Updated: Mar 21, 2019
A large part of being a event consultant is understanding a client's priorities and sense of value. Everyone sees the world in a different way and we all value relationships, experiences and materials differently. When planning an event, you really have to figure out what your priorities and values are for the event. What's the goal? Some clients are really concerned about how everything looks and if their wedding looks like a wedding blog. Some people are party animals and their top priority is having the best band and keeping everyone dancing the whole time... and having a flowing bar. Some clients are most concerned with the comfort and inclusion of all their guests. From these discussions, I am able to better prioritize their event and know where they find the most value.
What a client values should be every event planner's top priority, but lately I've been breaking down the event planning process to be fairly simplistic to remind clients that more is not always better. Many people have been getting lost in the nuances of event planning. We have blogs, TV programs, books and many opinions of friends on how we all can be a better party host. The truth is that most event attendees do not notice things at events that are often the priority of the party host. Hours are spent laboring over decisions and minutia, when really what people notice is really simple.
3 Things Make a Party
1. Food and Beverage
Once you gather a group of people together, add some food and/or beverages, provide some entertainment and place it in a suitable environment, you have a party. It's a very simple thing, but it is done wrong so often. You ask, "If it's so simple, how are people screwing it up?" Simple - people aren't doing these three things just well enough to be accommodating and balanced with each other.
Food and Beverage
I always say, "No one remembers what they ate at a party unless it was BAD, COLD or LATE". The most amazing food quality does not make a party great, just like it doesn't make a restaurant experience great. The goal is not just one area of the food and beverage, it's really about if it was well served, meaning … it tasted agreeable, was provided in a proper way and was on time with the needs of the guest. I'm not saying that I don't need amazing food at my events. I absolutely require the best and if you know me, you know my obsessions with fine dining, but it's not necessary to have a great event. When you are thinking about a grand event or a small house party, think about these three things (agreeable taste, proper presentation and timeliness) and you are set for your food and beverage.
With our culture of smart phones and short attention spans, it doesn't surprise me that clients come to me and say that they want more for entertainment. Lots of fun stuff is GREAT, but you don't have to do a lot to create impact with entertainment. I believe that people are entertained most by each other. A dinner party can have a nice meal at a pretty table and the conversation can be the entertainment. A band that keeps guests visually entertained and on the dance floor is great entertainment. A football game and conversation for your next Super Bowl party is plenty of entertainment. Trust me, I love all the extra activities at a bar/bat mitzvah and I think that photo booths have become a standard of weddings... but you don't need it. When planning your next shindig, just think about what entertainment best serves the crowd you have and give them that. It will be great!
I feel that Environment is one of the most misunderstood elements of events. When I start planning an event for my client, I look at many different variables to decide on the environment. Where you hold a party is probably the most important element and affects people the most. If you and all your friends live in Chicago and you plan a party in Las Vegas, there's a lot to absorb before they can even attend the party. Also, if you want a rustic and industrial styled wedding, you shouldn't book the The Drake Hotel. It wouldn't make sense.
Environment is also affected by the event décor greatly. I too often hear people dismiss the event décor as less necessary than the other two elements and I have to disagree. Parties are experiences and experiences make people have emotional reactions. If you don't focus on the environment and how that space makes them feel, then they will dismiss the situation or possibly feel negatively. Nothing is worse than showing up to an event with expectations and being disappointed. This does not mean that anyone has to be over the top in decorating or selecting venues, but providing a well suited environment and decorating it appropriately, is just as important as the food and beverage and entertainment for winning over the guests and ensuring a great party.