The One Display EVERY Event Needs

Photo by hkalkan on shutterstock.com

It’s National Cheese Day! I reside in the Midwest so cheese is a specialty of sorts, and we Midwesterners are highly fond of good cheese. In addition, we know how to create with, cook with, and blend other flavors with cheeses. And we want it done right!

So, what is the best way to serve cheese at an event? It’s easy enough to serve cubes of cheese on a cheese and cracker plate, but if you want to take it to the next level and really make it a class act, make it center stage.

How can you do that?

The answer: A charcuterie board.

What is a charcuterie board? It’s a beautiful display of a variety of finger foods, usually on a circular platter, that typically serves as an appetizer of sorts. Charcuterie boards are one of the easiest – and classiest – food displays that any event can have. They are relatively simple accessories, yet they add that touch of class that a typical salad display doesn’t quite touch.

You’d be able to spot one at any well-organized event. It’s the anchor for the social gathering – the one everyone is standing around, going back to, and sending others to. There is something for everyone on it!

First, let’s talk about the board itself. It could be as simple as using a cutting board from your kitchen pantry, or as elaborate as a custom-made wood board, created especially for this type of display. Live-edge boards are especially beautiful, as are large pieces of black or gray slate. Label your cheese with cute little flags or markers.

Check out the cool types of boards and the cute cheese markers!
Photos by (clockwise from left):  Rawpixel.com, Neil Langen, Stephanie Hurtado, A-Pro on shutterstock.com

A classic charcuterie board will contain:

  • Several types of cheeses, both hard and soft
  • Cured meats
  • Toasted baguette bread
  • Crackers
  • Olives
  • Dipping sauces, like ranch dressing or mustard
  • Nuts
  • Mini vegetables like peppers, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots or cucumber slices
  • Pickles
  • Fresh fruits, like grapes, pears, apples and figs, and assorted berries
  • Dried fruits
  • Jams and jellies
  • Honey
  • Use herbs, edible flowers and pomegranates for color

However, one of the beautiful things about these boards is that they are as versatile as they are beautiful. There is no one right or wrong way to create one! For example, is the food at your event Mexican themed? Your board could look more like this:

  • Chips
  • Queso
  • Guacamole
  • Several types of salsas
  • Taquitos
  • Mini tacos
  • Southwestern Eggrolls
  • Taco meat

… and so on!

Example of Mexican-themed boards.  Photo by KucherAV on shutterstock.com

Are you serving desserts only? Perfect! Consider:

  • Cheeses that pair nicely with desserts or fruits, like Brie, Goat Cheese or aged Gouda.
  • Fruits, especially apples, stone fruits and berries
  • Caramel
  • Chocolate dipping sauces
  • Various types of candy
  • Cake pops
  • Chocolate dipped anything!
  • Pretzels
  • Puppy Chow Chex Mix
  • Mini Rice Krispy treats or Brownies
Photo by Kate Kultsevych on shutterstock.com

Or let’s take this idea to a unique specialty event. If you were hosting a Mardi-Gras themed event, your board could contain:

  • French Quarter cheese ball
  • Beignets
  • Crawfish
  • Shrimp (with grits for dip!)
  • Crab cakes
  • Fried okra
  • Fries / Poutine
  • Spicy cajun dip
  • Baguette slices

A board like this is as simple as taking the theme of your event and making the food bite sized. Add a few sauces or dips and suddenly there are endless ways to enjoy the spread on the board!

How would YOU arrange it?

Would you like to discuss how you’d like to feature and arrange a charcuterie board at your next event? Contact us to schedule a consultation for your event today.

____________________________________________________________________

Wendy Porter is the Owner/Chief Events Architect at Wendy Porter Events, LLC, and a national award-winning event strategist. Connect with Wendy on her WebsiteFacebookLinkedIn, and Instagram.

Ten Tips For Hosting A Memorable Virtual Event

All art by Visual Generation from Shutterstock.com

It’s no understatement to say that we are living in unprecedented times. The COVID-19 virus has brought the world economy to a screeching halt, leaving many businesses and industries grappling for substitute methods of operation. And for many of those industries that rely on the nuances of interpersonal connection, forced quarantine has caused a lot of heartache and struggle.

But…

We are a people that overcome. We always have, and now is no exception. Despite the difficulties, entrepreneurs and companies are finding and creating innovative ways to continue to stay afloat during this difficult time.

You would think that event planning would have been an industry that completely stopped in light of COVID-19. But this has been a time of tremendous opportunity and as a result, the virtual event planning niche became commonplace overnight.

Now, nobody would argue that a virtual event has quite the same synergy that is created in a live one. It is not always ideal, but as a alternative solution, it can fill the gaps until we can meet in person again. Virtual events are different from live events in many ways but one thing stays the same: The human connection. We have adapted to this change, but we still crave connection. A virtual event can be done in a creative, professional, and engaging way for participants, even though many participants are probably still on lockdown.

So, how can a business or company plan a successful virtual event in the age of COVID-19? Below are ten tips for hosting a memorable virtual event.

1. PLAN, PLAN, AND PLAN SOME MORE!

It may not seem like it on the surface, but planning a virtual event is as complex as planning a live event. While some elements are the same, the way that they are executed is not. You’ll find that you’ll trade time normally spent on logistics for venue coordination, food/beverage, housing, etc. for technology, content and engagement planning. You can expect about a 1:1 time-tradeoff for the amount of time it takes to plan a live event as compared to planning a virtual event.

