Decorating with pipe & drape is the easiest way to transform a space quickly and cost-effectively.  Whether you’re using pipe & drape to cover one wall or the entire space, it’s a proven solution for professional event planners.  When designing an event, think of the décor in terms of layers.  The higher the budget, the more layers you can add.  The first layer will be pipe and drape in some form, and then you can build out from there by adding layers of décor.  Below you can find some examples that range from simple techniques to more elaborate and time-consuming methods.

Specialty Drape for Events

If you want to make a big impact, but can only afford to do the drape, you may want to think about using a specialty drape.  Gold pipe and drape gives you a dramatic background for an awards show or wedding, while still keeping it a simple and quick installation.  There are multiple styles of rental drapes available.  Even if you need to ship it in, the pipe and drape hardware is widely available in most rental markets.

Pipe & Drape for Holiday Events

A favorite for holiday events is red pipe and drape.  We like to use red velour drape as a basic background for simple holiday displays.  If you’re setting up a Santa’s display, simply add a throne, some winter and toy accents, and you have a nice setting for photos.  You can also stripe in one or multiple colors, depending on the look you want.

Pipe & Drape with Lights

Another technique is to use pipe and drape with rental backlighting for events.  We like to use a white or silver translucent drape and backlight it with either one or a series of LED lights.  With this technique, you can light your drape any color, and change it as you see fit.  You can also use solid colored pipe and drape with lights in front.  With a powerful enough light, you can also add color to solid drape, or project patterns.  

Staged four-tier wedding cake in front of rose and white pipe and drape setup at wedding

Pipe & Drape for Weddings

For a wedding or elegant affair, we like to use pipe and drape with greenery backdrops.  Because of pipe and drapes nature, it’s easy to attach greenery to the uprights or crossbeams.  There are also simple attachments that can be added to support pipe and drape with flowers or hanging baskets.  Many florists will use pipe and drape with white flowers and greenery, creating a lush display for a wedding ceremony.  

Pipe & Drape with Backdrops

Another simple way to decorate for a themed event or a stage background is to use a digitally dyed event backdrop.  Simply slide the backdrop over the pipe and drape frame and you have a seamless background that looks great, and sets up in 10 minutes.  You can add additional décor as the budget permits.  We once used over 500 running feet of an outdoor forest background, and added fresh greens and plants, brown furniture and natural décor elements to bring the display to life. 

For the true professional, there are special caps that can be added to the top of a pipe upright, giving you two layers of drape.  A very dramatic effect is to use one color of drape on the back level, and another color in front pulled back to reveal the rear drape.  Use rope and tassels to tie the drape back, or simply use a zip tie and pull the drape over to conceal it.  If you still want to take it a step further, add an additional pin and upright on the base, and add a third level of drape of a vallance.  If you decide to use this style of drape, you may want to add a base weight or sand bag for extra support.

Wedding stage area with white pipe and drape, floral backdrop, and traditional decorations

Pipe and drape can be the perfect way to accentuate your existing event decor, or create the elegant look you’re looking for. For even more decorations and backdrops for your wedding, trade show, or other event, check out the rest of our event supply rentals.

It’s time for our third “elements of a theme’s construction” post. We did color, we did pattern, and now it’s time to do texture. You know by now that you want your keynote speaker’s audience to be receptive, orderly, and feeling the flow, so you’ve picked out a gentle but geometric pattern of silver, black, and blue. But you also need to think about how your event feels — or, more often, looks like it would feel. This is the realm of texture.

Opening Note: It is difficult to discuss texture separately from material, which could easily be a very large book when it comes to psychology. Every different material has its own psychological connotations, down to the difference between mahogany and redwood. As such, we’re setting side commonly-discussed “textures” such as ‘woody,’ ‘woolen,’ or other textures that are the result of material, and discussing the most basic aspects of texture in the abstract.

A World of Associations
Much like color and pattern, the psychology of texture is the psychology of association. Because everyone has a unique history, everyone will have a unique individual set of associations — but for the most part, certain textures are associated with certain attributes.

Smooth
“True” smoothness — as opposed to the smooth of a smooth-haired dachshund, which is still actually fairly rough — is rarely found in nature except in very specific textural circumstances (such as the proverbial baby’s butt). Because smoothness is almost always man-made, the most powerful association smooth has is with artifice. Other attributes of the texture will determine whether your smooth comes off as modern, classy, cheap, care-worn, or master-crafted.

