Saturday, November 24, 2012

Event Design Series, Day 3: Sustainability

Continuing our discussion of event design (and please, make it a discussion by commenting)...

More about our Event Design Series here at Day 1, and where the questions came from

A low-landfill sustainable event coordinated by Portland event planning company EJP Events. This 2,000-attendee company picnic was planned so that all dishware was compostable and only recyclable drink containers were used. The small trash bag at the front left shows the entirety of landfill trash generated by the event. Photo: EJP Events

Day 3: Sustainability: Special events can be wasteful. What steps can planners take to make sure they are producing a sustainable event? And how can you use alternative materials in your design work?

I think you have to look at the event's purpose and make sure you can align it with sustainability before you proceed. If you want to be known for sustainable events, yet promote events like Black Friday, you're getting off on the wrong foot.

That out of the way, then you should take the event apart critique each element for the following: 1. Is this element creating waste -- and can this waste be diverted or recycled? 2. Is this element using resources in an ethical way? (Ethical labor, ethical apportionment of food, water, energy)

Also, looking at the event as a whole: 3. What is the environmental legacy of the event? 4. What is the moral and ethical legacy of the event?

Alternative materials are everywhere. The last ISES Art of the Party event showed some great examples. I saw everything from Home Depot yard cloth used as table covering (which could be used in gardens after the event) to upcycled books (that would have been recycled anyway) being used as design materials. Catering is part of event design. Much has been covered regarding local and sustainable food sources. Lighting is part of event design. We have wonderful, low wattage light treatments available to us now. Look at every aspect you possibly can.

Event materials that are sustainable 1) do not draw heavily on, or entirely avoid, virgin resources such as cut trees or mined metals; 2) divert waste from landfills; 3) or can be reused, thus staying out of landfills; and 4) do not promote toxic chemical buildup through their use (e.g. batteries going in the trash)

You have a responsibility as a planner and a designer to explore alternative, sustainable sources first when creating your designs.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Event Design Series: Day 2 - Trends

Continuing our discussion of event design (and please, make it a discussion by commenting)...

More about our Event Design Series here at Day 1, and where the questions came from

Day 2: Trends: What are some new trends in event design and how can an event planner keep current? What new color combinations are requested by clients? What are the most popular themes for parties, galas, and corporate events? What themes are overused?

New Trends (2012-2013): The idea of un-themes is big. "Unconferences" with informal agenda-setting sessions and crowdplanning such as WordCamp are influencing the way even traditional corporate and sales events are being planned.  Rapid-fire presentation events such as Pecha-Kucha nights, Ignite, TED and TEDx talks; and storytelling events such The Moth, Backfence, and Portland Storytelling Theater have become wildly popular.

Photo by Kirby Urner via Flickr
These events' success show that in either a corporate or social setting, attendees want to create the agenda, tell their own story, or have an upfront, personal connection to others' stories. I'm seeing this reflected in the continued use of performance in special events, whether it's having dancers from the bride's culture during a wedding; or using a speaker with an incredible story to uplift and motivate a corporate event audience.

Photo: Craig Strong.
How can I stay current on trends? I think it's more important for event planners to be creators of new designs, not necessarily followers of trends. At the same time "there is nothing new under the sun" - or is there? I love pop culture from every corner of the globe, and that keeps me on my toes. Online resources are always popping up with something fresh and inspiring all the time. Just a year ago, nobody was using Pinterest, now it's everywhere. Tumblr seems to be under the radar for mainstream use, but is widely used by fashion brands and designers. Anyone can easily create a Tumblr blog (a mini-blogging platform) to follow and curate their own favorite content from around the web in a mini-blog format. I have several Tumblrs and my main one for event and design inspiration is here. Travel is the best for seeing firsthand what is hot in other places, and then you can bring that back to your home base and reinterpret it.

