Meetings and conferences are changing all the time and people want more flexibility and adaptability from venues. Kim Roberts, Operations Director at The Forum Company, has some key points to keep in mind before you start planning.
An on-arrival breakfast is the best way to kick-off a meeting or conference, as it will help to keep people sustained and working at their optimum. Food is a major part of a successful day, so instead of pastries and bread, opt for brain food such as fruit, smoothies, juices, nuts and more.
Create a drinks station with tea and coffee, but also enough water and cordials to keep people replenished throughout the day.
A good Wi-Fi connection and an agenda for the day are both vital starting points. Make sure that the venue also has surround sound and top-end technology and request that well-trained staff to be on hand to assist, if needed.
Brainstorm sessions should be fun and creative. You want people to interact easily and share ideas and the venue needs to be conducive to this.
A good group brainstorm session will help to increase creativity and generate various talking points for discussion later on in the day.
For mid-morning tea, you might want to include snacks that are fun or a bit different to the norm. You could also tie in your food with the theme for the day.
Remember that a conference is an entire experience and therefore needs to be inspiring for guests – particularly in terms of speakers and content.
An on-the-go lunch allows guests some time to catch up on work, emails or phone calls. For those who prefer to simply take a breather, make sure that the venue offers outside spaces for guests to get some sun and fresh air.
If you choose to have a seated lunch (particularly if you have guests from overseas or around the country), food needs to be seasonal. Choose healthy options and make sure that you cater for all tastes and intolerances.
After lunch is a good time to breakaway into smaller groups for meetings and discussions. Breakaway spaces need to be close to the main venue to maximise on time.
Most importantly, the space you choose needs to have enough safe areas for charging phones and laptops, plus be flexible and adaptable for guests’ needs.
Networking breaks are also extremely important – especially if your meeting is part of a bigger conference with other people from your company or industry. You could also choose to have this in the evening, to give people more time to mingle and network.
If your year-end function is around the corner, here are some ideas and inspiration to make it fabulous and fun.
Instead of a restaurant, opt for an outdoor picnic. Think lots of blankets and oversized cushions on the floor, which encourage unwinding. Here, the table setting is kept quite basic – and just a few lanterns are all that’s needed to take this from day to night.
Placing huge platters down the middle of the table encourages people to help themselves, plus is easy to cater for all palates (vegetarians and more) with minimal fuss.
Pair this with some artisan breads, such as sourdough, rye and gluten-free to keep everyone happy.
If a picnic is slightly too casual for you, then an alfresco lunch under the trees is just as easy to pull off. Stick to a colour theme – yellow is lovely and summery – for a look that is impactful, yet simple. Proper seating is also imperative if you have older people who will be attending.
If you’d prefer to have a plated main, you can still keep people mingling (and food fuss-free, so that waiters can attend to drinks) by having a cheese board or dessert bar to finish off.
The most important thing to remember when you’re entertaining in the height of summer is to keep everyone properly hydrated. A dedicated drinks station with water and non-alcoholic drinks allows people to help themselves, plus mingle at the same time.
If your function is happening in the evening, then a Gatsby theme requires relatively minimum input with maximum wow factor. Just stick to black and metallics − complemented by candelabra and crystal cut glassware – for an elegant look.
For a day-to-evening function, incorporating white with the black will help to soften the look and ease the transition as the sun sets. You can still keep it simple. All-white flower arrangements and tea light candles (and bronze cutlery if you really want to smarten things up) are the only real compromises that you need.
Forgot to book a photo booth? Just get some wooden frames and add extra table décor and props to make it a dedicated section. All you need is a blank wall for photos and a selfie stick or two.
Instead of picture frames, you could also just have bunches of balloons in the spot where you’d like to take photos.
If you’re worried that most people will simply don their LBD and old faithful black suit, then keep a few extra props at the front door for people to zhoosh up their outfits as they walk in.
Remember that for a theme like Gatsby, it’s all in the details. But that doesn’t mean that it needs the overly elaborate. Even simply “dressing up” some biscuits will add a quirky touch to your party.
All that’s left to do is get the menus printed (glitter required!) and you’re all set. Enjoy!
With the silly season very much underway, here’s how to get the décor right as you host an unforgettable private party.
A blue and white theme is always classic and elegant. A striped runner down the table is all you really need to tie the look together. Here, the success of the look is in its simplicity. For a day to evening function, bring the outdoors in with some greenery and add fairy lights to finish off the look. A must for a sophisticated gala dinner.
