Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Being the Perfect Holiday Host. Plus, Bonus Recipes!

This month, Sharifah Masten at PMBDI (Protocol and Meetings by Design, Inc.) gives us a few tips from her toolbox about being a great holiday host no matter what your guests' culinary preferences. Sharifah's an expert on meetings for all different cultures, so without further ado, here she is! (And don't forget to read to the end for bonus recipes.)

Summer has ended, and the leaves begin to change color. The holiday season is getting closer. This is the time when we are either hosting or attending different events. So turns the seasons, and so does holiday stress go way through the roof.

Image via
Hosting a party or reception can be a primary source of stress, especially as we try to make every guest feel welcome. From intimate dinner parties to larger events, as the host, you are ultimately responsible for each of your guests’ experiences. There’s so much to consider, though: Cultural and religious differences; personal preferences…

I’ve put together a list of things that will help to lessen the stress, but I want to make sure you exercise one rule of thumb: Aim to accommodate the majority with options that fit different dietary preferences and restrictions. And, as host, you shouldn’t expect that all your guests will enjoy the same dishes that you do.

For example, I don’t eat coconut, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t expect that coconut shrimp won’t be served. I would look to enjoy something else on offer—and hopefully there is something else. However, if the event is in my honor, the host may—and should--ask my feedback on the menu selections. But once again, this does not mean there may not be items that I would not eat.

Here are a few tips that a host can follow to alleviate some of the stressors that may accompany hosting a function.

1.     Do your research
Have a basic understanding of common dietary restrictions and religious differences that attendees may have when coming to your party. Kosher isn’t the same as Halal, and vegetarian isn’t the same as gluten free. Pick dishes that meet a variety of religious, cultural and personal differences.

2.     Inquire about attendees’ dietary restrictions
On your RSVP, leave a space for your attendee to write down any dietary restrictions. This could save you time when planning your menu.

3.     Offer a variety
Look to make your menu diverse. Offer foods that appeal to a wide range of preferences. Remember, during a reception not everyone will eat everything.

4.     Identify food
Once you have selected a diverse menu, think of the ways that you want to identify the food at the event. For example, by using tent cards to identify the dish and its ingredients, you eliminate the questions of what a dish is and allow the line to flow by not having bottle necks as people attempt to figure out what is being served.

Thanks for reading! As a bonus, here are some tried-and-true, delicious recipes for your holiday party:

Source: Halal Foodie (

Source: My Halal Kitchen (
Warm Olive and Artichoke Dip

By: Vivienne Kalman (

Source: Gourmet Kosher Cooking (

Source: SoS Cuisine (
Note:  This site is uses a good recipe legend and is easy to follow for recipes meeting all or some of the following: Gluten Free, Lactose Free, Nuts & Peanuts Free, Halal, Kosher and Vegetarian

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Project Management 101

We're relaunching our web site soon. It's all very exciting! The experience brought to mind a few things we think every single project needs, apart from the obvious stuff, like a budget.  Heh.

1. A point person
Every project has key stakeholders, but no matter how big it gets, there should be one or two people responsible for managing--and trafficking all the commentary, feedback, and action items generated by these stakeholders. Yes, it's a big job. But it'll make everything work better.

2. A place to live
Sure, in some cases, this could mean a physical place to live. But in others, just making sure that a project has even a virtual home is a nice place for folks to check-in. It could be something as simple as a bi-weekly status meeting, or even a home on Google docs, which is what we ultimately opted for.  Either way, for stakeholders and project point people alike, it's nice to have one place to "go" to for all the information related to a project.

3. Conversation
Everyone should have all the information they need to complete a project. (This is also where number 2, above, comes in handy.) That's all. In our case, our point person handled our information bank, so it was useful to be able to either go to him when we had questions, or know that we could ask him and he'd track down the information.

4. Solid intentions
What's that mean? It just means that everything in the project should be approached with the project's good in mind, whether that be deadlines or meetings. Set agendas and deadlines with good intention, and they'll usually come to pass. As with anything, the end goal is king, and if you consider all the ramifications--as solid intentions are wont to do--then you'll have a good project in hand, and be yards ahead of the competition.

What are your must-haves for a great project experience? Tell us in the comments below.