Event Planning: On the Job Training

Growing up in a home where parties were the norm and not a rare occasion, I learned how to organize an event via on the job training. I can still remember arranging fruit and vegetables on trays, filling cups with ice, and counting plates and napkins. Those training sessions equipped me with skills I use today.

As I stay involved with many events, my children join in the process. By involving them and allowing them to help, I offer on the job training for event planning.

My oldest daughter loves to cook, clean, sort, and organize with me. Embracing her desire to help, I give her simple instructions, space to work, and time to complete the task.

Simple Instructions

While setting up for an open house, I received a request by my daughter to help. As I surveyed the tasks, I chose to give her the opportunity to place the pink and blue (Sweet n’ Low and Equal) packets into one bowl and the white (sugar) packets into another bowl. After having her repeat the instructions back to me, I left her to work.

Space to Work

I went to the kitchen to bring out the trays of goodies. When I returned, I checked my daughter’s work and praised her for continuing to sort.

Time to Complete the Task

Without rushing her, I gathered the other items and added them to a kitchen cart. When my daughter finished, we packed up the extra supplies and transferred the items from the cart to the table.


By giving my daughter simple instructions, space to work, and time to complete the task, she welcomed the praise she received for helping with the open house. What a joy to watch my daughter develop confidence by completing tasks alone!

As I continue assisting with events, I seek for ways to include on the job training while using time wisely. By teaching, demonstrating, and encouraging, I am providing opportunities for my children to develop, practice, and perfect their event planning skills.

If you have little ones close by that love to help while you are busy executing your plan, consider offering on the job training. You might save time with the extra help and nurture a special relationship in the process. Our little ones are watching and learning. They love the extra attention and opportunity to succeed alone. Happy training!

Questions: What tasks can you entrust to your child?

Event Planning: Many Helpers may not be Helpful

Though I agree with the phrase “many hands make light work,” I have recently seen how too many hands create confusion.

With many trying to help by showing initiative, they act without consulting the coordinator. The results are time-consuming and chaotic in the midst of a fun event.

On the other hand, I had the privilege of assisting with a luncheon, seating 15-20 people. Working with two other talented organizers, we quickly and efficiently staged the area, set the tables, and arranged the food. Not only was the preparation effortless, but also fun.

Without confusion, I enlisted the help of my girls. They helped wiped down the chairs and place the programs. Teaching my girls how to organize, plan, and coordinate events gives them the framework to organize, plan, and coordinate their daily lives.

My goal is to see my children take on any project knowing they can organize, plan, and coordinate because they have learned the framework. My oldest daughter has the gift of creativity. I look forward to cultivating her framework to see how her creativity will blossom into magnificent spectacles.

Though your goals and events are different from mine, practicing a framework and working with a core group of assistants eases the confusion and increases the productivity. In using time wisely, I prefer to work with one or two adults to coordinate an event for 15-20 attendees. Any more than two is too many helpers which is not helpful.

Determining the size of your event and minimizing the amount of help keeps all helpers on-task while using time wisely. Happy planning!

Question: How many helpers is too many for a 15-20-participant event? 

Thanksgiving: Soup Celebration

In serving on a parent committee at my son’s school, I get to work with a fabulous group of ladies. We plan events and programs for our parents, teachers, staff, and students. Our planning sessions together are thorough, so we are all on the same page preparing for the next event.

For the Thanksgiving program performed by our students, our committee handled the details of the luncheon held on the last day of school before the Thanksgiving break. My part of the festivities included making tea and broccoli and cheese soup.

Gallons of Tea

As the queen of tea making, I gladly offer to bring gallons for our events. For this Thanksgiving event, I brought 5 gallons of sweet tea and 1 gallon of unsweetened tea. At the end of the luncheon, there was not a drop of sweet tea left. I know because I went searching. The lemonade was also running low, so we had very thirsty participants. For the next event, I will adjust the amount and bring another 2 gallons of tea to be on the safe side.

Stock pot of Broccoli and Cheese Soup

In preparing for the luncheon, I made 5 batches of soup in rounds. I used two non-stick Dutch oven pots for the first two rounds. As I finished the soup, I poured it into my large stock pot. After making the fourth pot, my stock pot was filled. When I took the soup to school, I brought the filled stock pot and a full Dutch oven.

Though transporting the soup was uneventful, the heating of the soup proved to be difficult. The gas stove heated the pot quickly and burnt the bottom. Once the soup was stirred, the burnt flavor was distributed throughout the soup. Though it still tasted good and most people would not notice it, I tasted the difference.

Along with the broccoli and cheese soup, the committee also provided corn chowder, tortellini, chicken noodle, tomato, vegetable chili, and beef chili. The display was very colorful and flavorful. If we make soup again, I might consider pouring the soup into smaller containers to reheat to prevent burning.

In working with these different events, there always seems to be adjustments that can be tweaked to make our next gathering better. I really enjoy these event planning opportunities. Working with these ladies is fun, beneficial, and rewarding. As you plan your next event, gather with your friends and enjoy the planning process. Happy planning!

