Friday, June 29, 2012

Chicago NonProfit: Expand Your Ideas On Event Planning

I had the pleasure of meeting with Randy Dill, founder of  This is a wonderful organization that Randy himself describes as "The Nonprofits Chamber of Commerce," facilitating resources, information and services between nonprofit organizations, volunteers and companies.  With a resource page, an events calendar, directory of non-profits and non-profit-friendly businesses, and even networking mixer events, Randy has created an original and useful model for maximizing how both individuals and companies/corporations can become involved in the the nonprofits world.

Randy shared some great advice on how to incorporate a non-profit into your next event and how to look at the way you are involved with non-profits.

Tip #1:
"I worked on an event once with a $50,000 budget.  We used $30,000 and put the rest towards a home-building charity. . . .  The theme was carpentry [to represent the charity].  We changed nothing about the purpose of the event or who attended the event or why.  The people who came would have come anyway except now they left feeling better and more involved about [it]."

"You want to convey the power of what you're doing.  People grasp the meaning of what they are giving you if you say 'this is going to give 10 children supplies for school' instead of 'we need $100'."
Randy demonstrated that the most important thing a non-profit can do is equate need & resources with donations.  People want something tangible to understand what they're giving to and why.

"You always want a great turnout at an event, regardless of the money made.  You need to show that you are relevant and people are involved."
I was surprised by this fact but it makes sense.  Other people need to see that your non-profit is important and that others want to be involved too.  If you have 200 people show and raise $5,000 it gives your more opportunities to expand with those contacts and potentially be more powerful for continued support of a nonprofit than if 50 people showed and you raised $10,000.

What I found most inspiring about Randy & his work is not just his passion for it, but his ability to stay focused on the point.  He doesn't get overly-involved with one non-profit.  He doesn't try to tell people how they should give or what they should give.  He just wants people to do what works for them.  He also is very passionate about the idea that regardless of what your giving -- time, money, resources -- that it's personal.  People have a connection with who they are donating to and why.  "I always try to be respectful [of that]."  It's something that I'd never considered before and part of why I believe he is so successful at helping so many different organizations get what they need.

Randy helps organize 3 annual Networking Events in the fall, spring and winter.  It's a great way to expand how you think about Event Planning!

If you would like to become more involved with Chicago NonProfits, visit the website:

Have a question about event planning?  Have a great tip, information or a story to share?  
Email me:

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Network Like a Pro Using LinkedIn

Despite what you often hear, Social Media isn't good for only marketing to clients.  It's an excellent way to see what's already out there, what is relevant and who's doing it.  Personally I love LinkedIn for that reason.  I can find professionals in the field and connect with them -- individuals I may not have come to know otherwise. If I can't learn about a topic directly from LinkedIn I can find sources where I can hone in on a subject.  For an event planner this is key.  BizBash has a great group with discussions and forums that facilitate inspiring ideas.  The groups you join all line up on your profile like the extra curriculars on a resume.  As an internet lover, I find that LinkedIn is essential for professionals.  It shows that you are current, it displays your skills, your interests, your experiences and even better, it gives people the opportunity to back you up with its recommendation segments.

This article from  discusses  Social Media for meeting planners and is a great example of how Social Media impacts business.

So if you haven't dived into all the possibilities of LinkedIn, sit down and do it today!

Have a question about event planning?  Have a great tip, information or a story to share?  
Email me:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

4th of July Weekends

This year the 4th of July just happens to be in the middle of the week.  So do you celebrate before or after?  Explore Chicago has some great links to not only things you can do this summer but things to do both weekends.  So check it out!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Simple Summer Treat: Haagen Dasz with Berries

One of my favorite desserts is Haagen Dasz Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with Berries.  Not only is it delicious but it creates a colorful & flavorful display that can be as simple or elegant as you'd like.  The difference?  How you present it.  I chose to display this dessert in a wine glass.  It's simple, it also allows for smaller portion sizes which is nice if you have a large party and don't want your guests feeling privy to giant bowls of ice cream.  If you choose Haagen Dasz it is heavier and quite filling so you really don't need a lot.  The berries accent with a crisp, fresh flavor and summer flare. Depending on your event you can make it as basic as setting a pre-designed bowl, cup or glass in front of your guests or provide your guests with a choice of ice cream and set out various types of berries so your guests can choose as they please.

