Event planning is a delicate art. It may seem straightforward – see if a venue is available on your date, find a caterer you like, pick out some flowers, and send the invitations. But there is so much more to it than that and it takes someone with specific skills to pull off a seamless event.
As event planners, we wear many different hats on a daily basis. We are a therapist (of sorts) to overwhelmed clients trying to plan a corporate outing while handling the day-to-day tasks of their job and family life. We are a seasoned negotiator with the best of the best vendors, helping clients get the most for their money, or a special menu item or pro bono service the public might not have access to. We are tour guides to out of state or out of town clients, introducing them to venues off the beaten path that a Google search won’t present. We are accountants toying and tinkering with budgets to get the most bang for your buck. We are carpenters taking a staple gun to a pallet of wood to secure table assignments and welcome signs. We are master jugglers and professional entertainers the day of – fielding phone calls from every vendor and exhibitor, guiding guests and sweeping away trash all while keeping our clients in the loop, setting up intricate centerpieces, sponsor activations, and stepping in to help the catering staff so every detail of the event goes off without a hitch so that attendees, and oftentimes the client, never knew there was even an issue.
The secret is that we are mega-organized, efficient and extroverted people by nature. We love to form connections with area businesses and know collaboration better than competition. We must be flexible, smile in times of stress, take a step back and come up with quick solutions and most importantly keep the show running. It’s someone who can anticipate an issue before it even becomes a problem. We’re always thinking 10 steps ahead, and ready to pivot at any time. Sure, it’s high stakes and high stress at times, but the reward of seeing our clients and attendees walk through the doors, jaws dropped, gushing at all our hard work, is pretty awesome.
We know our strengths lie in planning and execution, and know exactly who to ask for help when we need it — be it for a custom designed cake, to a bartender who can whip up seasonal cocktails, to designers who can bring your company logo to life in a big space, and even balloon specialists — we’re tapped into the local network of professionals and have forged excellent working relationships and friendships with so many of them.
It’s not rocket science, or surgery, but it’s a skill set honed over many late nights, spreadsheets, sticky situations, last-minute hiccups, and a passion for helping people celebrate life’s little and big moments. So what are you waiting for?! Let’s take your event to the next level together.
Happy New Year! Whether it’s finally signing a contract on a multi-day conference, booking a venue for a back to the office welcome event, or just starting to think about how you can celebrate your team this year, here are our top five predictions for what you will see out and about!
1. More breakout sessions
Breakout sessions have always been an important part of large events, but in 2022 we see them taking the main stage – literally. Instead of multiple lectures, a powerful opening and closing speaker may be all you need. With tailored breakout sessions throughout the day, attendees can choose their own adventure and absorb more than ever before with the ability to attend sessions directly related to their career and industry, as well as dip their toe into a session of personal interest, professional advancement or health and wellness!
Smaller groups will allow for more interaction and discussion as well as individualized attention from presenters and relationship-forming between attendees and presenters. It is also a safer option to have less people in each session and can allow for distancing to make everyone feel comfortable.
2. Half-day events
Let’s face it. Our attention spans are not what they used to be. Increased screen time over the past two plus years has made everyone a bit antsy. Drop off at full day events starts after lunch, meaning loss of engagement at afternoon sessions. Save yourself the awkward half-empty sessions and schedule your event to be a half-day conference or meeting. You’ll keep your attendees engaged, interested, and busy, while still delivering impactful programming.
Attendees will feel productive, inspired, and thankful they still have the afternoon to run errands, take a few calls, or grab an early dinner and mingle with new connections. It’s also a perfect opportunity to switch up the schedule and sponsor a happy hour after lunch for those who can stick around for networking and socializing!
3. Exploring hot button topics and meaningful conversations
Bottom line, people want, and need, to discuss what is going on in society. From family planning and birth control, to racial injustice, LGBTQIA rights, climate change, disease prevention, disabilities, diversity at work, gender expression, and so much more; not only do brands and sponsors want to align themselves with these important issues and trending conversation topics, but attendees want to make their voice heard and expect to talk about these topics at career-centric events and at work.
4. Health and safety at the center of importance
We’re not fully out of the woods yet. Expect vaccine requirements, on-site rapid testing, continued mask mandates and creative social distancing as well as virtual elements to nearly every event, big or small in 2022.
5. Shopping local
With the supply chain crisis, travel restrictions, increasing material costs and a host of other complications, shipping décor cross country, importing food or beverage, or shipping design elements for events has become more of a headache. While it may not make setup or vendor sourcing as streamlined, staying local in terms of vendors, food and beverage, giveaways and materials is starting to become best-practice. Not only are event professionals keen to support local, small businesses as they dream up event design, but attendees respond positively to enjoying a local experience while at the event.
