Some events are penciled-in on a calendar; an hour or two of a day.
But other events require months of planning, organizing, rsvp’s, phone calls, invitations and a mere army of hands and legs willing to carry out the final details.
Those events, sometimes billing a few thousand pounds all-told, require an expert in the area of planning for disaster-prevention – an event coordinator.
Event coordinators create the drama and aura of an event down to every last detail. Party favours, music, decorations, seating arrangements, parking areas and parking attendants, games, toasts, award ceremonies -- event coordinators cover the gamut.
Indoors or outdoors, event coordinators are usually highly dependable, extremely creative individuals who understand how to stretch a pound or go all-out with no holds-barred.
And they can handle anything from a wedding to a bat mitzvah to an elegant corporate event or charity fundraiser.
“I switch hats two or three times a week depending on the season,” says Jane, an event coordinator in London. “At Christmas, we’re very busy…everything from a small home party to a company Christmas party to a large charity event.”
Besides picking a date, and coordinating a guest list, picking a theme is generally the next great challenge in event production.
A theme can revolve around virtually anything from monkeys in the jungle for a children’s party to the princess bride for a bridal shower to a Mission Impossible theme for a high-tech corporate event. Gifts, decorations and often music support that theme.
For instance, at a high-tech event, attendees each received a tiny microscopic AM/FM radio that fit snugly inside their ears.
“Everyone loved it. They were shocked when it actually worked,” says Jane.
The ambiance of the event is set by not only the music (live or DJ) but by the details of every decoration. A company picnic held at a farm or in park-like surroundings may include paper napkins and plates which creates a more casual atmosphere. But a more formal event would require elegant china, silver forks and spoons, plus table favours and arrangements that bear a more sophisticated style.
For instance, at a bridal shower for a high-powered executive whose favourite film was the “Princess Bride,” napkins were beautifully edged with gold. And a special personal touch, which was also elegantly designed, was a small brochure naming the bride as the star and her bridesmaids as supporting actresses with brief biographies of each and a note from the bride about each woman’s role in her life.
“It was a hit,” says now married Taylor Farrand. “I finally got to play the part I always fantasized about and my closest girlfriends were part of the show.”
Caterers may end up meeting similar kinds of challenges. An outdoor barbecue may become an indoor sit-down dinner due to inclement weather. But choosing a caterer and a location that can deal with quick changes is the key to success.
If an event is to go on for several hours, entertainment will be crucial. A live band may keep party-goers both entertained and dancing the night away. At a corporate event that involved many executives and their spouses who were teenagers in the 70s, the band – which sings cover songs from the disco age – set the tone for the entire party. Attendees wore their favourite spandex pants and double-decker shoes.
In other situations, a DJ– whose music can range from jazz to rock to oldies – can help an event move from one portion of the evening to another.
At a recent retirement event for the owner of a major corporation, music became more somber when colleagues gave speeches thanking their former boss for his contribution to their lives. But when the roasts and toasts were over, the DJ revved up the evening with music from the enduring band, The Rolling Stones.
Parking is another challenge at a large event. Many event coordinators choose to hire valet services who can park cars for attendees. A valet service can prevent party-goers from walking long distances and help keep parking lots or parking arrangements orderly.
An the end of the evening, valet services help prevent tired folks from having to wait in line or have cars bottleneck on their way out.
“At the last event we had, a graduation for a very popular girl, our valet service was comprised mostly of women who wore pink. It set the night off right at the beginning because no one expected to see girls in pink parking Cadillacs,” says Gail.
Clean-up is another issue event coordinators relieve corporations and party-goers of at the end of an evening. Crews swarm a location, picking up every last cup or broken fork, so that the location is ready to go for the next event.
“When every last piece of napkin or dirty silverware is put away, and everyone has driven away safely, that’s when we know we’ve done our job,” says Gail.