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Sending invitations and managing guest lists for events is about to change – it’s going to get a whole lot easier, less time consuming and, dare we say it… enjoyable!
We were pretty excited when we heard that the team at zkipster were creating a new online invitations platform that would be compatible with their already awesome guest check-in app. There’s no denying that when it comes to managing guest check-in for exclusive events and functions, zkipster is one of the best – you can read all about it in our previous post: Five fabulous guest checkin apps for events.
Before the launch date, we were invited to an exclusive preview of zkipster’s new online invitation and RSVP system. So, late one cold August night in Australia, we jumped online for a call with Zurich to find out more… We won’t give too much away, but let’s just say we LOVED it!
zkipster have created an online invitation and RSVP platform that allows you to design bespoke invitations, forms and reminders to be sent online to your nominated guest lists. You can use the system exclusively or synchronise it with zkipster’s event management software that manages your guest check-in, seating plans and name badge printing.
Super easy! The interface is impressive and intuitive – even a rookie with no graphic design experience can create a beautiful email campaign.
The system is pretty simple – load image or logo here, type text in here, etc. While the layout appears fairly simple, at each stage you can customise fonts, text colour and image layout easily. This ensures you can create a range of beautiful (and completely functional) email campaigns without being a designer or knowing any HTML.
Oh and it’s worth noting that during the design stage you can also add optional and compulsory data fields for your guests to enter details in when they RSVP – again, adding these elements to your design is really easy.
Yes! If you are a brilliant designer or know someone that is, just load your own invitation design at the click of a button.
What we love about this system is that you can create customised invitation campaigns that will have you looking like the savviest event planner in town! You can create save the date cards, the invitation, the reminder, the “can’t wait to see you” and the thanks for coming emails all very easily. All email designs can be saved to the same ‘event’, which means you can track who is opening and clicking at every step.
Just like zkipster’s guest management system, loading and managing your guest list is not only really easy, but super savvy too. Load your CSV document or merge data from SalesForce, match up your data fields and away you go!
The ease of managing guest lists is what sets zkipster apart from most other online invitation and guest management systems. When you load a list, you can categorise the guests into sub-categories, eg VIP, media, ticket winners, general admission, etc. By having the guests in separate categories you can then easily send them bespoke invitations – Media get one set of information, VIPs another. Customising the invitations is really easy – you can use the same master template you created for the event to tweak details for the specialty sub-groups. The system will also ensure that no one is accidently sent the wrong details – brilliant!
Through the central event dashboard you can view how many people have received (the system actually tracks if an email was successfully delivered), opened, clicked on and RSVP’d at any time. From here you can also choose to send additional emails to segments of your lists. Send an RSVP reminder to those that haven’t replied yet or, at the click of a button, send a ‘can’t wait to see you’ message to only those that are coming.
If you are also using zkipster’s guest check-in app, then post-event you can send emails to those that came and those that didn’t! For example, for those that checked in to your event, you can send “So glad you made it!” style emails and, for those that didn’t turn up on the night (but RSVP’d that they would), “Sorry you had to bail” emails can be issued. No more ‘glad you made it emails’ landing in the inbox of those that weren’t there!
The beauty of all this tracking is that it allows you and your marketing and sales teams to communicate tailored messages to your guests, before and after your event, making the most of every touch point possible.
zkipster have seriously thought of everything – you can tell they have consulted hundreds of event planners when designing this product! Another really awesome feature of their online invitation system is the ability for guests to add details of their ‘plus ones’ or RSVP for another guest.
Similarly, you can easily design your invitations so that guests are unable to forward the invitation to others – this is a great feature for those exclusive, must-attend style events!
Oh and once you’ve pressed send on a campaign and your colleague races over with an additional few guests to add… you can easily add their details and send without any fuss.
We mentioned earlier that you can add data fields to your invitations for your guests to complete. These form-like fields can be added to any of the designs and can be made either compulsory or not. This is a great option for collecting dietary requirements or seating requests, plus any additional contact details like mobile phone numbers, should you want to collect data for an upcoming mobile marketing campaign.
