Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Lessons from Our Own Party

Some Notes for the Spring Season!
Brought to you by Rick of The Private Professionals
So what happens when The Private Professionals throw a party of their own? 
Everyone has a really good time, that's what!  Well, that & you learn a few things... 

After giving it some thought, for Marti Gras this year we decided to throw a bit of a bash all our own. It started out as a small cocktail party for my affiliates, but then one of my guys volunteered the party suite in his building so with such a great space available things started to snowball a bit. Before long I had a full blown party on my hands. I thought it might be beneficial to share a few thoughts & notes from the evening. So without further adieu...

Something to keep in mind, what matters most isn't the chaos that might be going on behind the scenes but rather the impression you make upon your guests.
And even in the midst of what might seem to be an unbelievable challenge, more often than not things can usually be worked out.  Let me explain....

We had booked a party suite back on January 3rd (the party itself was to take place on February 25rd), but due to a total screw up by the property management to which we were engaged the space was double booked for the evening in question. Mind you, I found this out at 10pm on the Friday before the party (which was set for 8:30pm on Saturday)!  Ugh... 

At first we fought w/ the management company but soon realized that our efforts were to no avail & as it stood we were going to lose the space altogether (& thus the party was to be cancelled) - which was NOT an option. Instead, what we ended up doing was to work out a deal w/ the other party adjacent to ours. We agreed to move our event back to 9:30pm if they would assure us that they'd be out by 8:30 (which I knew was cutting it close but it was all we could do given the circumstances). This did present one incredible challenge though as my original plan was for roughly a 2-3 hour set up!  Fortunately, there was a room adjacent to the main party area so we pre-set all the buffet tables & prepped everything there so we could just take the whole thing across the hall in one big swoop (the food & everything I had prepped the night before).

Unfortunately, their party ran late (which is what I was afraid would happen) so we ended up having to set the entire room from A-Z in just 20-minutes. Thank God I had my crew there!  They were awesome & in the end we broke down the other party before us & were able set the entire room in just under a half-hour. I love these guys for a reason - they're the best...

I guess it was a Marti Gras Party after all, so after a bit of initial chaos behind the scenes everything pulled together & as the guests began to arrive things looked seamless.  

The Lesson? Be sure you control your space (because losing your space is the one hurdle you can't overcome; at the very least stay on top of it & assume incompetence will be a factor). Also, prep as much as possible well ahead of time (w/out a solid prep walking through the door I would have NEVER been able to deal w/ all the last minute chaos that ensued on the day of the party. It was only for that & the good work of my team that our guests never missed a beat - this lesson however applies just as well even when things go smoothly as there is never enough time if you put it all off to the last minute).

Something else I found wasn't really a lesson learned but rather a confirmation of something that I've been saying for years. It's sooooo true - Music Drives the Mood & Tempo of the Party!  I wanted a very upbeat tone to things. So I did a series of club mix & party mix CD's (I've got software that lets me edit music, video, & photos so I can burn my own discs. I can even reedit individual songs & save the whole thing to I-pod formats). Anyway, I did enough music to last the whole night & it really did set the tone. Things were anything but casual, the crowd was very upbeat & this led to an overall tone for the rest of the night. As a party favor I also burned a bunch of CD's to set out on a table w/ a note that said "if you enjoyed the music tonight, then please feel free to take a complimentary CD" - I then listed the times that each CD was playing so that people would know what was what.  I've gotten some REALLY good feedback on the music & on the CD's (& I did it all for what was really very little money). If you're interested in the software I use it's called Roxio Media Creator. I highly recommend it.

Something else to keep in mind, if you have a party where you're inviting a number of singles who won't know anyone then ask them to bring a friend or two.  I invited the core group of my own personal friends (the 'old guard'), a few "friends of the family" for The Private Professionals, a few clients for The Writer's Inc. (my other venture, & of course my affiliates. This was a very diverse group & I wanted to be sure that everyone felt comfortable & had a good time. So knowing that there's strength in numbers I said that each should feel free to bring a friend or two. It was interesting, of the people I invited, those who brought a friend or two not only stayed longer & mingled with more people, but they also had a noticeably much better time throughout the evening. Those who came on their own tended to leave early & didn't really mingle with the rest of the crowd. Something to keep in mind...

Also, a few small touches & proper lighting really does make a tremendous impact.  Throwing a string or two of white Christmas lights on the buffet & a few tall candles really does offer a powerful degree of elegance, appeal, & impact. I saw this at a party once & now I'll never do a buffet again unless I can properly light it. Also, candles placed around the party with some munchies & simple finger foods naturally draw people into perfect conversation areas (Sam's & Cosco by the way is GREAT for this kind of stuff).  In general, we turned the lights down really low & essentially lit the whole room w/ candles & white Christmas lights. It was a Marti Gras party, so we also tossed around some party glitter & a few beads. BOOM!  Instant ambiance...  ;-)   Okay, honestly it was amazing how much a few small touches transformed the space.

If you find a room that could really be helped w/ a dimmer switch, then before your next party you should take the $5 & 10 minutes to do so. And keep the white Christmas lights handy, they're good year 'round....

Perhaps most importantly, be sure to save some time to relax & get in "Host Mode."  I had the whole thing planned so that I would be able to get set up & then go over to Starbucks just so I could sit & relax for a while. I have to be honest though, because of the screw up with the space & all the last minute run around I was thrown completely off my game. The party went really well & everyone had a great time, but by the time things were rolling it was just impossible for me to decompress & enjoy myself. It was then that it hit me just how important this critical step was. I ended up "working" the party & at no point was I able to really get into 'host mode' - it's an important step, so be sure you observe it.

Which brings me to my last & perhaps most crucial point...

Above all else, the most crucial lesson to learn is that you shouldn't be working your own party!  You need to prep & you need to run around the day before (& a good bit on the day of the party) to be sure that everything is all set & ready to go. There's a lot to do ahead of time - that's just the nature of the beast. But then as zero hour approaches, you need to remember that you're the HOST, & as the host your real job should be to spend time w/ your guests! People have told me time & time again what a great service we provide (& for the record, we do provide a great service). But now I honestly see the real value of it. If you work your own party then you're worrying about the ice, & drinks, & food; you're focused on taking out the trash & on clearing all the dishes or glassware. What you should be focused on is enjoying your evening & on spending time with your guests! Besides, cleaning up at the end of the night REALLY sucks. You're tired, it's late, & yet you turn around & things look like a bomb just went off.  It's soooo much better when all of this is done for you.

A full service bartender really does add an exceptional level of class & fun to any affair. Having a service assistant just takes all the stress & hassle out of the last minute issues. And having someone there to attend to your party means that you can focus on your guests rather than to be consumed by all the details of the evening. Then at the end of the night you'll be able to just go to bed knowing that everything has been taken care of & that you won't be waking up to such a mess.

So you spend time with your guests & let us take care of the rest!  Believe me, you'll be glad you did. ;-)

We look forward to seeing you for your next affair,

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