For a burst of colour, small bunches of brightly coloured bouquets down the middle of the table are a striking addition to a muted room. Play up the crystal finish of the glasses with long glass candlesticks or candelabra. The different heights and interlaced nature of this table allows conversation to flow freely, which is ideal for events where networking is paramount.
This country-style table is a beautiful lunch option. Here, the focus is on ‘organic’ – the woven underplate, the exposed wooden table and the unfussed country blooms. The only real colour is the burnt orange and lemon yellow of the flowers. The addition of rose-gold cutlery and crystal stemmed glasses give an elegant nod to this pared down table.
A ‘blank canvas’ room with gorgeous floor-to-ceiling windows, boasting an unforgettable view, deserves a table that can really live up to its surroundings. Opting for a dark tablecloth, such as Cobalt blue, helps to anchor the table in such a light and bright room. The Tiffany chairs in gold instantly add the glam factor, plus mirror the incredible (slightly bespoke) chandeliers. From there, white or cream is the trifecta on a gorgeous − albeit, relatively simple − table and from there, the flowers are kept quite minimalistic.
Don’t underestimate the power of a simple look done really well. Just a few single stem flowers in tones of rose gold and gold, in clusters in the middle of the table, add a whimsical feel. Play up the textures with a glittery look and add tealight candles to create beautiful twinkling light on each table as the sun starts to set. Enjoy your party!
Here are a few creative options to try – no matter what your theme or budget…
*All drinks showcased on these images, prepared and styled by the forum company.
If you are handpicking the hard liquor that you serve as a welcome drink, then make a thing of it. You could create a special drinks tray or drinks station. You will simultaneously be able to showcase a limited (exclusive) bar, plus make your guests feel really special from the start.
If you choose not to have waiters, then a dedicated bar is a must. It’s an easy way to keep track of things – especially if you want to keep the bar going all evening and have a set bar limit. Alternatively, you can have mix and a match approach: buckets for easy-reach items such as beer and soft drinks, then a bar for hard liquor.
Go Gatsby style and simply serve signature cocktails; it will immediately add a touch of glamour and elegance to your event. Then play with a few different choices; a Classic Martini, Whiskey Sour, Mint Julep, Caipirinha or Tequila Sunrise are sure to satisfy every palate.
Having one dedicated welcome drink can make a real statement, especially if you are trying to tie in with a certain décor or colour scheme. It also cuts down on additional logistics right from the start of your event. You could opt to have one welcome drink for the ladies and one for the guys – or possibly an alcoholic and non-alcoholic option to cover your bases.
No matter what food menu you choose, your drinks menu is where you can have some fun. Cocktails and mocktails offer an array of choices − with a riot of colour – and will be a real talking point if you add some kind of DIY element to it. Perhaps you have bartenders doing all of the mixology, but guests can choose which fruit and herbs to add. Easy to execute, yet really memorable. It will also encourage socialising and networking if you have a mixed crowd.
Just remember that whatever alcohol you are serving, it is vital to have a non-alcoholic option to quench everyone’s thirst in the scorching summer sun. This could be iced tea or even just ice cold water with pieces of fruit or fresh herbs for a subtle flavour. If you opt for a dedicated water station, then people can help themselves and free up the waiters if you choose to serve canapés too.
Now, get creative and make your own Cucumber Refresher:
4 mint leaves
1 large basil leaf
1 lime wedge
50 ml Cucumber vodka
100 ml soda water
½ tsp agave nectar
Squeeze lime wedge into rocks glass, muddle lime wedge, mint and basil leaves, and vodka. Add ice. Top with soda water. Add agave nectar and stir. Garnish with a lime wedge.
Only 86 calories!
The forum, the Campus hosted an intimate breakfast event last Thursday, with Australian MasterChef judge, Matt Preston as our guest of honor. 50 guests joined us for breakfast on this perfect Spring morning in Johannesburg.
The forum company in association with Pan Macmillan – South Africa, prepared a breakfast feast with recipes from his latest book, The Simple Secrets (to cooking everything better).
Guests were treated to;
Freshly brewed cappuccino served with home-made maize meal vanilla biscotti
and peanut butter smoothies on arrival
Pea & goats cheese frittata with toffee onions
Chicken & pork terrine on boards served with amazi, pickled nectarines & caper berries
Strawberry fields flooded – mmm delish, definitely the star dish of the day!
Good bye gift
Toasted ancient grains & white chocolate cookie dough
The recipe book sold like hot cakes and Matt took the time to sign each and every book, with a personalized message. A special morning indeed – thank you for visiting us!
Thanks to JoziStyle’s, Edward Chamberlain-Bell for keeping the conversation flowing.
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Photographs: Elizabeth Cooper Photography