New color combinations: Fashion and retail are always pushing color in new directions, and of course there are always the color gods at Pantone. The good old-fashioned color wheel never hurt anyone. Right now I'm really loving multicolored event palettes. Take a look at online storefront Hello Holiday to see what I mean. Multicolor doesn't have to mean garish or childish. You can have smaller swaths of multicolor paired up with a neutral like grey to keep the look balanced.

Photo by Aubrey Trinnaman for Anthology Magazine
Popular and most overused themes? The panel found straight-up "time era" themes to be the most overused. A Fifties sock-hop for example, feels dated right now, not retro in a fun way. But if you want to do an era event, change it up by focusing on something a very narrow topic from that time - maybe one celebrity - and go from there. Call me crazy, but when I think of the 50s I think of Che Guevara. Or  Marilyn Monroe. Social events are still using vintage and shabby-chic looks; bold and preppy graphics and stripes are still big.

Hope you've found "Day 2" of our Event Design Series helpful. For background on this series, go here. As always, I appreciate your comments!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

It's an Event Design Series at the Portland Event Planner Blog!

A few posts ago I mentioned participating in ISES Portland's Art of the Party tabletop competition as a judge and panelist. Via Hersholt, ISES Portland's VP of Education and Programs, emailed us the following questions to answer about design. Some, we were able to get to during the program; others got cut due to time constraints. I wanted to explore more of these questions, and discuss the design evaluation process. Thus, 6 days of Event Design Discussion. Enjoy! Comments, as always, are welcomed.

Day 1: Criteria in a Design Competition
With two categories to judge and ten exquisitely executed entries, the evaluation process was extremely difficult. Some of the discussion questions that came up:

For Best Use of Theme:
  • Was the theme immediately apparent to the viewer?
  • Follow-through: Was theme executed in multiple items throughout the entire installation, including unusual or atypical usages?
  • Was the chosen theme and subject novel or unique?
  • Did the overall installation feel appealing, comfortable, and usable? Could a viewer think of events at which this theme could be applied?
"BAM!" lollipop favor in superhero-theme table by Peter Corvallis Productions.
 For Best Use of Alternative Materials:
  • What materials were chosen for the tabletop and styling? Could these materials be easily sourced or purchased, or were items unique, hard-to-find, or handcrafted?
  • Were any materials re-purposed from prior events or usages?
  • What sustainability considerations were taken into account when creating this theme? After this event, would items add to landfill usage or could they recycled or reused?
  • Were everyday materials used in a novel or unique way?
  • Given the stated theme, were the materials appropriate?
"Desert Rain" styled table by Gather Events and Starflower.

Based on these thought processes, what do you think of the outcome? Would you have done it differently or used different criteria? View all entries and the winners over at Paul Rich Studio's blog.

Please continue to join us at Portland Event Planner for the rest of Event Design Week. Here are the upcoming topics, all drawn from ISES Portland's panel agenda questions for Art of the Party 2012:

Day 2: Trends: What are some new trends in event design and how can an event planner keep current? What new color combinations are requested by clients? What are the most popular themes for parties, galas, and corporate events? What themes are overused?

Day 3: Sustainablity: Special events can be wasteful. What steps can planners take to make sure they are producing a sustainable event? And how can you use alternative materials in your design work?

Day 4: Budget: What tips do you have for a client that has a very small budget but wants a big impact?

Day 5: Theme: Why does theme matter in special events?

Day 6: Case Studies: Of all the designs and/or event decor you've come up with, what has been the most successful and why? ...And what was the biggest 'bust'?

Trying Out A New Resource for Canvas Prints, Car Magnets, and Promotional Materials { Sponsored }

canvas prints

I recently had the opportunity to sample Printcopia's online canvas prints service. I found the interface to be fairly straightforward and easy to use, and my print arrived within 7 days. While I'm not sure this would be the solution for personal items needing professional editing and cropping such as wedding portraits (please use your professional photographer for those!), I found the self-service canvas prints to be of excellent quality and more than adequate for my needs as an event planner. These would be great for display materials for tradeshows and decorative marketing of event photos around the office.