2. START WITH THE “WHY”

Just like for live events, you need to know your “why” in order to build out an appropriate strategic plan.

Why are you holding this event?
What are your goals and objectives?
Who is the audience and what are their motivations, triggers, and needs?
What do you want the audience to Feel, See and Do during and after the event?

Once you have the goals and objectives defined, then you can build out the strategic tactics to get there.

3. DO I NEED A THEME?

Even virtual events need branding! Just like for a live event, you will want to have a theme that carries forward through all touchpoints. From the save the date, to registration, to the content shown during the event, and post event survey, the entire event should look cohesive.

4. WHAT IS THE RIGHT TECHNOLOGY PLATFORM TO USE?

If you are not a technology guru, engage your trusted AV partners and Technology Directors for input and recommendations. Do you want a low-cost platform like Zoom, which has the ability for 1:1 interaction, breakout rooms, etc., but may lack the quality and security you need?

Or is security, control, and the quality of the signal more top of mind, in which case you want to go with Hosted Live Stream technology? Research the platforms that are available that best fit your particular event, budget, and client needs.

5. CONSIDER YOUR TECHNOLOGICAL HARDWARE

What sort of technology do your attendees have? What kind will they need? Will they be participating from a mobile device, laptop, tablet, or desktop computer? Make sure that whatever platform you choose will work easily on any device.

Also consider: Do you need to ship any devices out to your speakers because they don’t have what they need at home? Do you need to send any of your speakers a light so that they show up well on screen? Do your speakers have a good microphone integrated into their device? And what about a quality camera? If not, plan to ship them equipment ahead of time.

Make sure everyone presenting is well equipped to do their part well. And once they have the equipment, make sure to set aside time early to test, rehearse, and mitigate for any platform, hardware or navigation issues before you are live on screen.

6. WHAT ENVIRONMENT DO YOU WANT TO CREATE?

Think about the environment you want to portray. Just like in a ballroom, the event environment matters, and it sets the tone for the entire attendee experience.

Are your speakers sitting on their living room couch with a bookcase in the background (or as the case may be, piles of stuff?) Are they sitting in the home office with a branded physical or virtual background? Or are they coming to you from a professional stage location that looks like a live event “set”?

Consider your branding, your audience, your purpose, and come up with a suitable background for your speakers to use that will create the environment you desire. You could even mail them pop-up branded banners to use as a backdrop.

7. CREATE ENGAGEMENT AND MAXIMIZE YOUR CONTENT

I recently heard that most people have a 7-minute attention span as it relates to watching online content. Knowing this, what are you doing to keep people who are viewing online active participants? Is your content engaging, or just “death by Powerpoint” with a talking head?

Consider integrating in a mobile or web-based app that allows your attendees to engage with living polling, Q/A, chats, word clouds, social timeline engagement, and other fun elements to keep them paying attention! Include engaging presentations with movement, animations, video, etc. Switch up colors to create different moods. Use music to add energy throughout the meeting.

Consider a “host” for the event… a terrific speaker that can thread takeaways together throughout the event. Can you play a game? There are content providers out there that can create games like virtual Jeopardy to reinforce key learning. You can even do virtual Escape Rooms these days to encouraged team bonding!

8. GIVEAWAYS – ARE THEY DEAD?

If your group enjoys giveaways, send them a gift box before the virtual event that is either useful or fun. Useful items like water bottles, mugs, coffee cups, comfy socks, chargers, journals, and great quality pens are always good. Fun items could include hand clappers so that you can do a group virtual video clap, goofy hats and glasses to do a group online photo, fidget toys, coloring books and other things to keep their hands busy while they listen and think.

Now, there are some people who are anti-giveaway. They perceive that we are just filling up landfills with junk. If that is a concern, you could consider telling attendees that in lieu of giveaways, you are making donations to a charity and allow them to vote on which charity they want their donation to go to during the virtual event.

9. FOOD AND BEVERAGE – CAN YOU STILL INTEGRATE IN FOOD?

You bet you can! Send out snacks in branded gift boxes (popcorn, power bars, tea bags, ground coffee). Provide a discount code to a national food delivery service so that everyone can place an order for lunch delivery.

Over the lunch break, break people out into smaller virtual meeting rooms of 6-10 people for roundtable discussions. Have some open-ended questions prepared and a moderator assigned for each “room” to help guide the discussion.

You could work with a wine or mixology service to deliver a bottle of wine or cocktail mixers and have a virtual happy hour at the end of the day. This is a great way to include networking in a virtual event!

10. POST EVENT REPORTING AND ENGAGEMENT – ISN’T THE EVENT OVER WHEN IT’S OVER?

No! Learn from what you do at your online events, and expand your reach to your audience beyond the initial engagement. Many technologies will provide you with reports after the event. You can get a list of attendees, and see how long they spent on each page, which sections got the most engagement, etc. This helps you plan better for the next virtual event. You should plan to engage your attendees with a survey after the event to find out what they loved, what they hated, and what you can do better next time.

Record all of the content. This can be posted later for attendees that were not able to attend so that you can expand the reach of your event. You can also parse out recordings into segments that could be posted on a website as on-demand educational content for customers or prospects as appropriate.

While live events are not happening right now, there is no reason why you cannot produce a very compelling virtual event to engage with your audience. The key, just like with live events, is to plan, plan, plan. And think through the entire user experience to deliver a flawless, magical event.

Now is the time to plan your Virtual Event! Contact us now to schedule a free 30-minute consultation about your event needs. Learn more at www.wendyporterevents.com or contact us at wendy@wendyporterevents.com.

