Wednesday, December 5, 2012

5 Organizational Tips to Prepare for the Holidays

For most people involved in the event planning & hospitality world this is a busy time of year (and to be fair, anyone in retail too).  So how do you prepare for the holiday rush?   By being really super organized.  It's obvious but it's true.  I've noticed the difference in the workload of my daily routine between this year and the last simply by developing little techniques specific to my work that help me keep track of everything.  Not everyone works the same way, but here are 5 tips that have helped me and will hopefully help you too this holiday season.

1. Create Deadlines
Whether for yourself or a client, make sure you have deadlines for everything.  In my case this is usually related to menus/food choices.  Because I work on multiple dinners/events at once, I recently got into the habit of saying events from this date to that date must have all information to me by xx--xx date.  This allows me to carve out a specific day a week for maybe 10-30 minutes that I can review upcoming events and follow up with everyone rather than have separate dates for every single event that are due every day.  Condensing follow up dates makes it easy to remain consistent and also account for the fact that you can't do everything every day.  Since I've done this, I've found that my workload has been simplified ten fold.  I still have to do the work, but I'm on top of it!

2. Use your calendar.
Outlook, google calendar, whatever.  Use it!  For the above deadlines I put whatever date I use as the due date in my calendar as a reminder that I am responsible for following up with clients.  Most people know to use their calendars for client appointments, meetings, etc. I think it's equally important to use it as a tool to maintain your tasks & responsibilities.  I'm a big fan of google calendar because of how easily it can sync to all of your devices so reminders pop up all the time and are unavoidable.
If you already are a solid calendar user, think about how you're using it.  I try to use it as a way to be productive, not just remember things.   I create weekly reminders in addition to specific events/meetings, etc. because no matter how routine you are, there's a chance you'll forget something.  This is especially great if you need to double check delivery arrivals or any time-sensitive item that is out of the ordinary.

3. Create Checklists
You know what you're working on.  You know there's always that question that you sometimes miss when talking to a client or vendor.  So create a list.  Even if it's a Sunday morning you have free, get your coffee and get to work.  If you have a handy checklist covering every topic you need then you can be sure it's done.  Have a print out if needed when reviewing final details.  Then you can date when you covered these details and make sure you covered your bases.  Maybe section an hour or 2 after you've created deadlines and put it in your calendar that you need to go through all your upcoming events and comb through these little details with your clients.  It will keep you efficient and hopefully from losing your head amongst the holiday madness when you're sure your brain just wants to quit.

4. Delegate
It's great to be organized, have patterns, deadlines and checklists, but depending on where you work and what you do sometimes the best thing to be able to do is delegate the work and projects.  Make a note in your calendar "follow up with Sandy on wrap ups," but let Sandy do it.  Even the most organized people in the world can't do everything his or herself.  When busy, well-orchestrated delegation may be the best way to make sure you get through everything successfully.

5. Keep Important Things Within Sight
When you get busy, like really super crazy busy, you need to keep the most important things in your line of vision.  On more than one occasion I've had a stack of "need attention files" that at some point I go "holy crap, this is in 2 days and I don't have [item]!"  That's because when I get swamped I sort of shove those things to the side, assuming it's not the most imperative thing because, didn't I just check that stack yesterday?  Everyday I make a list for things I need to do the night before.  This list I write in my notebook which sits out in my line of vision so I can review it every day first thing when I get into work.  Most of it is the same stuff I do everyday but the point is that I need to do it everyday.  I try to include little projects or details that maybe I didn't finish the day before.  While my calendar notes are helpful I am a person who learns and remembers by writing things down.  Maybe for you keeping things in sight is when the reminder pops up on your screen.  I also just put post-its on my desk.  Point blank, color-coded, crazy-librarian post-it notes.  No matter how you do it, it's hard to forget something that's in your face.  That can be a life saver when you're trying to prioritize a giganta-stack of work.  Trust me.

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012

Events & Conferences for November 2012

Holiday season is upon us.  That means lots of upcoming events on top of business as usual.  Make sure you know what's going on this month while you're making your Thanksgiving plans and getting in holiday shopping somewhere between planning and organizing events.

To help you stay on track and in the know, below are links to Chicago Traveler and eventbrite covering what's happening in this city in November.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

5 Lessons from "The Pitch"

Laura McCoullouch-Carter has a great article on her blog about the 5 Lessons Every Planner Can Learn from "The Pitch". Check out this must-read. It's a quick and nice reminder of the importance of really covering all the details and thinking everything through.


Monday, October 15, 2012

8 Hotel Secrets to Lower Your Event Costs

I found this article on LinkedIn.  I work in restaurants, a fellow member of the hospitality industry so I would say this sounds about right.  It's also very informative for those of you who have never worked in the hotel industry.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

5 Steps for Being More Assertive at Your Job

I think that being assertive about what I want and how I feel about things at work has always been really hard for me.  I think of myself as a "people pleaser."  It's hard to say no and our work motto is "go above and beyond."  So at what point do you set some rules?

Being assertive has a bad connotation at times.  Often people associate it with being bossy or a "no" person.  What good, quality assertiveness actually translates into is not letting people walk all over you.  I've heard and been a part of various conversations with professionals of all ages, levels and fields who discuss frustrations with their job.  There are a lot of commonalities in these discussions including how to express yourself without causing issues.  I've realized that some people are much better at this than others.  For me, confrontation can be scary, especially depending on who it involves, but the main precedent is setting boundaries from the beginning.  I try to push myself to be better at understanding what is and isn't within reason.  And here are 5 things I am using to help establish it:

1. Understand Your Role
When you start a new job, you always want to be helpful, prove that you are dedicated and pave the way for a successful career.  While you hope most people will be decent and welcome you in, there are always people who take advantage of that.  It's important to be a helpful team member, but if you're in accounting, you shouldn't be doing paperwork for HR.  Make it clear that you will be helpful within reason.

