3 Keys to Planning a Team Building Event

Have you noticed a decline in engagement and productivity in your staff? Are co-worker relationships strained or nonexistent? Perhaps you’re thinking of fixing this by planning a team-building event. Before you begin, here are 3 keys to getting the desired results from your team building event.


1. Understand what you want to accomplish.

All events are not made equal, so before you decide that a wilderness retreat is exactly what your team needs, make sure you have a clear idea of what it is you’re looking to accomplish. Are you trying to improve communication or instill company values? Is the goal to encourage relationships and team mentality or motivate your staff for better performance. Your event will look a lot different depending on the end goal.


2. Understand your team culture.

Even if your employees aren’t functioning as a team, there’s definitely a unique team dynamic in effect. Take the time to assess what that is and how it relates to where you want it to be. Be sure, also, to acknowledge the characteristics that make up your team. What is the age range, physical capabilities, or are there language differences? Is the group highly competitive or are they mainly introverts? Going one step further, how well do the members currently know each other and do they get along? Perhaps the first step in reaching your goal may be as simple as setting aside time for co-workers to learn each other’s names and spend a few minutes not working together. On the other hand, if your team has been together for a while, a refreshing or immersive experience might very well be called for.


3. Ask if an event is what is needed right now.

Some people (points to self) love the idea of an event, regardless of the situation. But there are times when team building objectives are best  met in other ways. For instance, if the management in an organization only communicates with employees in directives, scheduling a full-day ropes course training will not improve company morale. So take an honest look and make the necessary adjustments before plunging into the event planning process.


In the end, companies can’t look at team building events like an ER, ignoring good health practices from day to day and then running in when things take a turn for the worst. Think of them like your yearly checkup. Team building events are most effective when you have a healthy team!

Gen Y, Commitment & Event Attendance

Last weekend, I decided to throw together a game night and gather the ladies in my world with whom I rarely get to spend time. I sent out an email early in the week, got numerous replies,  followed up with a reminder email and even some texts.

I’ve read that for a public event, you can reasonably expect 10-20% of invited guests to actually attend. For private events, that number is something like 70-75%. Yet, out of the 53 ladies I invited, two (2)* showed up. Each at different times. I’ll be generous and call that 4%. Ouch.
*Thank you each for stopping by, it was great spending some time with you!

Now there are countless reasons for why 51 people did not attend. Busy, out of town, Christmas shopping, or simply not being interested. But I’m curious about the folks who expressed interest and yet still did not show, as I’ve witnessed this on numerous occasions. Where does this behavior come from?

My mom thinks it’s a trait of our Pacific NW culture.
My husband suggested that it’s a woman issue (as he doesn’t experience this with his friends).
One of my guests wondered if it was a characteristic of our generation.

The behavior can be described as

  • Non-committal (keeping our options open)
  • Conditional (concerned with who is attending and what the agenda will be)
  • Transient (making short-lived appearances at events)
I will admit that I’ve been guilty of this behavior. However, since I fit into all three of the suspect categories, I’m not sure how to identify the root.
Has anyone else been seeing or experiencing this? What do you attribute it to? What methods do you use to draw and keep attendees?

UFOs, Flash mobs, Candy & Aliens

What do these things have in common?

They represent the awesome events I had the privilege of working on last weekend!
CandyBuffetEventPlanningThe first was a wonderful launch party for a brand new children’s book at the Children’s Museum of Tacoma. More than a book launch and signing, this fun-filled evening had an agenda built specifically with the children in mind. There was story time, games, dancing, and a self serve candy buffet designed by Renatta Emerson Events (aka Immersion Events).

I had so much fun putting this together and am honored to have had the opportunity to be a part. Photos from the event can be found at the Ike & Tash Photography in Motion blog.

Just two days later – on April Fool’s Day – I got to stage a UFO crash in the unsuspecting town of Burien.

Not only did nearly 300 people come out and party with us, they came donning tinfoil hats or in full on costume, they danced, they got hit by flying broccoli, and after all that, some of them went home $500 richer. (That’s what happens when you win a costume contest in B-Town.)

BurienUFOImmersionEvents BurienAliensImmersionEvents

See the complete photo gallery that the Highline Times on the Burien UFO Crash event.

Read the B-Town Blog’s post-event report

Watch what KOMO news had to say about the occurrence here:

Creating the Right Atmosphere


Photo credit: GBK

Whether your event is a company party for a staff of 12 or a formal appreciation dinner for hundreds, creating the right atmosphere at your event is key.