Printcopia also offers car magnets, custom banners, and inexpensive signs -- items that all of us as event planners need to use at one time or another. I haven't tried these items yet, but if they are the same quality as the canvas print I was able to sample, this would be a great resource to add to my list.

Disclosure: We received a complimentary 11x14 canvas print sample prior to writing this review.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Design Competition: ISES Portland's Art of the Party

Photo by Paul Rich. L to R: Emee Pumarega, EJP Events; Cindy Thompson, Cindy Thompson Event Productions; Gene Dent, SCi3.2

Last week I had the pleasure of serving as a judge and participating on a panel discussion for the International Special Events Society - Portland Chapter's annual tabletop design competition, called "The Art of the Party". Inspired by the likes of DIFFA's Dining By Design events, the event brings together florists, designers, and planners from all over the area to compete for three awards: Best Use of Theme, Best Use of Alternative Materials, and People's Choice. Many thanks to the ISES Portland board for including me, and to Food in Bloom / Montgomery Park for hosting the event.

As a judge, alongside event planner Cindy Thompson of Cindy Thompson Event Productions and Gene Dent, of SCi3.2 (the company responsible for most of the floats in the Portland Grand Floral Parade during the Rose Festival), we were tasked with evaluating each of the ten entries according to the criteria given. In addition, we had to sit in the hot seat and answer questions about our own approaches to special event design. It was a great event and I learned so much from my co-panelists as well as the attendees who asked the hard questions!

I will be blogging more thoughts about event design over the coming weeks, as there were many questions we prepared for that we didn't get to, due to time constraints.

Highlights of the panel: Unconferences and Un-Themes, Che Guevara as a touchstone for a "Fifties" event, what "modern" means when it comes to event themes, which themes are overused. If you missed the event, you missed some great discussions and you should participate next year!

More about ISES Portland and its upcoming educational events here at their website.

The winners:
Best Use of Theme: (a tie) Bird Dog Creative & Peter Corvallis Productions

Bird Dog Creative's "glamping"-themed table.
Peter Corvallis Productions's "superhero" themed table.

Best Use of Alternative Materials: "Time Machine" by East West Floral Arts/Barclay Event Rentals; was also the People’s Choice Award: East West Floral Arts/Barclay Event Rentals.

"Time Machine" steampunk-inspired table by East West Floral Arts and Barclay Event Rentals.

Full photo documentation of the event and all competition entries by Paul Rich available at his blog.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Event Planner Tech Tip of the Day: Reading PDFs in iBooks

For us in the event planning world who use iPhone, iPad, and iOS (which seems to be the majority), we are always looking for that cool new shortcut or hack that will make life easier. While not splashy, using iBooks to read PDFs that are emailed is one that I have found to be a huge time-saver.

Let's say someone emails you a PDF that is important, but you want to read later. The other day, I received the Splendid Insights Global Study Wedding Report (thank you Liene!). It is 41 pages of wedding marketing goodness that I do not have time to read in one sitting, unfortunately. I also am a compulsive inbox-cleaner, so I can't leave something like that in my inbox.

Enter iBooks, the Kindle alternative for iOS. The thing is, it's not just for books, it reads PDFs as well and organizes them elegantly on a nice little bookshelf.

To put your PDFs in iBooks, first tap once on the PDF attachment to make sure it is fully downloaded. Then simply press and hold down down on the attachment in your email. A pop up menu will ask you if you want to "Quick Look", "Open in iBooks", or "Open In...". Select "Open in iBooks". It's that simple!

Now your PDF is on the bookshelf ready to read when you are on the train, waiting for your table in the restaurant, or whenever. You can also use this method to save any PDF - such as event plans, event timelines, or diagrams. No more clunky clipboards at the event, just put your phone or iPad in a handy spot!

