The past weekend has been crazy busy, but fun.
I helped host a Charity Chili Cook-Off for my work and it took a lot more effort to put together than I was expecting. You’d think it would be easy. After all, we didn’t even have to make the chili, our (extremely awesome- thank you so much!) guests brought it. Buuut, that’s not the case…event planning is no joke. Because I now realize how hard it is, I wanted to share a few things that I learned on how to host a chili cook-off. (Don’t worry, I have a dessert recipes at the bottom for you, even though I wasn’t able to take any pictures.)
1. Before the event.
Promote. Our event was for a large crowd and we were asking for donations for a local nonprofit, so we wanted to have a lot of people there. If this is the case for you, send TONS of invitations. Even if you don’t think you’ll get a response, invite everyone you can think of. Send e-mails, e-vites, make a Facebook event, promote it on Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Anything you can do to get the word out is great because, as you probably know, not all of those people will show up. Actually, not even 1/3 of those people will show up, so the more you invite, the better. When asking for people to bring chili, make sure you let them know the requirements. (For example, we didn’t have any requirements. We just told people to bring their chili in a slow cooker about 20-30 minutes before the event started so we could get them all set up.)
Prepare. Make a list of all of the things you need to get, all of the people you think are coming, all of the people bringing chili, anyone donating prizes, etc. Lists are your friend. I had “People coming,” “Nonprofit organizations coming,” “People bringing chili,” “To Do,” and “To Get” lists. Tons. Of. Lists. And because of this, we were prepared. Also, make a list of questions for yourself. E.g. “How do we want the room arranged,” “Do we want live music,” “Do we want a 1st place prize only or 1-3 place prizes,” etc. You get the point. Preparation is key to a successful event. Also, figure out how you want to judge the chili contest. We just set out bags and brought poker chips for people to vote with. We had each person pick up a poker chip when they got there, try the chili, and put the poker chip in the bag of their choice.
Double-check. People forget. I know I do. It’s your job to send out reminders making sure everyone is still bringing chili or coming to the event. Do this about a week to 1/2 a week beforehand. Maybe even send out a reminder the day before. Also, if you’re hosting your event at a place that is not your own, check in with the contact at that place to make sure everything will be set up properly.
Ask for help. This is one thing we did not do. There were two of us planning the whole thing and we thought we could run the event smoothly on our own. Wrrrooongg! We needed door greeters, someone to carry the chili for people, someone to help with the food, an emcee, someone to help the band get set up, someone to talk to the guests, someone to set up our product video… you can see how that might be a little tough for two people, and it was. Although we managed, we should have found a few people to help us out.
2. During the event.
Get there early. We were there an hour before the event started and that probably wasn’t enough time. Remember that some people will show up early and you will want to be prepared when they get there. Set up tables and chairs, have a power strip/extension cords and a table for the people who are bringing chili, set out voting ballots/bags/whatever you choose, have a greeter…any last minute preparations you need to set up the event.
Talk to people. Duuuhhh, right? Well, unfortunately we didn’t have a door greeter, so I had to stand at the door most of the night and wasn’t able to talk to our guests as much as I wanted to. Fortunately, we did have someone else there to talk to them.
Eat chili and enjoy. You may be the host, but this is supposed to be fun for you, too! Don’t take it too seriously.
3. After the event.
Thank people. Make sure you send out “thank you’s” to everyone who helped with your event: people who brought chili, the band, any donations, etc. Those people helped make your event a success, so they deserve a special thank you!
Move on. Okay, this might seem like a silly one to write, but I spent a little time after the event thinking of all the things we could have done better instead of feeling proud for having a successful event. Realize that there will be some mishaps, but don’t focus on them.
And for everyone who’s read through that, patiently waiting for a dessert recipe, here is one of the cookie recipes I made for the event (They were a huge hit! I also made a Kit Kat brownie and White Chocolate Chip Cookies, but I’m going to recreate those to take pictures for the blog. They will be up soon!):
- 1 cup Nutella
- ½ cup peanut butter
- 2 cups white sugar
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup crushed Halloween candy of choice (I used Reese’s)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheets.
- In a medium bowl, stir peanut butter, Nutella, and sugar together until smooth.
- Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the baking soda, salt, and vanilla. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and place them 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.