Ingredients (per serving):
1 Cup Haagen Dasz Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
1 Cup Mixed Berries (Raspberry, Blackberries, Blueberries, Strawberry -- whatever you want!)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Drink Hopping

This weekend my aunt came to town and we ended up going from fancy restaurant to fancy hotel restaurant/bar/lounge/roof-garden getting a drink at each place.  It's a great way to experience a city! We went to The Drake, Nomi @ Park Hyatt, The Peninsula, RL, & Sixteen @ Trump.  Many of these places I have walked by a million times but never bothered to venture into.  It was a lesson for fabulousness and it was nice to have the side-by-side comparison of service, food and ambiance.  Here are my reviews:

The Drake Hotel -- Afternoon Tea @ 1:30PM
Tea Set, The Drake

Food: I hate to admit it but it wasn't the best.  Much of the food tasted like it was prepared yesterday or even earlier in the week.  The silverware wasn't fully polished (some of the silver looked like it was beginning to tarnish) and when they brought out the towers for the sandwiches and desserts the servers carried them by their tops so that they swung a bit when they walked as opposed to brining them in on trays or carts.  However the tea selection itself was excellent and I enjoyed my choice Orange Dulce very much.
Sandwich & Dessert Tower, The Drake

Service: There was plenty of staff around but they stuck to watching their own tables.  It was decent service but not over-the-top.

Ambiance: A very classy feel.  Not a laid-back atmosphere.  A beautiful fountain with an incredibly impressive flower arrangement centers the room.  Dress is upscale casual -- they do have a woman who plays the harp dressed in a fancy gown, so take that as you will.

Notes: Most of the clientele seemed to be celebrating or doing a special occasion tea.  Going earlier seemed to be better as more people were arriving closer or after 2.  Tea is available at 1PM.

Nomi @ The Park Hyatt

Food: We only got drinks but the food looked excellent.  I got the "Two Step," a raspberry & vodka summer creation.  It had ice shavings in it which I wasn't expecting at first but kept the drink cool and was good once it had melted.  There are a lot of seeds in it though which I wasn't expecting either but mostly sat at the bottom.

Service: Great!  We were in the "Garden" and it was pretty hot.  They have some shade however we weren't quite in it but staff offered us water and they definitely worked as a team to make sure we had what we needed.  At least 4 different people touched our table and as a restaurant industry girl I truly appreciate that.  If we needed water we got water.  Two people asked us if we needed a check when we looked ready to leave.  Drinks, food, anything we wanted, someone was available to give.  We did have the same primary server but I liked that other staff members didn't hesitate to stop by our table and didn't overwhelm us.

Ambiance: Very chic yet laid back.  This place looked like it was a strong mix of locals and some tourists  with an overall classy clientele.  The set up was more fun and made me feel like I was on an island vacation with it's wooden bar and fun employee outfits of navy-and-white-checked shirts, navy pants and red shoes.  The Garden is definitely a place to relax and enjoy the weekend!

Notes:  Go and have a drink because it's fun and you just should.

Ralph Lauren (RL) Restaurant
Food: Again, we didn't eat but even the bread looked amazing.

Service: Excellent.  They were attentive but not overwhelming.  We sat outside and received just as good of service -- they don't neglect their patio diners!  We had plenty of water and my mojito was perfectly made.

Ambiance: Inside it was dark and seemed like somewhere you may only want to go on special occasions.  The clientele seemed slightly stuffy but the servers weren't.  They were a good combination of friendly and professional.  I appreciated the perfectly polished glasses and silverware.  Outside was more laid back and being between Water Tower and Michigan Ave it served as a great people-watching spot.

Notes: A good place to go if you're feeling fancy.

"The Lobby" @ The Peninsula

My Bellini at The Peninsula, Florals by Kehoe Designs

Food: We got bread with our drinks this time which was good.  Everyone gets their own little butter plate which I like -- it avoids awkward butter-sharing or having to even ask for butter which I find many girls don't want to have to do.  They also serve afternoon tea which looked phenomenal.  Their afternoon tea list is nice as you can do a set menu or order ala carte with a generous choice of delicious options.

Service: Not as good as Nomi or RL.  They were a bit slow coming around and we waited a bit for orders and the check.  She did come around a few times to check on us but it wasn't very busy and there was quite a lot of staff around who didn't even make eye contact when we needed something.  Overall it certainly wasn't terrible but I would have liked to seen more team work with the staff.

Courtyard View from the Dining Room, The Peninsula
Ambiance: Absolutely beautiful.  Even though it wasn't full it didn't need to be.  A black grand piano sits in the room and a live string quartet plays from a balcony.  The windows look out onto the beautiful courtyard (which was closed off due to a wedding).  The setting is impressive right down to the well-polished silver and the hard marblesque tables.

Notes: A beautiful place for an upscale after noon drink or tea with the girls, perhaps a baby shower or surprise birthday.

Sixteen @ Trump International Hotel & Tower

Food: Very expensive for what we got.  I could only stand a few sips of my overly-sweet $18 drink and we were charged $24 for a cheese platter that had about 6-7 small slices of cheese with a few sprigs of arugula and not even a handful of candied fruit.  While very good it was only worth $10-12 in my opinion at most.

Service: We sat outside and our server almost never came around.  Or she would walk by and not even look at us.  It was a bit frustrating.  I've dined inside and had excellent service but it seemed that perhaps they were short-staffed that evening.  It seemed evident that our server would have rather been somewhere else (not that I blame her entirely on a beautiful Sunday night), however for a $24 cheese platter that didn't even come with bread or crackers or fruit I would hope she could at least see if we needed water.  We were offered none and by the time someone would have come around for us to ask for it, we were ready to go.  There was additional staff that stopped by once to clear plates but didn't wait long enough to see if we had any additional requests.

