Successful events and failed events do not just happen.  The success or complete failure is set in motion long before the actual event.  This past weekend, my family, Julie and I experienced both.  I am going to tell a tale of those two events and give you 10 Tips to Successfully Plan and Host an Event.  By following these tips, I think you will be well equipped to successfully plan and host your own event!

Event Season is Coming….Plan Accordingly

Winter and Event Season are coming!

Winter is coming, and with winter comes a series of festivals and events where you might suddenly need to play host or hostess!  After the initial panic wears off, you will start to think about how to successfully plan the event, what you need to do and how you can pull it all off.  While being a host is a lot of fun, there is a lot of work that goes into hosting an event, so you need to prepare yourself mentally.  It is going to be work to pull it all together: from the food, to the venue, to speakers, to the guests, to the other resources needed to make it all happen.

Perhaps you remember this classic “Event Preparation” scene from the Christmas with the Kranks movie?  This scene is from the last minute scramble when the Kranks find out their daughter and her fiance are on their way home for Christmas.  Like the movie, when you are in a rush at the last minute, everything can and will go wrong.

Keep in mind that Julie and I aren’t professional event planners.  I have to admit that I have been in charge of events that were good, bad and ugly, so I have learned from being in the host hot seat.

I can tell you this right up front: poor performance is usually directly related to poor planning and preparation.  If you are going to be the “host/hostess with the mostest,” you need to spend some time war gaming how this is all going to happen and what you need to do to make this a success.  This is where the 10 Tips to Successfully Plan and Host an Event will come in handy!


Burnsville High School Homecoming Game

Burnvsille Football-Our Best is Yet to Come

Facebook Invitation posted by the Burnsville High School Football Program this week – September 2019

As we were winding up for the Domres’ Early Christmas/Fall Festival Event last week, I received some Facebook notifications and messages about an upcoming event at the Burnsville High School Homecoming Game on September 27, 2019.  It turned out that the current high school football coach wanted to take some time at the start of the game to recognize Burnsville’s 1989 State Championship Football Team.  A former teammate and current assistant coach was spreading the word on Facebook on Tuesday before the game.  I mentioned this event in last week’s News from Around the Bend post.

While we had family coming into the Twin Cities on Friday, Julie and I decided that it would be fantastic to go the Homecoming Game to get a few seconds of glory and connect with other members of the team.  People tend to drift apart after 30 years, and it would have been cool to see some of my former teammates and reconnect with them.

I responded to the invite that I would attend, and we put ourselves in position to get to the game.  Ryan came home from college.  Danny and Savannah wanted to attend.  We got done with work, dressed for the game and went out the door.  I even broke out the 1990 Burnsville High School “Braves” baseball hat for the game.  If I was going on that field again, I wanted to go as a Brave, not as a “Blaze.”

Ready for the big moment at the Burnsville High School Football Game…September 2019

For those of you who don’t know, Burnsville High School changed their mascot in 1994 from Braves to Blaze due to pressure from various activists and activist groups.  It should be noted that the last time the Burnsville High School won a football championship was in 1991 as the Braves.  I guess the Blaze just tend to fizzle out.

Ahem!  I digress!

We rushed down to the stadium and got there before the game started.  There really weren’t any instructions on the invitation about what to do once alumni got to the game.  I noticed a VIP entrance off to the side of the gate, but there were no instructions or signs for alumni. I waited in line with other students and adults to get tickets and get into the door.

When I finally purchased my ticket, I asked the cashier if she knew anything about the 1989 Championship Team Announcement.  She looked at me like I had just asked where the aliens from Area 51 were going to land.  I shrugged and moved forward to a student who was handing out rosters and game programs.  Certainly this student would know a thing or two, right?


He looked at me like I was rushing Area 51 wearing a T-Rex costume.  He questioned whether I had actually played for Burnville (obviously not recognizing the 1990 Burnsville Brave hat), and then he directed me to another gentleman who was part of the athletic department.  As I walked over to the guy, the announcer was introducing the Burnsville and Farmington teams.

