Event Planning: Keeping it SAFE in 4 Easy Steps

The Diva & Jennifer O’Neill

Your Business Blogger recently attended the annual fund raiser for a Baltimore non-profit. The event was flawless (or made to appear so, which is even more impressive).

When planning your next event or evaluating a get-together, consider this four part test which every good, SAFE party has: Speaker, Audience, Food, Entertainment.

1. Speaker. The keynoter is key to success and the bottomline. In today’s case study Jennifer O’Neill was on target and on fire. Summer of ’42, Rio Lobo with John Wayne, Cover Girl. Standing O at the end.

Our favorite family motto is delectare et docere, to please and to instruct. A great keynote does both. Jennifer O’Neill delivered. My 8 year-old Diva on left; O’Neill on right.

Remember speaker honorariums and speaking personalities are part of the event experience. I served on two boards where we hosted two contrasting events: one where Steve Forbes, who donated his fee and Bill Bennett, who didn’t. Dr. Bennett’s $40,000 speaking charge generated marginal returns on our investment. His subsequent gambling away (of my money!) was not helpful.

Ancient Jewish tradition says that a workman is worthy of his wages — honorariums should always be offered.

2. Audience. The people attending usually will be familiar with each other. If not, provide some mixer or movement to trigger circulation. This Baltimore event used a silent auction where lines formed — a queue for conversation. Assertive staff made introductions — good glad-handers working the crowd are micro warm-up acts.

Use a professional photographer who will create forced group shots. I find a snarky photographer bully the best. Everyone smiles; no one refuses.

(And when being photographed: three hints: 1. Show the left side of your face, 2. Put down or lower your drink, 3. Take off your name tag.)

The audience was also packed in. Adjust room size to have every table filled. Rub elbows, knocking about. This is most important and difficult for outdoor events. If your small business is expecting 100,000 — a high quality problem, to be sure — local government bureaucracy will be the challenge.

Jennifer O’Neill

3. Food. Will your event be remembered as another rubber chicken dinner? This non-profit avoided this with an excellent roast beef entree and an outstanding wait staff/attendee ratio for the experience. Grand repas!

4. Entertainment. The non-profit fund raising event continued its perfection. We live in a sight and sound generation where people expect to see movement. The Maryland Boys Choir provided the music, the motion. God Fearing Gospel music struck a chord with this audience. [cliche and pun combo] The 90 young men brought the house down, pleasing the packed crowd.

‘Packed’ being key. This can be a challenge to manage in some venues where the sardine packing is not possible. For example, comedians will not perform at outdoor events because there may be gaps too large between the attendees.

Laughter and entertainment and germs spread best in tight groups.

At your next gathering look around and see if it passes the four part SAFE test:



Jack Yoest John Wesley (Jack) Yoest Jr., is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Management at The Catholic University of America. His expertise is in management training and development, operations, sales, and marketing. Professor Yoest is the president of Management Training of DC, LLC. A former Captain in the U.S. Army and with various stints as a corporate executive, he also served as Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Resources in the Administration of Governor James Gilmore of Virginia.