Rough
Interestingly, roughness doesn’t carry the connotations of nature in opposition to smoothness. Instead, rough implies the opposite of modern: it can be natural, but it can also be rustic or primitive but manmade. Burlap, rough-hewn timber, and wrought iron are all just as rough as rock, bark, and seashells. Depending on its other qualities, rough textures can call up associations such as quaint, simple, hand-crafted, raw, makeshift, or just about anything to do with the natural world, like grass, fur, or bone.

Hard
Things that are hard are first and foremost thought of as solid (even if it’s not really all that accurate of an association, as with glass). Slip and fall on marble, and you’re going to hurt a lot more than if you slipped and fell on grass or even wood. Hardness implies that something will last, that it’s not going to break, and that you can depend on it. It can, depending on other attributes, also bring up associations of protection, danger, fragility, quality, or age.

Soft
Being soft is psychologically associated with being safe. Soft things don’t hurt; on the contrary, they’re inviting. This doesn’t carry the implication of being short-lived or insubstantial (not the opposite of hard in this respect), but it does mean soft textures tend to make people relax. Depending on its other qualities, softness can evoke youth, nurturing, comfort, malleability, or ease.

Almost all other words used to describe texture are either synonyms of the above (i.e. supple=smooth) or are patterns (i.e. crinkly), or are materials (i.e. rubbery), and information on them can be found somewhere in these three posts if you read closely (or it’s a material). And now, you have the basic background information you need to develop your theme using the colors, patterns, and textures that will most powerfully reinforce the mood you’re looking to create. Have fun!

Last week’s subject — the psychology of color — was largely made up of a long list of well-defined colors and the associations with each. This week, our event design experts are going to help you understand your own design choices by delving into the psychology of pattern, but there is no list of well-defined patterns short enough to fit into a blog post. So this article will be slightly more paragraph-y and slightly less bullet-point-y. Let’s dive right in.

Opening Note: These three elements (color, pattern, and texture) are not independent entities, each exerting its own influence. Rather, the three work in concert to create a single effect. To wit, the green of a tree frog is very much the same as the green of a certain kind of iMac — but because of the hard/abstract-ness of an iMac, it evokes a very different mood (even when photographed out of context, such as an extreme closeup) than the rubbery/organic-ness of a tree frog.

Organic vs. Geometric vs. Abstract Patterns
The three basic categories of pattern are organic, geometric, and abstract.

Geometric patterns trigger feelings of rigidity, artificiality, formality, predictability, precision, linear movement, and a sense of direction. Organic patterns trigger feelings of flow, naturalness, adaptability, spontaneity, haphazardness, circular movement, and a sense of possibility. Abstract patterns can evoke any of these feelings depending on how the pattern is constructed and it’s greater context.

The Basics of Organic Patterns
When using organic patterns, you must take care to evoke the aspect of the natural world that you want. For example, a series of empty half-seashells can be used to evoke the ocean, or the aftermath of a small feast, or the death of the shell’s former inhabitants (among others). Or a speckled-fur pattern you’re hoping will call to mind soft, cuddly baby animals might well trigger a flashback to Bambi and an episode of post-traumatic animated-burning-forest disorder. Search for the worst way to read the natural ambiguity of your pattern, and make sure that doesn’t countermand the theme.

The Basics of Geometric Patterns
Every shape has its own psychology, much like colors. Circles evoke flow, eternity, perfection, unity, movement, restriction, containment, and wholeness. Rectangles evoke solidity, rationality, order, logic, conformity, security, predictability, boringness, and formality. Triangles evoke dynamism, direction, tension, a “higher order” of complexity, aggression, masculinity, and control. Five-or-more-cornered shapes represent mystery, the arcane or occult, and the unattainable, with the exception that a collection of ordered hexagons instead acts very much like rectangles.

The Basics of Abstract Patterns
In short, abstract patterns should be treated much like organic patterns, with the additional caveat that abstract patterns necessarily put the view in an abstracted perceptual state. In other words, a series of half-empty oversimplified clipart seashells might call the same subjects to mind as an image of the real shells, but the reaction will be much more intellectual and much less visceral. This can be a very good thing if the subject matter is particularly off-putting, like tooth decay.

So our last blog helped you pick the theme of your event — now it’s time to talk about the three major elements you’ll use in the construction of that theme: color, pattern, and texture. Many designers don’t really stop and think about these three elements; they intuit their way through the job and that works for them. Or doesn’t. If you’re part of the second group and you need some intellectual support for your design choices, we’re here to talk a little bit about the psychology of color, pattern, and texture. We’ll start this week with color.

Opening Note: It’s important to note that psychology is somewhat cultural, and these notes are designed to apply in general to the culture in the United States, or more broadly to the Western European, North American, and Australian world. Ask someone who grew up saturated in Chinese, Eastern European, or any other distinctly separate cultural heritage, and you’ll find that they have distinct color associations not found here, such as white=mourning (Chinese tradition) or orange=spiritual (Buddhist, due to saffron-infused robes).

