I Want To Be An Event Planner!

27 06 2010

Event planning and production is such a simple, creative, and fun occupation that it is a wonder more people are not interested in pursuing this career path. To get an idea how unpopular the field is, just Google “event planning” – you will find a mere 115,000,000 sites. Just for fun, Google “trends in special events” – you will find over 11,000,000 sites. It appears there might be a little competition in the special events industry.

Every week I talk to people who think my life is simply one party after another. Almost daily I am asked how I managed to find a job where every moment is fun, fun, fun!

The truth is that I really do love what I do for a living – but glamour and fun is far less than 1% of what my daily routine entails.

Successful event planners work between 60 – 80 hours per week, mostly writing proposals, filing applications for food permits, fire permits, street closing permits, amusement permits, facility rental agreements, entertainment (among hundreds of other) contracts. Then we add the joy of negotiating hotel reservations, which usually means finding three or four properties who can offer the best deals on the items most important to each client, all of which work in varying industries and have entirely different requirements that must be considered in the negotiating process.

Finally after countless hours of mediating resources and offers between many vendors and your client (the most important person(s) in the process, you learn that the hotel/venue you had chosen has decided to schedule renovations during your event; you find out that a union strike has been organized that is expected to continue through your event (maybe the housekeeping department, the catering department, the maintenance department); or worse yet, a natural disaster has damaged the entire area and everything you have planned must begin all over again. These types of occurrences, although usually on a smaller scale, are frequent in this industry.

This is really where creativity kicks in gear. It takes many years of experience in Event Planning and Production to develop the skills, reactions, and flexibility to turn these crises into positive situations. It also requires having superb relationships with many, many vendors, who understand the Event Industry, and work with you to discover the best solutions to your challenges. You can check out our website for the range of services we offer – and we are a small company!

I have met hundreds of people who tell me they used to be an Event Planner. I often wonder why they are no longer in the business. I am guessing they found jobs where they could spend time with their families; or they didn’t realize the excruciating details involved in completing a great event. Or maybe, just maybe, they couldn’t stand all of the fun, fun, fun!

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Trash Talkin’

22 06 2010

I am not trying to slam or even discourage event and meeting planner/producers from attempting to be responsible stewards of the planet. Doing anything is better than doing nothing at all. Tons (pun intended) of more information about specifics may be found at Waste Industry.

I produced a conference in a city (unnamed) where our goal was simply to recycle paper, plastic, and cardboard. The Convention Center had separate receptacles for each item we had chosen to recycle, and they did an excellent job collecting all separate items from the show floor as well as each of the meeting spaces. By far the exhibitors were the worst offenders, leaving boxes of materials, junky plastic giveaways, stacks of paper collateral materials and brochures, and worst of all huge quantities of cardboard that had been used to ship all this garbage. Following the two-day conference, during my final walk through, I thought it would be fun to visit the dumpster area to see how they managed to do such an excellent job separating the materials we had requested be recycled. Their system was remarkably easy – one dumpster was full of cardboard (good), and the two other dumpsters were full of all of the items we presumed were being separated, and ready to be taken to a landfill (not good.)

This was very disconcerting, and management could not answer any of my questions to my satisfaction (except to say it is extremely expensive to implement the kind of program that was our basic goal).

There are many ways to use waste to manufacture completely different products. Waste newspaper can be turned into insulation. Old tires can be turned into carpet underlays and HVAC piping. Mixed plastics can create a great wood substitute. The imbalance between the supply of waste collectors coupled with people who imagine new products that can profitably utilize these materials is the answer. Simple creativity. For hundreds of years mankind has found solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems. I really believe that together we will find many ways to reverse global warming. I really believe we will find a way to feed and supply healthy food and potable water to countries whose inhabitants are continually dying because we have not yet found solutions.

For now, all we can do is try to set the example. It is very disheartening to witness instances like those at the Convention Center, but we actually got almost halfway there – it is a start.

I apologize for repeating myself, but “doing anything is better than doing nothing at all”. Mankind may have been very lucky solving crises at the last possible moment. Let’s hope we don’t run out of time this time around.





Independence Day Attitude

15 06 2010

Coming of age in the late 60s, I strongly protested the Vietnam War.  It did not impress me that my father and uncle both served in Korea, or that my family’s military history extended many generations.  I do not understand war; in fact, I still protest why anyone is fighting anywhere.  I have always been able to talk my way around any confrontation, and usually work out amicable agreements.  Of course, a case could be made that I am just a wimp – I have never been in a physical fight and the idea has no appeal to me to this day. This is a pretty strong opinion, and I would highly recommend you find articles representing the other side of this issue – one of the best places to find more information about refuting this position can be found at the VFW site.

Now I am quite a bit older; and quite possibly even a little bit wiser.  I am a better listener, and I have had the pleasure of sharing stories from many people with strong military backgrounds.  There are probably as many reasons for a person to choose to fight as there are people out there fighting.

The ultimate truth is that I was born an American.  There are countless things we are allowed to do; to own; to aspire to; (my ability to write these feelings for instance) – all treated as if they are our given right.  They are not.  As a pacifist, it can be difficult to understand the military point of view – but it makes sense.  Talk to a few veterans – I guarantee they will help with your perceptions – these are their lives, and most of them are great stories.

We repeatedly hear that people just don’t understand terrorism.  Terrorists are evil, destructive, and intent on destroying everything Americans believe in.  I believe this is way too simplistic.  Bob Dylan probably explained the terrorist attitude (probably unintentionally) when he said “When You Got Nothin’, You Got Nothin’ To Lose”.

Americans forget that even in these tough economic times, most of us are far better off than most of the global population.  Our hats should be off and our respect amplified for those thousands upon thousands of men and women who, whatever their reasons, gave their time as well as many of their lives, to allow us to remain America.

