Feeding Vegetarians at Events

feeding vegetarians at events: platter of fresh tomatoes, goat cheeses, herbs, and crackers
Catering: Your Kitchen Chef. Photo: Vera Gazayov Photography

EJP Events’ staff are invited to lots of open houses, and other networking events. We love being able to check out new venues, caterers, and vendors. Most of these events have some form of refreshments and snacks. While none of us expect a full meal from this type of event, snacks are definitely helpful, since most of these events happen late on a weekday afternoon or early weeknight–right around the time most of us would be eating dinner.

I’m sharing my thoughts as a vegetarian about feeding vegetarians at events, from a few of these recent catering open houses; this also applies to caterers setting up any menu for a number of people.

The default for event catering is “omnivore”. This being Portland, the event catering company will typically provide some concessions to those of us who have a restricted diet, whether it be vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc. As someone who has been vegetarian for over 20 years, I’m thankful that someone has put some thought into feeding vegetarians at events.

But a lot of times it still feels like tokenism, something to check off the “to do” list. Vegetarian foods are often not given the same degree of detail and attention than their glutenous, dairy-and-meat filled counterparts. Flavor isn’t considered. It becomes frustrating when there’s only one thing I can theoretically eat, and that one thing isn’t actually appetizing.

Why should this matter to you, the food provider?

In the short term, someone like me is going to be cranky and not think so fondly of the event or the food. In the long term, when the particular caterer comes up as an option for a future event, I’m going to cross them off the list. If a caterer can’t be bothered to feed vegetarians at events when they’re supposed to be putting their best foot forward for an event planner audience, I don’t have confidence that they would be able to do it on a day-to-day basis like for a wedding or event.

It isn’t difficult to offer decent, plentiful, and tasty food options for vegetarians, vegans, gluten-free folks, those that have allergies, and the like. It just takes a bit more thought. Here are some ideas to consider when feeding vegetarians for events:

  • Have MULTIPLE options. Having only one thing to eat for a vegetarian or gluten free person comes across as doing the bare minimum. Consider having two, three, maybe even more things to eat for us.
  • “One size fits all” actually fits few. Making one hors d’oeuvre option both vegan and gluten-free kills two birds with one stone, sure. But these two dietary restrictions are not similar and have little overlap. As a non g-f vegetarian, I can eat bread and cheese. Someone who is gluten-free may still eat meat. A gluten-free vegan item might be good if  the chef can suss out the common ground of tastiness shared by the two disparate diets. That’s tricky and takes thought. Most of the time the “one size fits all” option appears like you, the food provider, cannot be bothered. Are you only providing it so someone can’t complain about the lack of vegan and/or gluten-free food? Take a look at the item that you are providing: is that edible-flower-on-a-beet-cracker substantial
  • Ensure that the vegetarian / alternative dining option is appropriate to the formality level of the menu. I once went to a fine-dining restaurant where the vegetarian option was a Beyond Burger – the same thing that I can pick up at my local Target. Meanwhile, my dining mates feasted on Beef Wellington and plats de mer.
  • Vegetarians and vegans want protein and calories, too. There’s a popular misconception that we vegetarians are just rabbits: We eat nothing but vegetables in their raw form. I do like my vegetables, but I don’t make meals out of salads unless there’s no other option. (And I’ll probably go get a burrito afterwards.) Most vegetables have little in the way of protein and calories, which vegetarians need to sustain ourselves. Plus, fat adds flavor. Consider adding beans, lentils, tofu, and yes, even hummus into the mix.
  • Refrain from putting meat on everything. Often I’ll find foods that look mostly tantalizing, filled with delicious sauces, cheeses, and veggies. But, meat is also on this item, so it’s a no-go for me. Some folks feel that meat needs to be on everything for it to “taste good.” That is simply untrue!
  • And especially hold back on the bacon. The whole bacon-on-everything trend shows no signs of dying. I’ll sometimes go to an event where every food item has some form of bacon on it! (Contrary to popular belief, bacon isn’t “the meat I miss” since becoming a vegetarian.) It’s not just vegetarians to worry about: pork is forbidden to those with Kosher and Halal diets. So consider that, especially if you promote yourself as an inclusive event company. Turkey bacon is still meat.
  • Consider “build your own” food stations. It’s not going to be as pretty as your meticulously conceived and executed bread/cracker with stuff on it. But it will make it easier for everyone to eat food they’d like. Consider something like a fajita bar. No, they are not as Instagrammable as those delicate crostinis, but it makes it easier to satisfy all sorts of dietary restrictions. Just make sure that meat is not touching the veggies!
  • Ask, “Would this stand alone by itself?” That pretty looking small flower on a beet cracker is fine if you put it on a plate loaded with other foods that will fill you up. But what if it’s the only thing you could eat? Consider what satisfaction those restricted to the flower-cracker are going to get out of it. If it’s something that’s going to make them crave for something else while stuffing themselves on dessert until they leave, you’re not doing your job in feeding vegetarians at your events.
  • Find out what vegetarians, et al would like to eat by asking them. What you think a vegetarian would eat may be different than what they actually do eat. Consult your vegetarian friend and ask what they’d like to see in your menus. Don’t know one? Go online. Find vegetarian themed websites and online communities, there’s plenty out there. Same goes for other dietary restrictions. Here are some places to start: One Green Planet, Vegetarian Times, and Vegetable Love on Pinterest.
  • And most importantly, be open and willing to accommodate. I noticed that at the event where the flower-covered beet cracker was the only vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free option, chefs were making those hors d’oeuvres right behind the table. It would have been so easy for them to build hors d’oeuvre to order, to satisfy folks with dietary restrictions.

