Icing on the cake

Last month an argument enraged on Twitter. An industry event chose not to serve food, yet some guests considered catering a given. The event began at 6.30pm and alcohol was to be served all night – some thought it appropriate and a ”must” to serve at least canapés. Naturally, there were arguments for and against but it did generate the question – is catering now an added extra and not an event essential?

It’s paramount that organisers deliver their guests more than promised, managing expectations and knowing their audience inside-out – only then can you truly blow them away when you’ve bypassed even the fussiest of standards.

In this business, first impressions count for everything. So, surely there can be nothing better than stopping a guest in their tracks and smacking them in the head with a sensory overload and a feast of extraordinary ideas before sending them home with memories they’ll keep.

Kitty Ebdon, director of Prop Dead Gorgeous and Crafty Arty Parties, suggests that finishing touches signal individuality and are thought provoking – the last detail must create a strong impression and whilst money is tight organisers do not wish to drop standards.

“A finishing touch can be as little or as large as you like,” she explains. “They are subjective and what one person likes another will not. I love to receive an invitation where something falls out, like confetti. But I know some corporates hate that. Others might say it’s service. A perfectly kept entrance and exit are equally important. When the party’s over, make sure the entrance/exit is as perfect when you leave as when you start, and not looking like World War III.”

Ebdon suggests that the “wow factor” has dwindled in the past year. Goody bags have been pulled with the experience ruling over freebies and gifts. It seems that in 2011 guests should not expect the unexpected but should appreciate the simple, and cheaper, solutions.

Mandy Mahil, director of Mango Pie, says that corporate guests appreciate a piece of memorabilia in their goody bags, and not something that can be eaten in two minutes. Organisers should think beyond “tacky” photos and look towards flipbooks and silhouette artists, which now cut out a guests entire body and don’t just present a head and face on a piece of card.

For private events and weddings, finishing touches require a personal touch.

“Instead of wedding favours use small jars of homemade chutney,” Mahil continues. “Instead of written place names use wooden Scrabble tiles to spell out your guests’ name. Instead of table numbers, use humour. I am working with one couple getting married who have called their tables – who cares, next to yours, f*@k knows, the best one and haven’t a clue so that when a guest asks ‘what table are you sitting on?’ they respond accordingly – who cares, next to yours, f*@k knows, the best one and haven’t a clue.”

According to Shaun Westerman, marketing manager at Themes Inc, lighting is without doubt the best finishing touch, and he argues it can make or break an event, transforming familiar spaces into other realms.

He adds: “A finishing touch depends on how an event is viewed and a client’s attitude. What differentiates one event from another? For me personally, lighting makes the difference where as others assume it’s that sprinkling of fairy dust. The ‘wow’ factor is definitely a well over-used phrase… you’re just taking an average event and making it special. Decent lighting can transform an event and create a mood. But then I ask you to define ‘finishing touch’ – it is a table centre, catering or a prop?”

Nice to work with

Luckily, there are a plethora of companies on the market that offer organisers choice and have the ability to spruce up an
event so that’s it’s more then a venue with some flowers on the table, nice lighting, a background singer, white wine, red wine and lager, a chicken satay skewer and a goody bag with company literature.

LiquidChefs has devised a new Boardroom Bartender service to offices. Tell them who, what, where and when and they’ll suggest the drinks menu, set up a LiquidChefs Designer bar, and send a bartender or two to shake those drinks up in a flash. And if your office is alcohol-free, it can blend fresh fruit smoothies instead.

Megabooth has launched a Christmas- themed London black cab photo booth for the festive months, Lumacoustics
has developed its well-respected YrWall product. YrTable now allows guests to walk in and customise their own name badge. And GLD’s illuminated make up mirrors make their very own fashion statements – perfect for retail, film and cabaret events and theming.

Ebdon also suggests serving branded mugs of hot chocolate to guests who are just about to watch a private film screening. It’s not a cheap option but one that will leave guests feeling all warm and fuzzy, full of memories and in a happy mood.