Free Idea Fridays!

Cooking up some new ideas
With the popularity of cooking shows and reality cooking escapades, celebrity chefs are just that - CELEBRITIES.

Here are a few ideas on how you can incorporate this cooking craze into your next event:

  • Here, your guests actually don aprons and work side-by-side to help the chef with the cooking.

  • Within a demonstration kitchen, your group watches and listens while the chef prepares a meal right in front of everyone. You can pair this with a wine tasting if the event is more social in nature.

Keynote Presentations:
  • Many speaker bureaus are listing celebrity chefs on their rosters. Chefs are passionate, run their kitchens like iron ships and many are experienced entrepreneurs who can touch on many motivational themes.

Even having a celebrity chef at one of your food stations during a reception or serving up gourmet burgers at your company picnic is a welcome surprise for any party goer. No matter what the method, celebrity chefs are engaging, humorous and can add a playful flavour to any event.

How to choose the right chef? Keep these points in mind:
  • It is important that the chef possesses a strong television personality to create a buzz amongst your invited guests and the media.
  • The chef needs to have a book, television show or signature product lines as this helps add to the excitement.
  • Including a complimentary autographed cookbook for all your guests adds longevity to the experience
  • Try to match the chef to your theme – if you are concentrating on a "local flavour" try to get a chef that specializes in foods from that particular city or region.
  • Many chefs support their favourite charity and if your event has a philanthropic component that matches a certain chef – you have a winning recipe.
at 03:48PM
Knowledge is Power
We were in Chicago last week for a client program. We were at a high-end luxury hotel. The service was exceptional, the food was good, the bedrooms were comfortable and the meeting space was perfect for our group. Good all-around with one huge exception - it was one of those hotels that charges you to use the electricity coming out of the wall. Of course, this is not a new issue nor is it limited to Chicago. On a recent program in San Francisco a unionized worker tried to explain to us that we were in fact taking away a job from an employee by plugging in our own registration equipment.

I completely understand the position of the venue to have policies in place in the interest of safety or law, or in order to avoid misuse. This is fair and reasonable - but we are not talking about rigging thousands of pounds of amps ourselves or about us getting up on a scissor lift to hang Leko lights – we are talking about plugging a laptop computer and basic printer into a pre-existing wall socket. What’s next – will there be a pad lock on the light switches in each meeting room – a pay as you go rate on power?

Unions are in the business of fighting for worker’s rights – that is not going to change anytime soon. It is very rare to find a hotel or convention center without unionized staff – so how do we fight for the rights of our clients while respecting the union rules?

Here are some quick tips for you:

The detective work has to begin at the RFP (Request for Proposals). Ask all your questions up front at this stage before even entering into contract negotiations.
  • Ask for a list of all preferred suppliers.
  • Ask about exclusive suppliers and the penalties incurred for bringing in your own supplier. Some exclusive in-house AV providers force you to pay for their head technician to just shadow your AV technician.
  • Ask whether the hotel uses union labor (and which departments). If so, make sure you know the hotel’s labor policies so you don’t run into extra fees. For example if the housemen are unionized, this could result in extra labor charges for room flips overnight.
  • Ask about fees for security guards, extra electrical hookups, and cleaning especially if you have any type of exhibition in your program even a small table top display. (It could end up costing thousands more.)
  • Ask for rates for shipping and receiving and box delivery charges. (Getting this waived may be a great concession to ask for if you know your group has lots of deliveries.)
  • Ask about Internet charges. (For me this is the greatest variable and we see the prices for this fluctuate greatly from city to city and even property to property within one city – there is no standard.) You can try to at least get internet charges waived for your office, general session room or registration desk.
  • Ask about taxes, surcharges and gratuities.

If working with a convention center you should ask for the facility’s operating policies & procedures manual to review fees and policies that are not always apparent when booking the space. These come to light only after the contract is signed. If you wait for the contract stage to find out about preferred suppliers and unionized regulations, you might be too far down the road to turn back.

When all this information is collected during the RFP process, you then have the KNOWLEDGE you need to negotiate your own clauses into the contract. It also ensures you are getting the best possible price and service by preserving your right to shop around.

George Tsimidis, Account Executive at AVW-TELAV Audio Visual Solutions also advocates doing plenty of research and keeping your options open. He recommends reading this article from Convene before you write your next RFP:

Don’t get left in the dark – know your stuff and make your venue choice based on all the right information!

If you like this blog posting – check out the March 4, 2011 (Loving Contracts) for more helpful tips.
at 10:51AM
Brilliant talent on display at Royal Jubilee Concert
We all know that the behind-the-scenes crew of sound, lighting and special effects, rarely gets the praise they deserve but I was so blown away by the Queen’s Jubilee Concert this past week that I had to give a big shout out to all the amazing talent involved with this incredible event.

