Don't discuss the color of the napkins

photo credit Wendy Pace

photo credit Wendy Pace

A colleague and I once planned 5 events in 20 minutes.

You read that right--5 events, 20 minutes. 4 minutes per event.

Now, granted, these were smaller events, and this colleague and I worked together extremely well.  But, since I’ve had plenty of event planning discussions where 20 minutes had resulted in nada, I wondered what had allowed us to be so productive.

Here’s what it came down to:

Don’t discuss the color of the napkins.

In our 20 minute conversation, we knew where we were in the process. We were done with the creative part. We had already decided what the events were going to be and reserved venues. We didn’t backtrack on those decisions. We were in the ironing-out-the-details step and we stayed there.

Don’t discuss the color of the napkins.

But, we did decide if we needed napkins, and then who was going to buy them. And then we trusted the other person to buy the right napkins. Not every decision should be made by committee. In fact, few decisions should be made committee. Or, to use one of my favorite management tactics: hire good people, get out of their way. 

Don’t discuss the color of the napkins.

We varied how much energy we put into things by their impact. Did we have a way to take people’s money? Did we have enough people to work each event? No one has ever left a gala and said, “It was great event, but the color of napkins was all wrong so I didn’t make a donation.” But, people have left saying, “They didn’t take credit cards and I forgot my checkbook, so I wasn’t able to donate.”

Don’t discuss the color of the napkins.

After years of events, I’ve observed that it’s all about how much fun people have. And the people who set the tone are the people running the event. Have you been to a concert were the band is really, really into it and it’s awesome? How about a concert where the band seems like they’d rather be anywhere else and it’s torture? The same is true for all events.

And, how much fun can you have when you are worrying about the color of the napkins? 

Yes, you want to look professional. Yes, you want your attendees to have a good time.

But do you even remember the color of the napkins at the last event you attended? 

Didn’t think so. 

Helen Jerlach