What to do if your event is affected by COVID-19 regulations

what to do if covid-19 affects your event

What to do if your event is affected by COVID-19 is on all our minds. This is a rapidly developing situation. For the most up-to-date information, check resources like the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) regularly. This post will be updated as new information becomes available.

It has never been easy to plan an event, but to do so during the pandemic era of COVID-19 comes with unprecedented difficulty. As of today, April 14th 2020, all 50 states of the U.S. and many parts of the world are under some form of Stay at Home order. Here in EJP Events’s home base of Portland, Oregon, we’re beginning Week 5 of social distancing and “Stay Home/Save Lives“. Travel, both locally and internationally, is severely curtailed if not outright banned. Our hearts go out to the many people affected: whether due to COVID-19-related illness, or to business and financial effects.

Most events for April, May, and June have already been rescheduled or cancelled. Event planners are taking cues from major world and regional gatherings and festivals such as the Olympics, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Coachella, etc. which have all cancelled or postponed.

What does this mean for a couple planning a wedding, or an association planning a conference in late summer through end of 2020? First things first: please take care of yourself and your family, friends and coworkers. Do what is safe and healthy. The science tells us: COVID-19 is extremely contagious, can possibly be carried while asymptomatic for up to 14 days, and is potentially life-threatening for many. So follow your local health authority guidelines and right now: stay home and stay safe. Take care of your mental health too. The emotions around planning an event can be overwhelming enough without a global pandemic. It’s important to acknowledge the many feelings that can arise and be kind to yourself and others involved in this situation. Check out these resources from the CDC on coping.

OK, so thankfully you’re safe and healthy at home, but you have an event on the future horizon. Now what? While no one has a crystal ball, here are some thought processes we recommend as you plan what to do if your event is affected by COVID-19 and your event date approaches:

We agree with, and really love this chart made by the folks over at Filosophi Events in Vancouver BC. In general, you should have a Plan B for any event occurring in 2020; and you should set a “go/no-go” date on which you decide whether or not to invoke your Plan B. For most people, this “go/no-go” date will be about 60 days or 2 months before the event.

In order to create your Plan B, you’ll need to communicate with your venue and vendors about what options you have, find alternate dates, and find out if everyone is available on the possible alternate date. This is also a good time to review your contracts, especially any clauses about Impossibility or Force Majeure. Ideally, your contract should cover you in the event it becomes “illegal or impossible” to hold your event. There should be a way to seek relief from this impossibility (such as a reschedule) through this clause in your contract. Please contact your legal advisor or attorney for further advice on this.

Canceling outright (termination of contract) should be a last resort, as typically it will incur the most financial loss. A recent survey showed that 96% of couples are not canceling their weddings. It’s better to postpone than cancel. Should any of your event partners, whether vendor or venue, not be available for your Plan B, you’ll need to work out how to release them from their contract with you, and what, if any, financial repercussions there will be.

If your event is not a wedding, but a corporate event or conference, however, you may need to set your go/no-go date earlier than 60 days, since it’s not just the actual event itself that is affected, but your business partners’ ability to plan for and market the event as well. For example, if you aren’t able to sell trade show booths or registrations because your business partners aren’t sure if your event will even be allowed, it becomes impossible and commercially impracticable to hold your event, which may trigger a need to postpone.

Ultimately, the most important things are for you and your attendees to be safe; and for the purpose and spirit of your event to be upheld. Love is not canceled. Education is not canceled. With these things in mind, and with the positivity and teamwork of your vendor team, a solution will be found.

If you are looking for assistance with this process of what to do if your event is affected by COVID-19, please contact us. We’re currently offering complimentary phone and online consultations to assist any new and existing clients with COVID-19 questions. We are here to help. 

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

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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.

Tacoma Union Station

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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

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!

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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.

