Talkin’ Trash – A Lasting Impression

How about a little Trash Talk? In the corporate event realm, a substantial amount of financial resources is spent on décor, directional, lighting, ambiance, traffic-flow plans and other important aspects of events and meetings. Countless hours are dedicated to deciding on centerpieces, linens, and the all-mighty ‘Sense of Arrival’. What is usually an after-thought is trash.  Trash management. Trash flow. Trash handling. Trash removal. It’s not sexy – that’s for sure, but it is oh so important.

The Dirty Details

For the sake of this conversation, let me definite what I mean by ‘trash’. It is the usual trash that needs to be thrown out due to use; but it is also discarded cups and glasses that need to be taken to the kitchen, plates left on high boys during a reception, and anything else that needs to be removed after use. I think we all can agree that reusable or compostable items are the best way to go, but that is another topic of discussion, albeit a very important one.

When planning an event at a hotel and many (but not all) venues, trash has plans. There are people that manage the actual trash and the clearing of the used items from tables. Staffers are scheduled for shifts to handle these items along with other needs of the venue. But how is that timing in comparison to the flow of your corporate meeting or event? When will the trash bins be cleared? At the end of the night? In the morning before people arrive? When will the tables be cleared at the reception? After everyone goes into the main event? During the event? Trash is a deterrent and a distraction. It draws people always from the sense of arrival and the overall feel of the event.

A Lasting Impression

An overflowing trash can is more memorable at an event than those amazing centerpieces that went through 5 revisions and were the subject of budget amendments. Tables strewn with cups and glasses cover up the expensive tablecloths that took 3 swatch mailings in order to get right. Overflowing tray-jacks along the ballroom wall can dwarf the foliage placed to provide a more intimate setting.

What is the schedule for clearing dishes? Is the event well-staffed?

Offsite venues, those that are not part of a hotel or convention center may have several people or third-party companies handling different aspects of the event. Trash may be divided up. Who is handling the general venue trash, catering trash, table clearing and proper removal of items all from the attendee area? How is it being handled? Will mules (think mini-truck) be cruising your venue with trash on the back? Or will someone discretely remove these items?

Where can people place used cups and dishes? Are there enough trash bins / receptors and are they placed properly? Are server tray-jacks abundant and is the plan appropriate for their constant upkeep and removal of dishes?

If you are organizing an event in a parking lot, large field, or other untamed venue, trash talk will be even more important. While there is typically a ‘system’ at a venue or hotel, a newly created space will not have this advantage. You as the planner will need to bring in resources to handle the rubbish. Companies can be hired to manage trash. Caterers can extend their staffing for this purpose (but you will need to make sure individuals are dedicated to trash). You can also bring in companies to assist with composting and recycling. Talk about sexy – lessening the imprint of an event is exciting when executed correctly.  But – more about that in another blog.

Tips on Trash

Now that our trash talking has gotten you listening, what is an event planner to do?

  1. Talk trash in advance. Make sure there is a plan for the trash with the venue, hotel, convention center, etc.
  2. Find out the schedule for the person, team, or company that will be handling removal of the trash and make sure it meshes with your schedule.
  3. Dish removal – where can people place used cups and dishes? Clearly discuss catering expectations regarding clearing. Are server tray-jacks abundant and is the plan appropriate for their constant upkeep and removal of dishes? Will wait staff scour the room for empties throughout the night?
  4. Include timing for clearing in your run of show. Set the expectation that it is constant during receptions and dinner if there is not a presentation.
  5. How are event staffing levels? When events are understaffed, trash is the first thing that gets skipped. Make sure the venue has the appropriate level of staffing for both the number of attendees and type of food and drink being served.
  6. How is the trash removal handled? A huge outdoor concert venue can handle a mule running through with trash. For a high-end corporate event with full build-outs and décor, trash removal should be undetected and consistent.
  7. Trash receptacles – what do they look like? A huge trash bin with an open top is not attractive. Make sure your receptacle is appropriate for your event.  Are there enough and are the placed in proper places?
  8. Who is your trash and clearing contact with the hotel and/or venue? Make sure they let their staff know that this is a priority.  And get a mobile number for someone that will be handling this or overseeing this the day of your event.  Knowing you have their number may light a little fire.
  9. Make sure trash removal goes on throughout the event. Staff, venues, hotels seem to ease up on trash toward the end of the event. You don’t want the lasting impression of your event to be trashy.

Enough trash talking for today.  Hopefully I’ve encouraged you to do some trash talking on your own so that your attendees can remember the ambiance, not the trash.

Melissa Murray, Mosaix Group Owner