By Maura Keller
Backyard tented soirees are a favorite pastime for many. For some reason, everything just tastes better outside. To meet the need of alfresco party aficionados, today’s tent professionals are offering an array of outdoor party opportunities that go far beyond the simple scattering of tables and chairs on a backyard patio.
Frame tents and pole tents are most commonly used for today’s backyard events, which include receptions, graduations, birthdays and anniversary parties.
However, according to Jill Ivey, event designer at Beachview Event Rentals & Design in Woodbine, Ga., the frame tent seems to be the most popular for the smaller backyard parties.
“There are no interior poles for the client to work around,” Ivey says. “The tent installation is fairly quick if there are no obstructions.” However, swimming pools and landscaping can be challenging when working in backyards, along with underground utilities and irrigation systems.
According to Mike Holland, president of Chattanooga Tent in Chattanooga, Tenn., the benefit of a frame tent is that it can be used as an extension of the home and can be secured with ballast rather than stakes.
“The challenges for either style of tent are providing the correct size to fit existing landscape and getting equipment to the site. Due to landscaping obstacles, we oftentimes must use several smaller tents to work around trees, fountains or stairways,” Holland says. “The equipment must be carried by hand to home sites. Pole tents require additional space for lines and stakes.”
Terry Turner, owner of All Occasions Party Rentals in Knoxville, Tenn., is doing more custom setups with different elevations and coverage areas. “Customers are always wanting to use their patio furniture or to cover a crazy-shaped deck. We try our best to work with them, but we make sure they are aware if there are safety issues related to what they want to do.”
The upswing in the economy is also affecting the prevalence of backyard soirees, allowing clients the means to have their dream events.
“People are becoming more apt to spend their money on the decor of the party rather than a complete focus on food and entertainment,” Ivey says. “They want to include the ‘wow’ factor for their guests. The food and entertainment is still important but the party needs to look good as well.”
For Moss Duvall, owner of Pelican Tents and Events in Shreveport, La., because they are located in the heart of Louisiana they do a lot of backyard crawfish boils, barbeque cookouts and family events. “The trends of country chic, farm to table, and rustic designs are very popular now in North Louisiana,” Duvall says. “Our string lighting, whiskey barrels and farm tables have been very popular. They are a great add-on to your basic rentals and add a lot of style to the event.”
So how can tenting companies upsell backyard soirees? Begin by putting the clients at ease. Let them talk through their plans and then ask as many questions as you can.
“Questions not only help with the coordination and logistics but also avail themselves for the opportunity to upsell,” Ivey says. She also stresses “pictures, pictures, pictures.”
“Listen to the client and look at their reference pictures to pick up on what they are looking to accomplish,” Ivey says. “They you can offer better suggestions. You never know where their priorities lie until they tell you.”