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 }”

Unique event destinations in Seattle

We recently visited our sister city to the north, Seattle. The Emerald City is brimming with standard venues for meetings and weddings. But what if you want something a bit more creative, a bit more unique? Here are a few ideas for unique event destinations in Seattle!

The Steamer Virginia V. 

This steamship is the last operational example of a Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet steamer. The Virginia V once plied the waters between Seattle and Tacoma. Now it is docked on the shore of Lake Union, where it acts as a living museum. Not just a curiosity, The Virginia V is an active venue, available for weddings, holiday parties, office events, birthdays, anniversaries, and more! Imagine, having a meeting or a wedding while on the water.

Fremont Foundry.

This location in Seattle’s original “funky” neighborhood was once an artist space. (The famous Jimi Hendrix and infamous Lenin statues were sculpted or constructed here!) The Fremont Foundry features 11,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space across two floors, plus a sky-lit atrium with a 20-ft ceiling! Weddings, private parties, corporate events…the Foundry does a bit of everything.

Fremont Foundry, from their website.

Smith Tower.

Seattle’s first skyscraper, and holder of the Tallest Building West of the Mississippi from its opening in 1914 until 1931, this 38 story, 484 ft neoclassical tower rises above Pioneer Square. This historic building hosts two event spaces: The Observatory, a speakeasy style lounge at the 35th floor that can hold up to 80. (This bar is usually open to the general public, and features an outdoor viewing deck.) Located on the 21st floor, the Lookout features indoor and outdoor space that can also hold up to 80. Smith Tower provides catering service for both venues.

Hopefully this gives you some good ideas for unique event destinations in Seattle. This post is just the tip of the iceberg! And if you are looking for some off season wedding locations in the Seattle area, be sure to check out our blog post here.

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.

A meeting near a National Park

Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel.

It’s almost a default to have a business meeting in an urban area–there are transportation connections, a great deal of venues, and plenty of amenities. But what if you are looking for something a little different? Something that features a backdrop of scenic splendor and natural wonders? How about a meeting near a national park?

Here in the West you’ll find a great selection of National Parks. Here’s a few options for holding a meeting near one of them!

Glacier National Park

The crown jewel of the northern Rockies, Montana’s Glacier lies on the Canadian border. Daily service on Amtrak’s Empire Builder makes getting there easier than you think. Just on the south edge of the park, the Izaak Walton Inn features rustic charm and plenty of space for a meeting. Cell reception is non-existent and WiFi is only available in select locations. This makes this 1930’s era hotel is a great place to have a meeting without distractions. (Though you may be distracted by that scenery!)

Lake Quinault Lodge. Photo by flickr user Maurice King.

Olympic National Park

A land of craggy mountains, lush rainforests, and primordial beaches, Olympic is only a couple hours from Seattle. Located just southwest of the park in the adjoining Olympic National Forest, Lake Quinault Lodge has rustic charm galore. This lodge was built in 1926 on the shores of the lake. You’ll find many a hiking trail nearby, a short one will lead you to the world’s largest Sitka Spruce. There are 91 guest rooms and the Quillayute Ballroom holds 80.

Banff National Park

Canada’s most popular national park is located in the Rocky Mountains at the Alberta/British Columbia border. The mountains themselves are awe-inspiring and the wildlife is plentiful (you may lose count of the amount of elk, mountain goats, and bears that you’ll see). The Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel is within the park itself. Located about 90 minutes west of Calgary, Banff Springs is a grand resort built in the early 20th century by Canadian Pacific Railway. With over 700 guestrooms and more than 76,000 square feet of meeting space, this old-world inspired hotel would be a great spot for a unique event!

Grand Teton National Park

This mountainous park in northwest Wyoming is just ten miles south of Yellowstone. Hotel Terra Jackson Hole is just a mile outside of Grand Teton itself. This resort features 5,000 square feet of meeting space plus an onsite spa and private luxury residences.

 

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.

10 Tips for Developing ‘Sustainable’ Destinations

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