Psychology of Color
Every color has several connotations that can be accessed — which exact connotation you’ll evoke depends on the context set around the color. For example, green might be the color of fresh, organic produce…but it’s also the color of meat gone bad, so be careful precisely how you use it when dealing with food.

Red

Pink

Orange

Yellow

Green

Blue

Violet/Purple

White

Grey

Black

Brown

Gold

Silver

One of the most daunting aspects of planning an event comes at the very beginning, when you have to choose an event theme. It’s the same problem faced by a writer staring at a blank page, or a kid faced with a pile of Legos and no instructions. It’s easy to fall into what the experts refer to as creative constipation, where you suffer from too much inspiration and zero ideas you feel you can move forward on.

Step Zero: Play.
The correlate of prunes when it comes to creative constipation is play. As a regular (1-7/weekly) activity, anyone engaged in any form of creative discipline should be spending at least 20 minutes engaged in random, playful creation of a thing that deliberately has no purpose other than to practice the process of creating things. This actually works! The brain often lives by habit because it’s easy, and while it might seem like creativity is the opposite of rote, it’s possible to make creativity a habit by engaging in deliberate, useless creation.

OK, now, onto the stuff you came here for.

Step One: Determine Your Objective
The first step in any creative endeavor is to establish why you are doing what you are doing, and what you hope to accomplish with the activity. This is as true for event planning as it is for writing a story or building a Lego construct. If you don’t know that you’re writing a historical-fiction novel, or building a high-tech Lego war machine, you won’t even know what thoughts to think about your process — ditto if you don’t know you’re planning a product release party rather than a team-building exercise.

Step Two: Establish Your Boundaries
The first thing you need to do is to brainstorm your limitations. Come up with every aspect of your environment that prevents you from doing whatever you want. Budget, audience size, location, the boss’ hatred of WWII-era media, whatever. The more creative space you can draw a big red X through, the better. (As a bonus, many times, your inner rebel will step up and insist that no, there totally is a way you can pull off a Saving Private Ryan theme despite your boss…and then you know what your theme is!)

Step Three: Establish Your Comfort Zone
Everyone has a set of material that they’re comfortable with, and 95% of it has nothing to do with their work. Maybe you’re a member of a fandom. Maybe you can identify seventeen different kinds of truck by the sound of their engine roaring past. Maybe you secretly harbor a firm belief that the work of Albert Fritz-Popp on biophotonics and the work of Bong Han Kim on the primo vascular system can be brought together to form a solid scientific basis for the ancient Chinese concept of Qi within the body. Maybe you just really love tower defense games. Whatever the case, brainstorm out the near and far reaches of your comfort zone — the set of things you know and love. And, following the advice given to writers, “plan what you know.”

Step Four: Establish Some Options, Then Let Fate (Or Your Gut) Decide
Now that you have a list of limitations and a list of comfort zones, brainstorm one more time: a list of obvious areas where the Venn diagram of “Goals,” “Within Our Limits,” and “Comfort Zones” overlap. But don’t go through the whole extended brainstorm process — just pick 6-12 options, and be done.

Then put those options in a tournament-style bracket, and flip coins for every pairing. Except as the coin flips, listen carefully to your gut, because your gut will frequently tell you which one it hopes will win as the coin is in the air. If the gut speaks, ignore the coin. If it doesn’t, heed the coin. And whichever option ends up winning your little tournament, run with it.

It’s time to take your soon-to-be-successful association event from the realm of “well-planned on paper” to “anticipated in the minds of its future attendees.” Yep — it’s the marketing part! Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as a step-by-step guide that will be ‘right’ for every association and every event. Instead, we’re going to go over the core concepts behind a successful event marketing campaign, with some hints on how to implement.

Core Concept I: Marketing in Full Duplex
Have you ever talked on an older cellphone where you couldn’t talk and listen at the same time? That’s called ‘simplex’ communication — only one signal can travel along the wire at a time, and in only one direction. Most traditional marketing is simplex: you send a message out, and you don’t really accept any messages in except perhaps RSVPs. Modern marketing, however, works both ways: social media allows potential guests to offer feedback from the very earliest stages of marketing. The more responsive you can be to this early feedback, the more likely you are to knock an even out of the park — as long as you keep in mind that often a vocal minority should be set aside in favor of the silent majority.

