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“That’s not where the band goes…”
“You guys got the stations reversed. The pasta station goes over there
and the carving station goes here.”
“Are you sure there’s no plugs on the wall, I could swear I saw one during the walk thru.”
“So how did you expect us to hang this banner from the ceiling?”
“Where are the staff, vendors, and guests supposed to park?”
“OK, so where do we set up the kitchen?”
Off premises catering staff hear these and other questions often.
“There are always two people in every picture:
A photographer and the viewer.” ~ Ansel Adams
When ever a sales person, planner-designer or coordinator meet with a client for a site survey or walk through of where an event is going to take place, they must always take a long a digital camera to help tell the story of what is expected.
What You Need For Your Visual Thinking Tool Kit
A digital camera; doesn’t need to be expensive — $200.00 will get you a great compact functional camera that will take good pictures. Don’t rely on your cell phone camera. Spend some bucks — do it right, you won’t regret it.
Get a carrying case, be sure to attach the wrist strap to help protect the camera and buy a camera battery charger for your car. Make sure the camera batteries are charged when you leave for the site. Cameras get used a lot, left turned on by mistake, not charged up, and used by others. Then when you arrive at the venue, say a park or an open field, there’s no power to charge up — you can’t take pictures.
Also carry a 25-30’ tape measure with you. The tape measure is useful for figuring out distance, width and heights of doorways, etc. For more details on what else to take to perform a complete walk through, see my blog posts on “Site Survey Tools” and “WAGES.”
“The camera can photograph thought.” ~ Dirk Bogarde
Preparing For Story Telling
Carry the camera with you as you walk around and shoot pictures of everything — to help tell the story of what the sales person-planner-coordinator-designer and client have in mind during the event. Don’t worry about taking too many pictures. It’s easy to edit later.
Include shots of where to park, unload, where to set up the kitchen, canopy, stations, tables, buffets, bars, gift tables, cigar roller, photo booth, the DJ, the band, face painter, portable restrooms, coat rack, umbrella stand, valet, generator, lighting and the list goes on.
Make a panorama of any large open areas or room(s) including shots of the walls, door ways, hallways, ceiling and floors. Include close shots of details such as doors, where lights and power are located, and parking for the guests, staff and vendors.
If cooking is to be done on site, take pictures of the ranges, ovens and prep area so the Chef and kitchen staff know they have to work with.
Don’t worry about the quality and framing—you will improve with practice.
Consider this: If you weren’t around during the event set up, could anyone looking at the photos have pretty good ideas of what needs to be done to pull off the event?
Think in terms of making a story board. The pictures (photos) will help tell the story. Storyboards are graphic pictorial organizers usually made up of a series of drawings, illustrations, images and photos that lay out the sequence of scenes in a film or animation, for planning or visualizing what is to be accomplished.
If you’re working on an event at a client’s home or office, ask for permission to take pictures first and explain how you will use the photos.
Often back at the office and as the event takes form — situations change; the menu switches from buffet to station or plated service — themes, colors, weather, time of day, what ever. Instead of revisiting the site again, look at the pictures. One of my bosses used to say, “An event like good food needs to cook a little.”
If you have exclusive venues or locations where you work on a regular basis, take a few hours and go photograph the venues and set the pictures up in catalog on your computer. It will save you time in the future. BTW take pictures of the same spots a few times during the year as lighting, foliage and colors change with the seasons. Be sure to label the photos indicating the time day and month of year.
Building And Tweaking Your Library
Once you have taken the pictures download the pictures on to your computer and perhaps pass them thru the latest version Adobe Photoshop elements. This inexpensive program ($49.95) will help clean up the dark spots, sharpness focus, remove red eye, and adjust contrast and colors.
Label and catalog the pictures in a folder for each venue for easy reference by everyone in the office. Does this take time? Yes and it beats driving back to the venue for another walk thru.
The photos can be saved at PDF’s or JPEG’s and sent to anyone involved with the event planning.
Kick it up a step — by copying, pasting or importing the photos into any of several software programs. There are some sophisticated drawing programs and you can do some incredible detailing in them. However basic favorites are with a short learning curve are:
Excel spreadsheets using the drawing tool function, you can add call outs with details and dimension lines.
SmartDraw www.smartdraw.com. If you need to make a sophisticated lateral time line. SmartDraw allows you draw and paste in photos together.
PowerPoint like Excel has some call features. I’m not a big fan of PowerPoint because of the limitations and few have it loaded as software.
Googledoc’s https://docs.google.com/?pli=1#all. The program is free and assessable by anyone with an internet connection and there are no cross platform issues either.
“A great film is made on paper first.” -Alfred Hitchcock
Getting Everyone On The Same Page
You can print the photos out in various sizes. There’s no need for expensive color printing on gloss stock especially during the concept layout stages.
Printing the photos out on a 600 or 1200 DPI Black & White laser printer is sufficient for layout and most detailing. You can always upgrade to color.
I like using 8.5 X 11 size paper sheets for initial drafts and concepts. There’s plenty of room to make detail notes for reference or for passing on others involved in the planning.
As situations take form, I like printing out a final version on 11” X 17” paper. This size folds in half and fits nicely into folders, three ring binders and provides extra room to hand write last minute changes, details.
This 11 X 17 size is also good for posting on the walls in your command center. Use the blue painters tape so no residue is left on the wall.
Pull and check lists and can be taped to the side of the drawing for all to see and comment on as needed.
Copy and store the digital updated versions into a folder marked specific for the event. After the event you can place copies back in the library for future reference.
Size Does Matter
Sometimes I go to Kinko’s and print out 24” x 36” or even a 36” X 48” sheet especially when there’s a lot going on. The larger sheets work well for overviews. Then use the smaller sheets for specific station activity details.
Use a sharpie and draw and mark them up with details or dimensions. The marked up photo “print outs” then can be copied, or scanned and saved as PDF’s and emailed for planning, review and comment and placed in the event folder for reference.
You don’t have to be a Frank Gehry or Leonardo to draw up the roughs. A good reference to help you out would to get your hands on a copy of the “The Back of the Napkin” by Dan Roam www.thebackofthenapkin.com his book, website site and blog are enlightening on communicating and problem solving with simple drawings. I have been drawing stick figures of chefs and servers for years. It’s amazing how an elaborate table setting can be draw and detailed in Excel.
In some instances we marked up a photo and then created a rough mock up the station or buffet to get a feel for things and therefore created a new or revised pull list. Take a picture of the finished mock up for reference.
With photos it’s easy to check back and review when things change.
“A photograph is like the recipe – a memory of
the finished dish.” ~Carrie Late
After the actual station or activity is set up completely at the event, take a few pictures while the guests are interacting. Sometimes you will want to discuss lay out changes or traffic flow after the event for the next time. Don’t depend on the event photographers — some times they will give you the pictures — other times not.
Add the event photos into your library and save your self some time next time you the same or a similar type of activity.
The small investment in a digital camera will pay large dividends in helping you plan and tell the story of events details. The stress level will subside and you have a vast library to reference from in the future.
Hold on to you aprons,