—————————————————————————————————————

Wendy Porter is the Owner/Chief Events Architect at Wendy Porter Events, LLC, and a national award-winning event strategist. Connect with Wendy on her Website, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day!

By: VGstockstudio/shutterstock.com

St. Patrick’s Day has arrived! One of the more overlooked holidays, St. Patrick’s Day conjures images of seas of green, shamrocks, leprechauns, beer, and all things Ireland. But what IS this elusive holiday, and how can all its festivities be incorporated into a professional, classy event?

The story goes that St. Patrick was the patron saint of Ireland. Legend has it that St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish – he was British! As a teenager, he was kidnapped by the Irish. After escaping captivity, he fled back to England. He returned a number of years later as a missionary with the intent of spreading the Christian faith to the Irish.

By: Panaspics/Shutterstock.com

The famous shamrock is associated with St. Patrick because it is said that he used it to explain the trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – to the Irish people he was ministering to. He lived the rest of his life in service to the Irish people, and he died on March 17th, 461. St. Patrick was largely forgotten for hundreds of years until stories of him and the life he lived resurfaced and local Irish began to recognize him as a saint. Over the centuries, St. Patrick’s Day evolved from a simple day of remembrance to a day of celebration.

Today, we celebrate St. Patrick with parades, beer, wearing green, and sporting t-shirts that say, “Kiss Me I’m Irish”even if we’re NOT Irish! All over the country, St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in fun and unique ways!

For instance, Chicago celebrates St. Patrick’s Day every year with its green river! To kick off the day, city officials dye the river a bright shade of green. Boston, the US city with the greatest concentration of Irish Americans, hosts one of the largest St. Patrick’s Day parades in the nation. Every year, it attracts millions of spectators. It also hosts a famous St. Patrick’s Day road race. Savannah, Georgia hosts another sizable parade that attracts over 400,000 people every year. Savannah lights up the city with green fountains, live music, and activities for everyone.

By: Berni0004/Shutterstock.com

Locally here in the Twin Cities, there is no shortage of festivities! Nicollet Mall hosts a St. Patrick’s Day Parade. A number of Irish pubs light up the night with karaoke, beer, and specials on traditional Irish food. At the Mall of America, a local Irish dance troupe will be giving a demonstration on how to do the Irish jig!

By Paula Sierra/ Shutterstock.com

So, with all the excitement, how could someone take this annual holiday and work it into a fun, classy, professional themed event?

Decor

As it goes with St. Patrick’s Day, it’s all about the green! A venue could be transformed easily by using the gorgeous emerald green as a backdrop, with gold accents to offset.

Entertainment

Irish entertainment is great fun! Irish dancing, flutists, beer flights and tastings could all be incorporated into a St. Patrick’s Day themed event. Bagpipes are popular in Irish celebrations and could be incorporated in a fun and unobtrusive way.

By: Kirill Livshitskiy/Shutterstock.com

Food

It’s not a St. Patrick’s Day celebration without corned beef! An event can feature Irish soda bread, and anything mixed with Irish Whiskey! Shepherd’s pie, reuben sandwiches, corned beef and cabbage, shamrock shaped desserts, and of course, Guinness.

Photo credit starting upper left clockwise:
Aquarius Studios, Brent Hofacker, UnaPhoto, ceceliaone, and Africa Studio. All on Shutterstock.com.

St. Patrick’s Day is a fun, lively event that can be a great backdrop for any number of events.

What themes do you have in mind for your next celebratory event? We would love to help you make it a reality! Contact us today to schedule an appointment!

Wendy Porter is the Owner/Chief Events Architect at Wendy Porter Events, LLC, and a national award-winning event strategist. Connect with Wendy on her Website, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

It’s Mardi Gras! Let’s Plan an Event!

Photo Credit: Mike Flippo/Shutterstock.com

Mardi Gras is one of the lesser known, but truly exciting holidays that is celebrated in the United States. Every year, Mardi Gras takes place in the bustling historic city of New Orleans, Louisiana. It’s an exciting backdrop and theme to utilize for hosting truly unique events, no matter the industry.

“Mardi Gras” is French for “Fat Tuesday,” and it has its origins in medieval Europe. Traditionally, Mardi Gras was no more than a celebratory feasting period before the start of lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday and continues through Easter. However, much has changed with the celebration of Mardi Gras since its humble medieval beginnings. 

The story goes that the French-Canadian explorer Jean Baptiste Le Moyene Sieur de Bienville arrived south of what is current day New Orleans on March 2, 1699. It just so happened that this date was also Mardi Gras, so in honor of the happy coincidence, Jean Baptiste and his men named the land “Pointe Du Mardi Gras.”

As the years went on, the region adopted more and more Mardi Gras traditions. Finally, in 1875, Governor Warmoth signed the “Mardi Gras Act”, which made Mardi Gras a legal Louisiana holiday. It remains so today. 

Photo Credit: f11photo/shutterstock.com

When we think of Mardi Gras, we tend to think of parades, purple, green, and yellow beads, king cakes, jazz musicians, brightly colored masks, Bourbon street, and all-night parties. Certainly, this isn’t something that could be turned into a professional-level event, right?

Well, we did it. 

And it was one of the most memorable events we ever did. 

Several years ago, I was in charge of the UnitedHealthcare Platinum Sponsorship for the AARP Life@50+ Member Event in New Orleans. We always hosted a staff dinner following our training meeting the day before the launch of the event. It was a thank you to the staff who were going to be working three long days, but also an opportunity for team bonding and camaraderie. For this particular trade show, there were 130 staff members, including 30 senior level executives, all the way up to our CEO. So, this dinner was going to be an event in and of itself!