If you liked this content, check out these other posts:

 

Events Industry Council – Resources for the events industry related to COVID-19

UPDATED 3/23: We’ve added more resources for small business and the latest info on Executive Orders from Governor Kate Brown and guidance from the CDC. Information changes on an hourly and daily basis, so please pay attention to source information from official government websites.

Governor Brown has issued a “Stay At Home” executive order effective 3/23/2020 immediately until terminated (no known end date at this time).

The CDC and Whitehouse.gov recommends that all event activities with 10 or more people be cancelled for the next 15 days.

Get Your Mass Gatherings and or Large Community Events Ready (Guidance from the CDC)

A resource guide for small business, from Portland Business Journal

Join the Portland Event Industry COVID-19 discussion group on Facebook

—–

As a Certified Meeting Professional designated by the Events Industry Council, I’d like to provide you with access to these resources about the ongoing issues related to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Please follow all WHO and CDC-advised measures for hand washing and sanitation, and stay home if you’re not feeling well. EJP Events staff will be following these guidelines as well. Please keep checking the above links, as information is updated on a regular basis. We hope you find this information helpful and wish you a safe and healthy event.

Revisiting: Tacoma event venues

Stadium High School, Tacoma

We visited Tacoma, Washington in fall of 2018 and afterwards reported on various event venues in the City of Destiny. We passed through the city again earlier this fall and checked out some more unique event spaces. Here are three more Tacoma event venues to check out!

Courthouse Square.

This former federal courthouse in the heart of downtown has a lot going on. There are local businesses, a couple restaurants, office space (both standard and co-working), and a United States Post Office located in this historic structure. There are also three different event spaces: A 2,000 square foot Ballroom (formerly a courtroom), the Gallery, a former post office warehouse room that can accommodate 90-120 attendees, and Suite 430, the former judge’s chambers that can accommodate 20-50 attendees.

Historic 1625 Tacoma Place.

Formerly a truck and car dealership showroom built in the 1940’s, this Tacoma event venue features a total of 6,000 square feet of space. They offer catering via five preferred caterers.

Tacoma Union Station.

Built in 1911, Tacoma Union Station served the city as a train station until 1984. (The current rail stations are about a mile east of here.) Since 1992, this Beaux-Arts beauty has served as a United States Courthouse. Now, the Grand Rotunda is currently available for rental as a Tacoma event venue. This three-floor cavernous space can hold up to 800 in a seated reception, and you can use the caterer of your choice. Plus, the Rotunda is decorated with glass art by famed local artist Dale Chihuly.

