It's time to tackle 2016, with a little help from planners and vendors from around Texas. The following pages feature tips, tricks and hot trends that should be on your radar for the coming year. From catering tips and the latest trends in floral design to new tools you can start using today, you’ll find plenty of wisdom, inspiration and useful advice to take your events to the next level.
Lauren Klipfel, event coordinator at Clay Pigeon Food and Drink in Fort Worth, shares these tips for planning a dinner or cocktail reception:
1. Provide at least three to five bites per guest for an hour-long cocktail reception; 10 to 12 for a meal. Determining how many hors d’oeuvres to order can be a tricky equation. Klipfel recommends two to three types of hors d’oeuvres, minimum, to accommodate your guests (the more varieties the better). If you are serving a full meal, three to five appetizers will pique your guests’ appetite.
2. Provide a drink upon arrival. Providing a glass of wine or champagne upon arrival jumpstarts your event, allows conversations to begin and prevents immediate bar backup. Even a water or soft drink will refresh your guests from the start.
3. Don’t put more than six people at a table for a social event. Six guests is an ideal number to foster conversation and create a good flow to the space, Klipfel says. Smaller tables will help the room feel more intimate and less like a large ballroom.
4. Make the table inviting. Place cards and personalized menus are great and easy. Adding a pop of color is also something that can warm up a table from the white of the place settings. Bringing in items such as plants and herbs makes it easy to add color and bring a little life to the table.
How do you make your event meaningful? Natalie Kennedy, founder and owner, and Marisa Negri, digital marketing manager and event designer, of Kennedy Creative Events in Austin, share some examples from their recent events:
5. For brands, ensure the event is part of a larger whole. Always think, “How do we get guests to interact with the brand?” Negri advises. Think of the event as part of a 365-day integrated marketing campaign. Ask these questions: “Is everything cohesive? Is your branding on point? Are you encouraging guests to truly experience the brand? What emotional connection will guests feel toward your brand before, during and after the event?”
6. Think outside the box for team-building activities. Some ideas from Kennedy: Complete an exciting obstacle or outdoor challenge course. Have a chili cook-off or trivia contest. Plan a restoration day to participate in city clean-up. Coordinate a GPS Scavenger Hunt.
7. Incorporate activities that promote corporate responsibility. A fun way to engage guests is to incorporate a community service activity, like stuffing backpacks with donated school supplies. You can also hire vendors who give a portion of their profit to charity. For teambuilding, guests can build something like a bicycle or wheelchair that can be donated. You can also incorporate corporate responsibility in how you build. If you create a custom wall for an event, donate the frame to Habitat for Humanity, says Negri.
8. Create an experience; don’t just plan an event. 2016 will be all about creating experiences for your guests, according to Kennedy. At the recent grand opening of the Westin Austin Downtown Hotel, Kennedy activated each room of the hotel to show off the guest rooms, gym, rooftop pool terrace, meeting rooms, restaurant and lobby area. Guests were treated to trick roping lessons, two stepping, armadillo races and treadmill dancers, just to name a few.
9. Make a social media strategy a key part of your planning. Think of your social media presence before, during and after your event. Include a hashtag for your event that is short, sweet and catchy. Determine your event’s Instagrammable moments. Create photo ops and ways for your guests to interact with the entertainment, and encourage guests to post to social media, says Negri.
Steve Kemble, a Dallasbased meeting and event planner who has thrown events for clients like President Barack Obama and the Dallas Cowboys, forecasts these trends for the coming year:
10. Find balance in your life. “You will not achieve your goals if your life is all work,” says Kemble. “Make time—and a great portion of it—for your family, pets, friends and more! You will be amazed how this balance will make you even more successful in the workplace.”
11. Relationships between planners and clients will develop more like partnerships through the planning process.
12. Planners will need to put more emphasis on brand development rather than on theme development.
13. Lead times will become shorter.
14. Use Beatthetraffic.com. “Discover the best way to ensure your attendees arrive on time via their motor coach,” Kemble says.