What Is Atmosphere?

Atmosphere literally refers to the air in any particular place. That means it exists everywhere, whether you think about it or not. The same is true with events and gatherings. Atmosphere will be there, but you want to have a say in what it feels like and how it contributes to the goals of your event. Characteristics which can be perceived by the senses are what make up the atmosphere at a gathering. However, aside from sights, sounds, smells, tastes and textures, things like emotions and attitudes can also be sensed and therefore also contribute to the “air” of your event.

Why Is it important?

Have you ever walked into a meeting or a room and immediately felt like you needed to leave that room? The atmosphere in that place directly affected your desire to be there. It might have felt tense or too crowded or too dark, or worse yet perhaps the feel was simply inappropriate for the type of event that was going on. Now imagine staying in that environment for a duration of time. Even if good food and entertainment are provided, you might struggle to have a good time or you may be distracted from the message because the atmosphere is wrong. And just think: if you feel that way, how many others do as well?
If you’re putting on a meeting or event, you want your guests to feel like they want to be there and that it’s easy for them to focus and enjoy themselves.

How do you create the right atmosphere?

I mentioned earlier that atmosphere takes its queue from what the senses perceive, so you want your event space to engage the senses. First and foremost, understand the purpose and goal for the event and find what enhances those things. If you’re working on a meeting that takes place over many hours, choose colors and textures that promote both comfort and alertness. For a decadent evening affair, use lighting and fabrics that invoke the feeling of luxury.
Here are some areas to keep in mind when crafting the right atmosphere for your event:

  • decor
  • music
  • lighting
  • smell (via food, plants or candles)
  • texture/fabric

A final factor…

The last key factor that contributes to atmosphere is people. And while – in certain circumstances – you might be able to control the guest list, in many cases you cannot control individual attitudes. What you can do is identify key people and make them part of your plan. Find the folks who will naturally lead the crowd. Get them on board with the type of atmosphere you are trying to create. Then let them do their thing.

What are some instances of a bad atmosphere that you’ve encountered? How did it affect your experience at that event?

This is the Real Launch…

Welcome! I’m so glad you’ve found me.OpenForBusiness I am so excited to be devoting my time, energy and passion to planning your special occasions, meetings, parties, conferences… you name it!

Please feel free to drop me a line and let me know if there are any specific topics you would like to see covered on this blog. I’m happy to answer questions, offer tips, etc.

Thanks for stopping by and remember: Life is meant to be celebrated!

– Renatta

Scavenger Hunt Delight

lululemonTeamBuildingEventIn the past two months I’ve had the honor of coordinating two very different company scavenger hunts. These were my first encounters with company events and they were so much fun!

Hunt #1

Hunt Type: City Scramble (think Amazing Race)
Location: Around the streets of Melbourne, Australia
Participants: 25
Duration: 4 hours

The manager of a distribution center wanted to build camaraderie among the staff and help them to function more like a team. The result was a wild race where teams had to solve riddles, decode puzzles and successfully complete challenges while navigating through the city on the public Tram. Since I would not be traveling to Melbourne for the event, I created a course (with the help of Google Maps), Team Kits as well as Facilitator Kits complete with full script and answer keys to guide the on-site facilitators.

Hunt #2

Hunt Type: Puzzle Hunt
Location: Inside local mall near Seattle, WA
Participants: 5
Duration: 45 minutes

The goal of this event was to provide a unique company Christmas party for a small staff. This hunt was every man for himself where they were lead by puzzles to different locations in the mall. I had a great time facilitating the event and bringing the party atmosphere to the small group.

My eyes have been opened to a new category of events!

Venue Review: Century Ballroom

So last weekend I celebrated my 30th birthday. It was an event I began planning about 1-year in advance – a Masquerade Ball. For the first time, I rented out a venue and everything (this was the real deal).

Here is my review of the space in question: Century Ballroom, West Hall in Seattle, WA (Capitol Hill area).


CenturyBallroomSeattle_WHallI actually searched for some time before deciding on this venue. But the size, feel and price of the West Hall was pretty much a perfect fit. The entire process was as great as I could have asked for. From the very beginning, Justin, my venue contact, was on the ball and answered my many questions whenever they came up.

The last month before the event, he called me three times just to check in on certain details, make sure things were coming along and answer my new questions which (inevitably) came up.

