There’s no magic formula to throwing an impressive party or event, but there are some secrets that only the pros know. We may not be able to give you a magic wand, but we can let you in on some of the insider know-how that makes a professionally planned event stand out. It may not be Hogwarts, but these eight secrets of professional event planners will give you that little something extra that will be sure to put your guests under the perfect party spell.
1. Focus on Numbers First
We all know that the focus of a party or corporate event is the people, but you can take better care of them when you know how many will show up. Professional event planners know that the key to success is in the numbers. Before you get distracted by themes and menu planning, nail down the number of guests you expect. The effort it takes to serve a sit-down meal for 12 versus 120 is immense. Depending on the numbers, you may decide to stick with appetizers or a buffet. Once you know who will be there, it’s easier to pick the theme, menu, and entertainment that will be most successful.
2. Don’t Worry About Being a Trendsetter
Every season presents a new “big thing” that every event or party must have. Whether it’s a photo booth or complicated signature cocktail, these trendy details can distract from the overall purpose of your event – especially if you plan on a large crowd. Professional event planners forgo trendy add-ons in favor thoughtful touches that leave just as big of an impression without the high maintenance. Rather than an extravagant photo booth (with accessories, dressing room, and long lines) make coasters out of photos of the guests of honor or the company’s last event. These simple favors capture memories in the same way and save tons of preparation and on-site management during your event.
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A stable of servers, bartenders, and chefs isn’t always the most effective (or thrifty) way to staff an event. One way professional event planners help clients save money is knowing when it’s okay to forgo formal service for self-serve options. At a smaller gathering it’s okay to skip the bartender and offer a cocktail or wine bar where guests can help themselves. Use a central location or strategically place trays of pre-poured champagne and sparkling water throughout the venue. If you’re not providing a sit-down dinner you can use the same staff to remove finished plates and keep the drink trays filled.
4. Think of the Children
Some events involve guests of all ages. Whether it’s a wedding or the company’s annual family party, the event’s littlest guests are often overlooked. Follow the example of professional event planners and designate an area that caters to the kids. Cover tables in butcher paper, provide bundles of bright crayons or pencils, and let the little ones’ artistic spirits shine. If you’re outside, consider placing pails of kid-friendly items like bubbles and pinwheels within easy reach. When Mom and Dad don’t have to worry about entertaining the children, everyone has a better time.
5. Get More Glasses
This is the sign of a true party pro. Nothing’s worse than running out of glasses, so professional event planners know to be prepared. If you’re offering different types of beverages (wine, water, coffee, juice) keep in mind that each change in drink requires a new glass. Professional event planners usually plan on at least three glasses per guest to make sure you don’t end up scrambling to wash the crystal before the big toast.
6. Tame the Linens
One of the easiest ways to give an event polish is with matching table linens. However, it’s also one of the easiest ways to unravel a great event – especially if the wind rears its ugly head. Event pros always come prepared. Zip ties, adhesive velcro, and museum wax are the secret weapons professional event planners use to secure linens in place. While velcro and wax are easily hidden, be sure to have a plan for disguising zip ties. Use tulle, knots of fabric, or ribbon to keep your secret under wraps.
7. Opt for Logistics Over Decor
No one will remember how gorgeous the centerpieces were if there was nowhere for them to sit. Before you get too invested in the decor, make sure you’ve thought through the seating and flow of traffic for the event. Professional event planners think of who will go where before they start arranging flowers. Give guests plenty of places to gather, sit, engage, and enjoy the food. If the event is designed for networking and mingling, a good rule is to have enough chairs, stools, and other seating options for at least 85% of the guests. Also, consider where bottlenecks are likely to form and make contingency plans. Offer multiple bars or buffet tables to discourage long lines that can grind participant interaction (and enjoyment) to a halt.
8. Bring in Reinforcements
Pros never take on 100% of event planning and execution all by themselves. Experienced event planners know that everything will go more smoothly when they ask for help. Whether it’s checking in guests or whisking away discarded napkins and glasses, make sure to delegate where it makes sense. And professional event planners never overlook setup and cleanup. Be sure you assign those tasks or hire help to make sure your event isn’t derailed by the little details.
Putting together a memorable event isn’t rocket science, but there is a bit of alchemy to creating an experience that entertains, enchants, and excites the participants. Help bring a little extra magic to your next meeting or party by using these insider tips from the pros.
If you really want to feel like a party wizard, team up with the professional event planners at In the Event. We’ll make sure you’re the star while we do all the heavy lifting.