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With the Christmas party season fast approaching and events booming after the pandemic, we are back to the very tough job of planning food for our client’s events. Whether it is a one-day event, an evening function or a series of days, the choices of food, regularity and timing is an important part of any event.

So, I thought it would be helpful to pop a few key things that we always consider.

Firstly, I want to ask you when you go to a restaurant how do you select the food that you order. I’ll be honest and say sometimes I look at the pudding options first and then work out whether I will have a starter and main or main and dessert – all well and good until the restaurant keeps their dessert menu secret until you have finished main course. However, after a short (and unofficial poll) of my family, friends, and clients it seems most people will glance over all the options, choose their main course and then go back and order a starter that will complement.

This makes perfect sense; the main course is the one that you will eat the most of and sits at the centre of the meal. On that basis I have started doing tastings in that order as well. My request often gets a raised eyebrow but when I explain the rationale, our request is accommodated. So, make sure you taste the main options, then the starter and then the dessert. To be clear this is for the tasting only not for the service at the event!

Another good tip for an evening dinner (or any sit-down meal) is to serve a pre-plated starter. Essentially it means that the starter will be already on the table when guests enter the room and so you save the service time. The only thing to watch for is that you choose a cold starter because chefs do not like doing that with hot food for obvious reasons; and let’s face it you don’t want to annoy the chef!

If you are not having a formal seating plan it is still useful for the waiting staff to be able to identify dietary requirements. For some clients we suggest that place cards are done for those with dietary needs to that they are identifiable, and service is not slowed. Just be aware that some people are not keen on having their requirements out for all to view so be sensitive to that and check that culturally it fits with your team.

And finally the wine … it is super tempting to choose wines that you like. Initially, I would always seek the recommendation of the sommelier or chef for the wines to pair with the menu (or we are lucky as we have a wine expert as part of the team that we can call on for her advice). However, particularly for larger groups, it is wise to err towards wines that will suit the majority of palates – typically this will mean that you steer clear of any white wine that is super oaky or red wine that is very heavy. And be bold, if your guests are beer drinkers, offer them that as a replacement to wine.

I want to start this post by answering that question – yes and no. An irritating-sit-on-the-fence kind of answer you might be thinking but hear me out. As a younger person when I started in the event industry I had boundless energy, enthusiasm and stamina. Running back-to-back events was quite an adrenalin rush and at one stage I topped out at 300 events in one year. As I am now more mature just the thought of running that volume of events makes me want to have a little lie down! And yet, while there is a lot to be said for young energy and we definitely want to attract the next generation into our amazing world, there is something to be said for the slightly older event managers. They have experience (and you do really only learn on the job in this industry), they have industry knowledge (whether that is of destinations, hotels or suppliers) and often clients like the reassurance of the older, expert guide.

However, as an older event manager I realise that nowadays I need to manage my energy and stamina in a way that I did not need to before. The two years of pandemic has meant that my event ‘fitness’ has been affected. I believe that this is one of the positives from those years though as it has forced me (and many people I talk to) to re-assess how they work and what they do to keep their energy levels up. Perhaps we will be less affected long-term by burn out or adrenalin crashes after large projects or years of work. During the pandemic I took a health and wellbeing course. My motivation was to arm my toolbox with tips and tricks that I could use when live events came back. Well, they are definitely back so here are my top 5 tips:

  • Drink water – I know this one is something that you here all the time but research shows that your consumption of water is directly linked to your energy levels

  • Limit caffeine – Pre-2020 I would not have considered running an event without a flask of coffee by my side but now I try and use it tactically during the day to give me a pep up when I need it and not to limit my sleep onsite

  • Get sleep – we all know that onsite getting lots of hours sleep is not always possible but if you can make sure that the quality of sleep is good then at least the little you do get will put energy in your tank for the next day. Sleep quality is influenced by many things but try and think about limiting alcohol and caffeine 5 hours before you sleep, removing screen time at least 30 minutes before you sleep and taking a eye mask, sleep spray and sleepy tea can also help.

  • Movement – how many steps do you do when onsite? My betting is that you hit 10,000 before lunch. But they are not always great steps – often on hard, unforgiving floors, indoors and in fits and starts. If you can get an outside 20 minute walk in during the day when you get your fresh air and heart rate up a little you will find you are less stiff after the event.

  • Food – it would be wrong to miss this off the list. We are far better these days at ensuring that we eat on site but sometimes the best laid plans are scuppered and you go 6 or more hours without any kind of food. Packing small bags of nuts or cereal bars means that you can always keep hunger at bay. Not only will this stop you getting hangry but it will also keep your energy levels balanced and stop the highs and lows of the blood sugar rollercoaster.

Keeping our energy levels balanced with such simple steps is something that we can all do – younger or older – and everyone benefits. Hopefully this means we can all keep doing what we love for many years to come!

Our final week of pulling back the curtain on Potting Shed Events. And this week we cover what we enjoy. Enjoying what we do is a real privilege and one that we aim to never take for granted. This wonderful world of events has given us all amazing opportunities to travel, visit special places, meet incredible people and, in my case, meet my husband. So there are many things that we enjoy about the industry but there are also some perks that we enjoy as a company. Here is our list of five:

  • We thrive on finding solutions. We love the tricky brief, the one that makes you wonder if this is the one that you cannot solve – not happened so far!

  • We enjoy 2 duvet half-days each quarter. These random half days are designed to keep us as healthy and rested as possible in this relentless industry. They are not to be used to tick off life admin tasks but rather to be spent snuggled up with a book or in front of the TV so a real break.

  • We take our birthdays off so that we can properly enjoy them with our family – of course there is always birthday cake the day before or after!

  • We share the perks and benefits of our industry. All too often these are directed solely at the business owner or senior members of the team but all of our team deserve to be immersed in the industry – the tough bits and the nice perks. So all offers are extended to the whole team.

  • We enjoy each other’s company. We are incredibly fortunate to all get on as a team but we also work at it to make sure that we can enjoy our days together and not resent being part of a busy team.

This is the one area that when we were pulling together our list of five, we could have gone on for double or even triple that time. It is so important that we enjoy what we do, how we do it and who we do it with. We spend so much time at work and it is such a large part of our lives that it should be rewarding and enjoyable. I hope you have enjoyed our little behind the scenes tour of our business this month. It has been a pleasure showing you around and we hope that over the coming months more team members will join us and be able to see that these are not just words, they are very much who we are, what we believe, how we work and what we enjoy.

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