Posts tagged events

But it’s not my fault!


I want to be an event planner. I am not a masochist. But, sometimes I fear the two go hand in hand. The exciting thing, to me, about events is how everything comes together in time and space to create this incredible, real, touchpoint experience for everyone involved. There is interaction. There is community. There is life. Sometimes, there are pretty things to look at and yummy things to eat. Every sense can be engaged.

The terrifying thing about events is everything I just said. There is less control and no edits. There are the confines of time and distance. What’s done is done, and if it’s not done well, there is no backspace key or reset button. If something goes wrong, will it be my head on the chopping block?

This is one reason why I’ve been drawn to corporate and nonprofit events versus weddings. Don’t get me wrong, weddings are fun! I’d like to keep it that way. I’ll plan my own and help my friends. But event planning is a demanding profession, and the personal emotions (for better or worse) tied up in the Happiest Day of Your Life are just the icing on the towering cake of pressure put on event planners to ensure that everything runs smoothly, on-budget, and successfully. If I make a mistake in an event, I’d prefer not to think I’ve ruined somebody’s lifelong dream.

Event Planner Christy Bareijsza wrote in her blog, The Red Carpet Events, about the responsibilities of event planners in her recent post “Where Do You Draw The Line?” She says that “if it rains the day of your event…chances are, it’s your fault.”


Bareijsza explains that, as a strategic planner, you should always have multiple backup plans and be constantly prepared to roll up your sleeves and do the dirty work to keep your client satisfied.

I think what she’s saying is that rather than admitting defeat or pointing fingers, the best thing an event planner can do for a client is to be accountable, which means not just taking responsibility for mishaps but, more importantly, generating positive solutions. In my experience, hardly anything ever goes perfectly according to plan. I think clients understand that. But being a good planner doesn’t mean planning it all and then going on autopilot. Instead, it means developing flexible strategies, supervising their implementation, and improvising as necessary to ensure that end goals are met.

Personally, I’d like to think that I will never make a mistake and everything I touch will turn to solid gold for my clients. In reality, that’s impossible. Mishaps will occur and I will get blamed, whether or not it’s really my fault. This, I must accept. But the difference between pleasure and pain will be how successfully I can anticipate, prevent, mitigate, and repair the damage. Then I can proudly accept responsibility for the outcome, rain or shine.

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Design boards

Snippet & Ink is a blog providing “daily wedding inspiration” but I think that many of the ideas could be translated to special events in general. I dig these beautiful design boards that Kathryn puts together, complete with mood and color palette.

  I need to learn how to make these – it really is artful the way everything goes together. They remind me of my (very modest by comparison) brand book that I put together last term as for the re-branding of Arm & Hammer (a class assignment; see it on my portfolio page). They both attempt to convey a unique brand, flavor, or identity through the engagement of multiple senses (smells, tastes, colors, etc.), whether it’s a newly-married couple or laundry detergent. A wedding is perhaps one of the most emotional and personal events, but I think that through strategic branding and defined goals to build relationships, even a seemingly blah organization can put on a personal, memorable event. Images courtesy of Snippet & Ink 

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I can’t escape my thesis any longer


Alright, I admit it. I’ve been stalling on my thesis for the Honors College here at the U of O. I’ve spent the last 4 years dreading it and doing quite well at putting it off. But the time has come and I am finding myself piled elbow-deep in stacks of books and papers. That doesn’t mean, of course, that I have discontinued my long-cultivated habit of procrastination. In fact, I have found this blog to be an excellent way for me to simultaneously avoid working on my thesis and still feel as though I’m being very productive. It’s like I work for the Ministry of Silly Walks – I’m expending a lot of energy, but I’m not really getting where I need to go.

In case you’re curious, my thesis topic is still somewhat smushy in my mind, but pretty much it has to do with relationship management, nonprofit fund-raising, and the use of special events as a method of cultivating young professional donors. I think it’s cool.

If all good things come to an end, then my time of blissful dalliance seems to be up. I’m making a promise – I’m going to get my rear in gear. Please, for my sake, hold me to it.

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Branding with emotion: A human encounter

I just checked out Seth Godin’s recent post on “Fear, hope, and love: the three marketing levers” on his blog, Seth Godin’s Blog, and it got me thinking. My aspirations as an event planner go well beyond wanting to manage caterers and table arrangements. I want to work strategically with brands (nonprofits are brands too) to create opportunities for touchpoints – experiences that allow relationships to form between the brand and the individual.

Call it what you will: marketing, branding, relationship management, development, etc. Regardless of title, it’s a moment of tangible interaction between the organization and the individual. This encounter can end up painfully impersonal – think bland slideshow presentations, cookie-cutter decor, a cavalier attitude, etc. Or it can be a remarkably HUMAN moment. What makes such an event human? I would venture that it has something to do with distinctive personality and emotional connection. Godin explains that brands succeed in persuading consumers to take action via one of these three basic emotions: fear, hope, and love.

“Every successful marketer (including politicians) takes advantage of at least one of these basic needs.

Forbes Magazine, for example, is for people who hope to make more money.

Rudy Giuliani was the fear candidate. He tried to turn fear into love, but failed.

Few products or services succeed out of love. People are too selfish for an emotion that selfless, most of the time.”

