Special measures

Listen to this article

How do you plan to “wow” your guests at your next event? Stand Out asks event professionals for their hints and tips…

What’s the difference between a finishing touch and the “wow” factor? Nothing. Those little extra touches that are considered the icing on the cake and the big things that smack you between the eyes when you walk in a room gauge exactly the same reaction. Whether that’s a booming, bellowing reaction for everyone to hear or a reserved, appreciative nod displaying thanks is entirely up to your audience. Regardless, an expression of appreciation for something you’ve created or managed is appreciation all the same but what is guaranteed to muster such a response from your delegates, party guests or customers?

The “wow” factor is like design, fashion and style. What one person likes is not necessarily liked by another. The trouble is that as event industry professionals who have seen so much it’s easy to get blaze over what is experienced on a daily basis. Industry forgets that what one perceives as boring and overdone may not have been seen by everyone. And so perhaps we should remember that sometimes the simple things could be just as effective as the all singing, all dancing technological advances that have permeated industry.

Beautiful drapes, hurricane lamps, lighting, sky lanterns, stunning floral arrangements and fireworks are tried and trusted but familiar, achievable and have the ability to make guests feel comfortable.

Mandy Mahil, director of bespoke event designers, Mango Pie, suggests the following ideas: “Name tags that can grow – at the back of individually printed seating cards, write “grow this when you get home” and embed seeds to the paper. And we did a wedding this summer where we printed the menus on card no bigger than a business card. Each menu came with a magnifying glass. 0 per cent practical but 100 per cent fun!”

Mahil says that you have to throw away the rulebook if you want to achieve something “wow” so recently she placed dead insects amongst the flower arrangements for a wedding in the country. The insects were made to look as if they had crawled on to the table.

Kelly Mendoza, event designer, also makes this suggestion: “I once did a Christmas event that had a German market theme and during the reception we had stalls set up around a giant gingerbread. The stalls were full of little wooden toys, Christmas tree decorations and other such gifts. On arrival, guests were given a little shopping basket and they got to keep whatever they collected.”

Element of surprise Harriet Hill, creative events director, Cheshire Cat Events, argues that you have to think from a client’s perspective.

“If you organise reward evenings then you have to remember that a lot of people in the room will not know each other and so ice breakers are good. I organised a Bollywood evening with a snake charmer that got people talking, and was the start of a night full of surprises with low level tables and cushions on the floor for dinner. But an event does not have to be themed for it to be visually appealing.

“I often say to clients that it’s best not to tell guests what to expect and then there’s an element of surprise. Give your audience teasers only. Clients also often request to theme the drinks reception area but that instantly dilutes the ‘wow’. If you leave the outside areas of your event untouched then when you walk in a room the ‘wow’ is 10-fold.”

Match the mood

If you are looking for new products with an edge then Invisible Blue’s new Smart range of low tables and poser tables provide a glow – battery powered and remotely operated, they utilise an LED light sheet and light up a seating area, providing an illuminated space at drinks receptions and parties. And the illuminated theme carries on with new designs from Table Art.

The Ice Bucket centrepiece comprises three lit, clear buckets, holding guests’ choice of drinks are on a rotating platform. Table Art is able to customise the creations to meet client specifications in terms of size, colour and shape – including the option of adding a logo. Centres can be operated using DMX technology enabling remote control of light and colour settings. This can be used to create effects, as seen recently at the MOBO Awards, held at the SECC, which chose Table Art’s lily vase to create height in the centre of the table.

Another new product to hit the market – EFX has created the Ocean Collection, a range of trophies, which allow high definition, full-colour graphics to be suspended in bonded glass. Marketing messages, images and logos appear to be suspended in glass – the new process allows organisers to be more creative with their award designs.

Alternatively, take a look at B Brown’s range of backgrounds including glitter finishes for displays, print and signage. And there’s also its Rowlux illusion film that produces moving patterns.

Shock factor

Finally, Ken Wallace, event manager, She’s Gott it, says that elements of surprise and delight are the way forward. For a recent 80s-themed evening, Wallace and his team used fibre optic lamps as table centres and giant 80-s props such as Rubik cubes.

“At Sunderland Christmas market this year, there will be a giant storybook. Each week the page will turn but visitors to the city and children can go on a treasure hunt and find street performers on street corners, performing elements of the book.

“Also, think of ‘shock value’ to get your message over visually. We recently worked on an event where we had to bring attention to the amount of alcohol consumed in just a few weeks, and so we filled a giant prop on stage with liquid.”