Data security is one of the features that zkipster were very keen to highlight. For a huge number of zkipster’s existing clients, the security of their guest’s personal details is a key concern. We have been assured that zkipster have invested in some pretty tight data protection for their system and that all your guest’s details will be kept safe and secure – no one is getting Kanye’s email address from zkipster!
It’s obvious zkipster have done their research. They have created a system that will be every event planner’s best buddy when it comes to sending online invitations. The system is super easy to use, intuitive and logical. The benefits of using the invitation system in conjunction with their existing event management software ensure that managing your guest list from invitation to guest check-in to post-event follow up, is a dream. zkipster offer a free trial, so if you have a need to send invitations to social, corporate, fundraising, gala or networking events, then you should do yourself a favour and check it out.P.S. For all our Event Birdie readers (that’s you!), zkipster offer 15% discount off your first purchase.
Click here to learn more!
Pop up venues are those that literally, out of nowhere – POP UP! One day you’re walking past a drab courtyard or an empty laneway and then all of a sudden you walk past again and there’s a thriving, colourful party going on! You want to go in!
This intrigue and excitement is why pop up venues are so successful. The idea of eating and drinking in a once cruddy space that has now been decked out to look like a secret garden or Mexican cantina, a space that you know in only a few weeks will return to being a place people simply pass on by, is an offer too good to refuse.
There are so many reasons why a pop up venue is an awesome place to host your end of year function – first and foremost is that it’s a venue your guests will have never been to before and will never have a chance to go to again!
But finding out about pop up venues and managing to secure a hot date for your event can be tricky. Most pop up venues you hear about are designed to accommodate restaurant or bar trade – attracting crowds of people who queue around the block to get in. Designers of these spaces are reluctant to close the venue for an exclusive event. You also tend to hear about them just before they open – which for event planners is a little too late when planning a party for a couple of hundred people.
The option of designing your own pop up venue can come at a price and is difficult to organise too – you would need to secure a location, arrange Council permits, ship everything in and out again for one night. The time alone in organising an exclusive pop up event can blow the budget.
So what is the solution for event planners looking for an exclusive, one-off venue that will be here this year and not the next? Meet ENGAGE at Disegno!
The experienced event management team at ENGAGE have come up with a brilliant solution… they source the location, they install a kick-arse theme and make it available for a few weeks during the peak end of year party season. They then pack it all away and design something new the following year! We love it!
Not only are they creating an exclusive experience, they are also spreading the costs associated with hosting a fully decked out themed party and making it more affordable – no more boring end of year functions, it’s time to really impress your guests!
Selling a pop up venue though isn’t easy – while the team at ENGAGE have a core group of clients who rebook with them each year, filling the gaps can be a little tricky – for starters there are no pictures of the venue!
But just like booking in your styling and décor for a party, a creative vision board and floor plan can help you visualise what they have planned. In the past the team have created pop up venues styled as The Sands, Wonderland, Secret Garden, and last year they hosted Mexicola…
The Sands | Pop up venue by ENGAGE at Disegno
Wonderland | Pop up venue by ENGAGE at Disegno
Mexicola | Pop up venue by ENGAGE at Disegno
This year the pop up venue is called The Estate, an old English country manor estate located right in the heart of Melbourne.
When ENGAGE design their pop up venues nothing is left out – the event space is carefully designed to offer the best party atmosphere, the styling and décor are immersive and brilliant, the wait staff are dressed to match and the food and drinks are paired perfectly to the theme. Once you step through the entrance you’re instantly transported from the streets of Melbourne to a theatrical garden manor ready for a party.
The Estate | vision board for pop up venue in Melbourne 2016
The Estate will be available for exclusive events between Friday 18 November – Thursday 22 December. Contact the team now to check availability and lock in your exclusive pop up party!
P.S. ENGAGE at Disegno are masters of creating bespoke event designs and are worth contacting for a chat if you’re looking to host a kick-arse party or function in Melbourne or Sydney (they have offices in both cities!).
Have you ever asked your staff what motivates them? Do you know what drives them to work hard for your business?
Perhaps they are purely financially driven to fuel their love for travel or dining, or perhaps they have a thirst for knowledge and a career goal in mind.
Finding ways to motivate your staff to perform at their very best is paramount to the overall success of your business.
When your staff meet sales budget and individual key performance indicators, there is generally a bonus structure in place, but how do you get your staff to actively move forward to meet business targets?