In planning this particular portion of an already grand scale trade show, I had a choice. I could simply hire a transportation company to drive us to an average restaurant for a typical run of the mill dinner. Now, if that was our only option, my team and I would have made it very professional and that would have been fine. 

But this was New Orleans. So instead…

I planned a traditional New Orleans style parade for everyone to walk to a Mardi Gras themed party. This was an experience that delivered!

The UnitedHealthcare team… parading “New Orleans style” to the restaurant.

To begin with, the police blocked off the streets for us. That left our parade of staff members free to walk, complete with a jazz band leading the procession, to the famous and unforgettable Latrobe’s On Royal restaurant. 

Outside view of Latrobe’s On Royal. Photo courtesy of Latrobe’s.

Now, Latrobe’s On Royal is one of the most significant buildings in all of New Orleans. Located directly in the heart of the French quarter, Latrobe’s On Royal was originally built to house the Louisiana State Bank back in 1822. Even though much of it has modernized over the years, it has lost none of its original character and design. The foyer at the entrance actually used to be where they parked the carriages with horses. How cool!

The Foyer at Latrobe’s (photo courtesy of Latrobe’s).
The staff signed a matte that was later used to frame a traditional New Orleans mask as a keepsake.

Once we arrived, guests spent the evening enjoying king cake and red beans and rice under high vaulted historic brick ceilings and arches that made for perfect acoustics. Gas lamps dimly lit the walls and the tables were all decked out in Mardi Gras beads, feather boas, and masks. 

The CEO addresses the crowd.
The group having dinner.
It’s hard to see, but the jazz band is on stage in the corner of this really cool round room.

In the corner, a painter was painting a live scene of the event. And in another corner, a Tarot card reader was predicting fortunes. For fun, Voodoo dolls were made specially for this event.

A local painter captured the scene in oil paints. We later had this framed and put up in our office.

The restaurant served us endless helpings of crawfish boil, shrimp and grits, jambalaya, fried okra, frozen milk punch, and beignets. Musicians were playing New Orleans style jazz while we enjoyed the restaurant’s hand painted murals. 

Shutterstock.com Photos by (starting top left clockwise):
Warley Neves Soares, Aimee Lee Studios, Ken Weinrich, Liliya Kandrashevich
Shutterstock.com Photos by (starting top left clockwise): AS Food Studio, Anne Power, Brent Hofacker

Everything about the evening was magical, and went far beyond simply a run-of-the-mill staff reception dinner.

In fact, one of the attendees at the event said to me afterwards that even though this was never a bucket list item for her, it became one after experiencing it. She said that she added – and checked off – “Mardi Gras parade and party” on her bucket list that day. 

Talk about a unique event! 

Colleagues enjoying the evening in their traditional New Orleans masks and beads.

New Orleans has so much to offer that can be incorporated into a professional event. It is full of beautiful, historic homes and famous above ground cemeteries. Of course, Mardi Gras is a key event in New Orleans, as well as the French Quarter and Jazz Festivals. There are so many great ways to celebrate this fascinating and beautiful city!

Do you want to host a themed event in your city? Contact us today to get the party started! 

Wendy Porter is the Owner/Chief Events Architect at Wendy Porter Events, LLC, and a national award-winning event strategist. Connect with Wendy on her Website, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Why You Should Host An Event On Martin Luther King Jr Day

By: johavel/shutterstock.com

“The time is always right to do what is right.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

We are all familiar with the story of the great Martin Luther King Jr. He was the well-loved reverend, civil rights activist, and advocate for his fellow African Americans during a tumultuous time in our nation’s history. He is fondly remembered for his success in bringing equality to everyone, which was a monumental leap forward for his time. We can all agree that our culture as a whole has benefited from the message that he shared. He is known for his preaching and peaceful protesting as he spoke of a dream that we still, in many ways, aspire to live, fifty years later.

In April of 1968, he had planned to lead a peace rally in Memphis, but he was tragically assassinated at his hotel while standing on his balcony. Martin Luther King Jr didn’t live to see the fruits of his labors, but we honor and celebrate the great changes that he made in our society, even today.

In 1983, only 16 years after his death, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law that would create Martin Luther King Jr day and recognize it as a federal holiday. Since then, the third Monday in January is recognized as a national holiday in honor of the great Martin Luther King Jr.

For a number of reasons, Martin Luther King Jr Day is a great opportunity for hosting business events. For one thing, it is not a major US holiday, but many businesses and schools take it off, leaving many people’s schedules open for other activities.

In addition, hosting an event on Martin Luther King Jr Day is a great opportunity for a company to demonstrate their desire to continue supporting diversity and the work of the civil rights movement. While the Civil Rights Movement took place nearly sixty years ago, our culture is in many ways still striving for equality and inclusion on many fronts. Choosing to show that you stand with the message of the civil rights movement yet today communicates a clear message about your company’s commitment to diversity.

I have had the pleasure of planning several events for clients over the years who have chosen to celebrate and honor the work of this incredible man, and I highly recommend making use of this special holiday for your event.

For instance, in 2006, Medicare launched Part D. This is the Prescription Drug part of Medicare health coverage, and its arrival was much anticipated! My team participated in the annual MLK celebration in St. Paul, MN, where we had a table at the Expo to educate the general public about Part D and how it works. It was a great opportunity to explain the exciting changes that had been long awaited in Medicare coverage and support the diverse population of the Twin Cities.