Ambiance: Breath-taking.  Where Sixteen lacked in outdoor service they made up for in unbelievable views of the city.  Intimate views of the Wrigley Building, Chicago Tribune Tower, the Chicago River AND the Lake, this is the perfect date-night spot in the summer.  Exposure on the 16th floor right on the water meant for a cool night and provided beautiful panoramic views.

Note: Definitely go but order everything you may want at once if you sit outside.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Make Any Event Amazing with BBJ

In case you didn't know, BBJ is at the top of table design & linen service in the city of Chicago. If you ask about it, most event planners in Chicago bring up their name.   I had the privilege of getting some really great information from Executive Sales Manager, Brooke Marino, on how you can work with them for your next event. 

TCEP: How far within the Chicago area will you deliver?

BBJ: BBJ can deliver anywhere at any time. We have teamed up with UPS to provide Concierge Service Delivery all over the world. We have a state-of-the-art Logistics Center that offers our clients VIP Services including specialized web tracking and confirmations, deliveries and returns.

TCEP: What are some basic facts anyone ordering linens should know?

BBJ: That linen can make or break an event! That the sky is the limit and the design possibilities are endless. Linen evokes emotion by combining color, texture, fashion and design. Bring us your ideas, and we can help create your vision! The members of the BBJ Sales Team have diverse backgrounds in Design, Events and the Hospitality Industry. A floor plan of the event space is a very helpful tool to assist your Linen Consultant.

TCEP: Who is your ideal client?

BBJ: Anyone who wants to have a fabulous, memorable party! We have created table fashions for all types of events from Backyard BBQs to the Emmy Awards – and everything in between! 

TCEP: How can someone be creative in incorporating your products with their event?

BBJ: BBJ offers more than 2,800 tabletop fashions including over 900 linen choices that can be combined providing endless possibilities of creativity. Our all-glass Charger plates add dimension, style and sophistication to tables. Not only are they beautiful but functional as they are the only food safe Chargers in the rental industry. Texture, color and pattern are key when selecting linen; consider layering linen with overlays and/or runners, and finishing with Charger plates and napkin rings to create an experience your guests will always remember.

We strive to create that “WOW” moment when the doors open and the guests enter the finished room for the first time – this will leave a lasting impression and atmosphere for the every big event day. We constantly get compliments on our ability to transform empty ballrooms into extraordinary events!

TCEP: One of the greatest/most successful events you can remember doing?

BBJ: Every event that I work on is the “greatest” event for me! That is the fun part of my job – I get to work with people from all walks of life, at different spaces for each event and be creative! Recently, I had the opportunity to design a Garden Wedding reception for my friends Jaime Laurita and Rich Lane which was featured on “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” on BRAVO. It was amazing seeing their home turn into their dream wedding.

Want to work with BBJs for your next event?  Visit their website at

Have a question about event planning?  Have a great tip, information or a story to share?  
Email me:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Chicago's New Speakeasy - Untitled 111

Many still correlate Chicago first and foremost with the notorious Al Capone.  As such, midwesterners are all too familiar with the Speakeasy notion.  So if you're looking for somewhere original and classy to go, check out Untitled 111 located at 111 W Kinzie Street (Kinzie & LaSalle), Chicago IL 60654

Having just opened this new hot spot has exceptional food.  So check it out this weekend!  Want to learn more?  Read this article from Chicago Eater:

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Work Meeting Fun

I'm not saying everyone has to have this much color-filled, choreographed fun at your next job meeting, but it is important that work-related events be considered as important as client events.  After all, if no one is there to work for your clients you wouldn't have a business.  More importantly, if those workers don't have pride or excitement for their job your clients are going to go away because, well, your employees are disgruntled and basically suck.

I read this great blog post, unfortunately I can't link it because I read it rather nonchalantly amongst a slew of other articles.  It basically stressed the value of quality events for employees.  I agreed with the author whole heartedly.  When my company does meetings it usually involves food & drink (I work at a restaurant).   And I LOVE it.  It reminds me why I love my job so much and why I love working for my company.  A few corporate team members pretty much know our entire staff by name and we learn things while tasting and enjoying foods & beverages I would never buy myself.  (No I'm not getting myself a shot of $400-per-bottle scotch, but sure I'll try it for free.)  It works for me.  I get to taste what I'm selling and when I like something, I tell people.  "Yeah, this stuff's GREAT, you should definitely offer this wine."  My clients can tell I'm legit because I am -- I've tried it and I like it.

