Fairplex is more than just the L.A. County Fair. The Sheraton Fairplex Hotel and Conference Center as well as several areas of the campus are utilized for events throughout the year, from conferences to trade shows, dinner parties to weddings.
I sat down with Beth Gallagher, director of food and beverage at Fairplex to ask what she does to ensure her clients the best event experience possible. Here are some of her most helpful tips:
1. Understand client expectations. What may seem like a small part of the event for you can be a stressful ordeal for the client. Know what your client’s priorities are and what they are worried about and attend each task accordingly.
2. Get the basic blueprint. During the initial conversation Beth makes sure to get basic information from the client before any detailed planning. How many people are attending, what time of day the event is and the nature of the event are all questions she gets answered before deciding what space would be most accommodating to them.
3. Uncover the details.This goes back to listening to clients. Sometimes a client won’t verbalize a clear picture of what they want or they just glaze over the details. Uncover their tastes and pick up on clues as you prepare to draft your proposal to them.
4. Customize, customize, customize. Not every hotel has the flexibility to do this, but at Fairplex, Beth makes it a top priority to customize the event packages, meals and venue as exactly to the client’s preferences as possible. Whether it’s lighting, color schemes or bringing in additional furniture or decor, try to make the event as unique to your client as possible. Make them feel like they matter.
5. Know your real estate. Sell your event space as real estate. “The zip code for one of our ballrooms on a Saturday night is the equivalent of Beverly Hills,” Beth said. The price per square foot is higher when the space is in demand. The price changes from day to day, season to season.
6. On decorating… Fairplex staff tries to meet all client needs as much as possible. This includes not only catering and lights but decorating the event space as well. Beth collaborates with her team and, based off the agenda and theme given to her by the clients, transforms the facilities into a space worthy of mention. “We evolve what we have into what they want,” Beth said. So far that has meant everything from a ballroom into a night club, an expo hall into an ice rink and a lawn into a jazz lounge.
7. Make sure your teams work well together–or at least get the job done. “We work like siblings,” Beth says. “Sometimes teams don’t agree on the way something should be done, but at the end of the day we have the same goal. Whatever we do, we make sure there is a constant line of communication.” Your client will be most happy when the job is done.
8. Be a perfectionist but know when to let go. The success is in the details. It’s important to care about the little things as well as see the big picture. At the same time it’s essential to know when to let something go. If you–the perfectionist event planner–are the only one who notices it, and your client and his/her guests are having a good time, just let it go.
9. Keep diversity (especially culture) in mind when it comes to food.When it comes to food the first thing to do is figure out how important it is to a client. In some cultures the quality of food is a way of displaying a client’s status. In other cultures it is the main form of showing hospitality. The bottom line is that realizing food preferences and level of importance differs with each client. See what works best for that particular scenario.
10. Know your venue’s strengths and capitalize on them. Fairplex and the Sheraton Fairplex Hotel and Conference Center excels in customizable space, high quality food and excellent customer service. The first thing Beth shows potential clients is the flexibility each space has. This can be anything from setting up a mock wine tasting to an elaborate table display during the initial visit.
Beth entered the event industry working for a small party rental company. Since then she has spent time working on sales and event operations for the Olympics, sports arenas throughout the nation and professional golf and tennis tournaments. She also owned her own catering company prior to joining the team at Fairplex.