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Special Events
Think ISES: May-June 2014

Think ISES: May-June 2014

The latest news from the International Special Events Society, including expert tips on weddings, the CSEP exam, and how to reinvent your career

Being Established in the Industry: How to Know When to Reinvent Yourself

Whether you are an owner, manager or and integral part of the team, it is critical you pay attention to the relevance of your business model and your place in that world. In order to maintain relevance, you need to look at three things:

·       Personal Life

·       Industry

·       Economy

As a business owner for the past 29 years, I can only reflect on my experience and how I have evolved as a person and businessman. This is a process—not something that just happens.

Personal Life When I was working 80 to 90 hours a week, I realized what I was doing was not sustainable. As my life was changing (marriage, children), I knew something had to change. Like many owners and managers, I did not trust anyone to do the job as well as I could, so I micromanaged. Delegation and development of your people is the key to success here. Training, follow-up and setting expectations are crucial for success. As I changed my personal operating system, I was able to exponentially grow the business, create more time for myself and, ultimately, focus on the parts of the business that I was good at.

Industry We have seen how the events industry has changed. Technology has had the greatest impact on the business world as a whole. Are we ready to change what we do and think in order to remain relevant? If not, you will be frozen in time, and your competition will blow right past you. I have tried to learn all the technologies that are relevant to my businesses. I also realize that I need to bring in people who are experts. While my knowledge gives me enough of a base to work from, my internal experts allow us to stay with or ahead of our competition.

Economy There have been economic downturns that have impacted our businesses to varying degrees. The last market shift that occurred in 2008 has been the most dramatic of all. Competition is driving prices down to the point that we are all wondering how they are making a profit. So we have to ask, how can we be competitive and remain profitable? For starters, what changes do we need to make in order to reduce our internal costs? Sometimes this requires investment in technology that will reduce labor and increase efficiencies.

It also requires us to look at our business model. I realized about 15 years ago that the valet business model was not sustainable for me both personally and as a stand-alone business. Competition was going to continually drive pricing down where I would find myself working harder and longer for less money. I had to reinvent myself and branch out to other business models, transforming from a valet parking operator to owning four business lines (valet, parking, transportation and facility maintenance) while partnering in several other events-related businesses. By forward thinking and looking for opportunities, I have been able to achieve my personal and business goals.

In short, I had to reinvent Marty Janis in order to achieve personal and business goals. Remember: Don’t fear change, embrace it.

Name: Martin Janis
Company:Atlantic Services Group Inc.
Address: 2131 K St. N.W., Suite 200
Washington, DC 20037
Phone 202/466-5050
Email: [email protected]

Dream Weddings and Reality Budgets: Can They be Reconciled?

 Have you had this meeting? A couple comes to discuss their wedding. They are great; you are excited by the opportunity to work with them. They are inviting 250 guests for a long weekend wedding. You start to feel those lovely butterflies in your stomach—the ones that tell you this is going to be fun.

And then they bring out the Pinterest boards, clippings from magazines, they start telling you about the TV shows and celebrity wedding that have inspired their dreams. And those lovely butterflies turn into the flying monkeys from "The Wizard of Oz." Not because you can’t give them the wedding of their dreams, but because that wedding will cost $250K, and they have $30K and not a penny more.

Here are a few thoughts that may help you guide your clients to their dream wedding within their real budget.

First, give them a reality check: You need to help them understand that the inspiration for their dreams has many more resources than they do. Those photos and TV shows have either marketing budgets, millionaire clients, sponsorships or commercial endorsements. I find it is also helpful to show them that just because something looks rustic or simple, it may still need a talented professional to accomplish the look they want to achieve.

Next give your partners the respect they deserve: I work with many vendor partners, and I’ve spent years cultivating good relationships with the best professionals I can find. The most important part of these relationships is trust. When I go to my vendor partners with a new client, they know that I am there for a reason—because they are the best person for this client. I give them as much information before the meeting as possible, including how much the client can really spend for their goods or service. They know I expect them to do the very best they can. They know I expect them to tell me the truth rather than try to do the job at a subpar level.

Lastly, take the client to the dream through the numbers: Most people are not numbers people, or at least they don’t think they are. I find if you present numbers in a variety of ways, then numbers are not so scary. I do this by presenting the same information in a number of ways to see which they respond to best. I use a standard spreadsheet budget, charts and vision boards with prices. All the information is the same; it tells the same cost story of the wedding. Then I take them through the numbers item by item, explaining what each item is, why it costs what it does and, most importantly, how changing an item can affect the overall wedding. Then we put it all in writing, including a process for making changes, getting approvals, the deadline after which no changes can be made, and payments. The clients sign that they agree to the budget, and then the fun can finally start.

Name: Gwen Helbush, CWC
Company: Where To Start Inc. Wedding and Event Management
Address: P.O. Box 43
Newark, CA 94560
Phone: 510/795-9072, ext 101

Wedding e-Etiquette: Will Tradition and Technology Ever Marry?

With today’s technology, traditional occasions have taken on a modern, technological spin. Everything from wedding websites, blogs and electronic gift registries to RSVP sites have made it more convenient for couples to communicate the details of their event without the expense or time involved in sending paper communication. Paperless Post or Evites are often used for rehearsal dinner or brunch invitations, which don’t seem to challenge the traditional rules of etiquette as much as an electronic wedding invitation.

