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.

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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: Bend, Oregon for Events and Weddings

Smith Rock - Central Oregon Events
Smith Rock

We recently took a trip to Bend, the outdoors-loving metropolis of Central Oregon. Bend is part of a class of Western Mountain Towns like Park City or Telluride, where urbanites go to get away or move permanently so they can mountain bike, ski, or just be “away” all the time. In Central Oregon, it’s drier, sunnier, and colder than Portland in the winter, so many people come to enjoy the sun and/or winter activities.

Over the few days we were in Bend, we came across several spots that would be good for hosting an event. If you’re having a smaller event, Bend is chock-a-block with brewpubs. Cascade Lakes features a second floor that’s good for parties. Deschutes Brewery has spaces at both their locations: The Mountain Room at their larger brewing facility and the upstairs Tap Room at their classic downtown pub. Worthy Brewing’s eastside location features several room options, plus an actual observatory with 16 inch reflecting telescope for stargazing!

The Tap Room at Deschutes’ Bond Street location

The Tap Room at Deschutes’ Bond Street location

As for weddings, there are many good outdoor event venues in Bend and the surrounding area. Black Butte Ranch offers stunning surroundings, full services, and discounts for winter weddings. Elk Lake Resort offers glamping and deluxe cabins as lodging options. Faith, Hope, and Charity Vineyards offers an event center with a mountainscape backdrop of Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top, and The Three Sisters.

Outdoor wedding space at Faith, Hope, and Charity Vineyards

This is just a small selection of options. Hopefully this information gives you some inspiration when it comes to having an event in Central Oregon!

Tips and Tricks: Accessibility

Medicalcongress93 courtesy Clara Natoli, http://claranatoli.blogspot.com/ clarita1000@gmail.comIs accessibility on your site selection checklist?  It’s not always something that you as the couple may be thinking about.  Often, high on the site “gotta haves” are things like a gorgeous view, good chairs, and a good selection of caterers.

However, with so many people of varied ages and needs in most families, some thought should be given to the accessibility of your wedding event sites.  And that’s not just limited to the ceremony and reception — think also of your rehearsal dinner, bridal luncheon, goodbye brunch, or any other events to which you might have guests attending with accessibility needs.

The most common issues are older folks — think Grandma and Grandpa, your Auntie coming from abroad; anyone who might have trouble with a flight of stairs, a steep stone path, or uneven walkways.  Think about any of your family or guests who have recently had surgery or medical treatment which might make walking or longer distances between sites a potential challenge.

Putting a little bit of forethought into the accessibility of your chosen site can help a great deal in making sure all of your guests, including those with physical challenges, feel welcome and comfortable at your wedding.

A version of this article appeared on the blog in June 2008.

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.

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10 Tips for Developing ‘Sustainable’ Destinations

10 Tips for Developing ‘Sustainable’ Destinations http://buff.ly/2rw736E http://buff.ly/2rwqMTQ via @special_events

Part of our regular The Daily Reblog series, where we share our favorite content with you from trusted partners.

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Things That Annoy Your Attendees During Online Event Registration

gif via Popkey

I just saw a tweet about a really interesting conference coming up on the East Coast. Relevant speakers, education credits, a great registration fee, a compelling location. However, I’m stuck, just stuck, right in the middle of the registration process, trying to find out more. My pain is your gain, however, as I walk you through the things that are completely annoying me about this event registration page.

1. When is it?

The date is in 9-pt type in a light grey, against white background. I’m squinting. Come on guys, your target audience is meeting professionals and many of us are over 40 and starting to lose our eyesight. PLEASE MAKE THE DATE BIG, and put it first so we even know whether or not we can attend.

2. No link to hotel information

The hotel looks really nice! There is a huge embedded Google map showing the location. However there is no reference to a group rate for the conference, nor a link to the hotel, nor a group code. Nothing. I can’t fly across the country to your event and not knowing if I can stay at the convention hotel. PLEASE MAKE THE LINK TO THE HQ HOTEL BIG. And clickable.

3. Sponsors are listed, but no links to their websites

Look at all these sponsors! Some of the top players in my industry. But if I put my finger on the logo (yes, I’m on mobile, just like 73% of the world’s population) nothing happens. What? The logo should take me to more information about this great company, so I can learn about what they do and offer. You’re not giving your sponsors full value, and you’re doing a disservice to attendees, if you don’t link out to their information.

Please, for the love of your attendees, and so you don’t lose us during this process, take care of the basics! (Note: I did not end up registering for the conference. Oh well.)