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Advice from the best: Event planning tips

We asked some of Fort Worth’s top event planners for some advice.

Here are the tips we received:

From Raleigh Browning and Jan Simus

Jan Simus Events

4827 Camp Bowie Blvd.

Fort Worth, TX 76107


Top 5 Planning Tips

1. Listen to the client.

2. Know what the purpose of the event is.

3. Design the event to reflect the client’s vision.

4. Prepare a working budget and adhere to it.

5. Keep the client informed on all aspects.

Craziest Planning Story

Bringing a live elephant into the Fairmount Hotel ballroom in Dallas. It was an extravagant event. The elephant had to be brought up in the freight elevator and just barely fit. The handler warned that if the elephant gave any warning signs of distress (swaying its head back and forth, for example) he would need to evacuate the elephant immediately!

Things We Didn’t Think We Had To Tell The Client

1. Plan for a medical emergency.

2. Make sure you have your appropriate attire. (A groomsman forgot his shirt at the hotel and we had to borrow a white shirt from a waiter!)

3. Always have cash on hand.

4. Always have travel documents (passport, tickets, etc.), appropriate legal papers.

5. Handle the marriage license before the wedding.

What Makes a Great Event

Provide the client with the event they expected and envisioned.

Other Advice, Comments, Tips, Etc.

1. Always remain calm before, during and after the event.

2. Provide information/timelines to all involved (vendors, clients) and be proactive with communication.

3. Create and follow a working timeline – it will help you remember the little details.

4. Be flexible!

5. Be patient!

From Bruce Mangual, director of catering and conference services,

Hilton Fort Worth

815 Main St.

Fort Worth 76102


Top 5 Planning Tips

1. Be creative. This shows a we-care attitude to your guests. Don’t get out of control but have some fun with this!

2. Prepare an agenda. Give us a time line of events for us to work with so we can appropriately plan the space and staffing, meal service etc.

3. Have a theme. Even a mild theme is a fun way to make everything cohesive (menu, décor, signage, breaks, entertainment).

4. Meet with your hotel partners to have a menu tasting, planning meeting, discussion of details and walk-through of the event space.

5. Do something unexpected. If you want to have people talk in a positive way have something big or small that speaks to the event that is unexpected. Suggestions might be:

— Cold water bottles in the cars as they leave valet – with a note of thanks

— Something interactive: guacamole contest, margarita contest, break into groups and make a fun team-building exercise

— T-shirts and fun giveaways

— Fun guest room amenities that speak to the conference – be creative

Craziest Planning Story

When I was in Denver we had a wedding that was a ski trip. We took the ski train to Winter Park ski resort and everyone boarded the train at 6 a.m. and we took off to the mountains. We had a lovely breakfast on the train and sang songs and just general camaraderie. On the mountain we had the ceremony at the top of the mountain and the bride skied up to the groom. Beautiful day with blue skies.

After the ceremony we all skied to the bottom for some libations and skied all morning. We had a beautiful mountain-top reception with fun Swiss and German food and beer. The real party was the train ride home as we danced (had a portable DJ) and drank and, well, general debauchery. We all skied and all lived to tell about it afterward. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event and everyone there had many photos and stories to tell.

Things We Didn’t Think We Had To Tell The Client

1. Assess dietary needs (gluten-free, vegetarian etc.). Please ask your guests about this ahead of time because if we have to prepare extra meals at the event it takes about 20 minutes and we do bill you for the extra meals.

2. Have a way to identify these guests with dietary needs (green card for vegetarians, blue for gluten-free, etc.). This makes it easier for the staff to know where the special meals go before the meal is served.

3. Communicate all your needs and details before arriving at the hotel so we as a team can plan for your group.

4. Have a pre-convention meeting. This is known as a “pre con,” where all the hotel managers get together with the event planners and discuss the group, hot buttons and expectations. It also introduces all the hotel managers to the group leaders so we know who you are and your specific needs.

5. Let our convention services staff help with event rooms and placement, meeting room sets, menus etc. They are experts in their field along with knowing the hotel better than you do.

What Makes a Great Event?

Details. The more information and planning details we have, the better the event will come off. Try not to over-plan events – there should be an organic flow. Some clients get busy with décor and forget the agenda and logistics.

Other Advice, Comments, Tips, Etc.

1. Don’t skimp on audio visuals. If the presentation is important, spend the money to make it memorable and polished.

2. U-shaped meeting room setups are great for up to 20 people but after that they lose their effectiveness for communicating with each other. If there is a lot of information being passed to your attendees then classroom seating is best. For meetings where they break into groups to brainstorm, the crescent rounds are best. U-shapes work for small groups that are sharing information with each other.

3. Look at your bill every day and have the accounts manager go over that with you. This will make the billing at the end of the meeting so much easier.

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