I introduced myself and asked the gentleman what happened next, and he simply said that the announcer had just made the announcement for the 1989 State Championship Football Team.  Dumfounded, I said “thanks” and waited for my family to catch up.  Once they got there, I explained the situation and what had happened.

We decided to watch the game until half time, and then we left once the marching band and dance line had finished their performance.  As we left, Julie and I spoke to someone who had messaged me about the event, and she said that none of the 1989 State Championship Football Team even went on the field or were there!

Needless to say, there is a lot to learn from how this event went down, and some of the lessons are folded into the 10 Tips for How to Successfully Plan and Host an Event.

Domres Early Christmas/Fall Fest

Domres Family, Fall Fest 2019, Christmas 2019

The Domres Family gathered for a great photo in front of the hotel’s fireplace – September 2019

Last year, my extended family tried something new for Christmas.  Instead of waiting for December, we decided to host an Early Christmas event in late September/early October.  It was a great success last year, and we wrote about it in an article titled “Minimize Time Commitments while Maximizing Life.”  There were 4 Lessons Learned from last year’s experience, so take a minute and review those.  Those 4 Lessons factored into my planning and preparation for this year’e event.

During our mid-year planning event in July of this year, Julie and I decided that the only way this year’s Early Christmas Event was for us to lead it.  We selected some potential dates and texted my family.  After some hemming and hawing, we had scheduled everyone for September 27-29 here in the Twin Cities.

Julie and I planned the meal in August.  After getting my grandfather’s old electric smoker going, I decided to smoke two pork butt roasts for these events.  I gave myself plenty of time to smoke these two roasts.  One does not simply smoke 16 pounds of pork in a single day!  It was great to be outside, smoking this meat for my extended family with my grandpa’s smoker.  I felt a real connection with my grandpa and my dad (who had the same smoker; my brother has it now).  By mid-September, the pork was ready for the event, and I harvested potatoes from my Wicking Bed for the event as well.

Julie and I also planned the activities for the event.  While we did not anticipate the football game, we decided to go the Minnesota Renaissance Festival.  My extended family hadn’t been to one in years or at all, and we had never been to the one in Minnesota.  We would gather and go the Renaissance Festival and come back to our house for the pork and potato feast.

A couple days before the event, I could tell from comments that some of my extended family needed a little extra information about the weekend’s activities.  I called or texted everyone to understand when they were coming into town (and to invite them to the football game).  Then I crafted a “mega-text” that outlined all of the planned activities for the weekend and sent it to everyone.  I wanted people to know what was planned and approximately when things were happening.

Traditional Folk Dancers at the MN Renaissance Festival - September 2019

Traditional Folk Dancers at the MN Renaissance Festival – September 2019

All in all, things went on without a hitch.  Sure, we hit some traffic jams going to the Renaissance Festival, but that was to be expected given that it was the last weekend of the Festival and the construction happening around the Twin Cities.  I looked at the traffic apps earlier in the morning and made some decisions about our route, and I am not above admitting when I was absolutely wrong about avoiding my route!

The other “controversy” was Julie and my executive decision to have the Pork and Potato Feast at the hotel rather than our house.  We would have loved to have everyone at our house, but as we have discussed in other episodes, we live in a small house in North Minneapolis.  The main problem is that we just don’t have a big enough table to accommodate everyone, and our family would have had to manage plates in their laps.  It just worked a lot better to have tables and chairs for everyone!

After the Renaissance Festival, Julie and I went home and got the food warmed up and ready.  After two hours, we returned to the hotel and set up for the Pork and Potato Feast.  We took over the eating area off the lobby, and our family got to have some great smoked pork, homegrown potatoes, salad, asparagus, bread, cupcakes and wine.  It was great feast, and everyone enjoyed it.

I was really pleased with how everything went, including my impromptu prayer and toast to our family, our health and our ancestors. Of course, once everything was done including a fun gift exchange game, I got into some wine and had lots of conversations and planned some events for 2020.

