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| Written by Veronica Ferguson

Myth vs. Reality: Event Design

From the lighting and décor to music and more, event design takes an event from bland to grand, making an impact as soon as attendees walk in the door. It sets the mood, builds excitement, and leaves a lasting impression.

While the end results always look amazing, getting there is no small feat. Successful event design starts with the big picture, then examines every little detail. It balances fun and function, looks and logistics. Most importantly, it doesn’t stand alone—it supports the overall event theme and objectives.

In the first in a series of blog posts exploring the realities of event planning, M&IW’s Event Design Manager, Alexander deHilster, shares the truth behind common event design myths.

Myth: Event design is easy.

Reality: Way more work goes into event design than most people think.

Event design is more than just ordering a few tables, chairs, and food. Even the simplest of special events needs to have a cohesive look and feel, from the visual and spatial design to the food and beverages served to the music played. Event design is all about layering various elements so they’re cohesive and impactful. Once you have a design planned, then you have to figure out the best order to have all materials delivered to the venue, which brings us to the next myth…

Myth: Everything can be loaded in and out at the same time.

Reality: Load-in and -out require careful planning with a specific order.

Some items take a longer time to deliver but very little time to install, such as furniture, while other items take less time to bring inside but longer to set up, such as AV, lighting, and sound. These should be delivered and prepared first so that other vendors aren’t in the way. Once the technical pieces are in place, then you bring in the visual elements like furniture, linens, and décor. When it comes to load-out, the reverse is true: remove the decorative before the technical. This order ensures there’s enough time and space for the more intensive set ups and makes it less likely that things will break.

Myth: Ordering linens is easy breezy.

Reality: It is very easy… to order the wrong linens.

And it’s not just about color or fabric—the most important factor is linen size. First, you need to decide or find out what size tables you have. A typical event has at least two different table types while more intricate events could have four or more. To know what size linen is needed for each table size, take the diameter of the tabletop and add the height of the table twice. For example, a typical 6-foot round dining table is 30 inches tall, so 72 inches (the diameter) plus 60 inches (the height doubled) means you need a 132-inch round linen. Once you’ve ordered the correct linens, then you need to use them correctly, which is a whole other task…

Myth: Anyone can put linens on tables.

Reality: While technically true, there is an art to putting linens down correctly.

Are the linens touching the floor on all sides? Are the seams of the linens all facing the same direction? If there is a design on the linens versus just solid colors, are all the designs facing the same direction? When tying linens on highboys and cabarets, did you place the linens in such a way that you won’t be able to see the legs once you’re done tying the chair tie/band around the linens?

These are just some of the questions to consider when placing linens on round tables. Setting up rectangular tables at a tradeshow can be even more challenging: Make sure the linens are placed straight on the tables and that the front and sides are all just touching the floor. When looking from the front, you should see a continuous line of linen with the same length.

Myth: Putting chairs around a table is as simple as it sounds.

Reality: Even placing chairs is an art form in the world of event design.

When setting a room, make sure that all chairs at each table are set the same way. This is easiest when tables have an even number of chairs. For this example, let’s say there are eight chairs: Place two chairs horizontal straight across from each other, then two more chairs vertical straight across from each other, and repeat twice with two chairs diagonal from each other. Also, chairs should not be pushed under the table. The front part of the seat should be barely touching the linens hanging down. (This is important to keep in mind early on when designing the layout of the space—it really does come full circle!)


Headshot of Alexander deHilster

Alexander deHilster

Event Design Manager

Meetings & Incentives Worldwide, Inc.

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