Successful Corporate Events

How To Have a Safe Event During This Time  


Despite the pandemic, many people are continuing to put on safe  events incorporating jazz in the Tampa Fl area.   The difference is that they are taking creative precautions that allow their guests to have fun, but most importantly, stay safe.

One key part of the strategy is to have the event outside.  We're blessed to be in a warm weather state.  With some notable exceptions, it's mostly comfortable outside, even in winter.  So we can start with that as a foundation.

Have the seats and tables for your guests separated.  This creates natural social distancing without being overly obvious.  

As masks are an important part of virus prevention, they are a must.  However, they needn't be the drab white hospital like variety.  One client recently had a plate of decorative, chic masks  at the door.  They were black and gold.  Guests were able to each take one.  This had the double benefit of making the idea of mask wearing fun, while creating a unique look for the entire group.

Another idea is to go "all in" on the idea of masks.  Since we all have to wear masks, why not wear fun masks?  I've seen some hosts make it a contest with their guests on who can wear the most creative and fun mask.

If there is food, consider calling up small groups from specific tables so that there is no crowding to get it.  Have the band set up away from the general crowd.

So in conclusion,  is it possible to have events during this time?  The answer is "yes".  It's just necessary to use a bit of foresight and creativity.  Then everyone can have a good time while staying safe!

Make Your Next Event a "Mardi Gras" 

One of the most fun event themes that we've seen as a jazz band performing for corporate events around Los Angeles is the Mardi Gras idea. Just saying "Mardi Gras" conjures up a fun time and image.

Technically Mardi Gras is the celebration that happens on the Tuesday before the religious observation of Lenten. It's a time for revelry and indulgence prior to a period of fasting. However, people celebrate the idea of Mardi Gras year round.

To start, create invitations or announcements that reflect this theme. The colors associated with Mardi Gras are gold, purple and green. These colors represent justice, faith and power by the way. Include those colors in any promotional materials. Adding graphics of beads and masks and you're on your way.

For the event you'll need some New Orleans style jazz. We've performed with bass, sax, keyboard and drums for events like this. Vocals are a plus too. Make sure that the band leader has the correct styles and songs to fit the event motif. You want rocking upbeat celebratory jazz.

During the event you can create fun games for people to "win" beads, give a prize for the best costume and create other types of group participation.

If you like, include cuisine from the area for the total package. With that, your guests will feel like they're right on Bourbon Street having great time!

Here's a link to one of the many suppliers of masks, beads and other stuff to make your Mardi Gras event a real hit.

Top Five Tips For A Great Backyard Party 

It's funny how little things can either make or break a party. Sometimes, what might seem to be obviously important points can be missed or neglected. The result is a party that's a bit off. Here are our top five backyard party tips:

1.  If your party is going to go into the evening, make sure that you have adequate lighting. We always carry our own for music reading, but your guests will enjoy themselves more if they can clearly see each other after sundown! It's really interesting how this point is often missed.

2. In Southern California it can get a bit cool after dark even in the spring and sometimes early summer. Nothing puts a "chill" on your party like cold guests. Portable outside heaters can be rented from party planning establishments.

3. Discuss with the band leader the demographics of your guests and plan out the music. If your party is to celebrate an individual for a birthday or accomplishment, add some songs that you know that they'll like, or at least the style that they favor. Do your guests want to dance too? Make sure that the musicians can adopt to the "vibe" of the event and change on a dime if they have to.

4. Band placement can be important. In many backyard parties the party is really outside and inside the home. It's a good idea to place the band where the music will entertain both segments of guests.

5. Make sure that there are trash receptacles readily available outside. I can't tell you how many times we've seen guests walking around with empty plates and cups wondering where to dispose of them.

Keep those points in and have a rocking party!

Roaring Twenties Event Theme 

Looking for a unique and memorable theme for your event that is almost guaranteed to make it a lot of fun? How about a Roaring Twenties party?

The Roaring Twenties, even today, almost 100 years later, are remembered as a time of great social change and most importantly FUN!

Dancing, socializing, great nightlife and Jazz were the order of the day.  Even mentioning the "Roaring Twenties" conjures partying. So this as a theme can make a mundane quarterly meeting or annual convention really jump!

At a minimum you'd want to encourage your guests to dress in the period. It's relatively easy to find costumes and accessories for both men and women to create an authentic touch. Here's a website that I found that specializes in Roaring Twenties events and supplies:

Jazz was a big part of the Roaring Twenties, so you'll need a Jazz band that knows songs from the era. Have the band dress in tuxedos.   Have the band keep the music lively, in keeping with the era.