*****

Many of these Tacoma event venues are easily accessible via Tacoma Link! This is a light rail train that currently runs 1.6 miles from Tacoma Dome Station (Sounder commuter rail and soon Amtrak) to the Theater District on the north side of downtown. The trains run about every 12-24 minutes, and are free. In 2022, the line will be extended an additional 2.4 miles to the Stadium District and Hilltop neighborhood.

Hope this gives you some ideas for a unique event venue in Tacoma!

Outdoor patio venues for rehearsal dinners and special events

Xport Bar and Lounge, from their website.

It’s winter here in Portland: short, damp days are the norm. But before we know it, summer will be here in full force. There’s nothing more glorious than a nice summer day in the Northwest. Everyone wants to spend time outside, so they head to one of our fine restaurants that have outdoor patio venues.

Are you thinking about having a special event or perhaps a rehearsal dinner using an outdoor patio venue? The time to plan that event is now. Once folks start shedding layers and ditching umbrellas, you can be sure that these special outdoor patio event spaces are already booked up.

Here’s a selection of outdoor patio venues for rehearsal dinners and special events in Portland, Oregon. All of them are unique; many feature great views of the city.

Departure

The view from the west patio of Departure Lounge is dramatic! ©Evrim Icoz Photography

This restaurant sits atop the historic Meier and Frank building next to the Pioneer Courthouse. Meier and Frank was THE Portland downtown department store, but is no longer with us. Much of the old building is taken up by The Nines Hotel. Departure features pan-Asian food and its outdoor patio features one of the most impressive views of the city!

Xport Bar and Lounge

The Xport is another downtown rooftop venue. Located above The Porter Hotel, XPort offers eclectic New American cuisine. The patio features sweeping views of the West Hills and the Cascade Mountains.

The Hairy Lobster

Located in the Pearl District, this seafood restaurant has a patio that is directly across from Jamison Square Park. This shaded outdoor patio can accommodate parties from 70-110 people.

Revolution Hall

This Southeast venue consists of the former Washington High School, a public school that served Portland from 1924 to 1981 and counted Linus Pauling as a student. It now hosts Revolution Hall, one of the city’s premier music venues, plus restaurants (including Martha’s), bars, and private event spaces. The Roof Deck Bar is an outdoor patio venue available for private events from mid-June to mid-September.

Shine Distillery

Shine Distillery’s Patio.

This new distillery is located on vibrant North Williams Avenue. Besides spirits, you’ll find a restaurant and a small patio overlooking the neighborhood. Williams Avenue really comes to life during the summer months, manifested in the scores of cyclists you’ll see bounding up the bike lane!

*****

Hope this list gives you some ideas for outdoor patio venues for rehearsal dinners and special events in Portland, Oregon. And again, we urge you to make your reservations early, and to call us if you need some help planning your event.

Tips and Tricks to Attending Portland Wedding Shows (or any wedding show!)

It’s Portland wedding show season, and I thought I’d share a few tips on how to get the most of your wedding show experience, and how to avoid “wedding show overload.”

Portland Wedding Show and Bridal Show Attendees and Bridal Show Shoppers
Photo: Fritz Liedtke

What’s Happening?

We put together a list of the upcoming Portland wedding shows, just for you! If you’re planning a Tacoma, Seattle, or Skagit Valley wedding; or in any other location, email us for specific information for your area or destination wedding.

Portland Bridal Show | Oregon Convention Center | January 18-19, 2020

Portland Venue Crawl | starts at Rossi Farms and visits 8 total venues | February 1, 2020

Marry Me! Wedding Night Market | Redd East | April 1, 2020

Portland Bridal & Wedding Convention | Portland Expo Center | May 17, 2020

Portland Wedding Showcase | Oregon Convention Center | November 14, 2020

Gear Up!

First things first, make sure to have a good breakfast or lunch before attending the show if it doesn’t have a food function offered. Many times samples of cake or champagne are offered, and all that sugar and alcohol can wreak havoc on an empty stomach.