I have found how important it is to feel encouraged and be around encouraged employees.  They usually work harder, and when you feel appreciated it's easier to.  It's also important that you be both creative and relevant when planning these fun corporate events.  While everyone would love a trip to Vegas, it may be good to let your employees vote on a restaurant or venue and plan activities around it. While most people shun surveys it never hurts to ask.  Send out a brief 3-7 question survey to get people's thoughts on particular topics that you can build ideas around.  For example:

1. If you weren't at work would you rather be A)Bowling  B)Exercising  C)Eating  D)On An Island

2. If you could star in one of the following type of TV shows, what would it be: A)Reality  B)Comedy C) Drama  D)Documentary

3. If you were an animal, what would you be: A)Lion  B)Koala C)Llama  D) Dog

4. If you weren't allowed to work in this field anymore would you be a : A)Scientist  B)Explorer C)Writer  D)Rock Star/Celebrity  E)Independently Wealthy -- keep your 9 to 5.  I'm getting on a yacht.

Something as simple as this can give you an idea of your employees interests and what they may want outside of work.  While ideally all of your employees could imagine doing nothing other than what they already are, chances are that's not true.  Acknowledging that and creating an environment around it may help you facilitate a feeling of acceptance and openness that makes your employees feel better about working for you.  You may also discover talents you never knew your employees had.  Getting to know your co-workers/employees and acknowledging their skills is a great way to encourage innovation!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Good PR for a Closed Event

I am working on the PR committee for a charity event with the Greater Chicago Food Depository (, an incredible organization that helps feed not just homeless people, but hungry people in the Chicago Area and over 20 of the top steakhouses in downtown Chicago.  We were all sitting at the lunch table, trying to figure out how to let people know what we were doing and just as importantly, how to get the public involved in a closed event.

I went to school for Advertising & PR and in college (and not far out of it) you tend to think that if you studied it you must know all about it.  Wrong.  I've been working in business a few years and learned the ropes of general corporate behavior, good administrative skills that have helped me develop better business skills combined with my avid love for The Harvard Business Review.  The more I dive into different types of events, what makes a good event and how to accomplish the point of the event, the more I realize I don't know.

So needless to say it was a great learning experience to sit around a table of about 12 people with all different backgrounds, many in events & PR.  It was great to see the blend of old-school tactics and the need for a modern-day approach.  And some things I learned while listening to people who actually worked in PR were these things:

1.You should be generating buzz and/or recognition before, during and after your event.

2. Assess who you are trying to inform.  Who is your demographic?  Who should know about this?  Why should they know about it?

3. How do you reach them?  If the public is not directly involved or can not participate in the event then media is not going to be interested.  Perhaps you can build a story out of it, but unless there's a takeaway of some kind for the public your chances for PR & Media covering a closed event may not be very high unless you have celebrities.

4. Getting coverage after the event is important (for annual events) to continue to build buzz for next year.  If the post-party notes are good people will say "hey, we should go to that next year."

5. Pay attention to what works and what doesn't.  Learn from the previous years, other events and remain focused on what you need to accomplish.

Have a question about event planning?  Have a great tip, information or a story to share?  
Email me:

Friday, June 15, 2012

Unique Catering with Paramount Events

Once you have a roof over your head (aka a venue), the second-most important thing is the food.  We've all experience a bad cafeteria or mass-produced food that tastes second-rate, even at a nice event.  It's important to impress your guests and make them feel as though each of them is being spoiled -- no matter how many guests there are!  This says something about you and your event because people always remember the food and it gives them a good reason to come back (or not come back) the next year.  Paramount Events is a catering service which prides itself in the fresh products and diverse menu options which can help you have a delicious array of unique items that will set you apart.  

Just how great is Paramount Events and why should you use them for your next Chicago event?  I got the 411 from Brittany Nicholson, Catering Coordinator.

TheChicagoEventPlanner (TCEP): There are a lot of catering companies in Chicago, what do you think differentiates yourself from other caterers?

Paramount Events (PE): To set us apart from other off-premise catering companies we have restaurant partnerships with some of Chicago’s best dining establishments such as The Purple Pig, Francesca’s, Heaven on Seven, Piccolo Sogno and Divante Enoteca.  Say you are marrying the love of your life and your first date was at Francesca’s, we could recreate your favorite dish from the restaurant for your wedding.

TCEP: Your description is about customized catering.  How customized could someone make a menu?  Will you create an entirely new dish for a client?

PE: Absolutely, we do whatever we can to make sure our clients get what they are looking for. 

TCEP: Quality of food is always important.  I know that you make your food fresh daily -- do you prepare any of the food on-site?  Particularly for morning events?
 PE: We prepare everything on-site, if the client has a hot breakfast we do make that on-site but if its breads and pastries, those are not made on-site.

TCEP: How far would you cater out an event?  Do you have a limit on distance within the Chicago area?

PE: We can go wherever you need us to go!

TCEP: Do you specialize in or can easily work with vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free or any allergy-related foods?