It adds a personal touch, welcomes attendees to the host city, celebrates the people and businesses that call that place home, and logistically makes a lot more sense. We will continue to see unique food and design activations, small business integrations, and bigger vendor lists for multi-city events as planners pull contacts from city to city rather than using a mega-provider or mass produced design elements.
We’re excited for what is to come this year in the event space and hope you are feeling optimistic, too!
To design an event with intention means to break down the event into smaller elements: food and beverage, entertainment, venue and physical space, decor and ambiance, and use your creativity to view the event both from the perspective of a professional planner and an attendee. Ask questions like,
“How do I maximize this space so people can eat, dance, drink and socialize?”
“How do I make sure attendees know who is hosting this event without being overbearing?”
“How can I make everything flow naturally and look beautiful?”
Let’s begin with furniture elements – it’s easy to switch up the style and color from velvet to leather, sleek bar stools to wooden low and high tables, to add to the overall atmosphere and bring out the theme. With so many options, intention is key. The type of furniture you choose impacts how your room looks and feels to your attendees. One of our favorite secrets to making a room feel larger is bringing in clear chairs!
Mirrors can have a stunning impact on elevating your event space. It’s an amazing investment that reflects the lighting and enhances the theme especially coupled with conscious design elements like candles and warm lighting.
Bring intentional design into your floor plan and showcase your exhibits and guide guests to take in the whole experience by placing the bar, photo moment, stage, or main attraction towards the back of the event. Are you worried your bar line will be too long? Consider passing wine, champagne or a signature cocktail at the entrance. Guests will feel extra special upon arrival and it’s a win-win to cut down on wait times!
Looking to warm up a space? Add area rugs, trees, greenery or plants to bring color into your space! Large, leafy plants can help absorb echoes and other ambient sound. Outdoors, live plants can help create a barrier to soften the sounds of traffic from outside or music from within.
Signature drinks are an automatic crowd pleaser! This blue cocktail was delicious and fit in perfectly with the blue, white and gold theme. Check out more seasonal cocktail ideas in our blog post HERE.
Are you looking to add an extra activity to your event? What about a cocktail tasting? Make it even more special with local distillers.
Having a DJ is lots of fun BUT a live band can really get the crowd going. Nothing quite beats the energy and production quality of live music!
And finally, bring your branding into everything – from straws in your company’s signature colors, to matching the flowers and balloons, or even your socks, the little details go a long way. Whenever you have an opportunity to customize something or add branding we highly recommend doing so! It may be a small detail, but in the overall experience it ties everything together.
A signature drink (or drinks) takes your bar to the next level — whether you’re hosting just family, the whole neighborhood, or throwing a company party. Here are four crowd pleasing winter cocktails to serve at your next event!
Maple Bourbon Smash
- 2 oz bourbon of choice (we love Knob Creek)
- .5 oz pure maple syrup
- Small bunch of sage leaves
- .5 oz lemon juice
Muddle the syrup, sage and lemon, then shake with ice and bourbon. Serve on the rocks with a lemon garnish.
- 2 oz blanco tequila (we love Casamigos)
- .5 oz triple sec
- 2 oz cranberry juice
- 1 oz lime juice
Shake everything over ice and garnish with fresh cranberries. Serve with a sugar rim!
Grapefruit and Sage Champagne
- Pink grapefruit juice
- Sage simple syrup (boil equal parts sugar, water + two sage bunches)
- Angostura bitters
- Ice cubes
- Champagne or other sparkling white wine
- Fresh sage leaves
Shake grapefruit juice, bitters and simple syrup with ice. Strain into a champagne flute and top with your favorite champagne or sparkling wine. Garnish with fresh sage!
Peppermint Espresso Martini
- 2 oz vanilla vodka
- 2 oz fresh espresso
- .5 oz Irish cream liquor
- .5 oz peppermint schnapps
- Dash of cream
Shake everything over ice and strain into a martini glass – garnish with a candy cane!
Here we are a year into the Pandemic and have the same event-related questions – do you move forward with the in-person event that has been in the works for over a year, postpone, go virtual or land somewhere in between? The timeline on getting back to “normal” is still unclear so these decisions are still difficult ones. Don’t worry, we’re here to break down your options.
Keep Calm and Plan On
Depending on the size and date of your event, you may still be able to hold it in-person. You will, however, need to adjust your plans, along with your expectations. This event will be different than what you had originally planned. Your guests will need to wear masks and keep their distance from each other. There may be less dancing. Food service will likely be handled differently. HOWEVER, with a sense of humor and a good attitude, your event can still be fun, successful and impactful. Some of the most beautiful events we’ve seen have been the more intimate, thoughtful ones so don’t discount this option.