Bring a water bottle so you stay hydrated while you’re walking around. Air-conditioned, recycled convention center air can dry you out and leave you feeling fatigued.

Finally, make sure to wear comfortable shoes since you might be doing lots of walking or standing.

Be Prepared:

Use your show time efficiently! Make a few sheets of labels with your name, address, email, and wedding date if you want to avoid standing in lines to enter drawings or raffles. At the same time, remember that if you provide personal information, you’ll probably receive mail and email from those vendors. If you provide a wedding date , most vendors will stop contacting you once your date has passed. Or, you can also create a separate email just for wedding-related business, so your personal email doesn’t get clogged up with vendor requests.

Understand the show timeline. Is there a seated food function, or seminars to sign up for? What time should you arrive in order to get a seat for the fashion show? Make sure you take a look at the program offerings; that way you get the most out of your admission fee. Some Portland wedding shows, such as The Portland Venue Crawl,  have scheduled bus or shuttle tours of venues, so you’ll want to make sure you understand what time you should be at the pick-up point so you don’t miss out on a tour.

Make a list of items you still need from your wedding checklist, and target those booths first. Otherwise you could spend precious time wandering the aisles and getting distracted! Also, bring notes or pictures to help your planning along — for example, if you’re looking for jewelry and accessories, bring a picture or swatch of your attire.

If you plan on hitting the gown or attire sales at a Portland wedding show, avoid wearing makeup, as products are bound to smear. You can always stop by one of the beauty vendors for a touch-up once you’re done shopping!

Finally, Enjoy Yourself!

You’ll probably receive lots of brochures and business cards. Try to sort through them as you go through the show, otherwise you could wind up with a heavy bag that just gets recycled.

In the end, be sure to have fun and enjoy yourself! Don’t be overwhelmed by the choices; in the end you’ll be sure to find some great ideas and with the help of your family, friends, and planning team, put together a winning team for your wedding day.

A version of this blog post originally appeared on November 13, 2013.

Venues that Allow Outside Catering { Roundup Update }

couple marrying at an outdoor pavilion Portland Wedding Planning
Matt and Diana wedding at Horning’s Hideout, 2018. Photo courtesy Anthony Gauna Photography

For many couples, the food is THE most important part of the wedding celebration, so they will only consider venues that allow outside catering. I often hear from them: “The food HAS to be good”…”We like the Portland food scene and want to integrate it into our wedding”…”We want to give our guests a taste of Portland and the Pacific Northwest”. Often, they already have a caterer in mind when they start their venue search, and are challenged when they keep running into venues that have strict exclusive lists.

That got me to thinking. What Portland wedding and event venues allow unrestricted outside catering? Here are just a few as of January 2020. Keep in mind that policies do change, so check with the venue first before making any plans or appointments. Know any others? Let us know by sharing in the comments below!

Horning’s Hideout is a great outdoor venue in North Plains, Oregon, only about 45 minutes from downtown Portland. The venue features covered pavilions, a relaxed vibe, and the ability to use any caterer you like.

Read more…

Continue reading “Venues that Allow Outside Catering { Roundup Update }”

Venues and meeting spaces in Berkeley, California

Sather Tower, University of California Berkeley

This past January I was invited by Visit Berkeley to check out various venues in town. The city of Berkeley is on the east side of the San Francisco Bay, across from San Francisco and just north of Oakland. Located in the heart of a region of almost eight million people, with numerous transportation connections to the rest of the US and the world, having a meeting or an event in the Bay Area is never a bad idea. Berkeley has numerous spaces for events small and large. There’s plenty to do in town, and if that isn’t enough, it’s just an easy BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit, their subway/commuter rail system) ride to Oakland and San Francisco.

Here are the places I checked out while in town:

Shattuck Hotel Opened in 1910, this classic hostelry done in the classic Mission Revival Style is located in the heart of the city. They have about 200 sleeping rooms, plus 7,500 square feet of event space, including a ballroom, courtyard, and boardroom.

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Berkeley Marina Located a few miles west of downtown, this facility gives a great view of San Francisco Bay. They have many different meeting spaces that can be combined into different configurations, the largest room is about 5,100 sqare feet.