2. Skill Set vs Boundaries
You're really good at stuff.  Lots of stuff actually.  It seems like there are tons of people who need help which you can provide, after you do those other things 4 other people needed help with.  It is important to be a team player.  If someone is having a near melt down and you have stuff that isn't due for a few days, of course be a decent human being about it.  After all, team work is how things get done.  However, don't let your ability to do lots of things, or even a willingness to try lots of things make you the office pushover.  One of my life mottos is "just because you can doesn't mean you should."  (You'd be surprised how many things that applies to.)

3. Say No
It's okay.  You can do this.  People will respect you for it.  Fellow employees and co-workers need to know they can come to you, but they shouldn't be dumping things on you.  By saying no you are putting yourself and the job you were hired for first.  You should be doing well at your job and you can't advance if you barely finish your work and meet your goals because you're constantly working on someone else's.  So just say no, kids.  They taught us that one early on.

4. Prioritize
Make the effort to prioritize your own work and don't let other people interfere with that -- no matter how much they whine, plead or insist.  This will help you decide when you can really jump in.  This can be circumstantial -- if something comes up that isn't your direct responsibility but it needs immediate attention from you and a few other people, well technically it's jumped up your priorities list.  But if you have client or manager waiting for a project and another co-worker comes to you because s/he wasn't able to meet his or her deadline, well it's not your job to finish it.  These situations have always been hard for me because I don't like to see people stressed or overwhelmed.  And yes, I was totally the kid who handed over her lunch willingly in grade school because some kid forgot theirs or just didn't like what they had.  But the here-take-my-sandwich approach to life isn't going to get you anywhere.  It's just going to leave you hungry while everyone else not only full, but has what they want.

5. Suck It Up and Speak Up
That's the hardest part.  Sucking it up and actually saying no or not doing something for someone.  I recently was battling with this.  Do I do something I wasn't responsible for?  Do I just fix it or make an effort to make the person who made the error fix it?  Well, while the latter was the intention I ended up just doing it in interest of time and also because it was unfairly not being solved for the client.  I was frustrated with myself a bit here because I wanted to make a point that I will not just correct everything that goes wrong because the same person continually chooses not to pay attention to the details knowing I will just fix it.  Because then the idea is established that everything seems to go fine and no issues happen and the initial approach to this issue was fine.  No, it's not fine.  It's caused me major stress in my week.  So I've resolved that I need to work on being much more vocal from the get go.  It's not just saying no that makes you assertive.  It's addressing an issue or correcting a matter that may make you feel uncomfortable, which is something that is hard for me and other people I know.  It's just so much easier to gossip about what made you mad to someone else but real assertive people talk to the person directly so they don't have to deal with it again.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Quick & Easy Ways to Decorate for Fall

It's October and while Chicago has been giving us unseasonably warm weather, it's also time when jackets are to be worn and pumpkins should be painted.  The fall harvest, leaves changing, and pumpkin spice everything is part of what I love about this season.  It's also the perfect time to get creative. You+Dallas has a great page of beautiful decor ideas, including the fall table set above.  Pinterest reigns queen this time of year as endless inspirational photographs and DIY projects like these fabulous fall candles, help you make your home a seasonal paradise - or at least kinda festive.  For those of you with little time or space who want to vamp up your house for the holiday season, but know you're not quite Martha Stewart, here are 5 quick and easy ways to decorate for fall.

1. Get Baby Pumpkins & Gords
I was at the store and they had those little pumpkins and I bought a few.  I moved over a picture frame and some display bottles of wine and plopped them down.  Cute, seasonal and it took 2 seconds.  Of course youc an create more elaborate designs but for now the idea is still there.

2. Get Scented Candles or Plug-ins.
But a rich, warm scent like autumn, apple or pumpkin spice.  Add candles through the house or switch out your usual glade (or other brand) plug in and come home to the scent of fall!

3. Focus on a Few Small Areas
You don't have to redecorate the whole place.  You do live in your house, unlike a lot of the houses you see in magazines, so choose certain areas like the dining room, kitchen and entry spaces.  High active areas like family rooms and living rooms may not be the best to focus your time on, particularly if you have kids or pets who jump around and are likely to quickly put your hard work all over the floor.  Get a few wreaths for doors, things you can mount to the wall and stick up high if you're worried about kids/pets.  Clear vases with leaves or acorns (which you can get at your local Michael's, Pier 1, Hobby Lobby, etc) like the ones above are easy to put together.  Grab some branches from outside (clean them of course) and add them in.  Get electric candles to avoid burning the house down.  Find little items to stick in cabinets if you have the kind with glass doors so it's visible.  Don't spend all your time trying to recreate the house.  A few accents everywhere with most of the focus in a central place can give you just enough seasonal decor.
4. Buy the Whole Thing
While DIY is fun, if you break it down, it may not always be cheaper.  Don't buy part of an item and think "maybe I can do something with this."  If you're busy and you want to do some creative house designs, don't buy a solitary item without a plan.  That's how you end up with lots of random junk.  Have an idea in mind, buy something specific or something that can stand alone.  