He goes on to explain that sometimes love arises from hope, usually only after a brand has sufficiently endeared itself to the consumer. Tom Belford for The Agitator responded in his post “Hope & Love…Yeah, Right!” by writing about the “Super Seven” emotional drivers, identified as:


Either way, we can agree that emotion is paramount in appealing to consumers and creating meaningful relationships with them. The long-term success of fundraising depends entirely on the quality of relationships built between organizations and donors. Events, as I see it, are prime opportunities to introduce brands in an emotionally relevant way, by creating physical, memorable, multi-faceted, and PERSONAL interactions between two entities.

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It’s shake and bake, and I helped!

Bake sale

 The Valentine’s Bake Sale is over. Whew! It’s surprising how intense a tiny little church fundraiser can get for a few hours (hence the “shake” in the title). It’s like a flash flood. Before it began, I had a few goals in mind: 

  • Expand the product offerings – in other words, avoid the usual downpour of chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes, and brownies.
  • Reduce waste (from saran wrap, zip-locks, etc.).
  • Introduce a standardized pricing guide to eliminate price discrepancies.
  • Raise money – preferably more than last year.

By all these accounts, I think the event was a success. A few of the goodies arrived individually wrapped (some quite smartly), but overall I think we ‘done good’. And more so, I hope it will get the ball rolling on people considering alternatives to plastic packaging and implementing greener practices in the future. We also raised about $680, which, if I recall the figures correctly, is about a 25% increase over last year. For that, I can’t take credit – it could just be that more sweet-tooths showed up this year than last, or that the kids brought more tantalizing treats.

Speaking of tantalizing treats, we had the most creative year yet! In addition to the standard fair, we had homemade jam, sweet honey BBQ sauce, and HANDMADE TAMALES! The tamales went in about 3 seconds. I didn’t even see them get sold; I just turned around and they were all gone! Warmed my little heart.


Sure, most of the treats weren’t as designer as some of the beautiful store-bought goodies. But I bet you can’t find something more endearing than a 15-year old football player showing up with a plate of slightly smushed and sloppily frosted cupcakes that he baked all by himself. That, my friend, takes the cake.

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Old-fashioned fundraising tastes delicious

 As I’ve mentioned before, I participate in my church’s annual mission trip to Tijuana, Mexico. We build houses (this year we’re doing 4 with a group of approximately 40-50 high school students and 30 adult leaders) for families through the nonprofit organization Amor Ministries. This is my eighth year! I went all through high school and have returned every year since as a leader.

Every year, I try to expand my involvement and look for new ways to engage the group and improve our experience. It’s usually little things, like offering to help lead our campfire singing or volunteering to coordinate thanking our financial supporters. This year I am excited to be in charge (at my age, it’s still exciting to be put in charge of almost anything) of the Valentine’s Bake Sale fundraiser. Okay, so maybe a church bake sale is not the same as a star-studded, $100-a-ticket gala. But dang it, it’s still an event and I am proud to be trusted with its success.

So, I’ve been trying to brainstorm new ways to reinvigorate the bake sale. Last year, I expanded beyond the typical cookie contribution and made adorable hand-made valentines. Considering that older individuals (like the majority of my church’s  congregation) sometimes have health concerns that prevent them from going hog-wild on brownies (not too mention the reality that most everyone is on some kind of diet these days), I came up with the idea to offer an alternative. I really wish I had saved one my favorite styles – a handpainted kitten in pink metallic paint on a brown circle with “I think you’re the cat’s meow” written in cursive, all tucked in a coordinating envelope. The finishing touch was a dab of glitter in each eye to bring the kitty to life. I sold them at $5 a piece. They went like hotcakes.

This year, I’m encouraging the kids to likewise think outside the bakery case. I’m also developing a standardized pricing guide; each year we struggle with determining whether Matt’s brownies, which are slightly larger that Julia’s, should be equally priced or not. I’d hate to insult someone’s culinary skills by pricing their masterpiece too subjectively. Also in the works is a strategy to lower our waste – all the saran wrap and plastic bags aren’t any better for the earth’s health than the rice crispies are for ours.

The bake sale is this Sunday. I’m looking forward to see what the kids turn out this year. I think as long as it’s not pre-packaged generic sugar cookies, I’ll be satisfied. But if I can also help increase our profits over last year, streamline the process, and reduce our environmental impact, I’ll be happier than a kid in a candy store.

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Event Design Tip: Think Like A Consultant

I was introduced to this blog by my PR advisor and professor, Kelli Matthews, at the School of Journalism and Communication. This particular post provided me with excellent insight into what it is that I think I want to do. It concerns design in business generally, but I would venture it applies perfectly well to the field of event design. The author, Neil Tortorella, discusses the virtues of thinking and working like a consultant with clients, rather than taking on projects on a one-shot basis. Tortorella explains:

“The thing is, just because a client asks for a whatever, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what they really need. By asking questions and digging deep, you can offer ideas that will help your clients meet their goals. You add value to your relationship. You become a needed resource.”
I certainly agree; taking a step back to really evaluate the client’s position, rather than just drafting up a proposal to meet their request, will likely yield more fruitful results, both for the designer AND the client. In turn, this may generate a stronger, mutually-beneficial, and potentially long-term business relationship – something I aspire to continually pursue in my future career.

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