It’s an occupational hazard – when you’re an event creator, you can’t attend any event without picturing how you could have done it better. Even for laid-back summer barbeques which, by their very nature, come with a whole host of logistical challenges that those not in the industry may not consider.

For starters, it’s usually hot and sunny out, so the comfort level of the guests and the safety of the food is at risk. Then there are other potential outdoor disasters waiting to happen, like mosquitos, muddy grass, open flames… and these are just what come to mind before you’ve even arrived.

You know you’re an event manager if one of these thoughts have popped into your mind at a summer BBQ.

First impressions

1. “There’s nowhere to park.”

If only the hosts had given guests a heads up about the lack of parking spaces, then maybe some could have carpooled with friends or called an Uber. Or, they might have asked a neighbor or two if guests could use their driveways for a few hours.

2. “We’re the first ones here.”

There’s nothing wrong with extending an informal invitation to a backyard BBQ, but the hosts messed up by saying “come by Saturday afternoon,” rather than give a specific start time. Now, the few guests who took that to mean 1:00 will awkwardly spend an hour or two waiting for the 2-3:00 crowd to arrive. That also means the question of when to fire up the grill hangs in the balance.

3. “The hosts are running ragged.”

They look stressed (and sweaty!). Maybe because you arrived early and they’re not quite set up? Or is it because they already ran short on ice and they’re having trouble setting up the pop-up canopy to give the kids some shade. You’re happy to pitch in, but they keep telling all of the guests to sit back and relax (but it’s hard with all the tension in the air).

4. “Did your teenagers make this playlist?”

The hosts have chosen a very odd song selection for this get-together full of mixed company, including profanity-laced lyrics and screeching lead singers. It’s also on the loud side, making it difficult to hear the people right next to me.

BBQ time

Now that most people have arrived and the drinks are flowing, everyone is a bit more at ease. But there are still a few details that you can’t help but notice (and discreetly comment to your plus one).

5. “They still haven’t turned on the BBQ?”

The chips and dips are out, but the main BBQ fare has yet to make an appearance (despite the guac running low). Stomachs are beginning to grumble.

6. “How long was that potato salad sitting out?”

The grill’s finally on and fully loaded, but you can’t help but notice that the mayonnaise-loaded salads have been sitting out in full sunlight since before you arrived. And since there are at least two vegetarians here, hopefully they’re not relying on the sides since there’s not a veggie burger or shrimp skewer in sight.

7. “Holy smokes!”

It turns out that the BBQ placement wasn’t very well thought out, and guests are now being hit with waves of smoke. Maybe a couple of fans would help? The only respite is moving to the corner of the yard that has absolutely no cover from the sun. This would have been a better spot to put the pop-up tent with a few high stools and tables instead of over the kids’ table (which the kids only sat at for 10 minutes).

8. “Where are the forks?”

Food’s out. Everything looks great and the hosts set out the dishes buffet style to make things simple. But the silverware is on the other side of the yard, so it’s causing a bit of a traffic jam. Plus, napkins and ketchup are MIA.

9. “My kingdom for a cold water.”

It’s hot and after all that savory food a refreshing beverage like cold water or iced tea would be great. But there is only beer and kids’ juice boxes left in the cooler.

Winding down

All in all, the company made it a fun day even if the planning wasn’t great. But there are a couple more hiccups.

10. “Not everyone likes decaf with stevia and skim milk.”

Guests were looking forward to a cup of coffee to go with a light dessert at the end of a lovely day… but not like that.

11. “Can someone turn on the lights?”

As evening approaches, it’s becoming harder to see and the yard only has adequate lighting in the main seating area. Hopefully no one trips getting to the car.

While the average BBQ goer might not take note of all of these small details, a good event manager can’t help but notice. You’re not there to judge, of course. But maybe next time you’ll send the host your trusted Pre-Event, De-Stress Checklist to help them keep all those small details in check.

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