Ask an Expert: The #1 Party Planning Tip for Every Event, Ever.
With more than 20 years of event planning experience under her belt — most of which involve running her own renowned agency — Natalie Kennedy is an actual expert on all things party-related (not to mention meetings, conferences, product launches, award ceremonies, fundraisers, and and and…). So, it goes without saying that she’s got an infinite amount of tips and pointers to share with staff and clients alike, making sure every event she’s involved with is remarkable, memorable and leaves behind the exact impression it’s meant to. With all that insider knowledge at hand, it might come as a surprise to hear how ridiculously simple her #1 party planning tip is for every party, ever: make your guests feel good.
Almost too elementary to be true, right? Not so. Whether you’re putting together a small dinner party for close friends or a black-tie affair for thousands of industry luminaries, the one common thread is the fact that we’re all human beings, and social gatherings should offer opportunities for connection, relaxation and revitalization — not stress, worry and bother. In some instances — say, a closing event at an annual conference hosted by a Fortune 50 company — that might mean transporting attendees into a fantasy world, where their imaginations are overtaken by everything around them. In others — say, an intimate wedding or anniversary party — delicious food, great music, a beautiful setting and good company may be the only ingredients needed for a perfect night. Context is everything, but as Natalie says, good event planning always, always boils down to putting yourself in each guest’s shoes and making sure their needs are met from start to finish.
“Halloween is one of my favorites,” Natalie told the lifestyle website Brit+Co last year. “I throw a Wig & ‘Stache Halloween Bash every year. If guests want to go all out and get into a major costume, then they certainly can. But, if they only have time to throw on a wig, that’s cool too. It’s an open door for anybody and everybody, and it’s all-inclusive and not overly done.”
Such simplicity may sound strange at first since it’s coming from the head of an award-winning event planning agency and destination management firm, but again, it’s always more about the human reaction we have to the event we’re attending than the details of the event itself. The devil may be in those details, of course, but understanding which ones are the most important is a key component of being an effective planner. Knowing where to prioritize areas of a budget, when to indulge and upgrade vs. when to simplify, and how to make the most of the resources available are hallmarks of solid event production, and when it comes to casual social gatherings, sometimes two or three primary elements (costumes, a great bar and fun music, for example) are the only things you need.
Also in the Brit+Co piece on party planning pro tips, Natalie shared, “We always do a specialty cocktail and name it something fun and thematic, like Black Magic or Hocus Pocus.” But other than that and some on-point decor, she doesn’t get too crazy. “Costume dressing can be expensive and intimidating for people, especially those who have kids and busy lives,” she says. “So, at our party, no one’s expected to plan a costume for hours and hours; they can just come, enjoy a drink and have a laid-back time. That’s often the best kind of party, really — one where everyone gets to relax and let their hair down a little.”
So, if you’re personally hosting a get-together with colleagues, friends, or friends of friends you haven’t met yet, go easy on yourself and just be sure to keep your guests’ needs in mind. At a house party, no one cares how many hours you spent on those custom centerpieces if you forget to make sure everyone’s handed a drink and made to feel welcome. Put your guests first, always, and spend your time and resources where you’re most comfortable putting them. The rest, as they say, is just icing on the cake.
Want to work with a team of seasoned pros on your next corporate event? Partner up with Kennedy Creative Events and watch the magic happen.