Then in 2009, I helped UnitedHealth Group to participate in a Martin Luther King Jr celebration in Greensboro, North Carolina. We hosted free health screenings for the PEACE of Heart Program by the UnitedHealth Foundation, which worked to identify people at risk for cardiovascular disease in underserved communities. Subsequently, UnitedHealth Group was recognized for this philanthropic program, which screened more than 1,300 people at events in Atlanta, Chicago, Greensboro, Miami, New Orleans, New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.

You can do a large trade show or just a small day-long community event. Choosing to honor Martin Luther King Jr by hosting an event on this day is a great opportunity to promote diversity while connecting with the community you serve. You can network with diverse talents, celebrate the history that continues to be made, incorporate useful marketing strategies, and build rapport with your target audience along the way.

For instance, with the Greensboro event, we were able to effectively serve the community with the health screenings – and they were grateful! As a result, we fostered connections between healthcare providers and the general public. We educated the general public about healthy numbers for blood pressure and blood glucose. The event provided tremendous value to them as it helped them more fully understand the risks of cardiovascular disease.

The time was right to do the right thing.

Is it your time?

Would your company like to learn more about hosting a community event? Contact Wendy Porter here, and let’s start planning it!

Wendy Porter is the Owner/Chief Events Architect at Wendy Porter Events, LLC, and a national award-winning event strategist. Connect with Wendy on her Website, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

The German Christmas Market Event

Traditional Christmas Market in the historic center of Frankfurt, Germany
By: S.Borisov/Shutterstock.com

One of the most charming Christmas traditions is the German Christmas Market event. Over the years, I have had the privilege of both living and traveling in Germany, and I consider these events to be some of my fondest memories of my time there.

The German Christmas Market, or Christkindlmarkt (translated Christ Child Market), originated in Germany all the way back in the 1400’s. Many other neighboring countries decided to adopt this custom as well, and it has become a well-loved regional event in much of northern and central Europe.

This outdoor marketplace takes place during the entire four weeks of advent, and it typically features traditional displays with nativity scenes and vendors selling traditional German ornaments, nutcrackers, candied and toasted almonds, gingerbread cookies, and hot mulled wine, called Glühwein. Some German Christmas Markets in Europe attract over two million people every year!

Traditional scenes and items sold at German Christmas Markets
By: Mikhail Markovskiy; Romrodphoto; Kensei Ono; Paparacy; Pusteflower9024; Alena Ozerova; RudiErnst; Ekaterina Kondratova/Shutterstock.com

It is a beautiful experience to get dressed up in cozy winter clothes, shop while the snow falls, enjoy hot chocolate or mulled wine, and admire professional Christmas tree displays with friends.

The tradition is unfortunately not as common in the United States. But when done properly, it is just as charming and magical as an authentic German Marketplace. You can find small German-inspired Christmas Markets in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Chicago, to name a few.

As a professional event planner, I’m always intrigued at the logistics of planning an event of this magnitude! Planning an event like this takes a bit of finesse – after all, this is definitely not like most other events!

For one thing, this is a four week-long affair! Furthermore, it is outdoors – during the wintertime – in cold regions! This is certainly an event that requires some out of the box thinking and strategizing.

A Christmas Marketplace takes a lot of dedication from a lot of people to make it happen. From the vendors that commit to a month of running their shops outside in the winter months, to the artists that create professional Christmas displays, many hands need to go into the planning and execution of a German Christmas Market experience. Security professionals, production specialists, event planners, vendors, and marketing experts all have a role to play in the creation of an authentic German Christmas Market.

In addition, because these events are usually held outside, there are unique elements that need to be brought in or accommodated. For instance, someone needs to supply power for electricity so that food vendors can cook. It wouldn’t be a German Christmas Market without the mulled wine, fresh candied almonds, Weißwurst, and warm pretzels!

Also, much of the event takes place at night since the days are so short during the wintertime, so the event needs to be properly lit. Not only does it need to be lit, but an event like this needs to be lit with a certain amount of intentional ambiance! Usually, this requires a professional lighting crew.

Vendors need to be able to process payments which, in this day and age, often times requires internet. Also, because it is outside, event planners need to make sure there are toilets and warming huts nearby.

As you can see, there is a lot that goes on in an event like this! A German Christmas Market, when done as authentically as possible, can be one of the most memorable experiences in a person’s lifetime. It goes far beyond the scope of a sales or marketing event. This is something people will want to return to year after year. Come to think of it, I better add this to my 2020 “To Do” list and get back to Germany! Do you want to come with me?

Wendy Porter is the Owner/Chief Events Architect at Wendy Porter Events, LLC, and a national award-winning event strategist. Connect with Wendy on her WebsiteFacebookLinkedIn, and Instagram.

Minnesota B.O.L.D. Serves Super Bowl LII

Imagy by Frederic Nadeau / Shutterstock.com

Event planners need to be capable of thinking outside the box. Good event planners will try to always think outside the box. Great ones will shatter it completely and create life-long memories.

Event planners tend to create events indoors, and many times this is appropriate. However, sometimes, it’s nice to get out of the ballrooms and conference centers and create unique experiences that accomplish the same ends. I once had a conversation with an executive who told me if he had to go to one more meeting in a ballroom without windows, he was going to lose it.

