The Rental Show: Events & Tents inspires party professionals

Program offers seminars, networking and more


From seminars to networking, many good ideas were exchanged at the sold-out Events & Tents held Feb. 9 prior to the start of The Rental Show 2013 in Las Vegas. The day began with a Fabric Fashion Show at breakfast, where models wore tablecloth dresses on the catwalk. From there, seminars on sales, furniture and gadgets to showrooms, linens and tents were featured, and the rooms were packed with audience members ready to question the panelists.

One seminar focused on creating policies to handle bad weather situations with tents and the panelists talked about the need to have a plan in place. “You have to gain buy-in from your staff by explaining the benefits and reasons to have a plan,” said Tim Maloney Sr., CERP, president, Canton Chair Rental, Canton, Ohio. “Then your employees are more likely to believe in it. It might save lives.”

Greg Dugat, president, Prestigious Event Rentals, Houston, Texas, emphasized the need for change in the “Accelerate Your Growth With an Effective Sales Team” seminar. “All systems can work well, but change is good. People start learning how to work whatever program you put in place. Every year we looked at what would incentivize our team. Everyone has a different goal, you just need to make sure the team all has the same goal,” Dugat said.

One seminar, “The Right Tent for the Right Job,” struck a chord with many people. The session included photos and explanations of events from various tent rental companies.

“There were parts of the session that gave me a different perspective,” said Christopher Reece, Reece Tent Rental, Marietta, Ga. “Now I can look at it as going into a space and looking at what tent is going to work better for the event, rather than just the size of the space.”

Sasha Souza of Sasha Souza Events, Napa, Calif., gave a presentation at lunch and focused on the importance of accommodating the customer as well as preparing marketing from events for future clients. “I let the client tell me everything I need to know. I treat the clients like real people,” she says. “Every one of our events starts out with an inspiration board.”

Souza also showed slides of photos from events and explained ways to create great marketing photos, including removing heaters, aligning chairs, avoiding using a flash on food or flowers, and watching for shadow patterns in photos.

“What you see visually in your eye and what you see in photos are very different. We don’t compromise on doing something partially,” she said. “If it’s a photo shoot, it better be perfect.”

She also commented on the use of video for marketing to clients. “I think video is a very underused medium. Looking at how the event moves and flows is just another way to sell to the client. When people see an event in action, they are moved. It will captivate people.”

Afternoon sessions included learning about bridal shows, dispatching, décor and social media. Steve Anthony, president, American Event Rentals, Stockton, Calif., said the bridal show session changed his mind on how to handle those events, by focusing on interaction rather than the amount of visual material.

“You can do a 10-ft.-by-10-ft. booth, just know how to work the booth,” he said. “This is a change of thought for me and I was inspired by it. I think a lot of people are discouraged by bridal shows. It was refreshing to hear his ideas. We’re going to try this.”

One popular seminar was a series of virtual tours of rental stores. Tony Iddings, general manager of Prime Time Party Rental, Dayton, Ohio, talked about using video to film his showroom and using Google Maps’ 360 street view feature to allow people to “tour” the showroom on the company’s website. “Then, when you go to Google Earth and map the location, you can zoom in on the business and ‘walk’ in the front door,” he said.

Another highlight of the day was an afternoon lunch break where attendees could view the Inspiration Gallery, as well as all the dresses from the morning’s Fabric Fashion Show, displayed on mannequins. The Inspiration Gallery featured 33 photos from Events & Tents attendees and each included a description of what was shown.

“I love the Inspiration Gallery. It’s a great idea,” said Brandon Ahlgren, owner, Elite Events & Rentals, Safety Harbor, Fla.

The break also was an opportunity to meet others in the business. “I enjoy talking to other owners, meeting other people and finding out what they’re doing,” said Marguerite Webster, vice president, Morris Tent Rentals, Morris, N.Y.

The night ended with a reception at Keep Memory Alive Event Center, a Frank Gehry-designed venue that is part of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. All event revenues support the mission of the center to enhance treatment, research and prevention of neurocognitive disorders. The venue, which was decorated by King Dahl, executive director at MGM Resorts Events and a former Events & Tents speaker, featured appetizers, drinks and more networking amid a landscape of lights, flowers and butterflies.


Party and Event Town Hall brings good ideas together

The Rental Town Hall: Party and Event session, which took place Tuesday, Feb. 12, at The Rental Show in Las Vegas, was filled with not only attendees, but questions for the panelists. Topics ran the gamut from transporting dishes and draping tents to using Facebook to promote rental businesses.

One discussion centered on whether to publish rental rates on websites. “We don’t do it,” said Heidi Whitcomb, CERP, owner, Ventura Rental Party Center, Ventura, Calif. “We’re not the lowest in the market and we don’t want to be.”

Others said it was a benefit to have the prices available for planning. “As a planner, it’s super helpful,” said Deborah Borsum, CERP, CEO, The Meetinghouse Cos., Elmhurst, Ill.

Terry Turner, CERP, owner, All Occasions Party Rental, Knoxville, Tenn., said his company makes its catalog available as a download on its website, but does not have online ordering. “We want people to call us. We want people to come into our showroom,” he said.

Hiring was another major topic. Delores Crum, CERP, owner, Premiere Party Central, Austin, Texas, advised hiring on attitude and culture. “Hire slow and invest in people,” she said. Borsum agreed. “A lot of people want a job, but not many want to work,” she said.

Delivery charges and timing brought many different responses. “We deliver in the morning and afternoon,” said Turner. “The driver will call before he leaves. We don’t want to promise something we can’t deliver.”

Douglas Crowe, CERP, director of sales, Party Reflections, Charlotte and Durham, N.C., said delivery at his company depends on the type of customer. “For residential, we deliver Thursday and pick up Tuesday. You can call us the day before to get a two-hour window. If you want next day, it’s going to be like second-day air mail,” he said.

Using Facebook for marketing was discussed in several seminars, including the town hall. Borsum said her company uses Facebook to display not only their abilities, but personality. “Facebook helps with your search capabilities. Also, you are marketing the personality and culture of your company.”

Crum agreed. “You need to be connected. If you’re not, you’re missing out,” she said.

Questions from the audience included how to handle draping and swagging, which stumped the panel for a few minutes. “It’s difficult to answer because every bride wants a different look,” Crowe said. “It depends on square footage. We make custom liners. You have to consider how much fabric you need to pleat it. There is definite math involved.”

Borsum agreed. “We use standard 4-ft.-by-8-ft. panels and we use three times the material. We also have pre-made swags in basic colors. Remember to consider flame retardancy for specialty fabrics. Flame-retardant fabric is a must,” she said.

Many asked about selling old equipment and most of the panelists said they have company yard sales and often make people aware of the sale by using Facebook and Twitter. Also, Crowe said, “send the information out via e-blast promotion and use the classifieds in the paper.”

Catherine DeBusk, CERP, vice president, Party People Rentals, Phoenix, agreed, but cautioned against identifying marks on items you plan to sell. “Take your name off of everything,” she said.


Fashion Show takes tablecloths for a spin

This year, Events & Tents had its first-ever Fabric Fashion Show at The Rental Show. Four linen exhibitors sponsored the show and provided their newest tablecloths, runners, napkins and sashes to create dresses for the runway. David Delk, ABC Rental, Gulfport, Miss., emceed the event.

A-1 Tablecloth Co., GBS Linens, Jomar Table Linens and LinenPro Designs all donated fabric for the dresses, which were created by fashion design students from the International Academy of Design and Technology in Las Vegas. Students created about three dresses from each set of fabrics and used multiple styles, including halter necks, full skirts, asymmetrical hems and embellishments.

Many attendees were impressed with the idea of turning tablecloths into clothing and the event inspired conversation throughout the day. All dresses were displayed on mannequins during the afternoon break at Events & Tents, as well as at the sponsors’ booths on the trade show floor.

“Customers tell us all the time how great our fabrics look, but we had no idea until the Events & Tents fashion show just how beautiful they really look,” said Mitchell Bluethman, Jomar Table Linens. “It was great fun and we had a great response from everyone at the breakfast.”

To see a video of the Fabric Fashion Show, go to, search “ARA Fabric Fashion Show 2013” and click on the link.

Certified Event Rental Professional (CERP) 2012 Graduate Recognition


At the Lunch With ARA at The Rental Show in Las Vegas on Sunday, Feb. 10, 19 individuals were recognized for graduating during 2012 from the Certified Event Rental Professional (CERP) program. The CERP program was developed specifically for those in the party and event rental industry. To graduate, ARA-member rental professionals must complete and pass three course disciplines, submit an essay and accumulate a minimum of 25 qualifying points. Graduates included:

  • Nathaniel Archer, CERP, Marquee Event Group, Austin, Texas
  • Eric Ashmore, CERP, Marquee Event Group, Austin, Texas
  • Audrey Berg, CERP, Handy Special Events, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • Beverly Bilinski, CERP, Bel-Ayre Rentals, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  • Tim Boyle, CERP, U.S. Tent Rental, Sarasota, Fla.
  • Eileen Bunko, CERP, Handy Special Events, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • Kim Dougherty, CERP, All Occasions Party Rentals, Knoxville, Tenn.
  • Joanne Kelly, CERP, All Occasions Event Rental, Cincinnati
  • Debra Kozsuch, CERP, Brandon Rental Center, Seffner, Fla.
  • Bret Lagasse, CERP, Taylor Rental Center, Orange, Conn.
  • Zack Ludtke, CERP, London Road Rental Center, Duluth, Minn.
  • Lynsey Martin, CERP, Party Reflections, Charlotte, N.C.
  • Dean Miller, CERP, Miller’s Party Rental Center, Mogadore, Ohio
  • Michelle Nicol, CERP, Absolute Tent & Event Services, Toronto
  • Christopher Peterson, CERP, Peterson Party Center, Woburn, Mass.
  • Terri Sanders, CERP, Party Reflections, Charlotte, N.C.
  • Stacie Stogner, CERP, Pacific Party Canopies, Burlington, Wash.
  • Ashley Whitcomb, CERP, Ventura Party Center, Ventura, Calif.
  • Heidi Whitcomb, CERP, Ventura Party Center, Ventura, Calif.