PE: We can easily accommodate all of the above for any type of event

TCEP: How soon should someone be contacting you if they need an event catered?  Do you have a maximum or minimum number you will prepare for?
PE: It depends on the magnitude of the event but we can turn around an event as soon as you need us to!  We’ve done events for 5-5,000 people and any number in between.

TCEP: What is something you definitely wouldn't do?

PE: There is nothing we won’t do or try to do for that matter when it comes to catering!

TCEP: Who is your ideal client?
PE: We love all kinds of clients.  When a client comes in and allows us to use our creativity that is always fun!

TCEP: Do you have any suggestions or advice for someone, perhaps a bride, who is unfamiliar with catering and doesn't know where to start?

PE: Know your budget and don’t rely on the internet.  The internet can be misleading when it comes to planning a wedding.  Also, think of a restaurant that you and fiancé like and think of possible menu items to present to caterer.

Want to learn more about Paramount Events? Visit them at
Like them on Facebook
Follow Paramount Events on Twitter

Want your business featured on The Chicago Event Planner?  Have a question about event planning?  Have a great tip, information or a story to share?  
Email me:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Laugh This Weekend

In case you happened not to know, Conan's been at the Chicago Theater all this week for his Late Night show.  TBS has also featured a string of comedians to entertain us with greats like Aziz Ansari and Sarah Silverman.  It started on Tuesday but you can still get you tickets for this week!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Vendors Vs Planners

I just reviewed a great discussion on LinkedIn about Vendors & Planners and better way to interact.  The common theme seemed to be communication is key!  There were people from both sides who were passionate about this.  The other common discussion was that errors and details seem to fall apart under the logistics and around money.

Some vendors (and some planners agreed) that planners can be cheap and try to get out of paying vendors for their full services.  Some event planners felt that the contract from vendors were unclear and therefore it wasn't that they were trying to cheat the vendors but they didn't understand.

It's an interesting topic, really.  For me I think that anyone in the business who is new is obviously going to have a learning curve, but any professional, regardless of their field, knows how to cover their ass.  One commentator made an excellent point -- get a logistics list from your Vendor.  As a vendor you should know if you need water, electricity, load-in space, who your crew will be, etc.  This layout was great and not to far from what I do with checklists in my position.  There's always the opportunity for improvement and there's also always room for mistakes.  I think it's important to be recognize the potential for both but try to fix it before you break it.

In an earlier post I noted that you have to "know who you're working with."  It's also important that you know what you're working with.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Crazy Successful

Just about every person has been through the "what are your strengths and weaknesses? What qualities do you have that will make you successful?"  We ask ourselves this all the time.  I love reading articles on successful people and observing exceptional, professional individuals.  It would seem like they are completely organized, on top of things and know what they want. I like to observe their qualities and characteristics -- how they approach situations and talk to people. It almost doesn't seem normal to be soooo put together.  I was reading this description of the skills a good event planner has: extremely  organized, multi-tasking, time management, creative, problem solver, people person, excellent communication (speaking & writing) and great with budgets.  Does this person even exist?  I once read article about how creative people are most like mentally-ill people than the "normal", more analytical types.  I've always been told I'm really creative which I found interesting seeing as my sister is mentally handicapped.  Cleanliness & organization are always praised, yet when I walk into someone's house who has not a thing out of place or dirty I kind of wonder what's wrong with them and I'm scared to sit on their couch.

Another interesting notion I've come across is the concept that some of the most successful people are sociopaths.  They care nothing about other people and therefore can easily bypass the emotional aspects that keep most people from making more, oh, moral and ethical decisions that may not be the most profit-driven.  A lack of need for personal relationships doesn't hold them back like it would me.  (So no, despite my best efforts after reading about this topic, I am NOT a sociopath.)  This article was very interesting.  

So what's this got to do with event planning?  Well it's more of a professional observation overall.  The next time you are convinced your boss in completely nuts, take comfort in the fact that he or she just might be.  The next time you feel like you could have done more, keep in mind that half of those "geniuses" are not only odd, but they snap.  And if you don't believe me or the articles, watch Aviator (if you haven't already).  It's about Howard Hughes and how he is one of the most astonishingly successful men of his time...and he's a little loose upstairs.  I still remember a scene where he (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) washes his hands so many times in a row they crack and start bleeding.  Totally freaked me out which is why I still remember it (Just put the soap down! I kept thinking).  So while evaluating what it means to even be "successful" make sure the requirements to get there don't make you unstable.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Make Chicago Your City for Destination Weddings

I'm not married nor have I ever been, but I have friends & acquaintances in the process.  For most young women, the notion isn't far away.  (As a huge Disney films fan, I say they started it.)  Most people think about their ideal wedding long before they're ever married.  The more I see the process, the more I think "Destination Wedding!"  It gives you a vacation and a wedding all in one while making a good excuse for keeping the guest list light and details minimal.  Sorry, Mom, but with the flights and hotels, we really can't afford to invite all of you & Grandma's friends.  Bam. Done.