I stopped in the day before the event to work out some last minute set-up details and Justin walked me around and introduced me to the bar manager (since they would be setting up a private bar for my event). The bar manager then set me down to pick out which wines & beers I wanted available – went through the whole menu with me. This was totally unexpected and was the extra “wow” for me.

During Event

I brought in my own decorations and set up the space to match my masquerade ball theme (pics to come). The staff set up the tables, chairs and linens for me and offered to help with my decorations. I had a few videos and a slideshows on a DVD which they set up for me.

The bar staff was amazing! Incredibly friendly and just willing to do whatever needed to help make the night fun. They even wore masks the entire night to be a part of the theme! 

All-in-all, I am so glad I chose the West Hall at Century Ballroom. The space itself was everything I wanted and completely captured the feel I was going for. The staff was great to work with; they were easy to communicate with, helpful and made me feel like they actually wanted to work with me (not a given, these days).

Bottom line:

I loved the venue, enjoyed the staff and would be happy to do another event there in the future. I’d give it an enthusiastic 4.5 stars!


The only warning I must note is that, being in Capitol Hill, it goes without saying that parking can be an issue. There are a number of paid lots nearby, but if your guests are looking for free parking, they may be looking (and walking) for a while.

Bigger budgets aren’t always the answer

This story on the radio this morning totally caught my attention:

GSA Chief Resigns Over Extravagant Spending


And while I was listening to the brief segment, and again when reading this news article, I was dumbfounded by what seemed to be an utter lack of common sense on the part of the convention organizers. Why in the world would an agency make $50 per plate breakfasts and a clown entertainer a part of the convention.

But then a thought occurred to me. How many event planners (or event just casual party throwers) look at a budget in front of them and imagine “Oh, what I would do with an unlimited budget”? Generally speaking, we often have grander ideas than our pocketbooks can carry and wish that we could to more… bigger… better. If only that pesky budget wasn’t holding us back.

Big time event planners and event planning agencies wouldn’t event bat an eyelash at the $820K that this former GSA (General Services Administration) Chief helped spend. But to that planning team I can imagine that $75,000/day budget was a dream come true. It was enough to put a sparkle in their eyes and let their imaginations run wild, a chance to go all out and provide something “over-the-top” – an opportunity which any planner would love to have.

So, while I’m not downplaying the blatant poor judgement that was used on this 2010 event, I do wonder how easily I – for instance – could lose my head if faced with abundant resources. How far would I go if the Big Bad Budget was not around…?

3 Tips for planning theme parties


Theme parties can be a blast to plan or attend. But simply slapping a theme on your party doesn’t guarantee its success. I’ve been to some terrific theme events as well as some that left much to be desired.

Last weekend I attended a theme birthday party done right. Despite my absolute unfamiliarity with the theme on top of the mandatory costume requirement, I had a great time (along with everyone else there, as far as I could tell).

So how do you plan a great theme party? Here are a few tips I came away with:

#1 – Do it big

The theme of the event needs to be obvious from the first moment your guests encounter it. That means the invitation. Express your theme either in words or through the look and feel of your invitation (or both). If you want guests to wear costumes, say so.

This leads to the moments guests step into the event. Make your event’s theme evident through your decor. Decorate walls and furniture (fabrics are a great way to do this) and use props if you can. The goal is to transform your venue into the setting where your theme takes place – be it real, fictional or historical.

#2 – Remember the details

Now that you’ve transported your guests to your desired location, the way to keep them there is through the details. What kind of food makes sense to serve? What about music that ties in? Maybe you have standard party activities, but give them names that go along with the theme. Once you introduce them as such your guests will follow suit.

#3 – Take it easy

Here’s where the balance comes in. Have fun and let your guests have fun. Don’t get uptight if a guest shows up out of costume or if theme lingo isn’t catching on quite like you’d hoped. You can’t force it down their throats. Even if you could, you’d no longer be having fun (which means your guests probably aren’t either).

If you’ve given an appropriate amount of attention to creating the big picture of your theme and adding some creative details it should be easy for your guests to get into the spirit and have a good time.

Here are some pics from a Tiki themed beach party I threw a few years ago.

tiki_theme_EventCouple TikiTheme_EventCouple TikiThemeParty-Limbo TikiThemePartyFun

I’d love to see pictures from a theme party you’ve hosted or attended.


You know when…

event-planner-infographicJust for fun. 🙂