However, even with all the options available to take the paperless route, traditional printed invitations are still the communication form of choice when planning more dignified occasions such as a wedding, debutante ball or anniversary party. Even then, design, style, ease of selection, ordering and printing are all just a click away on your laptop or computer.

So, what are the new rules of engagement, so to speak? As event professionals, we need to be sensitive to current social trends and take each individual event on its own merits. It is our responsibility to accommodate but also inform our clients about social customs, etiquette and respect for what is considered appropriate—all while respecting their preferences for certain technological elements.

Snail Mail Versus Email: Factors to Consider

Technology’s effect on etiquette is somewhat regional. Southern culture still puts a tremendous priority on the personal monogram, which embellishes everything from personal stationary to umbrellas to cuff links to dog dishes. Once a couple is engaged, the custom monogram represents a significant part in the wedding process. East Coast culture puts a great priority not only on the written invitation and response but also the timeliness of the response, whereas the nature of West Coast culture is often last-minute or spur-of-the-moment. This casualness oftentimes makes electronic communication more practical and more desirable.

You also can’t deny the generational factor. There’s no doubt that the millenial generation has little point of reference for the importance of the written letter and even the daily ritual of checking the mailbox. Some event planners have commented that they put reminders in their electronic notifications to keep an eye out for the written invitation to follow, for those guests who are more accustomed to checking their inbox rather than their mailbox.

ISES Think Tank: Social Media, Selfies and the Modern Wedding

Is social media taking things too far? What about those Facebook posts, tweets and Instagrams of the bride before she even walks down the aisle? Fans of the practice will say that elderly relatives or guests who are unable to travel have a wonderful opportunity to take part in the festivities. They would also argue that it is now part of a “new” tradition, brought on by the progress of our society and is as much part of our culture as the wedding ceremony itself.

Others would say that the obsession with the “selfie” and the constant tweets and play-by-play accounts have taken away the opportunity to create and compose something that is personal, artistic and thoughtful. Some believe it waters down the experience for those who still appreciate the unfolding of the event without the risk of a spoiler alert.

In these cases, it is becoming more common for guests to see strategically placed signs, informing guests that the event is “unplugged,” i.e., to please refrain from taking smartphone pictures and allow the photographer to do his or her job.

Name: Carol Rosen, CSEP
Company: Party Designs by Carol
Address: 2759 Casiano Road
Los Angeles, CA 90077
Phone: 310/471-8989





Name: Tobey Dodge, CSEP
Company: The Wedding Connection by Tobey Dodge
Address: 4608 Wolfe Way
Woodland Hills, CA 91364
Phone: 818/347-6726





Name: Courtney Hammons, PBC
Company: A Magical Affair
Address: 2000 Mallory Lane, Suite 130-330
Franklin, TN 37067
Phone: 615/465-2069






Four Letters that Give You the Recognition You Deserve

Why attaining the CSEP should be a goal of every event professional

Let’s face it: Not many people enjoy hearing the word “test” or “exam” when it applies to them. We’ve all been there to cheer on our children or our friends as they run the gantlet of all-nighters, energy drinks and cold pizza. But it’s a lot different when we’re the ones in the hot seat, and even more different in an industry that has few forms of formal education or regimented testing.

All our lives we’ve been conditioned to go to school, get good grades, get a degree and find a job worthy of the lack of sleep and terrifying student loans at the end of the educational rainbow. If the events industry had any such milestones, they would be something like a bachelor's in Bridezilla Studies, a master's in Guerrilla Weather Preparedness or a PhD in Expectation Management. For the most part, the gantlet we run to achieve our success comes from years of on-the-job training, mentorship and oftentimes (quite literally) blood, sweat and tears.

That’s why, years ago, Dr. Joe Goldblatt, CSEP, FRSA, spearheaded a way to give event professionals the recognition we all deserve. It’s called the CSEP: the Certified Special Events Professional certification.

Whether you are a seasoned professional with decades of experience in the events industry or a young event planner who is just getting your feet wet, taking the CSEP exam is something every event professional needs to commit to doing. And it’s not just so we can get that piece of paper—it’s because of what it took to get there. It provides us with another layer of respectability, validation and recognition both inside and outside of the events industry, and it creates a standard of excellence for all event professionals to follow.

I sat for the exam last year, and it changed my thinking and perspective in ways that never occurred to me. It was the best thing I did in 10 years of planning events. It reinforced the importance of being familiar with all aspects of my craft, whether they “apply” to me or not. It didn’t matter what I thought my scores were—what mattered was that I did it.

Although I did not pass, I also did not fail. In the weeks waiting for my test results, I noticed I held my skills, my tasks and even my clients in a little higher regard than before. The thought of attaching the letters “CSEP” to the end of my name made me appreciate the work I had done to be where I am and the work it takes to maintain it.

The exam itself is straightforward, and there are tools to help you study. But as is the case with your education thus far, studying for this exam is not as traditional as you might like it to be. We’re not a “traditional” industry. The best approach is to commit to being a student of processes, of vocabulary, and, most importantly, a student of yourself. Read the course outline many times over. Organize the information the same as you would a proposal to a client. Talk to as many people as possible, regardless if they’ve taken the exam. Be honest about your strengths and weaknesses, and seek out people who can help you fill in the gaps. In our business, there is strength in numbers, and the more information you glean, the more prepared you will be for what you don’t know. Visit www.ises/com/csep to learn more.

Name: Carol Roleder
Company: Craig’s Crew Inc.
115 W. California Blvd., #120
Pasadena, CA 91105
Phone: 626/398-0559
Email: [email protected]

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