5. Raid Your Kitchen & Closets
You may not have a tiered display like the one above sitting in the back of a cabinet collecting dust (or maybe you do) but you probably have those fancy bowls you'll never use.  Well use them!  Display pumpkins and apples in red, brown or even cream colored bowls or pots.  Keep your mail in a Halloween bucket.  Incorporate stuff in your house rather than buying more things you may or may not use.  Chances are there's a pile of cool stuff you bought on sale at the beginning of summer one year that you've forgotten about. Twice.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Throw an Art-Themed Party or Event

There's something very New York chic in the idea of a Gallery event.  Wine and light fare mixed with high ceilings and artwork.  Well, we can't let New York have all the fun.  So today I'm encouraging you to do something less Chicago-style deep-dish and more artsy ala The Met.  While I normally shy from trendy things because they tend to be so here and gone, I do think it's good to create an atmosphere that's different and fun.  Art never goes away, it just changes.  Parties never go away either, so just change it a little.

Mars Gallery, Chicago (West Loop)
Step 1. Venue
It's best if the venue has white walls to compliment an art gallery theme, but it isn't necessary.  (Here is a great list of Chicago Galleries) If you're not actually having a gallery opening, you aren't focusing entirely on the art.  Red walls, blue walls...whatever gives your event a funky feel is a good start.  You could also go the classy route and look for a mansion or classic, old-building style place. For a modern look, a warehouse/loft space is great.  There are lots of venues as listed on yelp here.

If you're doing this in your own residence, I doubt you'll want to repaint the walls so just skip to Step 2. 

Recreate your product/logo like an Andy Warhol
Step 2. Decor
Whatever space this is you will want to make it feel as gallery-like as possible if it isn't already.  If you are working with a gallery, make it as focused as possible.  Why are you having this event?
If it's business try to see if you can incorporate an "artistic" version of logos & products in with the art.  Maybe even pictures of employees and/or clients.  Be humorous or serious -- either way it's an opportunity to be creative!
If this is a party in a residence, the first step is to create as much open space as possible which will probably require moving some furniture.  Depending on the size of the place and how many people will be attending, you will mostly likely want to condense furniture locations -- you still want to have some seating available, but you don't want it taking up your wall space.  Form squares with your furniture with it all facing each other.
For either residential or gallery events, you can also incorporate different artistic options using TVs for imagery.  You can do slide shows or various creations -- if you want to do something on your laptop, you can hook it up to a TV using an HDMI cord.  (Click here to learn how to hook it up.  If you don't have an HDMI cable you can get one from

Step 3. Details
This is really the fun part.  Get into the little details that best work for why you're holding this event and make it your own.  Things like palettes for name tags, naming the drinks after famous artists (I'll have the Van Gogh Cosmo and my friend here would like the Salvador Dali Martini),  Artsy Guessing Games, even creating coloring books that can be based on whatever you are doing for the evening.  But let's not forget --Food Art!  You can always add art if it's a residence.  Get museum-style prints from or check out who gives you the option of framed imagery.

There are some many options and ideas for an art-themed party or event that I could go on forever!  But instead, I will let you be creative, but you can always reach out to me for help, ideas or to help you throw it.  (See my contact info below.)

Have a question about event planning?  Have a great tip, information or a story to share?  Post it to my facebook page:
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Monday, September 24, 2012

"Watch Out For Roaming Charges"

While reading this great article someone shared on LinkedIn, I was so alarmed when I read the astronomically high numbers that I knew I had to share it.  Whether you are an event planner or not, travel for business or pleasure, pay attention to your cell phone bills!  The roaming charge horror stories are a solid reminder of that.  In addition there are some great tips on how to avoid these charges.  The one I didn't realize: Switch your device to "Airplane" mode to turn off wireless devices but still pick up free Wi-Fi.
This situation is so intense that in Australia & New Zealand it's become a legal issue, as discussed in this article

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Using Free Operational Tools is Okay Too.

Money is important, but so is time.  There are many ways to operate businesses, interact with clients, vendors, etc. and to achieve the things you need every day.   Programs can cost lots of money in addition to the people it takes to maintain it.  If you're part of a bigger business, that's just part of doing business, but what about the little guys?  When it comes to operation, I don't think having all the flashy stuff is terribly important.  If you can find something that works, then do it.  Part of why I love the internet is not just for social media, but you can educate yourself and learn about so many things and then do it yourself.  Recently, the company I work for was looking to get an internet management account.  They mentioned how pricey things were so I emailed our Director at corporate and said "why don't you use Hootsuite?  It's free for small accounts and not very expensive to add more."  She'd never heard of it but said she'd look into it.  I haven't heard back about the final choice --chances are they are still deliberating -- but I think it proves an important fact:  Less can be more, or at least the same.  So before you think you need to spend a bunch of money on products, programs and systems for your business, do a little research and ask around and potentially save yourself some money.  If it's in the budget, allocate it for something for your employees, or additional promotion or reinvestment into the company.  Take the time to recognize what you need, be organized about it and think what would help you function at your best.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Gallus Events

 All bloggers know it's important to check out other people's blogs.  So today, I encourage you to check out this UK group's blog on getting a great audience to your event.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Building Positive Business Relationships: Be Open and Ask Questions

It's easy to get caught up in the politics of day to day business.  We see people go about things the wrong way, be pushy, selfish and unfair yet often times it seems these people get rewarded for their bad behavior because they end up getting what they want.  Right now.  Some people do use the selfish, bulldozer approach to "success."  But if you're looking at a long-term career, don't be so easily persuaded.  I was recently talking to a friend who is leaving her job.  "I don't know how my boss keeps that position but I'm glad I'm getting out before things get worse and I'm stuck with him by myself."  As a human being I would hope no one would ever feel that way about me, but in this situation her immediate boss left, expanding her responsibilities and would ultimately mean working with a man notorious for being awful and intolerable.  I could have a whole discussion on what psychological instabilities cause some people to become so terrible that something like this is a common statement about them, but I like to keep things relatively brief.