UC Theatre and Taube Family Music Hall. This historic former cinema was built in 1917 and is located on University Avenue. The 17,500 sq foot theater can host banquet, reception, and theater style events for anywhere from 225 to 1350 people.

Berkeley City Club  Built by famed architect Julia Morgan (Hearst Castle), this establishment initially opened in 1927 as the Berkeley Women’s City Club. This means it’s one of the few (maybe only?) civic club that has always allowed women. This famed institution built in the Moorish and Gothic style has one grand ballroom, the Venetian, which can hold up to 350 people. It also has more meeting rooms, sleeping rooms, and a beautiful indoor pool.

University of California Memorial Stadium. This historic stadium located above the city gives a great view of Berkeley and the campus. The stadium offers numerous different event spaces, such as the Chancellor’s Box, University Club, Stadium Club, and Field Club.

David Brower Center. Honoring former Sierra Club Executive Director, this three-floor building in downtown Berkeley. Besides office and gallery space, the center features conference facilities and a 178-seat theater. The Brower Center’s focus is on hosting low-impact, environmentally conscious events.

Graduate Hotel. Formerly known as the Hotel Durant, this classic hotel off the UC Berkeley Campus offers an impressive view of the city. The six floors of this Spanish Colonial styled building features 144 sleeping rooms. Their California Room can hold up to 70 people. The hotel does weddings as well.

Destination: Astoria, Oregon.

Astoria, Oregon is about a two hour drive from Portland. Located near the mouth of the Columbia River just a few miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, Astoria has a lot of charm and history as it is the first American settlement on the West Coast. Portland folks love going out to Astoria for a day or three, so it’s not hard to convince folks to come out here for an event.

One good event spot is the Hotel Elliott, located downtown. Besides being a great place to stay, the hotel has a 950 square foot conference room. This room is great for small weddings, birthdays, family reunions and other celebrations. It can accommodate up to 75 guests in a theater setting, 75 for receptions, 42 in a banquet set-up and 40 in classroom style.

interior of conference room, Hotel Elliott, Astoria Oregon
Hotel Elliott’s Conference Room, from their website.

Interior of the Commodore Hotel, from their website.

Another good place to stay in Astoria is the lovely Commodore Hotel, an old hostelry that has been converted in the last decade to a boutique hotel. The prices are reasonable, and most importantly, it’s in the heart of downtown. While Astoria is no big city (population 10,000), it does stretch for a few miles west-east along the river. So getting something central would mean being able to just walk to the various attractions quickly and easily. (This is a good thing to think about if you are planning an event here.)

Astoria has a number of good breweries. Buoy Brewing is right on the river. Buoy is also a great spot to have an event. The Taproom can accommodate up to 50 for seated dining, and up to 80 reception style. Plus, you’ll have some great food and beer on hand! (Please note that they do not rent out the space in the summer months.)

{ Photo of Buoy’s event space }

There is also Fort George Brewing, known for their delicious pizza and tasty beer. Fort George consists of three spaces: the main tap room, the pizza restaurant upstairs, and the Lovell Showroom next door. The Lovell hosts private parties and the like, so it’s a good space for your meeting or other event!

The Ruins at the Astor is located in the former Astor Hotel, a former hotel built in 1922. The nine story tower is still the most prominent building in downtown, so you can’t miss it! he Ruins can accommodate up to 200 guests seated, and 400 standing.

The Ruins at the Astor, from their website.

The Loft at the Red Building is perched on the Columbia River just west of the Astoria Bridge, affording great views. This former cannery offers a large space for weddings and events.

Interior of The Loft at the Red Building, from their website.

*****

There’s some other nifty non-event places to check out if you are in town, like the excellent Columbia River Maritime Museum and along the waterfront. And a good spot for breakfast is Street 14 Cafe (located adjacent to the lobby at the Commodore).

If you are looking for a venue for a destination wedding or small meeting, consider Astoria.

Destination: Tacoma

Tacoma skyline, Tacoma Dome in background. Photo: Shawn Granton

Recently we found ourselves in Tacoma, Washington, a city about 2 1/2 hours north of Portland and just south of Seattle. Tacoma has had a reputation in the past of being a place that you skip over on your way to Seattle or Portland. But that perception has been changing over the last decade or so. We spent a day here to check out what’s going on, thoroughly enjoying ourselves while keeping an eye out for meeting spaces.

We decided to spend the night at Hotel Murano, conveniently located in the heart of downtown and adjacent to the Tacoma Link Light Rail which connects downtown to the Tacoma Dome. (Alas, we didn’t have a chance to ride the streetcar on this trip. Next time!) The Murano is a boutique hotel with an impressive view of the city. It’s named after Murano Island off the coast from Venice, Italy, an island considered to be the center of Old World glass art. That name is significant, as Tacoma is now a New World center of glass art, with the nearby Museum of Glass just a few blocks from the hotel. The Hotel Murano features glass art throughout, with a different featured artist on each of its floors.

tacoma-museum-of-glass-events
photo via https://www.museumofglass.org/private-events

Hotel Murano is not just a great place to stay, but it’s a great space to have an event! Their 30,000 square foot flexible use space can host corporate events, executive retreats, association meetings and leadership seminars.

Continue reading “Destination: Tacoma”

Three Questions to ask when booking Event Transportation

This guest post was provided by Party Bus Portland.

portland bike friendly wedding planner
Why not consider a bike friendly wedding? Photo by Taran Nadler

There are so many choices for you to consider when booking transportation for an event. If it’s an event such as a wedding in Portland, making the right decision is all the more important. Here are three questions you can ask potential transportation companies before you make a commitment to booking with them. Following up with these questions will ensure that you’re getting the best transportation possible for your specific needs.

1. Have you been to my chosen destinations?

It is quite important to choose a transportation company who has been to the destination or destinations you’re trying to reach for your event in Portland. We say this because if they have never been to these places before, they could have to take extra time trying to figure out where to park or drop you off. After all, you are paying for a time slot when it comes to limousine and party bus rentals, so every minute counts! Not to mention, if you’re planning an event such as a wedding, this could easily have a negative effect on the efficiency and timeliness of your wedding where you’re paying multiple vendors per hour.

2. Can I come view the vehicle in person?

Don’t get fooled by shady companies! Your best bet is to view the vehicle you’re interested in at the garage it’s being stored at. If you don’t you’ll never know what is going to show up to your pick up location. The pictures on their website could differ a lot from the reality of their selection. When you view a vehicle in person, you get a better idea of how the company provides customer service and the cleanliness of their vehicles, which is extremely important.

3. Is your advertised price all inclusive?

The last thing you want to deal with is extra costs that you weren’t expecting. So, be as clear as possible in the booking process, and ask about the all inclusive price. If you aren’t getting a clear answer, request to see a copy of their contract. That should provide all of the details of potential charges as it relates to your transportation. There you have three questions that are sure to be helpful as you try to navigate booking the best mode of transportation for your event in Portland!

For more information on event transportation, head over and visit our friends at Party Bus Portland.

{ Portland Wedding Venues } Planner’s Roundup – Five sites that allow outside catering

For many couples, the food is THE most important part of the wedding celebration. I often hear from them: “The food HAS to be good”…”We like the Portland food scene and want to integrate it into our wedding”…”We want to give our guests a taste of Portland and the Pacific Northwest”. Often, they already have a caterer in mind when they start their venue search, and are challenged when they keep running into venues that have strict exclusive lists.

That got me to thinking. What Portland wedding and event venues allow unrestricted outside catering? Here are just a few as of September 2018. Keep in mind that policies do change, so check with the venue first before making any plans or appointments. Know any others? Let us know via sharing in the comments below!

Horning’s Hideout is a great outdoor venue in North Plains, Oregon, only about 45 minutes from downtown Portland. The venue features covered pavilions, a relaxed vibe, and the ability to use any caterer you like.