If you've got the budget, add a dance instructor to help everyone learn the Charleston.  How about an award for best costume?  Add more period touches to the venue and transport your guests back to the time when things were really "Roaring!"


Who Gets the "Oscar" At Your Event? 

My last post about performing around Los Angeles as the piano player "Sam" for corporate events reminded me of another successful theme for your next event.

How about "The Academy Awards" for your company?

This can be really easy to put on and fun too. Imitation "Oscars" can be purchased inexpensively. Here's the location of one vendor I found by Googling "imitation Oscar". They were about $10 each.

The next step could involve a little creativity. Instead of "Best Actor" how about "Best Handler of a Catastrophe"? This would be followed by the person coming up on stage to receive the award and perhaps speak a bit about how he handled the time shipping was really late or whatever. He could share a funny story.

Of course you can simply give out awards that your company normally would and skip the jokes. Sometimes that is best as it fits the company image better.

One of the keys to the evening is to have either a solo pianist or band play some classy "Academy Awards" music as your winners come up to receive their awards and as they leave. This mimics the famous broadcasts. I remember one attendee coming up to me after the event to state "I almost cried when I heard the music for the winners." It adds just the right touch.

Everyone should be dressed in evening clothes. If you can afford it, hire a couple "paparazzi" and have a red carpet before entering the event hall. Attendees could be presented with pictures of them arriving and of their acceptance of their "Oscar".

I can tell you as a piano player who has performed for many corporate events and parties in Los Angeles, your staff will love it and remember it for years.

Casablanca Theme For Your Event 


Let's face it.  Meetings can be boring.  Despite our best efforts to be enthusiastic, staffs have attended numerous events that are really similar. People tend to tune out.  How do you combat this?

Create a theme!  A Casablanca themed event is a great choice and can be done on a variety of budgets.

You'll at minimum need a piano, a "Sam" and if budget permits a "Bogie".  Sam has to be able to play "As Time Goes By" of course!  Add some period touches and you're all set.

I performed at one event where there were cigarette girls, hostesses in period dress and a "Bacall" to be on the arm of the "Bogie".  Others have had card tables where people gambled with play money in evening clothes.  You can take it as far as you like.

From this point you can mix the theme throughout your entire event.  Use it as a reference from the podium and in touches at the tables and announcements.

Encourage your attendees to dress in the period from the movie and you've changed another boring annual sales meeting into a memorable occasion.

 If you're planning a Casablanca party in the Los Angeles area and you need a piano player who can be "Sam", let me know.  I always like hearing someone say 
"Play it again, Sam."

Roger Harrison as "Sam"

Top Ten Event Planning Tips 

Here's a copy of a blog from that I thought would be great to pass on.

Key elements for consideration before you start planning any event.

1. Key Objectives

•Be sure to set out and understand the objectives of the event.
•Consider what you are trying to achieve and how you will achieve this?
•Who are you trying to target and where do you need to be to reach them?
•Be sure to identify the the unique selling point (USP) of your event and make sure you shout about it when marketing and advertising!
•Be original - don’t aim to copy other similar events.

2. Budget

•Decide on your budget and set it out in an easy to follow format. A simple Excel spreadsheet is more than adequate for this.
•Keep this budget sheet up to date and review regularly.
•Carry out a cost analysis to establish how much of the budget needs to be allocated to specific tasks. It’s no use planning a gala dinner dance if you have allocated 75% of your budget to the entertainer and then can’t afford to feed all of the guests.
•Be sure to set aside an element of the budget as a contingency – (approx 10% should be sufficient).

3. Team

•Establish a Planning Team and nominate one person as Project Manager to coordinate and oversee the progress and budget planning.
•Make sure everyone else knows who this person is and ask them to provide regular updates on their activities to the Project Manager.
•Agree a schedule of regular planning meetings. Make sure these meetings are minuted and clear action points assigned.
•Be certain to allocate timelines to each activity and set clear deadlines to avoid any creep in the overall project timeline.

4. Venue

•Compile a list of venue ‘must haves’ and appoint one person to research suitable venues.
•Be sure to check availability dates, seating and catering capacity, facilities and parking and any other events that might be taking place on the same day.
•Produce a shortlist for inspection and book the venue before announcing any dates to your attendees
5. Action Plan

•Set out key procedures for the following;
•Advertising/Ticket processing.
•Invitations/Location Map/Parking Permits
•Dress Code/Theme
•Delegate/Guest arrival and/or registration.
•Managing entertainers/speakers/sponsors/exhibitors and guests.
6. Catering

•Source caterer and ask for referrals from previous satisfied clients.
•Wherever possible ask to attend a tasting before making your final choice from the menus available
•Make sure they can accommodate the date you require.
•Establish menu and any special diet menus.
•Check available facilities for catering at venue.
•Agree timings and numbers of servers with caterers. Hire additional staff if necessary.
•Keep caterer up to date with guest numbers and dietary requirements.