Core Concept II: Marketing on ALL the Channels
When you develop marketing materials for your event, you should at the minimum consider every channel at your disposal. For example:

Naturally, there are dozens-to-hundreds of other similar options — but these should give you a good base to brainstorm from. Obviously, your budget probably isn’t going to cover all of these, so go for whatever will be the most cost-effective and work your way along the list until you run out of budget to keep marketing. Generally, that means starting online and going offline once you’ve maximized your Internet presence.

Core Concept III: Recruit Participants
There’s no need for 100% of your marketing to come from your handpicked team — not when you’ve already settled on keynote speakers, industry insiders, and several other prominent participants. Offer a small reward for your known-VIPs to drop a mention of your event to their crowd. They can cast a net far wider than your own, and the cost-effectiveness of these secondary marketing sources is generally through the roof — so use them!

All right! You’ve gotten your association event planned, set up, and marketed…all that’s left now is to execute. Good luck!

It’s time to finally get to the part of the association event planning process that everyone actually thinks of when they think of planning an event: the part where you solidify details. It’s time to make real choices! These steps don’t necessarily have to happen in any particular order, but they do all have to happen before the event can begin — so make a list and check it twice.

Venue
The fundamental question when choosing a venue (other than budget) is “can it do what we want it to?”. The fundamental problem with answering that question is that you cannot know all of the capacities of a venue by doing your own research. Thus, the creation of the Request for Proposal, a key bit of paperwork that you send around to the most-relevant venues to discover whether or not they will actually work. There’s a great amount of information available about creating and distributing RFPs available at CVent.com.

Headliner(s)/Speaker(s)
Of course, the headliner/keynote speaker is generally the biggest draw of any event. Much like a venue, however, you can’t guarantee that a specific speaker will be available, so you need to brainstorm a list of 3-5 possibilities and send out inquiries. This means starting early on so that you have time to get responses, select one of the positive responses, and then send them a contract for the job and get it back in plenty of time.

Other Activities/Entertainment
While the headliner is important, it’s actually only a small part of the total event. You also need to perform the same basic tasks several dozen times setting up smaller activities and entertainment to fill out your event.

Industry Members
No association event is complete without representatives of the big industry hitters in attendance. Most of your guests you can rely on your marketing efforts to reach, but this is the time to make “a list of the A-list.” Brainstorm a list of names that you can use as part of your marketing, who will attract other insiders just by being there.

For example, if you’re putting together an event centered around the electronic collectable card game industry, you’re going to have people fresh new game companies like Counterplay (Duelyst) and Abrakam (Faeria) showing up just for the networking — but you’re probably going to have to work to convince Blizzard (Hearthstone) or Wizards of the Coast (MtG Online) to send representatives, much less set up a booth and do some showing off.

Knowing who you need to pre-market to is a big part of giving any association event that “movers-and-shakers” feel that makes a trade event something special to the attendees. Figuring out how to pre-market is probably worth a post all its own, but we’ll leave you to do that research on your own.

Registration
This might seem like an odd consideration at this point in the process, but the fact is that the registration process has to be 100% in place before the next step (marketing) can begin, so it has to be not just decided upon, but actually built during this step. That can be something as straightforward as purchasing access to some quality Association Management Software like MemberSuite or MemberClicks, or can be as complex as hiring a web developer to put together a registration website, app, and autoresponder-based event-news email system.

OK, now that you’ve gotten the important details solidified, it’s time for the last pre-event part of the association event planning process: marketing the crap out of your event!

Let’s talk about how to create a budget for a successful association event. Basically, this involves first establishing what your total budget is — that’s the easy part. Then you have to figure out how that number is going to break down to cover the long list of expenses an association event generates.

The Long List of Expenses (Note: even this list is far from comprehensive — there are always unique, unanticipated, and last-second expenses, so don’t ever fill this out to 100% of your actual budget. Keep at least 5% free for emergencies!)

Logistics

Marketing

Sponsors

Volunteers, Staff, & Speaker(s)

Facility

On-Site Communications

Registration

Activities & Entertainment

Attendee Services

This list doesn’t even begin to get into the details of each of these points, some of which could probably be articles or entire books unto themselves. But it is a jumping-off point for an association event planner to comprehend just how important and difficult it is to fully budget an association event. Fail one part, any one part, and the event is rapidly approaching doomed.

Succeed, and you can move on to the next step. — Come back next week to learn what it is! Seacrest out!

“Association event,” if you’re not familiar, means “an event put on by a (trade) association.” This distinction is important for several reasons, but first let’s talk about what that means. When the NRA puts on an event, they want to paint it as a trade association event — but the NRA isn’t a trade association; it’s a political one. The trade association the NRA pretends to be does exist, though: it’s the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

From the perspective of an event-goer, the difference is minor: both are sponsored by industry businesses, both generally have 2-5 major scheduled items and a-few-to-dozens of smaller ‘side’ items, and both allow industry ‘players’ to network, collaborate, and compete with their peers. The significant difference is that the NSSF’s events are centered around those industry players, while the NRA events are almost universally centered on fundraising for their lobbying efforts — which as you can imagine has subtle but profound effects that change hundreds of tiny decisions about how the event will be run.