15. Nourish yourself. Test out recipes from Eastside Café’s two cookbooks: Fresh & New and Soup Yourself. Both have been recently reprinted and released as limited editions. Each contain more than 50 recipes, including Eastside favorites, soup, stews and stocks and seasonal dishes. The cookbooks are $12.95 each and can be purchased online or in the restaurant, Kemble says.
16. Use Guidebook.com and Crowdcompass.com. Kemble recommends these for creating an app for your event, meeting or conference. “I love that you can have multiple editors and can customize icons and colors (on Guidebook),” Kemble says. Crowdcompass.com also allows multiple editors and functions offline.
17. Embrace the bling. Clients love the drama of rhinestones and crystals to make their events feel more glamorous. To up the bling factor, Walker adds rhinestone bandings to vases. Rhinestones floating in a cylinder vase also creates a pretty effect.
18. Be detailed and thorough when communicating with your venue. “It’s always good to ask (the venue) if there is anything you should be aware of or haven’t thought of,” says Baxter. “The contact at the venue will have taken care of many different types of events and may have a great perspective for you.” Baxter also recommends embracing social media. “Planning and communicating on social media has grown from a trend to a necessity in our busy world.”
19. Make your décor warm and welcoming. “Putting your guests or clients at ease is very important,” Baxter says. “Personal touches are always appreciated, whether it is a small, handwritten note, name tag or takeaway gift for the attendant to remember the occasion.”
20. Use bold colors. Purples, magentas and pinks will be big in 2016, Walker says. “I have a client who normally does white, but for a recent corporate event, she wanted to go more bold with vibrant blues and yellows,” Walker says. “It lets event planners be more creative and step out of the box more.”
21. Let your client’s crazy ideas inspire you to create something unique. With your expertise and finesse, even the crazy ideas can turn into a cool experience. “I love to take (my client’s) idea and turn it into a masterpiece,” says Walker. “Some of my customers will give me an idea, and then we’ll revamp it into something else that’s off the wall. I see if the client has any ideas that can be taken to
22. Pick the right venue. It’s important to be in the right space, Walker says. Really listen to your customer and what their needs and goals are. Don’t just rely on your old favorites. “It’s really about the space and the venue,” Walker says. “I have favorite places where I like to do parties out of, but it’s up to the customer in terms of what setting they want.”
23. Local, fresh, fun and unique are your 2016 food and beverage buzzwords. Baxter forecasts assorted fresh canapes, wasabi ahi tuna tartar and red and golden beet salad will be trendy crowd-pleasers.
Rachel Linder, an Austin-area senior conference and events manager for Attendee Management Inc., offers four tips for priority planning to improve time management and efficiency:
24. Prioritize positive anxiety. Constantly ask yourself: “What is on my ‘to do’ list?” “What do I need to do right now?” “What can I do in advance?”
25. Delegate when it’s beneficial. Have you considered whether contracting another vendor could improve efficiency? For example, contracting with a registration specialist may improve the registration experience. Hiring a company to manage an event-related microsite could allow you to devote time to other important matters.
26. Practice accountability. Make sure you are keeping your promises. Do what you say, when you say you will do it. Set the example for others to be more accountable to you.
27. Appoint a back-up event coordinator. You never know what life can throw your way. If you are out of commission, could someone else run your event tomorrow? Designate a back-up, and track planning details in a way that makes sense to others. Keep your co-workers in the loop.
Chef Roe DiLeo, who recently opened Henry’s Majestic restaurant in Dallas, forecasts these 2016 catering trends:
28. Don’t forget to trust the chef. We’re looking at you—our lovely type-A, controlloving friends. “We are professionals in what we do, from planning the menu to executing great service,” DiLeo says. “Trust that we will handle all of the details for your event. Many times planners stress themselves by not putting their event in very capable hands.”
29. Serve family style. How your food is served can change the atmosphere of a meal. Having your guests pass food around the table is an instant icebreaker. “Instead of individual plates, I like to serve large platters at meetings that encourage community and sharing and passing food,” DiLeo says. Her favorite shared item is the Honey Sambal Chicken, which is “our high-end interpretation of chicken wings.”
30. So long, happy hour, hello meet and greet. DiLeo says she sees stuffy happy hours trailing off in 2016. Instead, meet-and-greet-type events with craft cocktails will be more popular