lead person (or group) making the big decisions and spearheading the direction the event will take. This may allow the event planner to “cut to the chase” and act with more autonomy and less sensitivity with regard to specific ideas. What the corporation wants, it can typically use its money to get. And here, the planner usually has fewer people to work with (unless, of course, the planner has dipped into those previously mentioned pools of money from other departments, which could mean he or she may have to answer to multiple people about how that money is spent).

The Time Factor Expect to have more time to plan events for nonprofits. There is always time to raise more money, sell more tickets, and reach out to more people or organizations that can help.

With corporations, much of what has to be done needed to happen yesterday. But that’s okay, because there’s usually a revenue source to tap to make it all come together in the nick of time.

Challenges exist in every event planning scenario. But both nonprofits and corporations are looking to the professional event planner to pull it all together and make it work. Both will want their events to appear to be million dollar productions.

Both will want to make the most out of the budget and they will fully expect the planner to deliver with competence and confidence on that expectation. Both will want an event that effectively promotes their brand. And, both will want their guests to walk away having experienced the best event of their lives.

Name: Cindy Lo 
Company: Red Velvet Events Inc. 
Address: 7000 N. MoPac Expressway, Suite 450
Austin, TX 78731 
Phone: 512/380-9688 

Photo by Korey Howell

When Professional Meets Personal

Caroline SewellSuccess--everyone wants it! Not everyone’s business plan takes into consideration that not only good timing and financial planning count, but also strategically incorporating your personal goals.

You have to find balance in your life. Learn to treasure personal success and appreciate its effect on your professional accomplishments.

First, what do you consider “success"? Everyone’s idea of success is different. Lots of money? Having a happy family? Lots of friends? Being in good physical shape? Being involved in the community? Owning a big business? Having a spiritual life?

What are your priorities? Your friends? Your business presence? Your kids? Yourself?

Develop two checklists creating a strategic plan to accomplish:

(1) professional goals

(2) personal goals

For each list, ask yourself:

• What are your goals?

• What's your time frame to achieve these goals (short term, long term), and what must you do to make these things happen?

• Whose support do you need to achieve these goals?

How to incorporate your “personal” plan into your “business” plan

You cannot always determine when an event is, but aim to schedule meetings and nonessential tasks at a specific time to accommodate your family and personal time.

Enjoy the benefits of planning and making sure you have all of the bases in your life covered!

Name: Caroline Sewell
Company: Encore Events Inc.
Address: P.O. Box 580 Cary, N.C. 27512
Phone: 919/468-0108
Email: [email protected]

Lessons in Reinvention for the Event Professional

Dale HarmonI have been involved in a specialized part of the special event industry for more than 40 years.

I like to describe it as "event landscaping" because I provide all varieties and sizes of both live foliage and beautiful replica selections and flowering plants for all kinds of events, including weddings, conventions/trade shows, product launches, grand openings, inaugurals and social events, to name a few.

I have also been fortunate to be involved in ISES from the beginning, first on the local Greater Washington D.C. chapter level and then on the International level, with the highlight being able to serve as International President for the 2004-2005 term.

My ISES association has given back to me a thousand-fold, offering business contacts and opportunities not only in my chapter but also throughout the country and the world.

After working for a company for almost 20 years in the Washington D.C. area, the opportunity to reinvent and re-establish presented itself. I was able to open a new company, Twigz Studios, with the advice, guidance, investment and support of a group of career-long friends and business associates, again all of whom are ISES contacts. I have been able to reinvent what I did for a living by specializing in quality design along with unique varieties of material and decorative containers.

Additionally, bringing more of the outside in--by using replica boxwood walls, hedges and geometric topiary shapes in containers--has proven very successful. Unique living items, such as planted ivy and yew oblong planters, have allowed new ways to create living walls and screens that were not available before.

I knew I wanted to do something different and new, and it continues to be exciting and interesting as we add to the inventory with different and new selections. The business will be two years old this fall. The reinventing process continues as I continue to build on a career-long reputation and move into new levels of service and product lines.

Name: Dale Harmon
Company: Twigz Studios
Email: [email protected]

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