Exotic or foreign locations seem to be the idea -- Monaco, Bahamas, anywhere warm and beachy.  The other factor that comes into play, however, that I've noted the most amongst people I know is money.  The great news is that in this day & age, wedding creativity is far more appreciated than it used to be.  A destination wedding doesn't have to be exotically expensive it just has to be somewhere else.  Cue Chicago.

Botanical Gardens

The Chicago Public Library
Lincoln Park Zoo
If you're not from here, there's a lot to do.  From Navy Pier to the Sears (fine, Willis) Tower there are plenty of sights to be seen.  What's even better is if you come in the summer when it's warm we have a beautiful lake (less salty than an ocean!) and incredible venues including Lincoln Park Zoo which has the beautiful Cafe Brauer, The Botanical Gardens, The Art Institute, and even the top of the Chicago Public Library downtown.  Phil Stephani Restaurants has a great list of the venues to check out.

Have a question about event planning?  Have a great tip, information or a story to share?  
Email me:

Friday, June 8, 2012

Weekend Plans

Looking for something to do?  One major event is the Chicago Blues Fest.

(Learn More: )

Want other ideas? Check out these websites:

Chicago free:

Explore Chicago


Have a question about event planning?  Have a great tip, information or a story to share?  
Email me:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The NATO Effect

I do know it's a few weeks after the fact, but I figured everyone should settle down before we talked about it again.  Preceding the event, most citizens seemed generally terrified, yet the whole time I couldn't help but feel a little bit excited. Some of this city's greatest organizations like the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau/Choose Chicago, The Greater North Michigan Ave. Association (which I am a part of) have been working along with many others to make Chicago appealing not only to Americans but on a global spectrum.

When I studied abroad in Europe in 2007-08, most people's reaction to me saying I was from Chicago was Al Capone!  I remember thinking Really? Not even Oprah?  Before, Chicago hadn't made itself quite as known for modern-day excitement.  Now we're getting there with features in major films like Transformers and having the President of the United States call this his home town and then deciding to hold the NATO summit here.

What differentiates NATO from things like cinema and entertainment is that world leaders set a precedent of another quality.  When the president or prime minister says "that was an excellent trip," it's more than just a great scene -- it's an experience from someone you know has experienced a lot.  That's  not to say that people have thought badly about Chicago, it's simply that they didn't think about it.  Now we've held our ground and shown we can take on large protests and function without terrorism of any kind.  While scary for some, I think this was actually a big move forward.  My proof of this?  The day after NATO ended I was by the lake when a lady asked me to take her picture, shopping bags in hand.  She was a Canadian who now worked out of Brussels with NATO.  "I never realized how beautiful Chicago was!  I LOVE your city!"  She told me how surprised she was that it was so clean and the people so friendly.  She just never knew.  And while that may not be as valid as a bunch of stats, seeing a person who seemed so happy and awe-struck made a bigger point to me.  Equally important, she worked in a position where she can manage events and may choose to send high-level dignitaries back.  While many were very disappointed that the work The City of Chicago did to prepare for the Olympic bid fell through so quickly, it clearly wasn't a waste.  The improvements have made an impression.  And a good one at that!

Have a question about event planning?  Have a great tip, information or a story to share?  
Email me:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Now that I've started this blog I've started exploring the internet world behind event planning much more heavily and I keep coming across the same thing: use Pinterest!  I'd seen it on my facebook time & time again and finally signed up for it, trying to figure out what all the fuss was about.

And then I found myself engulfed in an endless world of the cutest animal pictures, home decor and general girly nonsense I love.  I got why people were so into it once I got the swing of how the whole "pin it" thing worked.  What an exciting waste of time... or was it?  Some of it was completely needless but other stuff was actually somewhat fun and interesting.  It was organic because I was seeing creations people made themselves, people's ideas.  It wasn't just a bunch of photoshopped ads designed to make it feel real and to show you what you can do if you have a particular product or service.  It was real because there was a normal-looking person doing it.  And it even seemed like something I could do!  So of course now every business is trying to tap into that organic, grass-roots resource that stems from something really basic: the things we love.

This is a great article from Event Marketer describing how you can start pinterest-ing for your business.

Now I've only really used this site once but I plan on going back.  Especially since I found the coolest Italian socks that are made of lace and look good with open-toed heels.  Simply genius!  I also intend to give it a shot for my own endeavors.  I always like to explore social media and while I may not jump on the wagon right away, I still like to play.

So go play with Pinterest too, but remember, when trying to reach you audience go for your audience.  Think about the things you love and why you go back to it all the time.  Then use that to create your campaign.  And then maybe your clients will find you Pinteresting after all.

Have a question about event planning?  Have a great tip, information or a story to share?  
Email me:

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

New To The City? Things To Know

Each city has it's thing, stuff the locals know and any good traveler does too.  Chicago is no exception to that.  If you are new to the city, here are some things you should know, ESPECIALLY if you are planning an event here.