I acknowledge my naiveté, but I will probably die a pacifist.  The difference is perspective – now I understand why and where many conflicting and equally correct points of view can arrive at the same conclusion.  That conclusion may result in necessary violence.  I don’t like it, but I don’t like beets either (and they’re still around).

Some things are simply inevitable – so say thanks repeatedly to those who have given everything for us to have our beliefs.

In America, Independence Day should hold the same significance as Thanksgiving. Let’s celebrate diversity loud and clear, and give thanks every day for all we have (and why we have it.)





Awesome Summertime Recipe

13 06 2010

FIRECRACKER PORK TENDERLOIN

(every ingredient in this recipe may substitute local fresh products – highly recommended when and where available – makes a better product!)

Ingredients:

Meat:

2 Fresh Pork Tenderloins (over 1# each if possible)

10 oz. package frozen spinach, squeezed dry

1 Onion chopped and caramelized

1/3 Cup minced garlic

1/2 Cup Craisins

Pork Rub:

4 TBLS. EACH Onion Powder, Oregano, Paprika, Basil, Thyme

2 TBLS. EACH Freshly Ground Pepper, Freshly Ground White Pepper

Sauce:

12 oz. frozen unsweetened raspberries, (thawed)

12 oz. frozen unsweetened blueberries, (thawed)

6 whole serrano chile peppers (stem, membrane, seeds removed, minced)

1/4 Cup Tarragon

2 TBLS. Freshly Grated Ginger

Fresh Squeezed Juice from 4 Oranges

Sautee spinach, caramelized onions, garlic until warm (a few minutes).  Add craisins, mix well, divide recipe in half, and set aside.

Using a very sharp knife, slice each tenderloin at two diagonals lengthwise opposite each other creating a relatively flat piece of pork.  Be careful not to cut all the way through the meat (err on the side of undercutting.  Pound out for a few minutes to make stuffing easier.  Divide the spinach mixture between the two tenderloins, and roll each back together to encircle the spinach mixture.  Tie each tenderloin with string in approximately 7 places to hold it together,

Mix all rub ingredients together and split recipe between two freezer bags.  Place the tenderloins (one in each bag), roll/toss each to cover with the rub mixture and refrigerate overnight.

You will be making two sauce recipes, identical except one will have raspberries and the other blueberries.  Divide all sauce ingredients in half. Place half of the sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor, add the raspberries and puree.  Strain sauce through cheesecloth (unless you like the fruit seeds) into cheap plastic condiment dispensers, preferably with narrow tips.  Repeat process using the blueberries.  Strain sauce into another condiment dispensers.  You should now have a raspberry sauce and a blueberry sauce.  They may both be prepared a week ahead of time and refrigerated.

Using a “charcoal Chimney”, not flammable charcoal starter (makes food taste odd and is bad for the environment).  Get coals very hot and place on one half of the bottom of your grill, leaving the other half of the grill for indirect heat.  Grill tenderloins for one minute on each of their four sides over the hot coals.  Move both off the coals to indirect heat side of the grill.  Cover grill and cook for 20 minutes, turn each once and cook for additional 20 minutes.  Wrap each with aluminum foil and let set for approximately 5 minutes.

Slice about 1/2″ thick (serrated knife works great) and place shingled or in circles on dinner or appetizer plates.  May also be served on a platter family style.  Drizzle sauces alternately over pork however creatively you choose. Makes 6-8 portions.

This recipes looks difficult, but it is very easy and takes less than 1.5 hours from start to finish.  Play with different ingredients – have fun – enjoy!





Who Doesn’t Love Budgets?

12 06 2010

Budgets change when numbers of attendees change, and the client usually doesn’t understand that.  Sponsorships (sometimes) increase, and the client wants to spend the apparently extra money on the program, even though all expenses have not been covered.  Sponsorships (more often) decrease, and the client does not want to pare down expenses in reaction.  Bottom lines are constantly changing because of the nature of profit and expense fluctuations, and the client usually doesn’t understand that either. This is not because the client is stupid (if they were really dense, why did they choose you?)  it is simply not generally their area of expertise. A great article on three reasons budgets don’t work (and how to fix them can be found at 3 Reasons)

What the event planner/producer does understand, and is usually in total agreement with the client, is that the event must remain true to its purpose – everything must remain memorable and successful in every facet of its’ expectations and execution.

Major challenge?  Sure!  But that is what makes our profession so very important.  Following are just a few examples of ways to ease the process from planning through completion.  Many of these ideas and suggestions are pretty “DUH” for many of us, but hopefully something will be a new idea for somebody.  I will keep this brief – if you have any questions or great ideas to add, please respond and I promise to elaborate or include your input in future postings.

1.) If location is not a foregone conclusion, you have carte blanche to negotiate almost everything.

2.) Negotiate with your vendor to incorporate decor owned by the vendor.  Be inventive about how to re-imagine funky or unusual prop/decor items to enhance your event (if they are free).

3.) Unless your goal is “Over The Top” keep the decor simple – in many cases “less can be more”.

4.) Create a spreadsheet for your budget whose values change as you input new guest and dollar amounts – this is very helpful in keeping on top of your budget at all times.

5.) Determine every reason for your event to occur – later, if you have to adjust expenses, it will be easier to eliminate line items deemed least important to your final goal.

6.) Ask your suppliers for suggestions.  They frequently have excellent advise, especially if they have often worked in your venue.

If you do your homework, utilize your creative skills, and communicate constantly with your client, budgets can be manageable.  Who knows, you might even earn more than you anticipated, and you will have developed or enhanced a great relationship with your client.