Avoiding Garish: How to Manage Expectations for Your Next Event

We here at Design Group have a lot of props. I mean a lot of props. Our props take up warehouses. Plural. We have more props than Scrooge McDuck has gold coins. Do you know what people say about our props? They say “I’m…not sure I could ever…”

Do you know why they say that? It’s because when you look at a bunch of props out of context, it’s hard to see them in context. If we just up and showed you a massive stuffed alligator with deadly intent in his eyes and a cavernous mouth ready to exert metric kilotons of pressure on some poor muskrat’s skull, you’d probably think “Wow, that’s one ugly piece of décor and I wouldn’t want to see the rest of that man’s house, because it’s probably covered in equally ugly crap.”

But if we showed you that same alligator with an adorable dachshund halfway out of its mouth and a beefcake of a man in a leather half-vest and fedora struggling to keep the beast’s mouth open long enough for the puppy to escape, you’d think “Wow, that’s a dramatic scene! Weird, but dramatic!”

And if we put a Kookaburra City Animal Rescue logo and label on that leather half-vest and a leash on that dachschund with a terrified little girl on the other end, you’d think “OK, so that’s obviously not what Animal Rescue really does…but wouldn’t it be awesome if they did?

And now you understand what makes a single piece of insane décor look garish to the untrained eye — and that same piece of décor look like an endless supply of potential awesomeness in the eyes of Design Group’s trained expert set designers and party planners.

Managing Expectations toward Awesome
If you want to put together a scene like the (fictional) one we described above for your next event, you have to start early in the process. Not because such scenes are difficult to rent out (though you should get yours reserved at least a month in advance), but because you need to start planting the seeds in your guests’ heads early.

It starts with the very first announcement of the planned event. That first announcement might seem like little more than an email with a date-and-time on it to you, but to your future guests, it’s their first impression of the event you’re asking them to attend. Send out a rote email with some snoresville ‘Hey, we’re having a thing’ type of message, and no one will think twice. Send out an email announcing the intended theme with impact — like “In Five Weeks, Inkster Will Learn What The True Meaning of ‘Paradoxically Quotidian Gatsby Mnemonodrama’ as the Michigan Verbosity League Descends upon Our Humble Corporate Picnic!”

Even those people who have absolutely no clue what that means (and can’t be arsed to look it up) will understand that, whatever else they know about this year’s corporate picnic, something outrageous is in the mix. The moment they understand that, you’ve made a big step toward having them step through the door and see the Roaring 20’s décorscape as something awesome instead of something garish.

Keep that same theme up with you send out your RSVP (or really, if it’s a corporate picnic, your instructions), and again when you send out your day-before ‘see-you-there,’ using each communication to subtly nudge them toward suspending their cynicism and accepting the theme for what it is. You’ll suddenly find that what was once a couple of warehouses full of individually challenging pieces has transformed into a playground for a fertile imagination — and your corporate events will never be the same again.

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