And if your event is scheduled for the fall of 2021, we say keep the date! We are so hopeful for the return of larger in-person events by the fall and have many clients who are proceeding with this. Think positive thoughts and ALWAYS have a plan.
Keep Calm and Go Virtual
If your attendees are not local or if you are hosting a larger event, it may make more sense to take your event to a virtual platform – for the first half of this year anyways. If you aren’t sure, read our COVID-19 and Your Event: Can It Be Held Virtually? blog post on how to determine if going virtual is a feasible option for you.
Since the beginning of the Pandemic, virtual event platforms have really come a long way and the possibilities are endless. You can now make your event as interactive and as customized as you’d like, ranging from tradeshow booths where your guests actually feel like they are roaming the floor to having attendees create their own avatars, virtual coffee breaks, meditations and happy hour, offering many unique sponsorship opportunities and more.
All platforms are not the same so we encourage you to do your research and shop around to find the right option for your event. This can be an overwhelming process (it’s similar to determining the venue with in-person events) so if you still need help, let us know!
Keep Calm and Go Hybrid
If you’re not quite sure which option is most suitable for your event and you have some attendees that are traveling and others who are local, it may make sense to do a combination of in-person and virtual, or Hybrid. This could mean many different things depending on what type of event you are planning. It may be a meeting or tradeshow where some attendees are in a room, safely spaced out, and others are watching it via livestream. Or perhaps it is an awards ceremony that is held virtually and then there are smaller in-person gatherings within teams to celebrate their achievements.
We are expecting to see this in the late summer, as in-person events are returning and attendees may still be a bit hesitant to travel or gather in large crowds.
There is no easy answer when it comes to planning events these days so if you still have questions, please contact us today! We are here to help. Happy Planning!
Rescheduling your event will take extra consideration during these uncertain times where our new “normal” is not yet clearly defined. At this point, you have hopefully considered all of your options; and have determined if your event can be held virtually.
If you’ve determined hosting a virtual event is not the direction you’ll be going in, you’re likely considering either canceling or rescheduling your event. Here are some things to consider if you are rescheduling your event.
- Review Your Contracts
As a diligent planner, you likely reviewed your venue and vendor contracts prior to signing. However, at the time, like the rest of us, you had no idea that we would be in the middle of a pandemic and needing to make very difficult decisions regarding the fate of our events. Reviewing the contracts again and pulling out any information regarding postponement and cancellation policies is a great first step. . Once you’ve done this, it’s also worth reaching out to your vendors and seeing if they are making any special concessions due to the unforeseen circumstances. You may be surprised by how understanding and flexible people can be during these challenging times.
- Assess Your Financial Losses
Once you’ve gone through your contracts and have determined what’s at risk, you can make a more informed decision and feel comfortable either moving forward with a new date or cancelling altogether. Sometimes the financial impact of rescheduling an event can be significant, due to rescheduling fees, poor attendance if guests have scheduling conflicts on the new date or still do not feel comfortable being in large groups and for many other reasons. In this case, you’ll need to weigh the benefits of rescheduling with the potentially great financial loss.
- Find a New Date
Perhaps one of the scariest things about this pandemic, is that we don’t know how long it will last, which also makes picking a new date particularly challenging. If you do decide to have your event on a future date, like with everything else, there are certain things you should consider when determining a new date.
First, if this is an annual event, how will rescheduling impact your scheduling for future years? Chances are, the rescheduled event will fall quite close to the following year’s event. Will you continue to hold the event around the same time as the new date? Will you skip the 2021 event? Or, will you choose to still hold the 2021 event even if it was just a few months after the 2020 event?
There are many things that go into making this decision, but it’s generally a good idea to keep your annual events within the same month or two since people typically plan around the event being the same time of year.
If it’s not an annual event, you have a bit more flexibility in the rescheduled date. It’s important to consider your industry’s calendar and other important events/activities that may be happening around the same time. Make sure your new event date does not conflict with other major conferences, tradeshows or holidays so your attendance is not negatively impacted. Finally, you’ll need to reach out to speakers and vendors to see if they’re available on the new date.
This is a very challenging and stressful time for many people, particularly those in the hospitality and events industry. Whichever direction you decide to go in with your 2020 event, clear, detailed communication with your attendees, sponsors, exhibitors and any other key stakeholders is one of the most important components to a successful event (in any format) and maintaining your company’s reputation.
Remember, we will get through this and celebrate together again. When that time comes, we hope you will reach out to Swank for your planning needs. In the meantime, we’re here as a resource to you and can also assist with planning virtual events. Please take care and stay safe.