Every year, Quality Solutions Inc. attends the PRSM National Conference, this year it was held in sunny Orlando. After planning previous PRSM events for QSI, Jajo was asked to plan yet another over-the-top event for their clients who also attend PRSM.

If this event was going to be anything like last year’s cowboy and Indian shootout in Dallas, I had to work diligently. There was eight months worth of planning to get done in less than two months. With some drive time and location restrictions, we decided to reserve a ballroom at the conference hotel, the Rosen Shingle Creek, for easier guest access. I had a blank slate to work with and the possibilities were limitless.

First, we needed an event theme and name. Our team brainstormed ideas, and came up with several potential themes: swamp, underwater and “Bring the Beach to Orlando.” I had a vision to turn the hotel ballroom into an authentic swamp. After all, we were going to be surrounded by the Everglades. I was determined to pull it off.

Once the client approved the theme, I started making decisions for entertainment, food and beverage menus and enough décor to make an impact on a 70’ x 70’ space. I worked with Claudia, another event planner in Orlando, for entertainment and décor suggestions. PRSM was less than a couple months away, so I didn’t have time to visit for a walkthrough. I had to make sure our event would be a success through only daily communications and as many photos as she could provide.

Simultaneously, our design team created swamp-themed illustrations to utilize for guest communications. We planned for direct mail and email invites, a landing page to capture RSVPs and a follow-up email. Alongside design, we had to come up with an enticing event name. Marsh Madness was the end result, which suited perfectly because our event was taking place on the night of the NCAA Championship game that followed March Madness. No one would want to miss the big game, and the name assured that they wouldn’t have to, as well as complemented the theme.

Before we knew it, April 6th had arrived, and Shawn and I were on our way to Orlando. Monday was the day of the event, so I met Claudia for our first and final walkthrough. After we made adjustments to the floor plan, Claudia continued setup with her team, and assured me not to worry about a thing. In a few short hours, the ballroom was going to be a swamp!

And she was right! The room was filled with tall foliage, and colored up-lighting created an earthy glow and marsh-esque atmosphere. Outside the ballroom was a large entrance scene with a custom welcome sign. The buffet and the bar were setup with tin and wood paneled structures, resembling abandoned shacks, and a bridge went over a large pond in the middle of the room.

With the help of Claudia and the hotel staff, Shawn and I were able to kick back and enjoy the result of months of work put into planning the event. Guests nibbled on themed hors d’oeurves of gator bites and catfish sliders while sipping on cocktails, got their photo taken with exotic animals (a live gator!), listened to a local Zydeco band, smoked cigars under the Florida sky, and tuned in to the NCAA Championship Game. Most importantly, our clients at Quality Solutions were extremely happy and enjoyed the evening.

I’ve learned throughout my experiences with planning events that it’s not easy to plan long distance. I’m a very visual person and being 1,000 miles away, I had to set my reservations aside, and trust that those assisting us in the planning would fully meet our expectations. After months of planning and overseeing the details of the event, Marsh Madness was a huge success, giving me a boost of confidence in planning long distance events. My only regret is not bringing in a Florida panther. There’s always next time.