Beyond Tables, Tents, Chairs and Permits

Posted on November 25, 2013

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I’m planning an event and this time it’s not for work: I’m getting married. It’s a little surreal to undertake a production within my own life because I’m experiencing what it’s like to be on the other side of the equation. What’s been most surprising to me is how many vendors in event services act like they only deliver equipment… “We just do tables, tents and chairs.” I’m astounded at the lack of service being offered and it makes me wonder how many organizations are used to this deficiency when working with event production companies. Don’t get me wrong, there are good vendors out there and I’ve had to cut through the chaff to find them. I’ve had to filter vendors by the expectations we set for ourselves at Event 360. It dawned on me that this experience translates really well into our event production world and I wanted to share a few of those filters every organization should expect of their event services provider.

I found a great wedding coordinator for the day of the wedding at a wedding expo of all places. At this expo there were hundreds of coordinators trying to get my business and none of them felt like the right fit until one coordinator asked me, “How did the two of you meet?” He actually wanted to know my story and used it to build a relationship with me — but to also inform the work. At Event 360 we use our client’s mission to determine if we need to provide ADA accessible sites and services to the population our client serves, or create a kid’s area because our client is focused on a family demographic. We become your partner, are able to speak your language and work with you to create an event with purpose.

I instantly knew which caterer to choose because out of all of the bids, one came attached with an outline of key deadlines (like the last day to change the headcount), a day of the event timeline, a staffing plan (including the chef and a designated manager), and a contingency plan (highlighting alternate dishes and backup generators). There is a lot that goes down between obtaining a permit and delivering equipment. You want a group who can respond to changes and have done their homework with backup plans. On my wedding day, the last thing I want to worry about is if my caterer can’t make adjustments because the electricity went out.

Mmmm cake. We’re making the rounds tasting cakes at different bakeries because it’s delicious, but also it’s part of the fun of planning a wedding. My favorite bakery won me over because I was offered options. We talked about providing our guests with individual cakes instead of your standard slice to make it more interesting. The baker knows we want a rustic vibe and went beyond traditional options by suggesting a great vendor for farm tables. When we’re planning events at Event 360 we take the participant experience seriously and put ourselves in our participant’s shoes from the moment they park, to the signage and set design, to providing something unexpected that has them leaving the event with a positive experience and a new memory.

I never thought I’d learn so much about event production through the experience of planning my wedding, but I truly have. Here are the three things I hope you’ve taken away from my wedding planning journey:

1)    It’s important to be invested in the story of your clients. Asking key questions is great, but taking the time to listen is even better.

2)    The best production vendors have all of the operations developed and, most importantly, contingency plans in place.

3)    Make sure you are thinking of your event through the perspective of your participant.

Event planners, I hope you’ll keep this in mind as you work with your own clients. And if you’re looking for a great partner who will truly care about your story, your experience and your partners, look no further!

As Vice President/Account Director for Event 360, Patrick has more than 15 years of experience in event planning, operations, execution and project management. At Event 360, Patrick provides strategic counsel to ensure high client satisfaction while implementing project management best practices to successfully produce events. He lives in Los Angeles with his partner (soon to be husband) and has a passion for traveling the world, comic books and cooking. You can find Patrick on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

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