I reside in Minnesota, and I simply love where I live. It’s a beautiful state that has so much to offer! But unfortunately, since we are “Up North” and winters are snowy and cold, we too often get a bad reputation before anyone has the ability to experience its wonders! Many people simply do not know how many incredible opportunities there are to experience this beautiful place – and they can do it in the most unique and memorable ways.

Those of us that live here know the abundance that Minnesota offers. Summers in Minnesota are rich with culture and nature. We have lakes, rivers, woods, and the countryside to enjoy. Spring and Autumn are both alive with beauty, activity, planting and harvest, rest and rejuvenation. It’s easy to feel grounded when you really dive in and experience Minnesota.

And when it comes to wintertime, despite the cold, winter most certainly does not slow us down! When the snow arrives, we take our jackets and hats out of storage, dust them off, and go about the business of enjoying the beauty and wonder of winter.

And we’re good at making the most of winter.

It was with all of this in mind, I collaborated with a friend of mine, who is an expert in the great Minnesota outdoors, and we came up with the idea for Minnesota B.O.L.D.

What if we took event planning to another level?

What if we used our combined event planning and MN outdoor skills to create one-of-a-kind experiences?

What if we focused on helping people really experience all that Minnesota has to offer?

And get them out of closed-off ballrooms and into really cool spaces!

That was where the idea of Minnesota B.O.L.D. began. It stands for Brilliant. Outdoor. Learning. Destinations. We examined all there is to do here and created local, unique, personalized, memorable experiences that take place in really inspiring locations. It was something that was relatively unexplored territory for corporate event planners – this was almost like vacation planning!

An example of a unique location to host meetings and events for large groups.
Silverwood Lake Visitor Center, St. Anthony, MN
(Image courtesy of Silverwood Lake)

But was the idea going to take off?

Well, during the week of Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis in January of 2018, I had the opportunity to find out how well this concept was going to be received. I was able to pitch the idea of Minnesota B.O.L.D. to the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee. They loved it, because it fit perfectly with their brand, Bold North, and they then decided to market it under their flag to all the Sponsors, 32 NFL Clubs and VIPs attending Super Bowl LII.

About a week before the Super Bowl, the Host Committee contacted me to ask if we could find a Minnesota B.O.L.D. experience for the crew with Verizon. Verizon is a major sponsor of the NFL, and they were in town to set up and run all the tech for the big game. They also ran the entire outdoor Nicollet Mall experience in downtown Minneapolis.

The Verizon Experiential Events Team wanted to have a memorable Minnesota experience doing something unique that they had never done before, since they were all from New York City. Initially, they wanted to experience ice fishing, as that isn’t something that is very common where they live. I thought that would be fun, so I got in touch with my ice fishing contact.

Nope, ice fishing was not in the cards…
(Image by Alexander Lukatskiy / Shutterstock.com)

Unfortunately, due to licensing guidelines, I would have needed a full 21 days to get a group fishing license approved. Otherwise, each person would have needed to get a personal license independently, by standing in line at local gas station. And I knew that with the schedule this crew had, that was not going to work.

I only had 5 days! So, I went back to the drawing board.

I thought:

What is something uniquely northern?

What is an experience that they probably have never had before?

What is there to do that is FUN in January and February in Minnesota?

What is an unorthodox event that will rejuvenate this crew?

Furthermore, what is something we can do in a short, half day experience?

What did I come up with?

Dog sledding!

I contacted the coordinator of the group to see what they thought and the response was overwhelmingly, “Yes!”

On the day of the event, I met the crew at their downtown hotel with breakfast and coffee at 7:00 am in a luxury Mercedes Sprinter van. We drove for about 45 minutes to the dog sledding event. They spent a full 3 hours with the dogs going sledding, learning the ropes of harnessing the dogs and driving the sleds, playing in the snow, enjoying the fire pit, and having a great time. With a fresh coating of snow, 28 degrees and clear blue skies, it was the perfect day for dog sledding. They were able to relax and take a well-deserved break from the immense pressure of work.

The group enjoying the event and the cute dogs!

During the event, I kept their coffee warm, took pictures, and kept them company. We had lunch on the bus while we were returning to the city, and they were able to get back to work that afternoon to continue preparing for the Super Bowl. What an honor it was to serve this group of workers! I watched them connect and rejuvenate throughout the morning, and they really enjoyed themselves.

The Verizon Experiential Events Team
Lake Byllesby Regional Park, Cannon Falls, MN

That morning, the lead executive for Verizon told me that the dog sledding event was perfectly executed and was the highlight of their trip – and this was the crew that was charged with running the Super Bowl!

I’m excited to be offering and coordinating more Minnesota B.O.L.D. experiences – it was everything I was hoping it would be!

How would you like to create a unique experience outside the mainstream ballroom?

Contact me for a consultation, and we can create a custom plan for you and your company! And get outside!

Northern Lights Image by Frozenmost / Shutterstock.com

Wendy Porter is the Owner/Chief Events Architect at Wendy Porter Events, LLC, and a national award-winning event strategist. Connect with Wendy on her Website, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

How To Host A Classy, Professional, Magical Event During The Halloween Season

By: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com

Halloween is one of the most exciting times of the year. Let’s face it – even adults can thoroughly enjoy the festivities that come along with the scary season! It’s a great time for a variety of events, as it seems to kick off the holiday season.

I have some top tips and strategies that we use and recommend for hosting our top-tier events, especially during the holidays. I know event planning can sound complicated and tedious, but in reality, it doesn’t need to be. All events and parties contain some of the same basic elements. What makes your event special is the attention to the little details.

So, what exactly are those details that can make your event pop?

Here are some key things to think about as you are planning an amazing, magical event.