Question: What events are you planning? Please add your answer to the comments.

Attending the Great Harvest Field Trip

Having scheduled the field trip for my son’s class, I was ready to assist his teacher up to and throughout the event. Taking a step back from scheduling and coordinating to assisting someone else takes some time. This transition is much like preparing for a vacation. You spend so much time packing, scheduling, and remembering, and then you leave. After assuring yourself that the lights are off and all responsibilities are covered, you can calm down, relax, and enjoy the vacation.

After transitioning from preparing to going, I was ready to help make this field trip fun and beneficial for all. On the day of the event,

1. Arrive early. I arrived 15 minutes early. My car was ready to transport my son. The other mom arrived early as well to get car seats setup in her vehicle. When the teacher was ready, the other mom and I were ready to assist getting students into the vehicles.

2. Look for ways to assist. Since neither the teacher nor the other mom had her camera, I pulled out our camera from the diaper bag and began snapping pictures.

3. Make introductions. The teacher had not met the owner. Being familiar with both of them, I was able to introduce them to each other. Then I stepped back allowing them to form a plan for the tour.

4. Follow directions. When the teacher gave directions, I assisted the children in following those instructions. The other mom and I helped wash the students’ hands before handling the bread. We also helped guide them through the bakery at the different stops.

5. Traffic Control. As the teacher lead the way, I helped to keep the students moving in the right directions. Some will get distracted, and a simple, “Let’s catch up to the class” can help keep the student with the class.

6. Remain available. When the teacher went to the counter to purchase a loaf of bread, I helped keep the children occupied until the teacher returned.

7. Enjoy. I listened and learned about how Great Harvest Bread Company makes their bread. Their system takes many steps, but each employee handles his part and the final product is a beautiful loaf of bread.

How nice it was to enjoy the tour of the bakery after spending time organizing the event. Good planning helps make the event run smoothly. Spending time planning is time wisely spent. On the day of the event, I was able to reap the benefits of my labor by enjoying the tour and taking time to learn the process.

Do you also help your child’s teacher by scheduling or attending field trips? What’s the hardest part of the event for you? Once I get the transition complete, the event takes off. Wishing you lots of success as you help teachers with field trips!

No Time for Taters

QUESTION TO MY READERS: Let’s say you were in a club, and this club was hosting a dinner for 20 guests. You had offered to bring all the mashed potatoes for the event. Then two days before the event, you decide that you don’t have time to peel, cut, cook, and mash the potatoes. What do you do?

A)     Decide not to bring anything because you just don’t have time.
B)     Order mashed potatoes from a restaurant or grocery store to take to the event.
C)     Show up at the event with scalloped potatoes.
D)     Contact the coordinator.
E)     Enlist the help of your family in peeling, cutting, cooking, and mashing the  potatoes.
F)     A combination of the above.

I ask this question because I watched the results of three of the above decisions today. The coordinator handled the situations well. However, she could have used her time more efficiently had the volunteers contacted her.

The question posed is the issue. We have all had situations arise that prevent us from accomplishing what we planned to do. In those situations, I feel that the best and most considerate option is to (D) contact the coordinator. Even if you plan to (B) order it and bring it or (E) get help to finish it, you might still run into problems. If the coordinator knows your situation, she might have another option. For example, someone else may have offered to bring something, or the coordinator may adjust the menu to something else easier for your schedule. For me, it is just considerate to inform the coordinator, so she can be working on a backup plan.

To me the worst solution is (A) decide not to bring anything. This choice was revealed today. The coordinator graciously sent another helper to the store to purchase the needed item. This action wasted time. Had the coordinator known that a side item would be missing, she could have made it last night, picked it up at the store, or had someone else bring the dish. During the time of executing the planned activity is NOT the time to be running to the store for more food.

A less than perfect decision is choice (C) bringing scalloped potatoes. This solution was also evident at the meal and did meet the needs of the event. When a coordinator plans the menu, she has much to consider: color, type, consistency, and taste. Changing one item may or may not change other items. Again, contacting the coordinator prior to the morning of the event would help her adjust. Without a heads up, the coordinator just makes it work and adds another item if necessary.

Having attended and watched this coordinator rearrange her menu on the fly, I have a greater appreciation for dependable people. I realize life happens. But when a coordinator is depending on you and you drop the ball, someone has to pick up the ball. Just admitting to the event coordinator IN ADVANCE that help is needed or offering a substitute menu item will significantly reduce the amount of time taken to add or correct the items brought.

So what is my answer? Save time and money by (D) keeping the coordinator informed. I would contact her, explain my time constraint, offer suggestions, and wait for her to respond. If she then needed those mashed potatoes, then I would enlist the help of my family, neighbors, or friends to get those spuds peeled, cut, cooked, and mashed.  In the end, I will be dependable and help that coordinator give the best event possible. My hat goes off to today’s patient coordinator, who handled each situation with calm, clarity, and class!