Chicago is a convention city.
All cities have conventions and events, and while we're not quite Vegas, Chicago still has a lot of them.  Conventions strongly effect availability and pricing for hotels, restaurants, venues, etc.  We also have McCormick place, the largest convention center in North America and one of the largest in the world.  Major events like the annual Chicago Auto Show are held here and most recently NATO.

A great resource to learn more about conventions and things to do in Chicago is the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau (CCT).

There are LOTS of neighborhoods.

While Chicago is the city, it's broken down into many parts.  If you're planning an event you should know about this.  But don't worry! Even as a resident of 7 years I'm still learning about some of them.  For example "The Loop" is downtown but so is "River North," "Gold Coast,"and "Streeterville."  So if you're in The Loop you're definitely downtown, but just because you're downtown does not mean you're in "The Loop."  It's important to know this for logistics because some of us mindlessly refer to those areas and you want to make sure that while areas like Lincoln Park have a great scene and are popular, that it's relevant and convenient for your plans. 

Chicago has a great transportation system and depending on your event, it may work just fine.  We have the "L" which is the standard train system throughout the city in addition to the Metra which are more or less commuter trains (although there is one that stops right at McCormick Place which is a great way to avoid traffic).  We also have a pretty solid bus system and of course O'Hare & Midway airports.  Many people in the city, like myself, don't even have cars.  Walking is also a great way to get around this beautiful city.

To learn more visit:

Other Basics
Major Sports Teams:
Baseball: Cubs & White Sox
Basketball: The Bulls
Football: The Bears
Hockey: The Blackhawks
Soccer: Chicago Fire

We're known for our Deep Dish Pizza -- Giordano's & Lou Malnati's are 2 of the major restaurants with multiple locations around the city

We're known for our Steakhouses -- of course I have to say Mastro's is the best!  But there are tons of us!  Gibsons, Morton's, Lawry's, Capital Grille, Chicago Cut, Joe's, Michael Jordan's, III Forks, Keefer's, Sullivan's, Smith & Wollensky's and a million more!

In the summer we are also known for our great festivals like Taste of Chicago, Blues Fest, Lollapalooza, and many many more.

Have a question about event planning?  Have a great tip, information or a story to share?  
Email me:

Monday, June 4, 2012

One Way To Minimize Conflict: Know Who You're Working With

Everyone always talks about communication in those boring seminars you go to that seem to point out the obvious while giving you an excuse not to be at work.  Yes, we all need to communicate -- write down details, follow through, tell people things -- the basics.  Professionals know this and do it very well, yet there is always room for error.  No matter how good you are at planning an event, life wouldn't be life without its little surprises.  You can't prevent every mistake but you CAN do your best avoid them.  I could write a whole book about that topic but seeing as this is a blog I'll keep it short and sweet by going over one of the most important aspects of an event: Know Who You're Working With!

Duh, I know who I'm working with, what are you talking about?

That's probably what you thought when I said that just now, didn't you?  Well trust me you can never be too careful.  It's surprising how quickly disorganization can occur when someone new shows up that you hadn't heard about who sometimes bring along details you didn't know about either. This can happen more easily it seems with 3rd party companies who have a few individuals working with their client who may include a few people while working with you and your staff.  This is where all the organization mentioned in the last post is very important.  This is also the point that defines a good planner and a great planner based on how you handle these situations. Part of it is personality and a big part is information.

If you are hosting the party make sure you know all of your point of contacts with every group involved.  Who's your point of contact at the venue?  Who will be delivering food, flowers, linens, a/v, etc.?  Make sure you have names and approximated arrival times and check in to be sure they've arrived within that time frame-- put a reminder on your calendar if know you're going to be busy.  If you are not hosting the party but involved with the plans, ask your host those questions.  This is an area where my learning curve has grown and is still growing because sometimes people come up with things I would never thought of, and therefore didn't think to ask about and for whatever reason they forgot to tell me.

Part of understanding your client is knowing the purpose for the event and what they require.  I deal mostly with business people bringing clients and/or having dinner meetings.  We still get the birthdays, bachelor(ette) parties, social celebrations & charity events.  At all of these types of events the people who call us have a plan: to entertain, to improve business, raise money or just have a good time with good service and good food.  So once I understand the purpose I get basic info -- how many people, what time, any a/v, special requests, etc.  One thing I'm working on getting better at myself is solidifying the point guard -- that person who covers every detail of the evening and whom I should be taking any additional requests from.  Clearing this beforehand, as I have come to learn, is very important though sometimes difficult to distinguish.  While John may have been the point of contact, maybe there's another guy (or gal) who seems to be calling the shots or is pushing for something not discussed previously.  Knowing your point guard can even be more important at social events because when you deal with families and non-business groups who not only don't have a corporate card covering the bill but based on their roles or interactions with the group, may feel more entitled to add to the evening whether or not they've orchestrated it or are even paying for it.

Example: The first wedding reception I organized.