7. Guests/Delegates

•Ensure all guests receive tickets/passes/parking permits in advance of the event.
•Check for any special dietary requirements.
•Check parking and accessibility for any wheelchair users, disabled or infirm.

8. Entertainment/Speakers

•Secure any entertainment, special guests or keynote speakers early on to avoid disappointment.
•Make sure the venue can accommodate their set up requirements.
•Check any licence requirements for the type of entertainment you are planning.
•Provide all entertainers/speakers with a clear itinerary of how the event will progress. Make sure they understand what is expected of them, at what time, and for how long.

9. Check, Double Check and Check again.

•Use checklists, plan ahead and don’t leave anything to the last minute
•Always double check rather than guess.
•Make sure that all bookings with caterers, entertainers, flower arrangers, key speakers are confirmed in writing and always, wherever possible, hold back a final balance payment until they arrive at the venue on the day.

10. On The Day

•Make sure that one person is ‘in charge’ on the day.
•Be sure to signpost the venue well so that guests/delegates understand where they need to go.
•Issue badges or coloured bands to identify guests or groups and manage numbers from a Health & Safety aspect.
•You could either use the services of an Event Coordinator or nominate a member of your team as the point of contact for all onsite staff, contractors, caterers etc. Whoever you decide to use it is vital that you have one person who can stage manage every aspect of the ‘on the day’ activity.

Top Tips From Pro Event Planners 


Here are a few tips from top professional event planners from around the country.  I came upon these at  The author is Robert Hard.

Event Planning Tip: Reduce Room Attrition Fees

A day or so before your event, find out if your hotel is booked. If so, you can use that to get them to waive any attrition fees you may have incurred. This worked for me at Bellagio. -- Submitted by: Sandra Corzine, with ADP Insurance Services, Florham Park, New Jersey.

Event Planning Tip: Arrive 1 Hour Early for Site Visits

Show up at least one hour before your scheduled site inspection, unannounced. In that time, walk around, try to interact with staff like you are a guest (ask directions, ask "difficult questions" as if you were not a seasoned traveler), look in the restaurants -- eat there if you have time, ask for recommendations for a local restaurant (just to see the responsiveness). I've actually called off an inspection when the property didn't come close to my standards for the meeting being placed -- saved my time and did the sales manager the courtesy of saving his, too. In the time I saved, did a spur-of-the-moment inspection of another hotel and ended up booking it! -- Submitted by: Robert Abbott Director-Corp. Marketing & Communications, with Mueller Co., Decatur, Illinois.

 Event Planning Tip: Use a Tree Stanchion for Lanyards

As any planner or registrar knows, string/lanyard badges can get tangled easily and create quite a mess in the registration area. After going to a store one day, I noticed a necklace stanchion in the jewelry section. I found and bought a few "tree stanchions" on the Internet and now use them at all of our conferences. I barely ever have to fight with knots. Plus, they make the registration area look even more professional and organized. You can even place a sign on top of them! -- Submitted by: Christopher Gossett Conference Coordinator, with Investment Company Institute, Washington, District of Columbia.

Feel free to subscribe to the blog. I plan to be on the lookout for more data.

Best,  Roger Harrison

How To Plan A Successful Corporate Event  

We play at lots of corporate events.  Some are extremely well run and some... well let's just say that sometimes it's a bit obvious that there was a distinct lack of planning.  I recently came across this article and felt it sumarized some of the aspects that I've seen need to be addressed to have a real successful event, so I'm republishing it here in full. 

Feel free to comment and leave your successes or things to watch out for.  I'll use these in future blogs.  Also check back as I'll be updating this blog with other ideas.  It's more fun for everyone when the event is planned right!

Interview with Debi Lilly, Corporate Event Planner
As CEO and founder of Chicago's A Perfect Event, corporate event planner Debi Lilly has created memorable moments for companies as diverse as McDonalds and Tiffany's. Also working in the celebrity world, perhaps her most famous client is Oprah Winfrey. Debi's party planning excellence has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show for seven years, including Oprah's televised 50th birthday party. She is also a contributing editor to several style and bridal magazines.