Photos courtesy Anthony Gauna Photography

 

Continue reading “{ Portland Wedding Venues } Planner’s Roundup – Five sites that allow outside catering”

Anatomy of a Business Event – Through the Eyes of A Guest

photo: MaxPixel

I’m an event planner, but often I’m also an event guest. I wanted to share a recent experience I had with you, as a sort of case study, and would love to get your feedback.

I received an invitation to come to a sales event for a brand of event software. This event promised lunch and networking. It seemed like a great idea: Check out a possibly helpful software tool, have lunch, and meet other event and meeting planners. To top it off, the event was being held in a popular downtown venue. Sounds great! I signed up online for both myself and my event manager, and put the event in my calendar.

Continue reading “Anatomy of a Business Event – Through the Eyes of A Guest”

5 ways small businesses can test the event sponsorship waters

A silent auction setup for a school auction at the Portland State University Smith Memorial Ballroom.

The investment into event sponsorship can be very rewarding for an organization, but it can also feel risky. While sponsoring an event can be a valuable way for a business or an organization to connect with a community or interest group, for small businesses, the dollar amounts involved can be daunting. Does that mean that there’s no room for small businesses to take part? Absolutely not – here are some ways small businesses can “test the sponsorship waters” before launching into larger (higher dollar amount) sponsorships of events:

  • Donation of gift cards to silent auctions
  • Participate in more intimate, smaller-audience events
  • Buy a table and invite business colleagues to dine out for a cause
  • Sponsor a teacher or attendee scholarship so an under-served population can attend an event
  • In-kind sponsorship: Providing the business’s service or product for use at the event
  • Offer volunteer perks/meals/lounge areas to support the volunteers of an event
It’s always important for the business to be clear about the goals and objectives of sponsoring an event and to make sure they are SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Equally important is to have a written sponsorship agreement that outlines the responsibilities of each party and the benefits the sponsor will receive.
By being clear about the objectives, and measuring the results of a small, trial-run sponsorship, even small businesses can see benefits; and eventually, hopefully realize gains that previously they only thought large organizations could achieve.

Thoughts on creating community within a large, international alumni association

I had the opportunity last fall to attend the Association of Yale Alumni’s annual Assembly* in New Haven, CT.

As an alumna and an AYA volunteer, and especially as a meeting planner and association manager (I do event planning and contract association management for a couple of regional associations in the Pacific Northwest); it was an exciting opportunity to see the inner workings of a large, international, global association encompassing more than 160,000 members around the world.

The theme for the event was “Creating Community at Yale” and attendees came from all eras, from The Silent Generation to the newest “Gen Z”ers from Yale’s graduating class of 2017.

The entire 3-day conference was packed so full of activities, I hardly had any time to document, but I did put together this short slideshow to give you a glimpse of what attending the AYA Assembly is like:

AYA Assembly 2017
Click for Flickr Slideshow


And how do you create community in such a massive organization, spanning so many age groups, interest groups, and regions? Certainly the answer can’t be contained in a short blog post, but I’ll try to cover a few points that I saw being discussed at Assembly:

  • Recognize Shared Interest Groups (SIGs) and give them a voice at the Assembly
  • Survey the membership for their preferences in what the AYA should be delivering to them; report on the results of the survey, and allow it to inform decisions moving forward
  • Acknowledge the need for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; and create a Task Force to study the issues and challenges of D/E/I at Yale and in the AYA

It was a great experience for a first timer to see the massive operation that is the AYA. I’m hoping I can take a lot of what I learned that week back to the other associations that I help to manage and coordinate conferences for, and see if any of these ideas about creating community also apply to other organizations.

*(For the Yalies out there, I was officially an alternate delegate from the class of 1995, and unofficially representing the Yale Club of Oregon and SW Washington in order to accept the “Outstanding Mid-Size Cities Award“.)

What is GX? – Guest Experience

You can’t swing a cat (god forbid! we don’t actually swing cats!) in Portland without knocking over a UX (User Experience) engineer or designer. There are entire conferences dedicated to thinking about the online user experience. People are super concerned about UX, and discussions of UX are everywhere.

Bride and Groom at the dinner buffet reception
photo by FritzPhoto

But what about the offline experience, when you are in the face-to-face? I call this GX, or the Guest Experience, and I think about it all the time as it relates to events.