I met with the bride -- she was nice and lovely and I was really looking forward to helping her with one of the most important days of her life.  We'd been working many months and I remember how excited I was seeing her come up the stairs in her beautiful dress.  Everything went wonderfully until the next day.  She called upset about the bill.  According to the lead server family members insisted on having red wine upon arrival for all guests to toast for the bride and groom.  They insisted and persisted because they said this was their cultural tradition.  The bride & groom who were paying for the bill were upset saying they never wanted it and asked who authorized pouring all this wine?  What I didn't think about?  The bride is never there to cover last-minute details at a reception beforehand.  What we didn't have was a point guard.  So when the mother of the bride says she wants something, you'd think she'd be the best person to advise on the situation.  My guess is that part of the trouble was that they doubled what they were "anticipating" to spend once all the liquor and wines had been said & done.  There was probably a next-day aftershock that lead them combing over the bill.  And I certainly don't blame them. While I worked with them to stay within their means as best as I could, we can't guarantee their guests will do the same.  Any bridal planner probably would have slapped me in the face (and rightfully so) because knowing who can call the shots when the bride isn't around is a kind of detail that make a big difference.  I was so disappointed in myself that I didn't think of that.  Weddings are very different from corporate events and while it was my first one, it was something I really took to heart.  Since then I've gotten much better at ironing out that kind of information because in this industry there are a million personalities, demands and expectations but at the end of the day if there's a mistake you have to do your best to correct it while answering to someone.

So take it from me and do what they taught you in kindergarten:  pick a buddy and stick with 'em!

Have a question about event planning?  Have a great tip, information or a story to share?  
Email me:

Friday, June 1, 2012

The First Step In Event Planning: Get Organized

There are all kinds of events out there -- social, weddings, corporate, charitable, etc.  So the first thing you need to do when you know you're having an event is to organize it properly.  While that sounds obvious, you'd be surprised how fast things can get complicated, especially if you're not as familiar with the field.  

Where to start?  Budget!  Create a realistic budget -- not the budget you wish you had or a budget you think you can get together.  You need to make sure you can afford all the items & services you may need. This will then help you prioritize.  When prioritizing, come up with a solitary goal for the event.  If it's a wedding your goal may be to create an enjoyable experience for your guests.  If it's a charity event, you obviously are looking to raise money but what do you want your guests to leave saying about you?  Maybe you can encourage people to volunteer or donate resources in addition to money.  If you have a central focus this will keep you in line when you're being talked to by a million people who tell you that every event has to have [expensive item/service here]!  Money isn't everything but it is important.  If you can afford to splurge, do it!  But you shouldn't be taking out a loan or risk being fired if you work for a company because of your extravagant tastes.

Once you've established a budget, a focus and prioritized items, keep your information organized.  When dealing with companies, be sure to know the date of your event and have details at hand.  While most companies do know their clients they may also deal with a lot of them.  Plus you may not get the same person on the phone every time.  While it's nice to be remembered, don't assume people are going to know all of your information for you.

When getting information from the company write down as much as you can.  For example, if you're calling around for a florist don't note just which ones you've called but list who you spoke to.  ALWAYS ask them how to spell names or items if you aren't sure and include what time you called.  Even add details like "friendly staff" or "can deliver quickly."  This type of information will help you stay focused and ultimately make the right decision.  It's also good to do in case you run into any trouble --now you've got all the information in front of you so that hopefully the person you're dealing with will be able to help you correct any issues.

Once you've selected vendors and gotten details together be sure to follow up.  One new employee at a company can easily make a mistake that may translate into your message getting displaced or information not being received.  While this isn't something to freak out about all the time it is something to be aware of.  If you don't hear back within 24 hrs, call back.  Whenever I deal with clients I will leave a voice message and immediately email them.  Different forms of communication work better for different people.  I've found that the busy executive tends to prefer email because you can quickly check your iphone or blackberry during a meeting, in an airport, or while waiting for a client but you can't necessarily take a phone call.  But that doesn't mean you should never pick up the phone!  Attempt multiple means of communication, particularly if you need a speedy answer, but don't overwhelm people.  10 emails in a day can quickly make you "that" guy or girl.  Always be polite and realistic when being thorough.

...And since we're kinda on the subject.  When contacting someone, ask a lot of questions if you need to but try to knock it out in one shot.  Calling back once, even twice is okay but once I've had someone call me 3 times in a row when they could have just taken the time to assess what they needed and covered it in 1, it starts to become annoying.  Most people will be polite, but be aware that you are taking up that person's time.  Whether it's the client or the employee you have to remain aware and be respectful.  Equally, you also deserve time.  If you're a customer, the company providing services should take time to politely answer your questions.  If you're an employee, your customer will hopefully answer the questions you need to do your job correctly.  There's always a balance in business and for heaven's sake make mother proud and be nice about it!

Have a question about event planning?  Have a great tip, information or a story to share?  
Email me: