Scissors. Tape. Zip ties. Flash drive. What do all of these things have in common? They each belong in an event planner’s toolbox.
It’s what every event planner needs – a portable box filled with items to solve unforeseen, last-minute needs at events. Without one, a minor issue can balloon into much more. Just ask Natalie Lester, an account executive at Moxley Carmichael.
Lester was in charge of planning the announcement for the Fort Kid renovation back in April. She had bought two dozen red and white balloons for the event, but on the way to the playground, they got so tangled in the back of the car that it became a two-person job just to separate the red from the white. A few balloons flew off in the frustrating process.
“What I learned was to use trash bags for balloons, with all of one color in each bag,” Lester says.
And now trash bags are in the Moxley Carmichael event toolbox.
But what else belongs in the toolbox? Start with the basic necessities: scissors, Scotch tape, duct tape, packing tape, safety pins, paper and binder clips, stapler and staples, notepads, blank name tags, black Sharpies, black ink pens and yellow highlighters.
To be the most prepared, add items to the toolbox that may not always be necessary, but that come in handy nonetheless.
Our suggestions include: string, adhesive Velcro fasteners, double-sided tape, clear zip ties, cellphone charger, backup charged cellphone battery, corkscrew/bottle opener, box cutter, travel sewing kit, tape measure, extension cord, lighter, batteries, laundry stain remover pen, breath mints, hand sanitizer, bandages, ibuprofen or acetaminophen and a flash drive.
Lauren Miller, director of client services at Moxley Carmichael, recommends a flash drive of at least 8GB. While a smaller drive will suffice for storing a presentation, a larger one can store high-resolution images from the photographer post-event.
As for the box itself, go with something durable and easy to carry, according to Miller. A large tackle box with a handle on top would work, as would a “tool box” with wheels, such as Moxley Carmichael uses.
Once the toolbox has been filled, everyone using it must follow the golden rule: What belongs in the toolbox stays in the toolbox, and what gets used up gets replaced.
Another piece of advice: Have a technology backup plan. Amanda Shell Jennings, an account executive at Moxley Carmichael, says, “If technology is necessary, always have an alternate plan. If the location has a projector, I always bring our projector, too. If I bring a laptop with a presentation, I also bring a thumb drive.”
Even with all of this preparation, Jennings is the first to acknowledge that it is impossible to prepare for everything.
Late in the fall of 2011, Jennings helped organize the press conference announcing the Knoxville episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, one of the last two episodes ever recorded for the show.
A special banner was set up in Market Square on the Bill Lyons Stage and covered by black draping. Its unveiling would reveal that the popular show would be in Knoxville in January 2012 to help a deserving family. The surprise was almost ruined, however, when strong winds that day started blowing the drape away from the banner.
Jennings ran into a nearby tailor shop for safety pins – now you know why sturdy ones are in the toolbox – but those didn’t work because of the wind. Thinking fast, she rushed back to the Moxley Carmichael office in the Miller’s Building and brought down 12-pack cases of soda to use as weights along the hem of the drape. Interns assisted her, and they all had the job of holding the drapes closed in the back.
“You learn that in the moment, you use whatever you can find,” Jennings says. “It also teaches you to always think about weather contingencies, not just rain. Outdoor events have a lot more variables you have to deal with in the moment. You can’t prepare for everything in advance.”
The lesson to event planners? Think on your toes, but with your event toolbox in tow, your life will certainly be a lot easier.
Martha Ashe is a summer intern at Moxley Carmichael and a rising senior at the University of Richmond studying marketing, English and art. When she’s not planning her future, Martha spends her time putting together 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles. Her dog Mayzie swipes the pieces.