This guide isn’t about fundraising. It’s about what exactly it takes to get a bunch of insiders from a given industry to show up in one place and be happy about paying for the opportunity to do so. Let’s get started.

Step Zero: Decide What You Want to Accomplish
It almost seems silly to put this in here, but it’s a necessary caveat: if you start planning an event and your goal is “Let’s have an event,” it’s going to suck. Start by deciding your purpose and your event theme. These two items will guide all your decisions from this point on.

Step 1: Put Together a Team
No one person can put together a successful association event, period. Before you even begin to brainstorm, you need to have a handful of people who are as dedicated to pulling off this hopefully-epic event as you are. Volunteers from inside your organization, volunteers from industry businesses, or paid professional event people — anyone can participate as long as they’re actually excited about the idea (and you feel comfortable working with them.)

Step 2: Plant the Seeds of a Bigger Team
Just as you need a few other minds on hand to parcel out the epic number of organizational and functional tasks among, you’re going to need dozens-to-hundreds of other hands in mind to actually do the footwork. You don’t have to get this second team entirely laid out in detail yet, but you do have to start doing outreach and priming your audience to volunteer. Send out newsletters, put out the word on social media: there’s an event coming, who can volunteer? Keep the names for later, you’ll be happy you started this part early.

Step 3: Gather Sponsors
The amount of money you have on hand will affect every other decision to come, including when and where you can have the event at all! So the next step is to put together sponsorship packages: essentially, a list of benefits that a sponsor can acquire for certain levels of sponsorship. You want the benefits to be inexpensive for you to provide, but valuable to the sponsor — like advertising posted around your event (at lower levels), up to the opportunity to put their own speaker in front of the crowd for 5-15 minutes (at higher levels).

Once you have some solid sponsors, you can figure out what your total budget looks like…but we’re getting into the kind of thing that really deserves its own post — so check back next week, and we’ll have a post on association event budgeting for you.

Some corporate events are self-creating. When the CEO decides that her new vision for Delta-level Teamplay Synergies needs to be promulgated throughout the corporate metasphere, there has to be an event. When the technological demands of the customer base exceed the capacities of your company’s circa-1995 customer support software and there needs to be a mass retraining simultaneous with the rollout of the new CSRWare 2017, there has to be an event.

Those events are the easy ones. But what about the other kind? What do you do when the boss walks up to you and says “You know what the Sales department needs? Some sort of event to get them pumped up,” or “Gosh, the Accounting department is really falling apart since Janice and Mark had that affair. Maybe they could use some sort of team building somethingorother.”?

Step 1: Elicit Feedback
One of the most often-overlooked facts about humankind is that we love to talk about our problems. Create an anonymous online survey at someplace like SurveyMonkey, and send out an email invitation to every potential attendee. Get a few allies in the target departments to subtly ask around about what kinds of problems are commonplace in the office. Focus on finding cultural issues or specific skill gaps that an event-like structure is good at addressing.

Step 2: Craft a Goal
Taking that feedback — and management’s demands — into account, write down the goal of your event in SMART terminology. You want your goal to reflect the problems that your feedback revealed, and defines the effect you intend to have on the problem as well as how you expect the event to achieve that effect.

Step 3: Match a Theme to the Goal
This step isn’t easy to put into coherent, repeatable steps — it’s far more art than science. The theme of an event can be basically anything: a character, place, event, famous quote, scene…just about any part of any story or history you can imagine. The challenge is to pick a theme that enhances progress toward your goal rather than detracting from it. That can be surprisingly difficult.

For example, let’s say your goal is to get buy-in for the new CSRWare. You know that the office lately has been talking a lot about the upcoming samurai war flick Sengoku Jidai, so you choose as your theme ‘splitting hairs,’ based on the many legends of katana so sharp you can use them to cut a hair in half lengthwise. It of course takes your audience all of seven seconds to start cracking jokes about customers splitting hairs with their complaints, and your theme has just profoundly undercut your goal.

Once you have a theme and a goal, you can hand the event off to a professional planner (or use any of the guides for corporate event planning that are available all over the Internet, our own included) and you’re off to the races. But getting from “boss demands event” to “here’s what we’re doing and why” is a subject that’s rarely covered — hopefully now you have some solid ideas of how to make the leap. Good luck!