It’s so easy to forget about GX as we are planning our events and I wanted to put the terminology out there and make it as well-known, cared-about, and prominent as UX. After all, if you have a great online experience, but then get to an event in-person and have a bad experience, the best online design in the world can’t help.

Here are four elements that cause event creators (CEOs, wedding couples, trade show organizers, etc.) to overlook GX. I’ll use a scenario of  “the client says they don’t want chairs at a wedding ceremony” as a common example of forgotten GX.

1. Personality type. For example, a “Free Spirit” personality may think it’s fun to do a standing ceremony without chairs in a forest clearing.

2. Budget – A client may think it would save money not to rent chairs for the ceremony.

3. Haven’t reviewed the logistics. A client may think chairs are not needed, since the ceremony timing seems short.

4. Making assumptions based on a narrow experience (“I’ve never needed to sit down at a wedding, so I don’t think we need chairs”).

But you as the event planner know that there are a lot of issues with foregoing chairs at a wedding ceremony (or any event requiring an audience to be at long focused, formal attention). Here are five complementary ways we as planners and coordinators, or employees tasked with helping with an event, can step in and bring the focus back on GX:

1. Appeal to the event creator’s personality type. Again, sticking with our example scenario, if they are a “Free Spirit” type, for example (see this link for some examples of negotiating with personality types), then appeal to their sense of creativity by showing all the things people can enjoy in the wedding venue when they aren’t fatigued from standing during the ceremony. Offer creative solutions, such as hay bales or picnic blankets, that allow them to express their creative streak while still solving GX issues.

2. Show budget data and analysis. Going back to our scenario example, I would show that certain items as a percentage of budget have a disproportionate effect on GX and guest happiness. So while yes, you can cut the budget by not having chairs at the wedding; if the chairs are $2.75 each and there are 100 of them; and the total cost of the wedding is $25K (this is actually on the lower end for designed weddings in the Portland area), the small percentage of budget (1.1%) being spent on chairs will have a relatively large positive effect on GX; while getting rid of them will have a large negative effect on GX while not having a very big effect on reducing the budget.

3. Review the logistics with them. While a wedding ceremony as written can seem short, only 10-15 minutes, remember that guests usually arrive 30 or even 45 minutes before a ceremony, especially if there are out-of-towners visiting who aren’t familiar with the area. Then it takes a few minutes to get everyone in place for the wedding and send people down the aisle. There are usually a few minutes at the end for the recessional and perhaps a receiving line as well. All in all, that “short fifteen minute ceremony” usually winds up being about 30 minutes long and 30 minutes of pre-ceremony waiting. Does the client really want their guests to be standing for a whole hour?

4. Educate, educate, educate. As the event organizer or planner, it’s your responsibility to educate the event owner so they can have good GX. Again, going to our example one last time, you could educate them about possible movement, accessibility, or ability issues that guests could face. Older guests may require a place to be seated. If it’s a corporate event, you could remind about the Americans with Disabilities Act and making sure you provide accessibility and accommodations for different abilities. Once you start providing seating for older guests, it becomes awkward for those who don’t have a seat. Overall, it may be best to provide seating for everyone, and hopefully you can convince the event owner.

This is just one breakdown of the GX process as seen through the eyes of an event planner. I hope it illuminates a little about GX, guest experience, and how we plan events.

On the Move! Our wedding and event blogs are NOW ONE!

portland bike friendly wedding planner
photo: Taran Nadler

We finally finished a major move here at EJP Events: the 2 blogs we have written since 2007 (!!!), one of which was hosted on Typepad (Portland Wedding Coordinator), the other which was hosted on Blogger (Portland Event Planner) have now been merged. You’ll now see new event planning and wedding content all in one place at https://ejpevents.com/portland-event-planning-blog/.

Couples getting married can check out the Wedding Planning and related categories, while #eventprofs in the event business can get an earful in the Event Planning categories. I’m looking forward to adding a category covering Guest Experience (GX) as well. Excited about the blog refresh and connecting here with you!