The Shirt Shuttle features a nifty folding square to keep creases and wrinkles at bay, while the zippered case is small enough to fit into a laptop or gym bag. Cost: $59. (866) 755-9079; Conranusa.com
Day to Night
The iPhone Zip Wallet from Michael Kors (800-908-1157; michaelkors.com), available in sleek black or natural python-embossed leather, includes card slots and compartments for wallet essentials. Throw the wallet in your bag during daytime conference sessions, and carry it alone as a clutch for evening receptions and galas. Cost: $90.
All That Glitters
Confetti System's kitschy yet glamorous Crystal Pinata doubles as both a disco ball and confetti maker, and comes in gold, silver, grey or cantaloupe, as well as custom colors. Cost: $140. confettisystem.bigcartel.com
Samantha Swaim, owner of Portland, Ore.-based Samantha Swaim Fundraising (samanthaswaim.com), has incorporated DIY themes into events and fundraisers to get attendees more engaged. At check-in, guests are encouraged to make their own name tag at a craft table. Attendees also must create centerpieces from piles of craft materials on their tables. The DIY-feel is further enhanced by elements including invitations and décor designed by local artists and crafters.
Blast From the Past
In honor of its 50th anniversary, the Anaheim Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau (anaheimoc.org) threw a 1960s-era, Mad Men-themed networking bash to familiarize 150 bloggers with the destination and the bureau's members. Playing off the hit TV show, the gala included a fashion show displaying the wares of a local vintage retailer, along with retro-style eats like mini Beef Wellingtons, deviled quail eggs and pineapple upside-down cakes. A live band played classics from the era and milkshakes were handed out at a mock drive-in, complete with two vintage cars.
Jill M. Notte, a former marketing manager turned consultant, created a standout theme to attract more attention to her company's booth during an industry trade show. Since the meeting took place just before the Summer Olympics, Notte went with a "Synchronized Safety" theme and added an Olympics-styled ring-toss game to the 10-by-20-foot booth. One dollar was donated to the Special Olympics for each person who participated, and players received a customized roll of Lifesavers as a parting gift. Notte also snapped photos and gave out medals to participants who threw all five rings on the pegs.
"The best part of the theme was the amount of follow-up interaction it generated," says Notte, who sent an e-mail blast to all participants announcing the winner of the raffle, the donation total and a link to a slide show of winners. "The game and survey also kept people in our booth and gave us the opportunity to ask enough questions to determine if we had a lead."
Worlds of Wonder
To celebrate the debut of a client's seventh product, Annmarie Feiler, president of Las Vegas-based Special Event Management (semlv.com), used a "Seven Wonders of the World" theme to play up the company's global success. Each station featured small plates, cocktails and specialty entertainment representing the cultures of the seven wonders. Guests also received e-invitations resembling passports, which could be "stamped" at each station for a drawing later in the evening.
The nonprofit health and humanitarian aid group PCI (pciglobal.org) used its recent "Hands Across Borders" gala to highlight its work throughout the Americas. Giveaways included coffee grown by PCI's farms in Nicaragua and pictorial books and calendars with photographs of the organization's work. Décor was natural -- burlap overlays and cactus centerpieces -- and the menu focused on foods indigenous to Nicaragua, including goat soup and buffalo meat. A silent auction also featured a marketplace of items from the countries served by PCI.
The Bench Lamp Table (aka the BLT) works overtime as a stationary serving table, a stand-up communal-style table or as a desk area in a trade show booth. The piece, designed by Décor & More (with the concept provided by Kenneth Kristoffersen of POP), is available in multiple color combinations. Cost: approximately $575. (866) 833-3267; decorandmore.com
Mercury glass -- silvery glass with a reflective, antique finish -- pairs perfectly with the flickering glow of tea lights and pastel spring blossoms. Though they look expensive, mercury glass vases and vessels cost about the same as their regular glass counterparts and can be purchased at home décor sites, including westelm.com and potterybarn.com. Thanks to East Greenwich, R.I.-based Stoneblossom Florals (stoneblossomflorals.com) for the idea.
Up in Smoke
Washington, D.C.-based Occasions Caterers (202-546-7400; occasionscaterers.com) uses a single ingredient or a certain mode of preparation as the theme for a reception's hors d'oeuvres and small plates. For example, for a recent holiday soiree the caterer picked "smoke" as the inspiration and created the following menu:
• Mini smoked sausages served on buttery brioche buns;
• Broiled oysters topped with smoked bacon, smoked Gouda and caramelized onions (left);
• Smoky tomato bisque topped with mascarpone cheese and smoked paprika, and
• Rosettes of smoked bacon filled with apple slices and drizzled with dulce de leche.
Inspired by origami, Chicago-based Blue Plate Catering recently created this "Free Form Maki" hors d'oeuvre for an event, filling colorful soy paper with rock shrimp, sushi rice and spicy chili sauce. Ask your F&B contact to create a similar party treat. Cost: about $3.50 per piece. (312) 421-6666; blueplatechicago.com