Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Flexibility in TeamBuilding

Frank Price, VP,  TeamBuilding Unlimited, guest blogs today about Flexibility in Team Building. His ideas and thoughts can be applied to many different kinds of special events--and life.

Flexibility is a key component of Team Building Facilitation. One of the greatest boxers of all time, Mohamed Ali, used to say he would “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.” Taking this metaphor to a different level, a team builder must be "relaxed and fly effortlessly and deliver the results with precision and accuracy.”

Flexibility in attitude, deliverables, process, and location are basic requirements. The location of the team building event may change at the last moment. The configuration of the room can be greatly modified before your arrival, and you may have to make serious adjustments in how the event will be developed.

Numbers may be in flux, and the best  facilitators must deal in change, often at the last minute. Be prepared for more or fewer participants. There is always the possibility that one of your key assistants may turn up as a no show do to illness or traffic.

Weather, of course, can dictate the traffic, which prevents the arrival of a key helper, and it can also change an outside event into a potential conundrum. Sometimes there are no alternative locations. That is, however. a discussion for a different article.

It is essential to always plan on traffic problems and leave early for the destination. If there are no traffic problems well, at worst, you arrive early. Think about alternative routes when the weather is known to be contentious.

Attitude is a major factor in any event. Attitude is critical regardless of the source. Often times, the provider of each portion of the event begins to believe that his/her/their portion is what drives the event and that all others must follow. This can be most difficult. Machiavelli would have probably played one against the other for the best results, but team builders must take a different outlook. Consensus building is best, but not always achievable. As the song goes, and as experience is gained, “you have to know when to hold them and when to fold them.” You always want your best, and you have to make your case known and not just acquiesce to another component. It is not unusual for your client to not understand the implications of any last minute changes.

The supplies that you bring must be flexible enough so that you can adapt to these and other last minute changes. The activities you have planned need to have some flexibility to any changes in location, size of the group, technology and time. Back-up possibilities need to be considered. What you will deliver to your client may “float like a butterfly.”

En garde!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How to Host a Killer Seance

Today I've invited Penny Warner, author and party planner extraordinaire, to guest post on how to Host a Killer Seance Party. Penny has been a guest on my other two blogs: Mystery Fanfare and Dying for Chocolate.  She knows of what she speaks! Her latest novel, How to Survive a Killer Seance is just out from Penguin Books (March 2011).  Follow the following tips for a Killer Seance party! Thanks, Penny!
Penny Warner:  

So you want to chat with Elvis? No problem—even though he’s been dead for decades. Just host a séance, hold hands around a crystal ball, and wait for the spirits to appear … Ideally, at the circle you’ll want a few true believers, a couple of skeptics, and one or two who are open to the possibility of the supernatural. And don’t forget the medium—real or not. It’s time for a ghost-whispering Séance Party.

Invite the skeptics and believers with “Message from the beyond…” Cut out a white circle, glue the top edge to a black card, and write “The Spirits Are About to Speak…” on the outside. Underneath, glue another white circle and include the party details. Or draw a ghost on a white card with a speech bubble providing the information. Or outline your palm, draw lifelines, and write the details along each line, indicating their “future” at the party. Include a Tarot card or a lucky rabbits foot.

What to Wear
As the hostess, you might dress up as a gypsy, or wear all black, with a lacey scarf. Tell the guests to come in costume, dressed as a character from the 20s, when the séance was at its heyday. Or suggest they come as a witch, sorcerer, or fortune-teller.

You’ll need a dark room to host the séance, one with drapes than will keep out the light from outside. Set a round table in the middle of the room, and drape it with a black lace tablecloth. Set a crystal ball (or an upside down fishbowl) in the center of the table. Light candles around the room, and play spooky Halloween music in the background. Set hanging pictures at an angle, and string fake cobwebs along the lights and furniture, or in the corners of the room. Download creepy pictures from the Internet and frame them, then set them on tables or hang them on the walls. Get an accomplice to help you with some simple séance gimmicks while you summon the spirit world. (See Games and Activities for examples.)

Games and Activities
Scare the goose bumps out of your guests with a few ghoulish games and spooky surprises!

• Summon the Spirits
Have a real séance with a hired medium. Or put on your own séance and set the scene with lots of spooky gimmicks. Have the attendees sit at the table and hold hands. While you close your eyes and mumble to the spirit world, have your accomplice do some of the following tricks. Tie fishing line to a picture on the wall and move it slightly. Do the same to the drapes. Knock softly, then louder, on the wall. Turn on a fan and blow out a candle or two. Start up a fog machine. Spray the guests with a sudden blast from a squirt gun. Have sheeted ghost pass through the room. Use a speaker or karaoke machine to create the voices.

• Channel the Spirits
After the guests are thoroughly spooked by the unseemly spirits, it’s time the channel the dead. First tell a little background to continue the spooky mood and put on a theatrical performance as you call the spirits. Then bring back someone famous from the past that everyone, such as Elvis, Queen Victoria, or Marilyn Monroe. Have the accomplice imitate the voice, and answer questions from the attendees, such as “Elvis, how did you die?” “Ah ate too many pork rinds, thank-you-verah-much.”