The world (literally, since millions watch on broadcasts from around the world) descended on Buckingham Palace, while millions more jammed the Mall and surrounding parks, watching the concert live on giant screens.

The concert was organized as a joint venture between the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) and Take That singer-songwriter Gary Barlow, who spent two years planning the event. I was a bit surprised the BBC’s involvement was so extensive (Let us just say that I never thought it would be what a "weary" national broadcaster would do best). I was wrong – the event was anything but lackluster.

Thanks to dramatic special effects, the royal residence's facade was magically transformed into a whimsical backdrop for an array of music legends. (The line-up included the most diverse array of UK talent – Elton John, Tom Jones, Robbie Williams, Annie Lennox and Paul McCartney, plus a few imports like Stevie Wonder)

Understandably the Queen wore earplugs. Her tastes lie more with the best of classical music which also played a big part at the concert, in the form of opera star Alfie Boe, soprano Renee Fleming and virtuoso pianist Lang Lang.

Mark Fisher - who has toured with the Rolling Stones and U2, putting together their monumental stage shows - was responsible for the event’s staging and lighting, including the specially constructed theatre-in-the-round stage with canopy that was built incorporating the Queen Victoria Memorial in front of Buckingham Palace.

Meanwhile, pyro technician Michael Lakin who is the firework director at Starlight Designs from London was the man at the controls for the incredible final four-minute fireworks display using some 4,000 fireworks, fired off in 2,000 individual cues.

Both men are well-known events professionals at the very top of their respective games, staging events across the globe for the world's biggest organizations and acts.

Small photos would not do this spectacle justice, instead I found this great article from the UK’s Daily Mail that has a wide assortment of photos showing the fireworks, the screens up the Mall, the incredible stage and the projection on Buckingham Palace.

Worth a few minutes to take a look at -

I can’t wait to see what London pulls off for the Olympics!
at 02:52PM
It’s a piece of cake...or cupcake
Cakes and celebration have been synonymous for centuries. Never out of fashion, a cake can add merriment to every occasion (even corporate events).

So how do you get the most "bang for your buck" when incorporating a cake into your next celebration?

Here are a few suggestions for marking that special corporate milestone with a cake:
  • Don't just limit it to anniversaries; think about including a cake for new product/company launches or initiatives, grand openings and other special milestones like adding a new franchise location.
  • Make it memorable – the designs are limitless these days (I have seen everything from telephones to elephants to custom cars to hot dogs, all life-like and deliciously edible. One of my favorite sites for inspiration is out of New York. Her creations are works of art.
  • Include your logo, anniversary and/or corporate message
  • Hire a photographer and/or videographer to make the significance of the achievement last
  • Have a cake for show and another for eating and always have enough cake to serve the anticipated number of guests
  • Parading in a cake is a bit too 80s for me and rolling in a cake for a cutting ceremony requires precise timing and pre planning. Instead, make the cake a focal point of your event room – a location where everyone will be able to see it (let them gush over it and take photos).

Let’s not forget about the cake’s little sister – the cupcake’s popularity is still going strong. There's something so whimsically childlike about unwrapping a cupcake, getting frosting on your nose as that first bite melts in your mouth.

If the notion of serving cupcakes instead of cake just doesn’t have the right “feel” to you, I should point out that presentation is everything. Check out this Cupcake Dress Character courtesy of A2D2 ~ Aerial Dance Cirque Company in Toronto.

Oh and one more thing when it comes to this sweet battle - if you think cupcakes will save you money, think again. Remember cupcakes are just as much work - if not more - than a traditional cake. Every single one of those suckers has to be baked and iced and decorated.

What you get with cupcakes is the flexibility to serve a variety of flavors and textures. You can create cupcakes in any theme. For instance, if you are doing a 60’s party for a corporate anniversary party, you may want to serve food indicative of that decade. You can also take a more traditional “old-fashion” dessert like Baked Alaska and put a modern twist on it by serving it in a cupcake version (TV drama “Mad Men” has prompted retro-themed parties that often include Baked Alaska on the menu giving this nostalgic dessert a rebirth in popularity by adding 21st century flare making it fresh and new. Even cupcake liners offer a variety of prints- from leopard to floral to plaid - matching any theme.

A fairly recent trend I see more and more these days is the cake lollipop. Basically cake pops are small cake balls on lollipop sticks. They are made by mixing cake crumbs with icing, rolling into balls, dipping in melted candy or chocolate, popped on a stick and decorated into many different cute shapes.

Let your guests it cake (in all forms) because let’s face it, everyone can use a bit more cake in their life.
at 11:35AM