It's important that we see negative behavior and become determined not to do it.  It's easy to stoop to someone else's level, get mad and want revenge or to say "Well, if (s)he can do it, so can I!" Yes you can but do you really want to cause someone else the same frustration you have?  Do you want to be that person to someone else?  Hopefully you answered no, and if so continue reading.  If you said yes, smack yourself across the face and get a grip, man.

The best way to build relationships is to be genuine.  You need to care and to listen and to relate.  You don't need to remember everything every person says to you but you should try to remember the basics.  One thing I've been trying to do is ask someone about the last thing we spoke about last time I saw them.  I.e. "How was your son's baseball game?"  I know it's basic stuff, but when I'm busy and running around I don't always remember to take a minute and ask someone about their personal life.  That's why it's a bit of a challenge.  Show people that they are important to you and it goes a long way.

It is the same for customers and co-workers alike.  I notice this sometimes when emailing people.  Everyone is very formal and professional in the beginning, so sometimes I will try to throw in a more fun or casual sentence here or there, just to see how they will respond.  Once you relax the situation, most people will too and then personality emerges.  If I'm on the phone and neither of us seem terribly busy, sometimes I just ask people about their company and what they do because I'm curious.  People like to talk about their company, their work and inevitably themselves and so not only do I learn about a field or company, but that person on the other end knows I am interested in who they are and what they do.  They are valuable to me and not just because I say "You're a valuable customer!"  I show them. 

My pet peeve is going to networking and professional events and have people say "So how's business?"  There's 2 main reasons why I hate that statement:

1. You're not acknowledging that you are talking to a person .  Whenever someone asks me that I always feel like they're just trying to get information out of me that they can use for a cost-comparison analysis.  They also tend to be the person who walks away 3 sentences later.  Besides, we all know most people fudge numbers a bit or perhaps highlight better sales times than others, particularly if they've had a bad year.  And if they don't exaggerate then they are vague and often that's where the conversation dies.  Sometimes they'd rather not talk about it, which can be true even when numbers are good.  There's fine line between professional conversation and giving too much away, or at least that's how I feel.  However, I have seen people rattle off numbers down to the dollar like it's a wikipedia info page which then leads me to questions their sensibility.

2. It's non-specific, uncreative and impersonal.  I usually try to ask people what their job includes so if I meet someone instead of saying 'Oh, I know that hotel.  How's business been this summer?' I would say "Oh, [business], that's a great place!  So what do you do there?  What's an average day like for you?"  This gives me an idea of their role, how the person views their job, what they do & don't like.  It opens up conversation and allows me to actually learn something about the person standing next to me instead of drilling them for statistics. Granted, some people are better at that than others.  I always hope that at the end of the day, people feel like their experience with me was positive and that they spoke with someone who actually cares about what they care about.  This is what builds clientele that will follow you.  This is the kind of interaction that is important.

When looking at a long-term career path, whatever you're doing, if you're a good and friendly person who others respect, it will get you farther.  No one becomes successful without interacting with other people.  So even when it seems like Joe Schmoe over there is getting everything he wants, you have to remember that at some point he will plateau or head straight back down.  You can't spend your whole career pushing people aside and then be surprised when no one is around to help pull you up.  Cheesy? Maybe.  True?  Definitely.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

BizBash Idea Fest 2012

BizBash is one of my favorite event planning information resources.  I find it to be really interactive via the LinkedIn forums and also very informative.  I like that it's broken up into regions/major cities  that allows for local information with a general, consistent set up for all the cities.  So of course, this year, I think every event planner should look into attending BizBash's Idea Fest.  These take place in all of the major cities including Chicago.  On November 14th you can sign up for the day event which will be at Merchandise Mart, downtown.  Prices vary depending on what events you decide to attend.  To find out more information or to register, go to

Have a question about event planning?  Have a great tip, information or a story to share?  Post it to my facebook page:
If you'd like to work with me, email business inquiries to

Monday, September 10, 2012

Social Media Monitoring Tools

Today, I felt that I must share this really great article for following your analytics.  Julius Solaris Event Management Blog is one of the most informative information tools out there in the event planning world.  This article by Corina Mackay is an easy must-read if you're looking for easy ways to keep up with your analytics!  5 Social Media Monitoring Tools

Thursday, September 6, 2012

4 Tips for Planning an Event in Chicago

Each city has it's own vibe.  A great event planner can create the feel of that city for his or her clients, whether or not (s)he lives there.  While all the obvious things like venues, transportation & decor are important knowing how to plan in a certain city is also important.

The Chicago Convention  & Tourism Bureau (CCTB) has excellent resources on doing just that.  There's information on every part of the city. I am planning a trip to Boston, which I've heard great things about but have never been.  I thought about planning an event for Boston and while looking at a map, realized that I still didn't have a clue.  How far is point A to point B?  Should my friend & I be renting a car?  How easy is it to get a cab?  I'm sure I can do my homework, but it's not the same as going and knowing for myself.  So with that in mind, here are a few things to know about planning a trip to Chicago.

1. Weather
Chicago has crazy winters.  Being positioned right along Lake Michigan means that it's constantly windy and the weather is more intense than other surrounding areas, particularly downtown.  There's more humidity, more cold...  It's also all over the place.  Global warming aside, I remember earlier in the year when we went from 30 to 50 to 70 back down to 40 degrees in about a week.  That was spring time and while that's not normal weather it's still not completely surprising.
Knowing this is important because your travel time can get backed up, especially in winter.  This can affect your venue or activity plans.  Obviously you can't not plan on doing things on the chance that the weather might be bad, but it's definitely something to keep in mind if you're at a time that's in-between seasons.

2. Sports, Conferences & Summer Festivals
This is a business dinner, why would I care about sports or conventions or festivals?  Because they will block up the roads and suck up hotel space.
If you are a meeting planner or even a tourist but you're looking to come during a big convention, event or sports weekend (for example, the Ryder Cup will be bringing 200,000 people to the city who don't normally live here) then you should know that.  It's a lot of restaurant reservations, a lot of hotels, a lot of transit...  make sure you check what's in town.  Lollapalooza, the giant music festival, practically shuts down anything in a mile radius of Grant Park. These type of things will affect pricing along with availability and possible congestion/detours/shut-downs. 

3. Transportation
Chicago has an incredibly efficient transportation system.  If you're group is low key, or if it's not professional, I often suggest it.  However, it can be confusing.  Trains aren't labeled "north/south, east/west" they are labeled by stops.  Make sure you know where you're going and don't hesitate to ask someone.  If it's something you're using often, get a small map and make notes.  For example, if you're taking the red line (which can drop you off at both Sox & Cubs Stadiums) you may want to know that the "Howard" direction is north and "95th/Dan Ryan" is south.  Little details like that make life much easier.  Trust me, when crowds are giant and trains are coming, you find yourself jumping on whatever train "feels" like the right choice.  So if you have it written down, you'll make an informed choice instead of a panicked one.

4. Ask the People That Work There
When I work with out-of-towners, they often ask "how far are you from...?"  I live here and work here, so I know.  If you're planning for someone, don't hesitate to get on the phone with the concierge at a hotel or call anywhere you're booking to try to get as much information as possible.  Your clients will appreciate the accuracy!

Have a question about event planning?  Have a great tip, information or a story to share?  Post it to my facebook page:
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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

4 Tips for Tipping

People often wonder about the etiquette for giving tips and gratuity.  "How much do you give someone if...?"  "Do you tip someone for that?"  In some professions, tips are expected, particularly in service industries like restaurants, hotels, salons, etc.  But what about that awkward in between.  There's the expected tip, but what about additional, extra tips?  There's not always rhyme or reason to the whole thing, but here are my 5 tips on tipping (in no particular order).

1. Tips are expected but they aren't mandatory.  Tip appropriately based on the quality of service, but still tip.
I work in an industry where most of the people survive on tips.  Restaurants pay their employees below minimum wage because it is anticipated that they will make extra on gratuity.  Depending on the industry, I tip regardless of how good or bad the service is.  10% is a low tip, by standard, 15% means it was good, 20% is great.  I usually tip around 20% unless service wasn't good. Service has to be horrendous for me to leave no tip, but I have left a small amount, which also acknowledges a lack of happiness with service.  If something was bad enough not to leave any tip, you should probably be contacting a manager of that employee rather than leaving nothing and never coming back. 

2. If someone is paying for a service for you, make sure they've covered tip.  If not, you should be tipping on the total, original value of the service.
 Let's say your friend gives you a groupon for a massage.  The original value of that massage was $100.  Your friend bought it for $45 and you're getting it for free.  What no one remembers to read in that fine print is that the person giving you that massage has bills too.  They are giving you the same service they would have given a customer who paid the full $100.  So make the effort to see if your service includes tip either when you arrive or by calling ahead. Don't tip on $45, tip based on $100.  Have cash ready for the full, original amount.   Keep in mind, most establishments can't just charge your credit card without an actual charge/service attached to it.  And even so, the numbers on the book could deduct the cost of the service automatically which may result in the worker losing some of that tip.

3.  Money can not replace genuine gratitude.
While you shouldn't be cheap you also can't overdo it.  Not everyone deserves money for every little thing they do.  If a hired help assists you doing something extra, it's polite to tip them but be careful because sometimes trying to give someone money can also appear insulting.  It's a fine line between these 2 things and honestly, it's a case-by-case kinda thing.  Money is not meant to replace genuine gratitude.  Once at one of my jobs, I retrieved a woman's bags and helped her carry a few things to her car.  The place wasn't even officially opened for the day yet but she just stopped in early.  What I do remember was the slightly pompous way she walked around and after the task was finished, she reached in her expensive purse and shoved a $20 at me.  Maybe it was because I was still new to the whole thing, but it seemed excessive.  I got a sense she was trying to get me to feel indebted to her for such an unnecessarily generous tip.  Clearly she must be very wealthy if she's handing out 20s like grandma's holiday cookies.  So I refused it.  I think we managed to offend each other.  Catholic schooling taught me to be helpful for the sake of being helpful...for free.  In retrospect it probably wasn't so terrible, but the combination of obligation and the need to show off wasn't something I missed.  Was it wrong to tip me in such a situation?  No.  But there's something to be said for looking someone in the eye and saying "thank you."  I'm not saying don't tip, but if you are, make sure that it's meant to be a genuine thank you and not a "here, peasant -- have a gold coin for your troubles" kind of thing.

4. Personal versus Professional
If your friends move you into your new house, you usually buy them pizza and beer and promise to do something nice for them.  If you have a moving company you pay them based on how much stuff you have and how long it will take.  Most people know that tipping is not something you do when a personal relationship is involved.  Thank you cards, maybe a gift card perhaps some gas money...  When you think of it though, we tip people we know, just not always with cash. 
Example: I live downtown, 3 blocks from my job and within a 5 block radius of my apartment are 3 grocery stores, a starbucks, nail salon, bank, post office, public transit and a mall.  It would take me more time to find a parking space than it would be to simply go to my destination by foot.  Needless to say, I don't have a car.  So when I took the 2.5hr train ride to my parents' house every weekend 5 weekends in a row to help out when my sister was sick, my best friend would drive 45 minutes out of her way to pick me up from the train station and drive me to my parents house which was in the complete opposite direction of her own.  Every trip I brought her a bottle of wine, especially picked for her from la bella cita.  It became a creative challenge for me and something she enjoyed -- or so I think.  I'd try to throw in some of Potbelly's amazing oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (my favorite & hers) every now and then.  The idea being to do something nice or special.  I think the essence of tipping is doing something nice or special and that people on both sides of service often forget that.  When questioning whether to give someone money think did (s)he do something that earns it? If the answer is yes, then ask yourself is giving this person money appropriate?  If not, think of something else to do that is nice.  Get a business card, send a letter to the company.  Making good effort to inform someone's higher-ups about how great they've done is important as well.  But use your judgment and always make tipping part of a courteous act.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Corri McFadden for Gateway Green's Annual Fundraiser: OfficeMax's Green Tie Ball

Have you ever realized that the Chicago expressways always seem to be very clean?  Did you know that it's not government, but rather private organizations maintaining it?  Chicago Gateway Green beautifies expressways with plants and sculptures while keeping them clean.   Hundreds of thousands of plant life have been added through the years, increasing the standard of Chicago living; and needless to say, projects like this don't get funded on their own.  This year OfficeMax is sponsoring The 21st Annual Green Tie Ball which helps raise funds for Gateway Green, an event co-chaired by Corri McFadden whose new VH1 hit show House of Consignment, is based on her amazing luxury business eDrop-Off.  Although she's busy preparing for NY Fashion Week, Corri took some time to tell me more about why you should attend this incredible event happening Saturday, September 15th at Finkl & Son's at 2011 N Southport.
Corri McFadden, Owner & Founder of eDrop-Off

The Chicago Event Planner (TCEP): How early in advance do you start planning this event?
Corri McFadden (CM): As soon as one is completed, they start planning the next year.

TCEP: What was the inspiration for this year's Alice in Wonderland theme?
CM: When I signed on they had already chosen the theme but I really liked what they were planning to do with it.

TCEP: Is it just going to be some pictures, sculptures?  Do you know how they intend to make it different?
CM: You're supposed to feel like you're in Alice and Wonderland.  There will be scenery changes, wall art, illusions -- things will move around like they do in Wonderland.  It's meant to be a very memorable place.

TCEP: That sounds awesome!  Are you using and event company to help organize this event?
CM: Yes, we are using Absolute Productions.

TCEP: Are you looking for any volunteers? Would there be opportunities for recent grads or people who are looking to gain more event planning experience to help with the function this year or in the future?
CM: Absolutely!  We are always looking for volunteers.  This year we were looking for around a hundred and we are still looking for a handful for set up and donations.  There are silent and live auctions too.  If anyone is interested they can contact Gateway Green at 312.540.9930

TCEP: What is your fundraising goal for the year?
CM: Last year $379,000 was raised and this year we're hoping to raise $500,000 or more!

TCEP: Are there any specific projects that this fundraiser is aiming to help?
CM: The Expressway Partnership Project.  Last year over 115,000 pounds of plants and trees were planted and all of it was privately funded.  Much of the work they do is unseen.  Ever notice how there's no trash around?  They clean that, they are responsible for a lot of the beautifying that you see but don't think about.

TCEP: Are there ways for those who can't attend to still participate?
CM: You can always make a donation to Chicago Gateway Green and you can of course purchase tickets on the website.

TCEP: What can attendees be most excited about?
CM: There's great entertainment lined up for the evening.  Pete Wentz and DJ Rock City will be performing.  There will also be great food from Chicago restaurants and a casino tent sponsored by Rivers Casino.  Rivers Casino is sponsoring a raffle as well.

TCEP: Will you be there?
CM:  I will be there, up on stage.  Get a ticket and come say hi!

If you would like to get tickets or make a donation to the event, click here.

I would especially like to than Corri for taking time out of her busy schedule to talk about this event.  Visit her website for eDrop-Off or visit a store front at either Lincoln Park or Gold Coast.

Have a question about event planning?  Have a great tip, information or a story to share?  Post it to my facebook page:
If you'd like to work with me, email business inquiries to

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Great Articles on Conference Planning: Trends, Going Green, Common Mistakes & Marketing

I'll have to thank my LinkedIn friends for their wonderful posts on things to know for conferences.  While that is not the specific area I work in (I'm hospitality), there are MANY conferences in this city and it is important to keep up with trends, ideas and optimum functionality.

So here are some fellow bloggers with articles on how to continue being an excellent conference planner!

11 Excellent Conference Trends (posted by Trina Day of Day Entertainment & Events, Orlando)

10 Common Mistakes Event Planners Make (posted by Kimberly Williams, Owner of BIO event boutiques, Washtington, DC.)

10 Event Marketing Tips (Julius Solaris/Michelle Bergstein)

5 Ways Event Organizers to Plan a Green Event (Brittany Walters, Australia)

Have a question about event planning?  Have a great tip, information or a story to share?  Post it to my facebook page:
If you'd like to work with me, email business inquiries to

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cvent Ranks Chicago in Top 5 Destination Cities

Well Chicagoans, out of 50 cities, Cvent ranked Chicago #5 after Orlando, Florida #1 (they do have Hogwarts, Disney World AND Universal Studios), Washington D.C. #2, Las Vegas #3, & Miami, Florida #4.  I think that's pretty good, considering there are lots of cities in these 50 states. 

Read more about it here:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

10 Things To Do Before the End of Summer

You look at the calendar and repeat the date back to yourself.  August?  And it's almost over?! Before you know it the Chicago snow will be rolling in while the temperature drops and the sun goes away for everything but late morning and afternoon.  It always seems that summers aren't long enough.  There were a million great things you were going to do in summer.  Nope!  If you've been stuck inside force yourself out and do as many of the following ten things as you can before you're thinking back to that weekend where you really just should have left the house a mess and gone outside.

See an Outdoor Movie or Music Performance
The Chicago Park District  is still hosting movies through the end of the week, aka this week -- the LAST week of August.  Millennium Park is still hosting live performances through September, including live Jazz shows this Friday.  Go to to learn more!

Buy Something from The Market
They have these everywhere.  I searched the list on Explore Chicago for you and came up with 227 results.  There's nothing more summery than fresh flowers from the market and sharing a glass of wine over some cheese and fruit you bought that morning.  So get out of bed early and check out one of the many great markets in this city!  Heck you can even go on your lunch hour if you work near Daley Plaza.

Go to a Festival
I don't care if doesn't sound your style.  I'm not concerned that the only one happening is far from your neighborhood.  Nothing defines a Chicago summer better than festivals.  So find one and GO! Metromix always has a great list of events.  

Eat Outside
Barbecue, picnic, terrace, rooftop, breakfast, lunch hour or dinner.  Eat outside as much as possible before you can't anymore.  There are tons of great rooftops and outdoor dining options in Chicago.  Check out this list from

Have a Picnic
Get a few friends, some blankets and food and go to the nearest park you can find.  Go on a Sunday afternoon or one evening after work.  Beautiful summer weather shouldn't be missed!

Go for Walks
I tend to be an inside girl.  Then I go outside and I yell at myself for waiting for a necessity to drag me out.  Before summer's over just walk around the block, go for a bike ride. Don't be like me.  Get outside after work and enjoy the weather.  You don't need plans or an activity and don't make excuses for all the stuff you have to do that happens to be inside. Just go out.

Go to the Beach
Every year this one misses me.  It's the obvious summer activity yet somehow I find myself lucky if I make it once.  So before it gets cold get yourself in a bathing suit and acquire a tan line.  Even if it only lasts for a day.

Do Something Touristy
Bike tour, boat tour, cruise tour, chocolate tour, history tour.  Whatever it is, be a tourist in your own town and do something you normally make fun of matching-sweatshirt-wearing, walking-six-people-wide foreigners/suburbanites (ehem, tourists) do. Go to Navy Pier and get ice cream.  Wander around Millennium Park.  Take the gangster tour.  Go to a zoo and pretend like you've never see animals before.  Then get ice cream.

Go To a Sports Game
Pick one.  I hear there's a bunch.

Have a Chill House Party
Don't all the hit tv shows have people wearing fabulous yet simple outfits, drinking martinis their bffs make perfectly and just hanging out at the rich kid's really cool house?  Because that's what you do in the summer.  You don't need to be on tv or even fabulously dress, but you do need to make time to just relax a little, enjoy some r&r with friends and pretend as though you're 15 again with no responsibilities.  So pick a house, pick a drink, play some music and call it a party.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Labor Day Party Ideas For Inside City Dwellers

When reading through different labor day party ideas I hoped to find a wide variety of creativity.  It was basically "stuff to do in your backyard."  Well if you're like many Chicagoans, chances are you're lucky if your building has a roof or balcony or any kind of outdoor space 2ft wide or bigger.  If you do have communal space, you can bet it will be packed with all the other residents which is often why people go to Wisconsin, Michigan or anywhere else this time of year.  But if you can't get out of town for Labor Day, here are some ideas to help you celebrate that don't involve just going to the lakefront with a mini-grill (not that that's not fun, too).

Pick a Theme
Just because your space is small doesn't mean you can't create a fun atmosphere.  The difference with your one bedroom apartment and a suburban house with a back yard is that instead of getting giant picnic tables and tents, you get creative with items like cups, plates, table cloths and seating arrangements.  Hang up a string or two of white lights and make sure there's food & music.
Theme Ideas: Most people, especially in Chicago, equate Labor Day with the end of summer.  Most of us hang on to summer for dear life because we know what kind of weather we're about to get into.  So a picnic or semi-patriotic summer theme is always good.  Blues, reds and barbecue!

Keep It Simple
You don't have a lot of space to go crazy with, so don't.  What is important for any party is that your guests' needs are met which usually means food, drink, somewhere to sit and enough toilet paper in your bathroom (really though, make sure you've got more than 2 rolls).  At the end of the day, the people you are with are going to make the party along with good food and decor.

Creative Items
For those plate/napkin/cups decide if you want to go paper/plastic or real.  I suggest plastic because it's easier to get more themed items which aren't going to cost a small fortune that you then have to figure out where to keep.  One of my suggestions?  Use fry baskets for the food.   You can order them from Bed Bath & Beyond. Have a handy stack of paper towels (which you can also get plain or in whatever color/pattern you want) and give it an outdoor feel.  These jars from Ikea (from 17oz - 68oz) are perfect for drinking out of with straws or for putting condiments or food in.  Get stickers to decorate them or plain white labels so guests can put their names on them.  You can also get checkered table cloths by Coleman to cover any counter or eating spaces.  Cut them to size.  They're only $3 at WalMart and also available on

 Do Not Fear Ordering In
No one's going to judge you for not making your own food.  When you have a smaller place, as so many of us do, it can be hard to have enough space to cook all the food and then clean all the dishes before anyone shows up and then display it.  So combine the pot-luck theme with the main course ordered in.  Lilly's Q has perfect, delicious barbecue with take-out and catering options.  I always think it's nice to actually make something unless you know that the kitchen is your personal danger zone.  Make cookies, appetizers or dessert.  Guests like to have something to snack on when they arrive with an aroma to fill the house.  While you don't need to supply all the beverages, clear out your fridge and make sure you have a nice supply of pop, water, lemonade, etc.  along with room for whatever your guests bring. As we all know, good parties can also be expensive.  Don't feel like the cost of the whole event has to be on you.  If you know you have a friend who really loves to cook or has a certain special recipe, encourage him or her to bring it.  Include your friends on the food list and don't feel guilty for asking people to bring something.  If you supply the food, ask friends to bring apps & drinks. Make a food list that fits your theme and then match it to your guest list.  If that someone who makes a great recipe is unreliable and not likely to show up, don't assign them something that is critical to the food supply.  Make sure you can at least cover the important stuff or count on the ones who are helping with it.

Have a question about event planning?  Have a great tip, information or a story to share?  Post it to my facebook page:
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Friday, August 24, 2012

Using Twitter for an Event

Recently I had a coworker come in and say to me "Hey guys, we should all get on twitter!  I just figured it out and it's awesome."  To which my immediate thought was You just figured it out? ...I get it, though.  I feel like I've just gotten the hang of Pinterest and now not only do I like it, but I use it as a quick-find for unique items.  Social media belongs to a certain part of the brain, kind of like languages.  You either get it or you don't.  But just like a language, practice makes perfect.  The more you learn & interact using it, the easier it is to understand.  I recently attended an event that used tweets.  I've read about incorporating it but never really experienced it.  I think it can be a very useful component to an event to encourage interaction and engagement of attendees -- but it also depends on how tech-savvy your attendees are.  Remember, it's an audience-driven tool so while it's a great way to promote and continue the conversation, you have to also be sure that, like with all forms of social media, it's appropriate for what you're doing.  If you're a social media guru and you can throw it in, I say why not?  People expect to be able to go to their favorite site and find information about your event.  You can have it there, but don't strictly rely on it.  Diversify your promotional approach along with your plans for engagement if using twitter is new for you.  

I found 2 really great articles discussing the uses of twitter. has an excellent article which quickly & easily breaks it down: also has a great overview with a list of sites to help you incorporate tweets into your event:

These articles assume a little so in case you're completely unfamiliar with twitter, here are some basic steps that people don't always explain:

What Is Twitter?
Twitter allows anyone to say whatever they want in 140 characters or less.  You can follow people and they can follow you. You can include links to other websites which are often shrunk down to what are called "tinyurl"s  which lessen the characters shown to the link.

Why Would I Want That?
Twitter is a conversation piece -- whether you looking to start it or continue it.  I sign up for a lot of news sources this way.  BBC, CNN, FOX, etc are constantly updating their twitter feeds with a link if you want to read more.  I like this because I can find out what's happening right now, but if it's not something I want to learn more about, I can move on.

Twitter is also great for business because you can find people with certain interests and see what they are talking about.  You can get yourself out there and connect directly with anyone simply by mentioning them in your tweet.  For example, my twitter is @ChicagoPlanner.  If I wanted to talk to someone, let's say @abc123 I could say: @abc123 Thank you so much for attending the event.  Hope to see you next year!  When the tweet comes up it would show it came from my twitter account @ChicagoPlanner, and because I used their name, it would alert them about my tweet.  It's a great way to reach out to someone you don't know without being obtrusive.  It's also a great way to announce to other people that you're communicating with other people.  (Anyone can see everything you've ever tweeted, whether or not they follow you.)

What IS a Hashtag (#)?
I did not understand this for a long time.  Why are people always putting that stupid symbol in front of words without any spacing? Every how-to-promote you read about twitter says "use a hashtag." "Create a #tag."  Well that's all well and good if you know what it is.  Hashtags are basically topics.  Using the hashtag indicates a specific topic that twitter knows it should find.  When you search it, every tweet with that hashtag appears in chronological order (the first tweet you see being the most recent).  If someone is looking to know more about something, they can search the hashtag.  If someone is sharing information related to the subject, they can include the hashtag to make sure they are found by people searching that topic.  Hashtags do NOT alert a person.  Let's say you said this: @abc123 loves #JustinBieber.  Justin Bieber does NOT get that notification.  However, if you said @abc123 loves you! @JustinBieber" he would get that.  So basically a hastag (#) is a subject/topic and @[name] are people.

So hopefully you feel brave enough to use twitter for your next event.  It's a great way to interact and keep the conversation going!

Have a question about event planning?  Have a great tip, information or a story to share?  Post it to my facebook page:
If you'd like to work with me, email business inquiries to