By taking the time to implement a few key strategies you can motivate your staff to perform at their best.
Set a time for weekly sales team meetings. Using your CRM and sales reporting program, pull out weekly reports to see who has converted the most for the week, conversion rates and detail on budget tracking. Acknowledge their success amongst their colleagues, a bit of healthy competition is always good for motivation.
This is the elephant in the room option. Motivating your staff using a reward system – money, movie tickets, vouchers or experiences will be a sure fire way to get some traction. A true sales person loves to win and by rewarding them with a prize will usually serve to incentivise them.
Week on week, acknowledge your team for their efforts. Keep them updated with business opportunities and wins. Talk through the wins and remember, wins aren’t just a dollar amount, they can include positive feedback, return business or the resolution of a problematic situation.
Allocate resources to educating your staff. Allowing their professional development to flourish by investing funds to their professional growth. Training should be considered one of the key motivators. When you are investing in the growth of an employee with constant development opportunities, staff will perceive this as being considered by management as a key stakeholder in that business. Budgeting for training should be considered a strategic decision that will ultimately benefit your sales line.
Ask your team members about their personal growth. Where do they want to take their career? What is their ultimate role and how can you help them achieve this? Set out a career path and meet with them quarterly to discuss.
Is your office a creative and comfortable space? All too often, sales offices are windowless, dark environments that can leave staff tired and withdrawn. Add some plants, artwork or encourage your team to personalise their desk. Make the space theirs.
We all have to blow off some steam – especially in the high pressure world of event sales. Initiate a cook off between your team and have some fun with creative cooking. Make sure your staff have a lunch break away from their desk to refresh and revive. These simple things will increase motivation and productivity.
Gen Y staff are a generation that want more – and this does not necessarily refer to money. The motivation myth of offering bonus or more money doesn’t necessarily give your staff the desired boost they need. More money could just lead to staff wanting even more 6 months later. Sure, it’s an obvious contributor to what takes us to work every day, but it’s not the only reason and it is not some individuals key driver. Do we as business owners and senior managers really want our team to be made up only of people that are incentivised by cold hard cash? By investing in your team, you are showing them your professional support. Loyalty can be the greatest reward to a business.
Finding a reputable caterer is easy, but ensuring they are the best match for your event or wedding can be a little trickier. There are a lot of fantastic caterers around (many of them listed here on Event Birdie!), but they all offer something different. Whether it be menu style, extra services or simply how they deliver an event, deciding on the best fit for your event or wedding needs some consideration.
Most of the time it is how you interpret the quote and making sure the caterer can deliver on your key requirements that can cause the most confusion. To help, we have put together some tips that should guide you through the selection process and ensure you choose the best caterer for your special event.
Set a realistic budget
Before you start collecting quotes from caterers be sure to establish a realistic budget. We’ve all heard the saying “they want champagne on a beer budget” – don’t be fooled into thinking this is possible when planning an event. Sure there are ways you can be savvy with a budget, but don’t expect fantastic results without the funds to match.
Be clear up front with your estimated budget. A professional caterer will tailor their quote to meet your requirements, showing you honestly what they can offer for your budget – this will help you tremendously when it comes to comparing the quotes later on.
Create a detailed brief
When you have decided on the budget, put together an event brief to send to your shortlist of caterers*.
There is no point hiding details that will surprise the supplier later. The minimum details your caterer will need in order to quote accurately include:
- type of event
- type of menu (e.g. alternate entrée and main with a roving dessert)
- style of catering you prefer (e.g. hearty, fine dining, casual…)
- timing of the event (including the duration)
- number of guests (adding further details about the guests if you have them is always useful. Male to Female ratio, large numbers of dietary requirements, children attending, etc.)
- details of the kitchen facilities that are available at the venue of your choice.
*An extra little tip – do not get too many quotes, it just makes the decision process confusing. Do some research online first, narrow it down to your top three caterers and work from there.
Interpreting the quote – compare like for like
Once you have received a few quotes from different caterers it can be very tricky to compare, as many caterers do not format their quotes in the same way.
