Archive for March 19th, 2008

The Best Party Planner? One Who Doesn’t OVER-Manage Your Party

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

I played for a St. Paddy’s Day party this week that was just about perfect in terms of enjoyment for the guests. And – for this – I credit the party planner.

No party professional can afford to be totally hands-off. Great events don’t simply happen by accident. So sooner or later, a true pro will allow a bit of extra time here, or take away a little there (if the proceedings start to drag.)

But some planners are hands-on in the extreme, to the point where everything feels over-orchestrated. For example, predetermined time schedules are great – as guidelines. But – if the salad plates are supposed to be picked up at 8:02, and you are still enjoying your mixed greens at 8:03 – there should be some chronological leeway factored in. Adherence to the clock (for its own sake) should never be more important than the pleasure of the guests.

It’s a balancing act, and one that experienced party people learn to perform well. The good planners – and my St. Paddy party planner was a great one – never seem to break a sweat. In fact, just looking at them, they appear to be having as much fun as anyone there. (Which is not to say that what they are doing is easy- their gift is in making a terrific affair look that way.)

Our event was fairly complex, in that it involved both outdoor and indoor activities, was geared to both adults and kids (not to mention Leprechaun-dressed dogs), and ran from 4:30 in the afternoon until the last dancers jigged out the door. It could have been a nightmare.

Instead, it was a day (and night) with something for everyone: costume contests (including the pets), a parade, dinner and dancing (including Irish folk dancing), and even a limerick-writing contest (another potential mine-field.) Everybody – whatever their age – had maximum opportunity for enjoyment (whether they defined it as sitting and visiting, or participating in the activities), and a bare minimum of visible party manipulation.

Burt Reynolds once asked Spencer Tracy for advice on acting. Tracy’s reply: “Don’t let ‘em catch you doing it.” The same holds true for good party planning – it flows so naturally, that it almost appears spontaneous. It isn’t, of course – it’s darned hard work.

But it’s work the true pros never let us “catch” them doing.