Welcome to the Fold
Creatively folded napkins will not only boost a banquet's visual impact, they can help strengthen a theme, according to Jill Lazar, a principal of Everything Events, based in Providence, R.I. (401-868-4498; everythingeventsco.com). For those with time and patience, go online to learn how to fold anything from a boat for a nautical theme to a bird of paradise for a tropical dinner. For everyone else, ask your catering manager to do something out of the ordinary -- even a small flower tucked into a fold can make a big difference.
Did someone in your company accomplish something that nobody dreamed possible? Give the flying pig award, a proud porker that comes in three sizes and lots of colors -- and can even be logoed. Prices range from $55 to $125. (703) 625-4368; when-pigsfly.com
Whether branded with a corporate logo or picked from a predesigned pattern, these necklaces made from dominoes work well as entrance passes, especially for all-women events. Once the event ends, attendees can take them home as keepsakes. Phenominoes cost $20 each, or $10 for orders of 15 or more. (254) 968-7839; phenominoes.com
Proving that presentation is key to memorable events, Fort Worth, Texas-based event planner Tara Wilson chooses unexpected containers for her dessert setups: vases, egg cups, soup bowls and martini glasses. If the candy or bonbons don't reach the brim of a container, she suggests placing an appropriately sized saucer inside before piling in the goodies. (817) 764-2601; tarawilson.com
A Run for Your Money
Kick off a health-conscious meeting with a guided run, organized by City Running Tours. The company can set up runs for small groups in Austin, Texas; Charleston, S.C.; Chicago; New York City; and Washington, D.C. Each runner gets a t-shirt and a photo taken on the trip. Tours cost $60 per person for up to 6 miles, and $6 for each additional mile; discounts apply to groups of four or more. (877) 415-0058; cityrunningtours.com
Minimal Cost, Maximal Appreciation
Minimus.biz lets planners choose from more than 2,000 travel-size products, including snacks, toiletries and pampering products, to put into a kit for attendees. Or take one of the company's ready-made packages, such as the Travel Treats box, with 11 different toiletries inside what looks like a candy box. The kit costs $8.90 each in bulk, with a minimum of only 20 kits, and is completely customizable, inside and out. (805) 480-1415; Minimus.biz
To arrange transportation for a VIP sales event for the high-end real-estate development firm Tehama, Marci Bracco, a Monterey, Calif.-based event planner (firstname.lastname@example.org), reached out to local Mercedes dealerships. The dealers arranged for attendees to be driven in new Mercedes convertibles -- for free -- because it was a great opportunity to show off the new cars to a group of qualified buyers.
The Self-Catered Picnic
Public parks often require a permit for catering to be done. For a last-minute affair, Julie Wadler, president of Epiphany Productions in Alexandria, Va. (epiphanyproductions.com), recommends filling up picnic baskets and delivering them to each department of a corporation in the morning, with a note that details where and when to meet for lunch. Everyone shows up, no advance planning required. Davina Kristi Brewer, owner of Atlanta-based 3Hats Communications (3hatscommunications.com), suggests hosting a potluck party. To get people interested in cooking, award prizes for the best dishes, and post the winning recipes on the company intranet.
Pitch the Tent
To avoid having to rent a (pricey) tent, Barbara McRae, CMP, owner of Strategic Events in Grimsby, Ontario (strategicevents.ca), rented a picnic shelter at a local park, which saved about 25 percent off the total budget. Another option: Hold the picnic inside. The Four Seasons St. Louis (fourseasons.com/stlouis) has devised a barbecue in the ballroom for groups that don't want to take a chance with the weather. The banquet staff sets up square tables, camping lanterns as centerpieces and barbecue served family-style.
When employees can bring their children to a company picnic, the turnout increases, but many of those parents don't really get to enjoy themselves. Plan an event-within-an-event, suggests Michael Helmicki, a caterer in Buffalo, N.Y. (email@example.com). Give all the kids name tags with their parent's name on it, and make sure they are fed before the adults. Hire enough help so the children are adequately supervised, and give them cameras to take pictures of the kids having fun.
Corn on the cob can be fun to eat, but it's so messy, picnic-goers might pass it by. Chicago-based caterer and consultant Greg Christian (gregchristianconsulting.com) has pioneered the corn-on-the-cob action station. A chef cuts the kernels off the cobs, then tosses with a choice of vinaigrette, pesto aioli, chopped cilantro, black beans, tomatoes, etc. The resultant salad is an instant favorite.
Feel Like a Kid Again
Rebecca Thorpe, a principal of Girl Admiral Events in Fairfield, Conn. (girladmiral.com), offers three clever and inexpensive picnic tips:
1. Bring back the games kids used to play; for example, Spud, Red Light-Green Light and Red Rover.
2. Bring a cooler of rolled-up wash cloths soaked in ice water, for cooling off on a hot day.
3. Serve handmade ice-cream sandwiches with different pairings of cookies and ice creams.