Here’s our interview with Emerald Events Principal Maureen Brown, where you’ll learn some quick & easy event planning secrets from an event planning pro.
Tell us how you got started in event planning…
It’s in my blood. My dad worked for many years as director of communications for BC Gas, and planned all of their conferences. When he semi-retired, he went on to plan for a range of clients, including the American Gas Association, he organized the torch relay for the Canada Games, and the BC Games. I think of him every year when I see the BC Games torch he designed. Fun fact—they used to need to light the torch quickly at the ceremony, so they used to use a tampon as a wick! [laughter]
When I worked for White Spot, their location at Science World needed both a quick-serve restaurant and on-location catering. I was lucky enough to be the person that helped develop and organize their on-site catering—I designed the menus, met with clients, and planned a range of events. I loved it. I went back to running a restaurant for a while, but I had been bitten by the event bug. I’m trained as a chef, but I loved the planning side more. I quit my job and went to BCIT’s Marketing Event Planning program. The rest is history
What kinds of events are a big highlight for you?
I really love events and weddings that let me stretch out of the ‘same old’. We did a corporate event a few years ago that was super cool—very dark and moody. There was a sci-fi wedding last summer that was awesome. We get to work in some pretty interesting places, too, like the Gulf of Georgia Cannery.
Take a look at this beautifully dark and moody corporate event planned by Emerald Events:
What is the most important part of making sure your event is awesome and organized?
I always start with the end product and work backwards. My job is to look for the stumbling blocks that might mess things up before they happen. It’s a bit like being the duck that looks like it’s moving smoothly on the surface, but it’s paddling like crazy below the surface.
I think the most important thing is a good timeline and getting buy-in from all of the parties so that everyone’s on the same page. I always feel like the ‘mom’ of the clients and the vendors. I make sure everything is running smoothly, everyone looks good, and everyone has what they need , whether it’s power, tables, time, etc.
Any event planning secrets for picking the right venue and creating a budget?
The first thing I ask of my clients is, “Close your eyes and tell me what you imagine your event looks and feels like.” From there, I can usually narrow it down to a few great venue options.
Budgets are tricky. I try to help my clients prioritize and figure out which things are more important to them than others. I give them tips for staying inside their budget and if money’s tight, I make recommendations so they can still get their desired look and the feel, but stay within their budget. I don’t often quote much on budget, unless they want to give me a dream list with a very tight budget—in that case, I do some rough math and show them the light.
What is your favourite part of event planning?
Walking into the space before anyone arrives and seeing that it looks like my vision—I get such a huge satisfaction out of pulling it all together. And I love getting a hug from my clients at the end of the night, saying it was exactly what they wanted.
Any planning mistakes or pitfalls that you advise clients to avoid?
Time is your enemy—people often try and squeeze too much into the short time they have for an event and don’t leave time for themselves to just enjoy it.
Another thing to watch is getting caught up in tiny details. Once you have a room full of people, those things you obsessed over are quickly forgotten. You are better off putting money into something bigger that stands out.
Any other last tips to share?
- Have a clear vision but stay flexible
- Think about the time of year. What season will help you fulfill your vision. If you want to get married on the beach, for example, don’t opt for an October wedding…
- What are you doing for the bar? It quickly adds up. Who’s bringing all the liquor?
- And lastly, everyone is great about bringing items to an event (vases, signs, flowers) but who takes all of those things home at the end of the night? It’s smart to make a plan.