Urban Solace Catering recently hosted “20-for-20:  20 Fabulous Event Planning Tips in 20 Minutes,” an event designed for leading and upcoming San Diego event planners with whom we love to partner for special events.

As the name of the event indicated, we shared twenty of our best event planning tips of the year.  After all, Urban Solace Catering has been around for a long time, and believe us, we’ve seen a lot.

One thing we learned early on, though, is that you don’t have to be a professional event planner to benefit from our industry tips.  In fact, many can be applied to parties you throw at home, at the office and over the holidays.

With the holiday season quickly approaching, these tips are the perfect incentive to help kick you into holiday planning mode.  The earlier you begin this process, the less stress you’re going to feel come November and December—and hey, there’s your very first tip!

Now, we’re going to share with you the 20 fabulous event planning tips that our special event planners received at the event!

20 Fabulous Event Planning Tips

1.  Turn the CEO and Managers Into Happy Campers.  When you know the event goals, you can prioritize accordingly and tug at the heartstrings of those in charge—especially when presenting your budget.  Show the CEO and managers that you really listen—and care about the overall goals of the event—with small details that really go a long way!


2.  Make the Boss Look Good.  Ask those higher ups and Senior Management members to greet guests and mingle on a rotating schedule so that guests feel important.  Also ask Senior Management and their spouses to rotate time at the registration table.


3.  Design the Event Around the Goal.  Always have a plan B (and C and D) for all of those unexpected corporate surprises, like extra guests and strategic seating arrangements gone array.


4.  Advertise the Full Experience.  Give guests detailed (and obvious) floor plans and food station displays so they know how to locate all of those “can’t miss!” menu items and activities.  The more organized you are, the easier it is for guests to experience the event’s full array of activities.


5.  Maximize Your Invitation.  What opportunities do you have to capture the most attention from your invitees?  A quarterly meeting or weekly newsletter perhaps?  TIP:  Tuesday, particularly at 10:00am, is best for sending an e-vite.

6.  Make It All About Them!  Employee appreciation events should really be all about the employees.  Seat internal employees at the front and Senior Management at the back, making it all about the hard-working individuals you’re there to promote.


7.  Turn Something Simple Into a Huge Tool.  Nametags, at the appropriate events, can be paired with fun personal information to serve as conversation starters and interaction opportunities.  Include fun details, such as “likes Rocky Road ice cream, The Beatles and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”


8.  Beware the Beautiful Venue.  Unique and special locations can be really fun and impressive; just know exactly what you’re getting into ahead of time.  Think about parking and transportation, available space versus guest count, a stage area (if needed), loading docks for deliveries and vendors, and more.

9.  Recognize Employee Spouses.  In addition to congratulating your employees, honor his or her spouse as well.  They’re a team, and any sacrifices your employee has had to make at the office, his or her spouse has felt those as well.  That goes for the “wins” too!


10.  Do Not Cut Back On This.  People will always remember poor service, so if you need to cut costs, lower your food budget before you lower your labor costs.  Great service is priceless.

11.  Suck Up to the Boss.  Find a cost that you would have otherwise contributed to something event-related.  Instead of incorporating it into the event, tell the boss that you have eliminated this item in lieu of donating the money to his or her favorite charity, and that you plan to announce this at the event.  Major brownie points for you!


12.  Channel Your Inner Child.  Create centerpieces and other décor out of children’s toys and, at the end of the event, donate those items to charity.  Guests will have fun with the items and will appreciate the give-back aspect.


13.  Take a Twist on the Traditional.  For events involving gift exchanges, pull names and then turn the goal of the exchange into the quest for the perfect gift—like each employee’s favorite childhood toy.  Guests can choose to donate the toys or keep for nostalgia’s sake—or, of course, for their own children to have.


14.  Help the “Fun” Along.  Keep scrolls at the end of each table filled with fun facts and information designed to help spark conversation and curiosity amongst tablemates.  TIP:  Make the fun facts related to your event theme, such as holiday song lyrics for a holiday party or Hollywood trivia questions for an old Hollywood-themed party.

15.  Save Money with Food Styles.  Consider skipping a course.  Incorporate family-style salads instead of individual ones, or provide a grab-and-go dessert to save money on food costs.  Sending guests home with a dessert is not only a more economical way to go, it also gives you the opportunity to send guests home with a memento and/or special message.


16.  Use Committees.  Delegate responsibilities to committees you know will be great at their assigned tasks or jobs.  Hand pick your staff based on some of the characteristics you have seen in each person.  You will thank yourself for asking for the help!


17.  Think Creatively When it Comes to Entertainment.  Think about local colleges, young and upcoming talent, or acts from within your own company.  Hire or ask them to entertain the folks at your event.  The local talent usually carries a lower price tag, and many times, up-and-coming artists are really just interested in the experience.

18.  Never Be Embarrassed As a Planner.  Pre-planning is everything, so consider having a meeting with all of your vendors prior to your event so you can hash out every small detail before it’s go-time.  It’s the perfect opportunity to talk over a timeline and get everyone on the same page.


19.  Treat Your Guest List Like VIPs.  Think about a divide-and-conquer technique for those guest lists full of important clients.  Assign employees to “host” each of the client company leaders so they can take care of and pay special attention to each of them.  Also, consider having your receptionists lead this initiative since they are probably quite skilled at meeting and greeting.


20.  Save Money on Food Costs.  Negotiate with your caterer or venue by explaining that you want “matrix pricing,” pricing based on your budget needs, seasonal menu items and ingredients.  That way, you can choose what makes most sense for your guests’ enjoyment and your budget.