Debi Lily, CEO and founder of A Perfect EventAds by Google

Debi talked to LoveToKnow recently, sharing her tips for making any event a success while also letting us know a little more about the business of a corporate event planner.

Party Planning Tips for Any Occasion
LoveToKnow: If a company or a celebrity decided today, "I want to host a big event," what would be the first step you suggest they take?

Debi Lilly: Well, definitely the first step would be talking about the purpose or the occasion. Because obviously, whether it's a baby shower, or a summer picnic for a corporate client, the details and the timing necessary and the budget, all those things really vary party to party. I would say the first step would be talking about the type of event that they're going to have. So that somehow we're making every event unique and different and special, based on whatever the group is celebrating or honoring.

LTK: Are there any things that can help guarantee the success of an event?

DL: I would say that you would want to make sure that you are thinking through all the various pieces. Meaning for any given event:

•Do you have an occasion?
•Do you have a guest of honor?
•Do you have a location?
•Do you have a venue?
•Do you have some type of entertainment?
•Do you have some type of décor?
Looking through all the different pieces that comprise any successful event, you can then translate those to your own, and follow the steps needed to make sure that you aren't going to forget any special details or be stuck the day of the event scrambling around trying to get something completed.

LTK: What are the most important things to remember on the day of the event?

DL: On the day of, I would say that you want to make sure that you have, first and foremost, given yourself enough time to do whatever the pieces are that fall onto your lap. Meaning, if you're doing the food yourself, or if you're doing the flowers yourself, you really want to make sure that you give yourself a nice long window of time to set up and prepare. Because there's nothing worse, as I'm sure you know, than underestimating the time it takes such that the hour before the party you're scrambling, and you're not able to relax and get dressed and be fresh and ready to receive all of your guests. So I think it's really important to give yourself ample time.

We always try and have everything we can completed the day before. Anything that you can have set, like having your tables set, or having your furniture arranged, or whatever it may be, so that on the day of the event, you're really only focused on things that have to be done day of, that have to be done last-minute, like the food and the ice.

And then I think it's always important to figure out the flow of your event and of your guests. Meaning that you want to think through, "They're arriving here. Where should I set up the bar? Where should I set up the food?" So that people really are moving through wherever it is, whether it be your home or a backyard or a restaurant, and you really have thought that through and set it up so it works really well.

I think it's always important to keep the weather in mind. Let's say you're planning a big outdoor party. It's always important to make sure that you have a backup plan, just in case of foul weather. Being in Chicago, we have a 50/50 chance of good weather, and obviously in other climates maybe that's not as important, but it's very, very important here in our market.

The Business of a Corporate Event Planner
LTK: If someone else were interested in becoming a corporate event planner, what steps would you recommend they take to get started?

DL: Find a great company in their local market, and start working for them on a part-time basis, or whatever that position or company might allow. Because you just need to get your feet wet and get your feet into the industry. And there are so many positions, whether it be just project-by-project or on weekends or on evenings. It seems like a lot of people have gotten into it almost by chance because they're just looking for something part-time on the side, or some extra money, or they know they love it, and how can they get into it? That would be the first suggestion that I would make.

LTK: Do you ever get to attend a party and just enjoy it, or are you always thinking about it from a planner's perspective?

DL: Yes, I do. Over the holidays, I attended many parties that I had no responsibility for. And it's funny, you can't really break out of your mold. I would be saying to people, and they're not in my home, I'm at a neighbor's, "Can I get you something to drink?" "Can I take your coat for you?" And everyone was laughing at me, because they're like, "Deb…stop, stop." So it is kind of hard to turn it off, I guess. But I definitely do get to go to functions here and there. I wouldn't say often because 99% of the time it's something that's business-related. But I do, and when I do it's really fun, and also hard sometimes to sit back and just be a guest.

LTK: Looking at your website, I'm intrigued by the idea of The Event Library. Is it exactly what it sounds like, one-stop shopping for event planning?

DL: It is. It's both on our website and also an actual library or physical part of our boutique. And what we've tried to do is take the best of the best of Chicago's vendors; it's definitely a local resource. We found that it makes it really easy for people, no matter what kind of party they're throwing, because you're hiring pre-qualified vendors. You know, great caterers with a great reputation, bands, photographers, etc.

LTK: Is this unique among event planners?

DL: It's really unique. Some people try and hold those recommended vendors kind of close in their pocket. And we just thought it seemed like a really fun way to pick our preferred partners who we know do such a great job and are so professional, and you can rely on, and just help them build their business while also helping make it easier for people. Again, no matter what their occasion