Special Event Locations & Production
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Creating the Perfect Off-Site Event

by Marilyn Jenett


 Los Angeles Business Journal
 Meetings & Conventions

Mae and Clark


The City of Angels has a diverse and exciting selection of special event venues to offer the meeting planner/event coordinator.

When selecting your venue, there are six basic elements to keep in mind. The basic elements of an event are: Location Site; Catering and Beverage Service; Rental Equipment; Theme and Decor; Music and Entertainment; and Transportation.


Location Site

Considerations for selecting a venue are: distance and travel time, guest count, weather conditions, type of event, theme, and budget.

How much travel time is allotted to transport your guests? Will they be staying in hotels in one area or throughout the city? If guests are local, would a particular area of the city be preferable?

Is the event to be a reception, buffet or formal dinner and what is your maximum guest count? How much seating is required? Will guests need to be served in a common area or can several areas of the venue be utilized? Consider space required for dancing, entertainment or presentations. Keep in mind you may want to have a cocktail reception in one area followed by dinner and perhaps entertainment in another.

Will you consider having all or part of the event outdoors and is tenting an option in the event of weather changes? Of course, we know it never rains in Southern California, but space heaters work quite well for an unexpected chilly evening. Los Angeles boasts such a beautiful climate and there is a wonderful selection of indoor/outdoor venues.

You may already have determined whether you want your event to be elegant and sophisticated, casual and fun, reception style or formal. This will help in your site selection.

Your theme most likely will be determined by your choice of venue. Who can resist dinner at a Beverly Hills estate, a "Hollywood bash" at a movie studio, or a real California beach party? Venues are often selected that represent and characterize our city and its rich culture. Of course, you can always transform a particular location site into your theme of choice, but this will usually require a higher budget.

Budget may determine your selection of venue, but please don't make the mistake of isolating the location cost. The determining factor should be your budget for the entire event, not just location cost. Often there are creative ways of working within your budget even though the venue may be expensive. And in many instances location sites may be willing to negotiate rather than lose the event. If you are working with a local event professional, his/her longterm association with the location and vendors will help considerably.

You really want your reception, theme party or event to be at a creative off-site location but your budget is conservative? You will find the next category helpful...


Catering and Beverage Service

Although many venues require the services of an independent catering company, others provide in-house catering only. Generally speaking, when profits are generated from in-house food and beverage, location fees are lower or nonexistent and rental equipment is included, lowering the cost of the event considerably.

As for the independent catering companies, those in Los Angeles are among the finest and most creative in the world. Our reputable caterers have extensive experience working "on location" and are capable of creating the flair and excitement that will personalize your event and make it memorable. From nouvelle cuisine to international menus, off premise caterers have the ability to provide the finest culinary options offered in our city.

A full service catering company will lend expertise in designing themes, coordinating rentals, providing beverage service and could even assist in site selection.


Rental Equipment

Rental equipment includes tables, chairs, linen, china, glassware, stemware, silverware, professional catering and kitchen equipment, heaters, tenting, staging, dance floors, lighting, and electrical.

Our most professional rental companies have computer generated diagrams of the most often used venues to facilitate logistical planning.

A rental consultant will work closely with the caterer/coordinator through all stages of planning until execution of the event to assure success.


Theme and Decor

Decor can be as minimal as floral arrangements for buffet and guest tables or as elaborate and intricate as the imagination and budget will allow.

Your location site will often determine your theme and provide most of the backdrop and decor you need. Guests will have the opportunity to tour the magnificent mansion or the museum's exhibits. Film studio theme locations provide everything necessary for that Hollywood theme party. Breathtaking city, ocean and mountain views, historic architecture, and the sands of our Gold Coast beaches cannot be duplicated by any design company. Often, supplemental florals and lighting may be all that are necessary to complement existing decor. However, if your budget is not limited and your venue is perfect for creative transformation, our industry's outstanding event design companies have the creativity and vision to enhance your event. Venues such as warehouses, soundstages, airport hangars and parking structures provide a perfect canvas to create a corporate identity or product promotion, or any theme the imagination could consider.


Music and Entertainment

Your needs may be as simple as background music for your reception and dinner or a band or an orchestra for dancing, but the selection of the right talent is vitally important to the success of your event. Entertainment must complement the venue, the theme, even the "consciousness" of your guests.

Entertainment covers a broad range of possibilities. World-class celebrity look-alike/impersonators are popular in Los Angeles. Their presence and performances enhance a Hollywood theme and provide wonderful photo opportunities. Other popular options include comedy, illusion (magic), variety or specialty acts, vocalists, even headliners.

Reputable music and entertainment contractors can provide the most desirable options and will be familiar with the best available talent. They will also coordinate the various elements of production such as sound reinforcement, A/V, lighting and staging, which are often necessary to enhance ambiance. "Our years of experience and contacts in the entertainment industry saves our clients valuable time, energy and expense when coordinating an event," says Sal Kuenzler of City Connection Entertainment and Productions.


Transportation

Transportation from hotels is usually provided by deluxe motorcoach or shuttle van. Shuttle vans may be required in rare instances where access for large buses is limited at the location site. For very large receptions with high guest counts, motorcoaches may be scheduled for several trips to pick up guests. A nice touch is to have local hostesses (often bilingual) load passengers at the hotels, provide a warm welcome on the ride to the event and provide assistance as needed throughout the evening.

For local guests, options would be self parking, valet parking or again, motorcoach or shuttle van where parking restrictions prevail.

With a higher budget (and usually for smaller or medium-sized events) you may choose to transport your guests by superstretch limousine. Or limousines may be hired for senior executives.

The following are additional items to be considered for your event which need no elaboration here:

  • Invitations

  • Photography and videography (don't forget press style photographs for trade newsletters, promos, etc.)

  • Gift items for guests

  • Insurance (many location sites such as mansions and museums require a certificate of insurance from your company which may be obtained at little or no expense)

Many companies (often competitors) will be entertaining during your convention and every meeting planner wants to know that his/her efforts will result in an impressive event that will be remembered and talked about.

Please call and plan a site inspection as early as possible to select the venue of your choice (you may also make your decision from photographs, brochures and other promotional material). Of course, competing companies will not want to have events at the same venue even on different dates.

You now have all the basic information you need to coordinate your off-site event. If you are a seasoned meeting planner or event coordinator, most of this information will be familiar. However, we hope we have provided you with new insights and a bit more knowledge to help with your future efforts.


Marilyn Jenett is the owner of Marilyn Jenett Locations,
a renowned special event location company with offices in Los Angeles.


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