Comparing on price:
Some suppliers will package everything up and give you a per person rate, while others will itemise every little detail and give you a grand total at the end. Either way, it is a good idea to compare like for like. To do this, add all the elements together (staffing, food, equipment) and divide by the same amount of minimum guests. Make sure you are comparing figures that include all the same details – i.e. if one caterer has mentioned that additional costs for staffing or equipment might apply, gather all the costs together first before comparing.
Comparing on other values:
Choosing a caterer based on budget alone is not a good idea. Outlined below are a few extra points you should consider when choosing your caterer.
• What extra services can they offer?
Caterers don’t always just provide the food and beverage. They can often be an instrumental resource in helping you produce an amazing event. Some caterers will also provide assistance with styling and décor or offer complete event management, so make sure you ask what extra services they offer.
• Logistics and experience
Hosting an event with a caterer at your home, unique venue or marquee location is a lot different to using an in-house team at a function centre. The caterer needs to have the skills and experience to set-up a temporary kitchen or work from a kitchen they have never used before. Choosing a caterer who has worked at your venue of choice before is always a huge bonus. As is choosing a caterer who has experience working in marquees over one that does not.
• Food quality & quantity
Comparing catering menus can be tricky when looking for quality, but if you take the time to read the menus carefully there are a few things that can point towards the quality on offer.
Ask yourself these questions when reviewing the menus:
- Are most of the items deep fried? This suggests they may bulk order frozen goods.
- Are the menus featuring seasonal produce?
- Are the menus featuring local produce?
*If a menu is featuring out of season produce or produce not from your local area, you can often assume the items are coming in frozen ready for reheating. Frozen isn’t terrible, but fresh is always best.
Quantity is easier to compare. For example, when you request a quote for a 3 hour cocktail package be sure to check how many items each caterer suggests. Also ask the caterer how many ‘bites’ their canapes are – for some caterers a canape is one to two bites, but for others, they might be larger items that will be three bites. More menu items doesn’t always mean more food.
• Menus – Bespoke vs standard?
For many, choosing to work with a caterer means they expect to have a menu custom designed for their event. However, this is not always the case with some caterers, so be sure to ask ahead of confirming if they will create a bespoke menu.
Bespoke menus do take time and most caterers will not produce a full menu for you unless you put down a deposit. So instead ask for examples of menus they have created in the past to make sure they are capable of the style of catering you are looking for.
A word of warning – do not push your caterer to produce something they are not comfortable with. While you can demand all you want and they may agree to try, it is best to let a caterer stick to what they do best. If they appear nervous about producing a wedding cake for you having never done one before… think again about requesting it.
• Beverages – BYO or catered?
When hiring a caterer, you may decide to supply all the booze yourself – it will save you money, right? Maybe.
While you may supply the wine, you will not want to be responsible for providing all the glassware and ice, let alone be responsible for chilling, serving and washing up post event. For this reason, caterers will charge a corkage or beverage management fee that covers this service. But be sure to add up those fees in addition to your beverages – you might find getting everything from the caterer is a better option.
If you do decide to supply the beverages yourself, ask your caterer for advice on quantities required – there is nothing worse than running out of booze before the end of your event!
• Menu tastings
Not every caterer offers a menu tasting and not every event requires one. However, for weddings or VIP gala events a menu tasting is a great idea. This allows you to not only taste the food, but also discuss in detail service and logistics of the event. Do not go to a menu tasting thinking it’s a free feed – it is an important element of the planning process (it just also happens to be an enjoyable one!) Do take notes and ask lots of questions.
• How much staff do you really need?
Staffing can seem like a large expense when planning your event, but you need to rely on the advice of your caterer and be guided by them on the ratio of staff required. There is nothing worse than attending an event where there is delicious food but not enough staff to get it to the guest efficiently. Wait staff are just as important as the food itself!
• Reviews and referrals
If you are not having a menu tasting and want assurance the caterer is suitable for your event, read some reviews from past clients (check out the qualified reviews on Event Birdie!). If these are not readily available, don’t be afraid to ask for the contact details of a previous client for you to contact for a reference.
Choosing the best caterer for your event or wedding is an important decision and needs to be approached with logic and research. Be clear and transparent when requesting quotes from caterers and take the time to compare like for like.
For a list of Sydney’s best event caterers check out Event Birdie!