Find this hint helpful? Know any other quick event tech tips? Please leave a comment below. And if you did find it helpful, please feel free to share or pin.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Planner Olympics 2012

Photo courtesy

Two thoughts have been cooking together in my head lately. With the London 2012 Summer Olympics all over my various dashboards, it's hard not to think of all of the related events and the planners involved. This year, also listed event planning as the #6 most stressful job - right behind soldiers, firefighters, and police. (Really?)

I hereby propose the hashtag #plannerolympics to my event planning community. If you've ever gone 8 hours without a restroom break, worn high heels on concrete convention hall floors for 12, or (my true story) sat politely eating nothing during a 2-hour menu tasting whilst 12 weeks pregnant and starving (because the client barely touched her food and I didn't want to look rude), then #plannerolympics is for you.

July and August in Oregon are especially trying for independent event planners as we juggle current clients with incoming inquiries for next year, while also fielding last-minute inquiries for every event type imaginable. Strength, stamina, patience, and focus...needed by medalist athletes and professional event planners alike!

So whichever social tool you're using, be it Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Tumblr, or Google+ ... tell me about your #plannerolympics. Long distance marathon walking? Heavy decor deadlift? The "don't put that steak entrée in front of our vegetarian VIP" sprint? Do tell!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Internship available at Portland Children's Museum

I was recently contacted by Claire Tronvig, the Volunteer Coordinator at Portland Children's Museum, who alerted me of an interesting opportunity for a wedding planner who is interested in transitioning into nonprofit events. This half-time internship reports directly to the Director of Development and will focus on assisting with fund raising events for PCM that support donor creation and retention while meeting and, hopefully, exceeding budgeted expectations. 

More about this internship can be found after the jump. To apply, please contact Claire at

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Keeping your business's blog and your editorial blog separate

As event planners, we wear lots of hats. Because there are so many aspects to planning events (are you a designer/stylist? A logistician? Do corporate? Social? etc. etc...) we get used to multitasking.

So it is with event planner blogs. I read avidly, and it's great to see so many people sharing their ideas and best practices. One thing I think is dangerous about blogging though, is when the motive for a blog is not transparent.

Example: the other day, I stumbled across a wedding I had coordinated, on a beautiful, editorial-looking blog. The writing was well-crafted, and the blogger advertised that they accepted submissions through Two Bright Lights. In every way it appeared to be an editorial post, although I thought it was weird that, except for some fine print at the bottom, there was no mention of my company specifically as the wedding coordinator. On the other hand, vendors for the cake, flowers, and attire were mentioned and name-checked in detail.

A few weeks later I saw an update, where the blogger shared a brand new social media page and excitedly announced a new division of their coordinating business. Confused, I went back to their About page. After reading, I realized the blog belonged to an event planner in the Portland area and that it doubled as their business blog and website.

I recommend that businesses not do this. Posting a detailed blog post about an event called a "Real Wedding" on your event planning business blog implies that you have some connection to the event. If you are blogging to increase awareness of your event planning business, you are subtly passing off these "Real Weddings" as your own work.

If you want to be a journalist-blogger that covers real weddings, great. If you wish to be an editor of beautifully curated content, that's wonderful! (Offbeat Bride and Every Last Detail are some sites that do this very well.)

On the other hand, if you are a planner marketing your business by blogging, post "Real Weddings" of only your own events. Be very clear about the use of pictures for events that you're not connected with. That way your motives are clear, and you won't appear to be trying to mislead the public.

Agree? Think I'm way off base? Leave it in the comments.

Image of me, working the Oregon Nurses Association 2011 convention, courtesy Casey Campbell.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Voting open for NW Meetings and Events Best of 2012

Event professionals in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho can show their appreciation for their favorite meeting venues and services in the pages of Northwest Meetings and Events magazine. Voting is now open for the magazine's "Best of 2012", where hotels, attractions, and service providers can be nominated for the Readers' Choice Best of Awards.

Make sure to cast your vote before the deadline on February 24th.