10 Tips for How to Successfully Plan and Execute an Event

Family fun after the Pork and Potato Feast! September 2019

As the night got long and the empty bottles of wine stacked up, Julie and my boys got everything cleaned up, and we went home for the night.  I thought the weekend was a smashing success, and as I said the next morning:

 “If you didn’t have fun or get enough to eat, it was your own fault!”

One final note about our gathering: you might be wondering if the front desk had an issue with us taking over their eating area.  They did not.  We had three rooms in the hotel, and we made sure that we treated the front desk with respect and kindness.  I made two heaping plates of smoked pork, potatoes, salad, bread and cupcakes.  I talked with the front desk clerk, and I made her laugh a few times.  Extending our hospitality and being courteous to her and other guests went a long, long way last weekend.  She loved the food, and I loved hearing that from her!

Success or Failure: It’s Your Move

Odin's Bark Mead at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival

Cheers! Odin’s Bark Mead at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival – September 2019

What was the main difference in these two events?  Why was one a success and one a failure?

The main difference was the planning and preparation.  While Julie is my Organizing and Planning Guru, I put on the Planning Hat and took lead on the Early Christmas Event.  I wanted this to go well, as I have been burned in the past due to a lack of planning and preparation.  I worked hard on putting pieces together, and I took the time to get things right.  Julie plugged in and did a great job with the finishing touches and decorations, and my other family brought their own special contributions to the party.  It was a team effort, and everyone had a good time.

The football event (yeah, remember that?) was a failure.  What could have been a great event to serve as a foundation for future Burnsville teams to build on turned into a slight pause in the announcer’s script.  Why did it fail?  It failed because there was absolutely no planning and preparation.  It was clearly an afterthought: dreamed up and announced on the week of the Homecoming game.

I SHOULD have known based on the timing and how it was rolled out, but I was excited to go back to my high school and relive those glory days.

The bottom line is that planning and executing a successful event takes time, planning and hard work.  Rome was not built in a day, and your event won’t either.  Take the time and do some thinking.  You can do this, have a lot of fun and leave your event attendees wanting more!

How do you do that?

10 Tips to Successfully Plan and Host an Event

Julie and I did some brainstorming, and here are 10 Tips for How to Successfully Plan and Host an Event.  While no event is a guaranteed success even with all the planning and hard work in the world, using these 10 Tips should get you pretty close and allow some flexibility to adjust due to unforeseen circumstances.

10 Tips to Successfully Plan and Host an Event InfoGraphic

Entertaining and Building Community

Julie and I love to entertain. For me, I find that I enjoy cooking and smoking meats and vegetables on the grill and in the smoker. It brings me a lot of joy to see people enjoying a great meal that I prepared.  Even with my new restrictive diet, I am thrilled to cook for people and provide a savory and delicious array of meats and foods for my guests.  It is how my grandparents entertained and lived, and I firmly believe this is the path to building that community around you right where you live.

Julie loves getting the house ready by decorating and making our house comfortable for guests.  She has an incredible knack for it, and I love seeing our house transform as Christmas approaches.  She is really amazing at creating a beautiful scene in our cozy house.  I will say: it really is tough to entertain LIKE WE WANT TO in this smaller house, but as I told my family, we have a future plan for that.

If planning and hosting events are not skills or passions you have, and that’s ok.  Get someone like Julie or me to help you.  If nothing else, use these 10 Tips to Successfully Plan and Host an Event to help you.  We are always an e-mail away, so contact us if you get stuck.

Share a meal.  Build community.  Enjoy the moment.

You can do it, Lifers!  We are here to help!

Special Thanks

Special thanks to Austin Quinn at Vlog Vibes for the intro and outro music. For more information abut Austin and Vlog Vibes, please see the following:

Vlog Vibes YouTube Channel:

Download Austin’s music here:

Listen to the Episode


Listen to the Small Scale Life Podcast on any of the following apps:
Google Play

Download a mp3 of the Episode by clicking this link.

To listen on this page, click on the small triangle next to the player below: