Blog Roundup: What Corporate Events Can Learn From Wedding Planners

Spot the meeting planner vs. the wedding planner.

Do wedding planners have anything to offer corporate events? Is the experience that a wedding planner brings to weddings valuable, when staring down the barrel of a large, multi-day, multi-track, executive-level conference?

BizBash, Etouches, WilsonWest and Meetings+Events Magazine, some of the top voices in our industry, all say a resounding YES.

I present the following readings to you that remind us all that for high-level events, whether they have a social or corporate focus, there is always a “bride” (a VIP or group of VIPs), and the details always matter.

Raise the Bar on Your Next Event by Thinking Like a Wedding Planner – Meetings+Events Magazine

What Can a Wedding Planner Teach Us About Strategic Event Planning – WilsonWest

10 Lessons Event Pros Can Learn From Weddings – BizBash

Weddings and Corporate Events: Not So Different After All – See more at:

Weddings and Corporate Events: Not So Different After All – eTouches

Weddings and Corporate Events: Not So Different After All – See more at:
What Can a Wedding Planner Teach Us About Strategic Event Planning? – See more at:
What Can a Wedding Planner Teach Us About Strategic Event Planning? – See more at:
What Can a Wedding Planner Teach Us About Strategic Event Planning? – See more at:

The net-net? Don’t conflate wedding planning skills with frivolous knowledge – the skill set is very similar; the major difference is where the money comes from. A veteran wedding planner is merciless with budgets – a skill prized in corporate circles. Someone who knows how to soothe ruffled feathers during the most over-the-top family dramas is the diplomat you want when tensions run high in a conference committee. And an onsite wedding whiz who can think on their feet and handle a million guest and VIP requests simultaneously with aplomb can be a valuable contributor to a corporate event team.

Major changes to Portland’s commercial compost program – caterers to be affected

Image: Charlie Kloppenburg for Sustainable Business Oregon

In the news: coming March 2015, commercial compost programs in Portland will no longer accept disposable dishware labeled as “compostable”, such as “corn plastic” and the like. From Sustainable Business Oregon:

“Food-selling organizations like the Portland Trail Blazers have their work cut for them following a major change to Portland’s commercial compost program that drops the ability to compost containers and other non-food items.”

So-labeled “compostable” plastic dishware is also not permitted in Portland’s residential program, so in our area, it simply doesn’t make sense to purchase or use those types of foodware for any reason, even an event or wedding. It’s just going to go in the landfill.

Link: Reminders on what is allowed in residential Portland compost

Link: Reminders on what is allowed in commercial Portland compost

Long read: More about the pros and cons of corn-based plastic, or PLA (Smithsonian)

It is a bit of a disappointment to see this feature dropped from Portland’s commercial compost program. Many special event caterers, food trucks at parties, and wedding caterers will be affected as well. However, with all challenges come an opportunity — all of us will be challenged and encouraged to decrease waste and move away from any kind of disposables, compostable or not.

Event Design Series – Day 5: Theme { Sponsored Post }

Continuing our discussion of event design (and please, make it a discussion by commenting)…

More about our Event Design Series here at Day 1, and where the questions came from

Day 5: Theme: Why does theme matter in special events?

Dozens of volunteers came together for this SE Portland gala and auction and raised over $75,000 for the school foundation. The theme was “Put A Bird On It”.

I think theme matters because I want guests to be comfortable, and it’s hard to be comfortable if you don’t understand your environment. I don’t want a guest to receive an invitation that sets one type of expectation, register on a website with yet another theme or design, and then arrive at the event where the room is one formality level, but the food service is a different style, and so on. An organized, cohesive theme makes people feel comfortable and immerses them more completely in the experience you’re trying to give them.

A theme helps us organize the environment and the experiences surrounding the event.

Do you have to have a theme? If by theme, you mean  “Circus”, “Casino Night”, or “Denim and Diamonds”, I think the answer is no. Certainly these highly defined party themes can work, depending on your event, but I don’t think they are necessary. One trend I enjoy is the use of one-word themes that, while allowing the planner to style the event, are open for interpretation — for example, “Revolution” , “Ignite” or “Transcend”. It also depends on your group. One successful theme we did recently was for a SE Portland school auction. Portlandia is still a party theme touchstone, and this group decided on “Put a Bird On It” for their theme. You can imagine that this had endless applications.

Have you used a theme to pull an event together recently? How did it go? Please feel free to share in the comments. Don’t forget to tweet, +1, or share on Facebook if you found this interesting and helpful.

Today’s Portland Event Planner blog post is sponsored by the LA Shop, offering many trade show and expo items at discounted prices.

Portland Trade Show Conference Expo Materials

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Event Design Series: Day 4 – Budget

Continuing our discussion of event design (and please, make it a discussion by commenting)…

More about our Event Design Series here at Day 1, and where the questions came from

Day 4: Budget: What tips do you have for a client that has a very small budget but wants a big impact?

Inexpensive table centerpiece of glitter paper, shadowbox frame, and candles
Materials available at most craft stores for around $15USD. Design concept by EJP Events.

I will try not to write a novel here, although it’s very tempting. Budget is always a concern, even for so-called “big budget” events – no one wants waste or to go over. Here are a few thoughts:

1. Manage your and your guests’ expectations. Remember that your target budget needs to reflect real life. For example, whatever your target event budget is, take about half of that for food and drinks and set your style/formality level from there. So a $30/per person event has a roughly $15/per person meal (including drinks and service!), so keep it casual!

2. Focus your efforts. If there’s no budget for an item like decor or party favors, remove it from the program rather than trying to do it halfway. If you design what you do have carefully, attendees often won’t notice what you didn’t include.

2. Cut your guest list. The number one element that affects the budget is the scale. Each additional guest means an additional chair, spot a table, place setting, invitation, print suite, meal or food, drinks, and rental items. Also – carefully manage your invitations and RSVPs so you don’t purchase for guests who don’t show up. You will get fewer guests than you expect more often than not.

3. If you are doing any event functions in-house or DIY in order to save money, start early. There’s nothing more morale-killing at an organization than giving a job like registration/nametags, decor, or setup to your employees (or, in the case of a wedding/social event, to your relatives and friends) and leaving things until the last minute. Your hoped-for “big impact” will wither and die as people sense the stress of your DIY staff or volunteers.

4. Choose a venue wisely. For example, if there’s no budget for decor, avoid sites with little built-in appeal that cry out for flowers or lighting. And if a speaker is an important component of the event, look for a venue with a great sound system included in the rental (and test it!).

5. Support “lean” events with customer service. If you are having to cut back on food or decor, chances are these are less noticeable if your guests are treated well and with personal service from the time they register to the time the exit the event.

Have a tip on event budgets you’d like to share? Please leave a comment below!

Event Design Series: Day 2 – Trends

Continuing our discussion of event design (and please, make it a discussion by commenting)…

More about our Event Design Series here at Day 1, and where the questions came from

Day 2: Trends: What are some new trends in event design and how can an event planner keep current? What new color combinations are requested by clients? What are the most popular themes for parties, galas, and corporate events? What themes are overused?

New Trends (2012-2013): The idea of un-themes is big. “Unconferences” with informal agenda-setting sessions and crowdplanning such as WordCamp are influencing the way even traditional corporate and sales events are being planned.  Rapid-fire presentation events such as Pecha-Kucha nights, Ignite, TED and TEDx talks; and storytelling events such The Moth, Backfence, and Portland Storytelling Theater have become wildly popular.

Photo by Kirby Urner via Flickr

These events’ success show that in either a corporate or social setting, attendees want to create the agenda, tell their own story, or have an upfront, personal connection to others’ stories. I’m seeing this reflected in the continued use of performance in special events, whether it’s having dancers from the bride’s culture during a wedding; or using a speaker with an incredible story to uplift and motivate a corporate event audience.

Photo: Craig Strong.

How can I stay current on trends? I think it’s more important for event planners to be creators of new designs, not necessarily followers of trends. At the same time “there is nothing new under the sun” – or is there? I love pop culture from every corner of the globe, and that keeps me on my toes. Online resources are always popping up with something fresh and inspiring all the time. Just a year ago, nobody was using Pinterest, now it’s everywhere. Tumblr seems to be under the radar for mainstream use, but is widely used by fashion brands and designers. Anyone can easily create a Tumblr blog (a mini-blogging platform) to follow and curate their own favorite content from around the web in a mini-blog format. I have several Tumblrs and my main one for event and design inspiration is here. Travel is the best for seeing firsthand what is hot in other places, and then you can bring that back to your home base and reinterpret it.

New color combinations: Fashion and retail are always pushing color in new directions, and of course there are always the color gods at Pantone. The good old-fashioned color wheel never hurt anyone. Right now I’m really loving multicolored event palettes. Take a look at online storefront Hello Holiday to see what I mean. Multicolor doesn’t have to mean garish or childish. You can have smaller swaths of multicolor paired up with a neutral like grey to keep the look balanced.

Photo by Aubrey Trinnaman for Anthology Magazine

Popular and most overused themes? The panel found straight-up “time era” themes to be the most overused. A Fifties sock-hop for example, feels dated right now, not retro in a fun way. But if you want to do an era event, change it up by focusing on something a very narrow topic from that time – maybe one celebrity – and go from there. Call me crazy, but when I think of the 50s I think of Che Guevara. Or  Marilyn Monroe. Social events are still using vintage and shabby-chic looks; bold and preppy graphics and stripes are still big.

Hope you’ve found “Day 2” of our Event Design Series helpful. For background on this series, go here. As always, I appreciate your comments!

Trying Out A New Resource for Canvas Prints, Car Magnets, and Promotional Materials { Sponsored }

canvas prints

I recently had the opportunity to sample Printcopia‘s online canvas prints service. I found the interface to be fairly straightforward and easy to use, and my print arrived within 7 days. While I’m not sure this would be the solution for personal items needing professional editing and cropping such as wedding portraits (please use your professional photographer for those!), I found the self-service canvas prints to be of excellent quality and more than adequate for my needs as an event planner. These would be great for display materials for tradeshows and decorative marketing of event photos around the office.

Printcopia also offers car magnets, custom banners, and inexpensive signs — items that all of us as event planners need to use at one time or another. I haven’t tried these items yet, but if they are the same quality as the canvas print I was able to sample, this would be a great resource to add to my list.

Disclosure: We received a complimentary 11×14 canvas print sample prior to writing this review.