By: Exopixel/Shutterstock.com

Choose a theme

Everything at your event is going to stem from your theme, from your decor to your menu, print advertising, entertainment, and so on. Before you make any plans or start to deal in the details, you must first decide on a theme.

During this season, it can be Oktoberfest, Harvestfest, Autumn, Fall – or something you fashion especially for your event! If you so desire, you can even host a “Halloween” themed party and still keep it classy and sophisticated. Once you have a theme, the vision for the details of the rest of the event comes into focus.

By: Olgakimphoto/Shutterstock.com

Decor

Your decor will be tied strongly with the theme. For example, your tablecloths, flowers and centerpieces, dishware, flatware, glassware, chairs, lighting, etc. are all chosen as a result of the theme for the event.

Even within the theme and vision for the event, there are usually a lot of options to choose from for decor. No two events are exactly the same! These little details are part of what takes an event from basic to top-tier, so don’t overlook the significance of these decisions. It’s important to create a unified, polished look within all areas of your event.

By: Elena Shashkina/Shutterstock.com

Food and Beverage

Choosing food becomes easier once your theme is solidified. It also allows you to work within the budget for the event.

There are so many choices! What stands out to you?

Buffets?
Plated dinner?
Passed appetizers?
A potluck?
Themed food and desserts, especially if there will be children attending the event?

As for beverages, are you going to have an open bar? Cash bar? Will you serve wine, beer, and cocktails? What about having a specialty cocktail? It can be alcoholic or non-alcoholic. And you can give it a fun themed name.


You can even have a BYOB (bring your own beer) event! If it works within your budget, make it happen!

By: Elena Veselova/Shutterstock.com

Entertainment

What sort of music will you have? It could be as simple as background music from an MP3 player, or as grand as a full live band. Consider your ambience, your theme, your budget, and your audience to determine what is going to be the best type of music.

(As a side note, be mindful of music licensing. If you are having a private event at your home, you can play music without issue. But if you have a corporate event or something for the public, you must pay the licensing fees to legally play music. Check out: www.bmi.com to learn more about music licensing do’s and don’ts.)

For other entertainment, consider what else fits into your theme. Would a magician, mind reader, balloon maker, hayride, games for the children, or a pumpkin carving contest work with your particular event? Be creative! What would you like to see your guests enjoying themselves doing?

By: Daniel Reno/Shutterstock.com

Audio/Visual

Do you need audio/visual equipment? If so, we highly suggest you engage with an AV expert or professional Technical Director to help you plan what you need and make sure it all goes off without a hitch. Maybe it’s just a microphone and speakers. Or just cool lighting. Maybe it’s a full blown stage production. Whatever you need, a highly qualified technical director is a lifesaver to have on your team.

By: Darapen/Shutterstock.com

Creative Design / Print

Whether you are doing a private party or a corporate event, your very first touch with the guest sets the stage for the entire event. So your invitations should be top-tier, no matter what type of party you are hosting.

Do you need a thematic logo created? Or some other art? If so, engage a professional graphic designer. If you are hosting a private party, check out online options for free invitations with Canva or eBrite. And don’t forget the Save the Dates before the real invites go out!

When they arrive to your event, will they be able to find it? It’s always a good idea to have signs of some kind. A classy, professional way to help them get there is to create directional posters that stand on easels throughout  the pathway to the event. Another great tip is to use repositionable velcro arrows that can turn to direct people the right way.

What about name tags? Do your guests all know each other? If not, a thematic name tag is a great way to both help promote branding and to make introductions easier. For corporate events, this is a must have.

By: Liliya_K/Shutterstock.com

Giveaways

No matter the event, people of all ages love giveaways! Do you have a fun gift or takeaway for your guests? This again should be thematic to the event. For a fall harvest party, how about tiny little decorated pumpkins that guests can then take home after the party?

By: Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

If you pay attention to these key elements, and give intentional focus and attention to the little details, you too, can take an event from good to great!

If you want help creating magic at your next event, please reach out to us at wendy@wendyporterevents.com.

Wendy Porter is the Owner/Chief Events Architect at Wendy Porter Events, LLC, and a national award-winning event strategist. Connect with Wendy on her Website, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram

The Wendy Porter Magic: From Lemonade Stands to an Event Management Agency

By: Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

Wendy Porter has always been a planner: from her childhood days of organizing lemonade stands in her neighborhood, her friend’s birthday parties and neighborhood plays, to her adult years of coordinating office happy hours, the first neighborhood holiday progressive party (now on its 26th year!) and owning her own business planning events for major corporations.

When Wendy attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, she majored in Mathematics and German, with a plan to go into International Business. Event management wasn’t anywhere near her radar, and it certainly wasn’t a program one could choose to pursue as a major back in those days. 

After graduation she landed a role as a Marketing Manager at Fingerhut, the granddaddy of direct mail marketing, which hired a lot of Mathematics majors for their marketing positions. Her first corporate event didn’t come until 13 years later.

Simultaneously, in 1997, Wendy opened her first side business, Wendy’s Whimsies, a floral company, based out of her home. This was her first introduction to owning a business and hosting events. She made and sold flower arrangements, wreaths and other products to local wedding customers and gift boutiques, attended indoor and outdoor art festivals to sell her wares, and hosted two annual artisan boutiques out of her home for almost a decade.

The business card from my first business!

Following a short stint at a publishing company, Wendy was then offered a Marketing Acquisition Manager position at UnitedHealthcare, while also continuing to pursue Wendy’s Whimsies. While working at United, her first event was handed to her in one big file folder, with little guidance on the steps to take to execute the tradeshow. She not only learned how to execute that event, she mastered it, and ended up running the UnitedHealth Group Sponsorship of the AARP Life@50+ Event for 13 years. The booth ended up being 13,000 square feet at its largest, including an 80-foot semi-trailer mobile clinic that looked tiny in the booth, and 130 staff, including C-level executives, to train and wrangle during the three-day conference. 

UnitedHealth Group Platinum Sponsor Booth – One of 17 versions used over the 13 years.

After a promotion to the Director of Marketing Services / Events for UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement, Wendy’s team took on even more, including: product launches, CEO leadership conferences, national sales conferences and incentive events, VIP client events, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) events and 500 annual customer town hall meetings that took place all over the country. And more trade shows. Life was extremely busy, but exhilarating! 

In 2011, Wendy planned a VIP event for the top UnitedHealth Group and AARP executives at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. After a glorious dinner on the Target Terrace rooftop, catered by Wolfgang Puck, the group headed downstairs to the Clive Davis Theater to hear stories from Ken Ehrlich, the Grammy Producer for the last 30 years. While riding in the elevator with one of the guests, Amy, a Business Development Director at AARP, turned to Wendy, and said, “I would never miss a Wendy Porter Event. You create the most amazing events. Every detail is considered − from when you first arrive to when you leave. It makes me feel energized and inspired. You should start a business – Wendy Porter Events.”

And so, after a corporate downsizing, Wendy took the leap and did just that. Wendy Porter Events, LLC was founded in November 2015.

Who is Wendy now? Wendy has become a nationally award-winning event producer who can start from scratch or seamlessly jump into your corporate culture to help execute a flawless event. Her 22 years of experience include 1700+ events and over $50 million of budgets managed. Over one million people have now experienced a Wendy Porter Event. She brings her creativity, accountability, and passion to each and every event she produces. Wendy is a leader, relationship builder, and strategist. She strives to put on memorable events that leave a lasting “WOW” impression. As she likes to say, “Wendy Porter Events uses our brand of magic to create yours”, which has become the tagline for her successful business.

If you are interested in experiencing the “Wendy Porter Magic”, please contact us at wendy@wendyporterevents.com to learn more.

__________________________________________________________

This article was magically handcrafted by Shelby Neumann

Wendy Porter is the Owner/Chief Events Architect at Wendy Porter Events, LLC, and a national award-winning event strategist. Connect with Wendy on her Website, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

How to Make Your 4th of July Party Spectacular!

By: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com

You’ve all been to the typical 4th of July party in someone’s garage or backyard. You walk in and see people wearing red, white, and blue, and kids running throughout the yard. You hear an old bean bag as it hits the rusted board laying in the grass. Everyone is sitting around in old lawn chairs, holding a beer, looking kind of bored. 

Now it’s your turn to host this year’s big summer celebration, and you want to make it spectacular.  After all, an amazing celebration is what creates lasting memories.  Here are some simple ways to liven up your 4th of July party!

  • Apparel:  Encourage your guests to come decked out head-to-toe in the red, white and blue. The more outrageous, the better!
  • Décor: Make your party come to life with some festive tablecloths and flagged centerpieces. Brighten the room or yard with some colorful lights!
  • Food: This is the main reason why most people come to the party… to eat! So, don’t limit the grill to just hot dogs. Add in a fruit tray (or cake, if you have a sweet tooth like me) in the shape of a flag. Store some red, white, and blue popsicles in the freezer for the kids. If you want to ease the workload, then make it a potluck! Have all your friends and family bring an item to share.
  • Alcohol: Another vital aspect of the party! In addition to beer and pop, make a signature cocktail. A red, white, and blue frozen sangria or a watermelon-blueberry cooler to beat the heat. Check out the other recipes here!
  • Games: It’s not a Minnesota 4th of July party without a game of Bags aka Cornhole. Pull out some more games tucked away in your garage like ladder golf, bocce ball, or even put up a volleyball net. Change it up a bit and play volleyball with water balloons!
  • Music: If have musical talent in your sphere, coordinate a mini-concert.  Reach out to your friends and family to perform for everyone. Otherwise take advantage of Spotify’s free 4th of July Party Playlist!
  • Read the Declaration of Independence: You read it right! My friend Katy does this with her family, and it’s always a hit! Print off the country’s most famous document, cut it into small sections, number them in order, and hand out to your guests. Stand in a circle and read it together. This is a great way to get everyone involved and connect with America’s history! Plus, it leads to some very interesting conversations about why we are celebrating this great country.
  • After the sun goes down: If you have a fire pit, throw some logs in and light it up! Don’t forget to set out some Citronella candles around the yard to ward off mosquitoes. Grab some sparklers for the kids and bring out the s’mores!
  • Fireworks: Most cities have a firework show every year, so bring some lawn chairs, blankets, or hop on the boat to watch the vibrant colors illuminate the sky! Or plan ahead and buy some of your own fireworks to set off in your backyard. Be mindful of your neighbors (and dogs!).

Adding these little extra touches takes a good party to a great party, and creates those life-long memories. If you want to make your events magical, contact us to start the conversation. Happy Birthday, America!

______________________________________________________________

This article was magically handcrafted by Shelby Neumann

Wendy Porter is the Owner/Chief Events Architect at Wendy Porter Events, LLC, and a national award-winning event strategist. Connect with Wendy on her Website, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Create your website at WordPress.com
Get started