Celebrations + Live Performances

Tips From Event Pros: Fail-Proof Your Party

Wednesday May 31, 2023

6 Min Read

It’s that time of year again: outdoor party season! And if there is one universal truth, it is that Hartmann Studios knows how to party. We’re in the business of producing epic celebrations and events. And while you probably won’t be throwing a three-day, 25,000-person event in your backyard or living room, it can still be a spectacular success.

We sat down with two of our event production experts, Lauren Bradley and Maggie Heaps Lauffer, and they dished on how you, too, can add a touch of the Hartmann Studios magic to any party.

Prep sooner rather than later

It seems like a no-brainer, but one of the biggest tips we can give is to plan on prepping sooner than you think. Quick and easy tasks like setting out the decor or mixing up your homemade salsa? Do them the day before (or sooner!). That way, you’ve got plenty of extra time to handle any unforeseen circumstances that will inevitably pop up. We promise, future you will be thankful.

Your event doesn’t need to be a complex production to warrant building a simple spreadsheet, either. Even for our own parties with friends, we love a good list: consider creating a multi-tab Google Sheet for all of your party’s most important details. Keep it all organized with sections such as:

  • Guest list and RSVPs
  • Vendor contact information and payments
  • Shopping list
  • List of items to clean/prep
  • List of items that can be managed ahead of time
  • List of final items to check off just before your guests arrive (music is on, scented candles are lit in the bathrooms, dogs are set up with treats and beds in a room that won’t be accessed by guests)
  • A “run of show” (arrivals, cocktails and apps, cutting the cake, time for toasts) to help you think through the order of the party — but see “Keep it simple” below!

Lay it all out, then tackle items in small bites to avoid getting overwhelmed at the last minute.

Many hands make light work

Unless you have a unicorn community of knowledgeable self-starters like we do at Hartmann Studios, we know it can be hard to trust helping hands. We suggest taking a little time to identify things that someone can take off your plate if they ask. When a friend’s love language is helping, giving them tasks not only creates trust and deepens friendships, it also opens the door to new ideas and ways of doing things that will uplevel your event in unexpected ways. (And of course, there will be less for you to do. Win-win!)

The essentials

A great theme is amazing, but focus on covering the essentials first. We’re talking about the must-haves like ample seating, music and convenient trash receptacles. But the ultimate essential for any gathering is, of course, the menu.

Knowing your audience is key to any menu design. First, make sure you think through any dietary restrictions, allergies or other special considerations your guests might have. You’ll also want to build your menu around the size of your event. If you have a large group, you’ll want to design a menu around the ability to serve everyone efficiently in the space you have available. Maybe small bites or finger foods would be great options; maybe an all-in-one main dish like a great paella would fit the bill. If you have a small group, you’ll want to design a menu that brings your guests together.

Ultimately, it will all come down to maximizing the quality of your gathering within your budget. Never underestimate the power of a pretty charcuterie board well stocked with meats and cheeses. And remember, even if you’re known for your amazing culinary prowess, there’s no shame in getting your party catered.

Your house, your rules

Repeat after us: “I’m in control. My house, my rules.” Good! Now lock that in. If you’re the host, you have the power to veto and set boundaries—especially when it comes to music. The best piece of advice we can give is to create a playlist you like, set it at a conversational volume, and keep the controlling device/speaker hidden to avoid any backseat DJs.

If someone asks for a specific song, you could consider taking requests, but stay in control of your devices. Let’s be honest, as fun as it is, there are very few occasions where Macarena is called for these days.

Sh*t happens (the bathroom situation)

Throwing a big party? The rule of thumb is to plan to have one restroom per 50 people.

Want to set your party over the top? Consider putting out a toiletry basket in the bathrooms stocked with breath mints, matches, stain remover sticks, and feminine products. These don’t have to cost a lot, can be travel-sized, and are greatly appreciated by guests.

Most importantly, check on your bathrooms throughout the party, and keep the toilet paper and hand soap stocked for those gems that take the time to replace rolls for the guests following behind them.

Keep it simple

Décor like flowers and candle votives go a long way. Activities or games are fun additions to a party, but know that not everyone will want to participate. Don’t over-plan each step of the party. If you have a schedule, keep it loose. Avoid “playing hostess” too aggressively—let your guests be your guide in the moment.

Also, just because you’re throwing a great party doesn’t mean you have to give out party favors. If you want to give a thoughtful or useful gift to your guests, think of what you’ve received before and what you still use. A handwritten note to guests is lovely, too.

Last but never least

When we’re planning large-scale events, safety is always a priority. You likely don’t need to consider things like permitting, fire marshals and fire watches or proper engineer stamps on your staging and rigging plans, but you do want to be sure your guests’ safety is anything but an afterthought.

If the pool will be open, and especially if kids will be taking a dip, hire a local lifeguard to monitor the water so all of the adults can mingle and relax worry-free. (Pro Tip: Check with your local high school swim team for certified students who would love to earn some spending money and help you out.) Also, set some ground rules when it comes to minors who might be tempted to crack open an adult beverage and keep an eye on anyone who might need a nudge toward a rideshare option to get home safely.

Will fireworks be part of the celebration? Make sure you’re up to speed on your local ordinances and you’ve got a ready supply of first aid items, accessible extinguishers, and some buckets of water which are super handy for spent sparklers.

Above all, remember to have fun! It IS a party after all. If you found these tidbits helpful and put them in use, be sure to tag us in your party pictures and let us know! We can’t wait to hear how it goes.

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