• Ouija Board
Get out the Ouija Board, choose a couple of guests to sit opposite each other, and ask questions. Take turns so everyone gets a chance to hear answers “from the other side.” You might even include some pre-formed questions the players must ask, such as “Who will meet the man of her dreams next?” or “Who in the room is keeping a deep dark secret?”

• It’s in the Cards
Read up on fortune-telling with Tarot cards, then predict each guest’s future using the cards.

• Predictions
Have the guests make up predictions for each guest. When everyone is finished, choose one guest to read her predictions—then guess who created it.

• Movie Madness
Rent creepy movies that feature ghosts and other strange creatures, such as “The Others,” “The Ring,” “Thirteen Ghosts,” “Ghost Ship,” “Ghostbusters,” “The Haunting,” “The Legend of Hell House,” “Poltergeist,” “The Shining,” “What Lies Beneath,” or “Ghost.” Share them with the group.

Make your own fortune cookies. Buy prepackaged sugar cookie dough. Roll out the dough to as thin as possible, cut into circles, fold the circle, curve it into a “C,” and pinch the ends, leaving a small opening. On small strips of paper, write down funny fortunes, such as “You will learn to play the violin,” “You will marry a clown,” or “You will come back as a mule.” When the cookies are lightly browned, let them cool, then insert the paper predictions. Make a devil’s food cake for a centerpiece, topped with Tarot cards or the crystal ball.

Favors, Prizes, and Gifts
Tarot decks make great prizes and favors, along with lucky charms, scary movies, a book of ghost stories, creepy soundtracks, and Astrology books.

Party Plus
Invite a “real” medium, psychic, or tarot card reader to your party to lead the séance or predict the future.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

True Confessions of an Event Planner: Kevin Kohee, Guest Blogger

Today I welcome a guest post by Kevin Cohee, CEO of Do an Event, Northern California’s leading spectacular event strategy and styling firm.



Beyond being organized and creative, it takes many skills to be a professional Event Planner. I knew I was creative and organized, many people had pointed this out to me - but I had no clue I would tap into so many other unrealized skills once I went pro.

When I was hired to help produce a custom home show, I quickly got my feet wet with BIG challenges. This 5 week show required bulldozers to prepare parking lots, sewer connections to our temporary office, 9 phone lines for credit card sales, 7 motor-coaches running consecutively for 12 hours a day. Other challenges were field fires, encroaching wildlife, electric transformers exploding, life flight being called, calculating food sales and scheduling hundreds of volunteers. I know, many of you are thinking “that’s nothing, I had an elephant die during a performance” but this event became the foundation of my newborn event planning career.
Kevin Cohee

Here are five secret skills all professional event planners possess:

1. Grammar
The most challenging skill I honed was creative writing. I write emails, proposals, website entries, scopes of work, contracts, billing, inquiries, request for proposals, marketing pieces and even articles. Early on, I asked a journalist friend to critique almost every piece of correspondence I created. Those red-marked revisions really stay with you and I learned to turn to the dictionary and thesaurus and look at synonyms in a whole new light.

2. Mathematics
Jack of all trades perfectly describes most event planners, so don’t wait until you are on-site and the generator provider is about to leave to learn how many watts of power your event actually requires. Avoid the dreaded “where’s the breaker-box?” when Lights, Camera, Action is called out. Mastering math now becomes a subtle tool; calculating amps, watts, ounces, pounds, inches, yards and of course dollars. Who knew ordering a linen table cloth would second-guess my ability to multiply? These vital elements that help make us and our event look incredible are like little children with their own needs. To learn how these independent providers join in unison, I volunteered at large public events.

3. Liability
Choosing themes or florals may come naturally to many but contracts are intimidating. Protecting ourselves, our clients and their guests require a bit of investigating. Adding insurance riders, fabric fire retardant certificates, abundant lighting or health certificates are not fun jobs. Relying on other professionals like lawyers, professors, accountants and insurance agents are essential. Even the smallest of mishaps can tarnish an otherwise stellar event so addressing safety falls to the shoulders of the planner. It’s often an under appreciated skill professional planners must obtain and promote.

4. Legality
Keeping it legal is one more secret talent we are rarely recognized for. Addressing street closures, alcohol sales license, gaming permits, fire safety permits, overflow parking or capacity regulations continue to be daunting tasks. The problem is to know which questions to ask. I plan an annual beauty industry event for legislators and decided to have a Show Poodle be the living centerpiece. Cool idea huh? My intuition led me to ask around and like restaurants, salons are regulated and pets are not allowed. How embarrassing it would have been to have broken the law with legislators as guests. This is a perfect example of the value professional planners bring.

5. Food and Beverage
Food enriches every event and is a key element in the memory-making guests leave with. Curiosity is my favorite skill, one that takes me to farmers markets, fine grocery stores, ethnic markets and ahhh, the Food Network®. You need to quench their thirst as well and though I don’t consume alcohol, event planners must be as knowledgeable or more about wine and spirits than their client. Ask questions when you are around wine, search winery websites and go to a wine tasting with someone who knows more than you.

Reading industry publications both print and electronic are a must for this ever-changing, trend-setting industry. My philosophy is don’t serve something someone can have anytime, somewhere else. If we don’t make it “special” then why hire a special event planner?

And, as if our plates aren’t full enough…someone mentioned they sent me a tweet???