Planners Share How to Make Both Big & Small Affairs Successful

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  • These experienced Colorado planners confirm that their approach is nearly identical no matter the size of a gathering.

     
    FROM THE Fall 2017 ISSUE
     
  • These experienced Colorado planners confirm that their approach is nearly identical no matter the size of a gathering.

     
    FROM THE Fall 2017 ISSUE
     

    Red Door Alliances LLC organizes a casual dinner annually at Keystone Ranch for more than 600.

  • These experienced Colorado planners confirm that their approach is nearly identical no matter the size of a gathering.

     
    FROM THE Fall 2017 ISSUE
     

    Blush & Bay presents petal parties for up to 10 guests. 

  • These experienced Colorado planners confirm that their approach is nearly identical no matter the size of a gathering.

     
    FROM THE Fall 2017 ISSUE
     
  • These experienced Colorado planners confirm that their approach is nearly identical no matter the size of a gathering.

     
    FROM THE Fall 2017 ISSUE
     

    Casino games were part of the Oscar-style party planned by A Frosted Affair.

Bigger isn't always better, and smaller isn’t always smarter. Leading industry experts from the Denver area, who all worked for larger firms and have since started their own businesses, weigh in on their approach to both large and small affairs and what it takes to make either a success. industry experts from the Denver area, who all worked for larger firms and have since started their own businesses, weigh in on their approach to both large and small affairs and what it takes to make either a success.

COLORADO CLIMATE FRONT & CENTER
Devon Binder, CMP - Red Door Alliances LLC, Littleton

It’s the unexpected moments that most capture guests’ attention. No one knows this better than veteran event planner Devon Binder. She annually hosts a group of 600-750 attendees for a financial services conference at Keystone Resort Conference Center. And each year, on Monday night, the group heads to Keystone Ranch for a casual dinner after an afternoon playing golf or enjoying other networking activities. “The outdoor mountain setting provides organic networking, and I want this theme to carry through the evening,” explains Binder.

“We change the food, we change the band, we change the theme, but we always incorporate the grilling stations and that’s for a very good reason,” she says. “They immediately arrive from their shuttles and walk into the smell of Rocky Mountain grilling. It doesn’t matter how large the group, we want them all to have that intimate arrival experience that combines not only the beautiful views, but the smell of delicious food. It is that aha! moment that takes them away from the everyday hustle and bustle but fosters great conversation in a very relaxing and comfortable environment.”  

Many of the attendees are from Arizona, Texas and the warmer areas of California, so Keystone, and particularly Monday night at Keystone Ranch, offers people their first real breath of outdoor air in many months. “It’s a true escape, and the sunset, music, grills and even 30-minute sprinkle of rain adds to that mountain magic. We do it every year, no one ever wants to do anything different.”

A spring snow also brought Binder quite the unexpected surprise when she planned an intimate 100-person conference in April 2017 at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs. “The event was to be simple and classic. It was a three-night conference, and a number of participants were from Texas and Arizona, where the temperatures were already in the 90s,” she shares. “We chose the Robert Trent Ballroom because there is a great balcony that overlooks a portion of the golf course, mountains and lake. You can place heat lamps outside, some casual furniture, serve a Colorado-inspired cocktail, and it provides a wonderful break from the traditional meeting space.”

About 30 minutes into the reception, the snow started coming down and it didn’t take long for almost every member of the group to go outside and start taking pictures and smiling in awe of the seasonal surprise. Always incorporating that element of nature has proven to be Binder’s lucky charm.

PUSHING PETALS & EXPERIENCES
Laura Shackles - Blush & Bay, Wheat Ridge

Laura Shackles also understands and has a deep appreciation for the bonuses delivered courtesy of nature. She is currently owner and lead designer of Blush & Bay but previously worked for Denver-based Unbridled Solutions. 

“The client I worked with most  was a genetic sequencing company based out of San Diego, and I project managed many of their sales and marketing events internationally and coast-to-coast, including their California headquarters,” she says. “I got the opportunity to travel the world for this incredible organization. Ironically, it never worked out to host their meetings and events in Colorado, which is so unfortunate because Colorado is such an amazing destination; I think that is what led me to put my focus back on events here more recently.” 

She adds, “It didn’t matter how big the event we were hosting was, the end goal was still the same. It’s the same progression of events, I just needed more supplies, space and staffing but that’s it. It must be an attendee experience from start to finish, whether there are 10 or 2,000 people.”

Shackles is especially fond of a companywide celebration she planned at her client’s brand-new campus during an annual sales meeting. “It was a housewarming of sorts, just for 2,000 people, and the worldwide sales team got a chance to see the headquarters in its best light,” she explains. “We had a local brewery come, set up and do beer tastings along the way; there was an exciting presen - tation by their CEO in the amazing outdoor auditorium; a casual, game-filled dinner with beer pairings and stations; and then a dance party, of course! The most exciting part was we provided a group from all over the world this very festive, brewery atmosphere; it was the epitome of an ideal Colorado evening, just on their campus.”

Blush & Bay, Shackles’ newest venture, was inspired by the birth of her son and her constant awe and admiration for the small touches, especially petals. The floral landscape got her excited, and now she is able to dedicate all her skills to pushing petals, for both largeand small-scale events.

She created small floral arrangements as giveaway gifts for Cirque de Soleil’s  ‘Luzia’ opening night party for 1,500. “Although it was large in scale, the same intimate details went into each element as my petal parties for 10,” she notes. 

RED CARPET MOMENTS
Katherine Frost - A Frosted Affair, Denver

Katherine Frost’s experiences follow the trend of this story as she, too, broke off from a large company to begin her latest endeavor, A Frosted Affair, an event design and management company. After a little over two years in business, her company is catering to both massive and miniature events.  Just recently, Frost’s team arranged an awards dinner at Hyatt Regency Denver Tech Center that was an Oscar-style party with the red carpet, gold statuettes and all.

“There were casino games, a magician in the cocktail room and plated dinner for 300; it was a true, gold-star evening. Every detail truly needed to be stunning, but I am used to that. Every client wants the perfect event; you really need to have that one truly sensational moment, that red carpet moment that sets it apart from the rest of the evening,” Frost emphasizes.

“In the case of the Oscars party, it was the welcoming red carpet step and repeat as soon as they walked in the door. It was not something they were expecting compared to previous awards dinners. They felt like true stars, having a photographer take their picture in front of hedge walls and alternating company logoed wall pieces. This was truly a wow for all walking the red carpet, and that is the feeling I was hoping for,” she says.

Frost also pulled out the red carpet for a recent retirement party of a company vice president held at Sports Authority Field at Mile High, home of the Denver Broncos. “The woman is a huge Broncos fan, so we decided to host the event at the Coke Zero Fan Cave for 50 people. This girl was a true fanatic; everyone at the company remembered her for her love of the team, so the setting was extra special,” Frost says.

The group assembled in this room below the stadium where they also could see the Home Media Room, which is the place the Broncos host interviews with the press. “No one ever has access to this area, and it was a showstopper,” she notes. Frost kept it simple with passed appetizers and a macaroni and cheese bar to let the moment be the memories of the businesswoman and her enthusiasm for the Broncos.  

It can be a showstopper, the show that was stopped by Mother Nature or a fresh aroma from a recent rain or snow or tasty foods on the grill. It’s unanimous among this trio that the details must include some element of nature and surprise. Without these forces, an event—grandiose or petite—will not have the same sparkle or impact. 

How much is too much? At many meetings and events, frazzled and fractured attention spans are put in hyperdrive with a wall-to-wall, dawnto-dusk agenda.

“Things are so rushed in today’s world,” says Angela Coleman, manager of events and meetings for KPMG, LLC in Denver. “Everybody’s got to do five things at once. We’re learning quickly that it doesn’t always benefit our attendees or conferencegoers.”

 

Denver’s McNichols Civic Center Building was decked out Willy Wonka style on June 20, 2017, for the ninth annual International Live Events Association (ILEA) Denver Excellence Awards. Members and guests celebrated the accomplishments of their peers and enjoyed cocktails, dinner and dancing. A team of judges from the Chicago chapter of ILEA selected the winners.

 

For the past five years, Destination Colorado has been switching up its Customer Appreciation Event from golf to experiential. This year, partner suppliers helped host planners for a private dinner reception at Red Rocks Amphitheatre followed by a 1964 Beatles tribute band performance. Nostalgic costume items, a photo booth and a roped-off seating section at Red Rocks were part of the fun.