Mastering Outdoor Entertaining Like A Pro: An Interview With Elizabeth Salcedo
5 minute read UPDATED: July 22, 2022
Are you ready to host your next summer gatherings like the pros?
As the official build sponsor for the 2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic, Rocket Loans got to meet with Rocket Mortgage Classic planning expert Elizabeth Salcedo to learn what goes into the hospitality setup for a large-scale PGA TOUR event.
Meet Rocket Mortgage Classic Client Services and Pro-Am Manager Elizabeth Salcedo
Even before the first Rocket Mortgage Classic PGA TOUR event back in 2019, Salcedo worked as a full-scale event planner on professional golf events.
For the 2021 tournament, Salcedo manages all Pro-Am (Professional-Amateur) events and works closely around tournament sponsorships, hospitality design and furniture layout. She also coordinates players’ housing during the tournament and supports players’ families while they’re in Detroit (where the Rocket Mortgage Classic is played).
How Do You Plan And Prepare For A Major Event Like The Rocket Mortgage Classic?
You can’t plan a televised event on your own – so it’s no surprise that major event preparation involves many moving parts and team members. To help prioritize and find success, here are key takeaways that Salcedo calls out when planning an event:
1. Staying Organized
Organization and communication are the two biggest components when planning, especially when any decision made affects cross-sector areas like operations or sponsorships.
"Label everything," laughs Salcedo. "From the physical things on your desk to items in storage ...You never know when you will come back to them or who will need them along the way."
2. Thinking About Layout
The event layout is a very strategic process where its inspiration draws from the overall size of your space. And when it comes to an outdoor golf tournament vs. a stadium sports event, the space is an open, green canvas where the team builds everything from the ground up - including its 20 hospitality structures.
"I can’t start mapping out our space until I understand how big the event space is and how many people are attending," says Salcedo. "To understand our space, I work closely across teams, especially with Rocket Mortgage Classic operations team to understand how our plan gets built from the ground up. I need to know where the hospitality tents are going, concessions are built, the design of the stands ... everything."
Once a space is created, how do you focus on where to place your items, and map out your space?
"It really is a fun puzzle to put together," says Salcedo. "You ultimately need to understand the flow of your space. And for that you learn a lot as you go, but the main part to consider is the structure’s entrance and anticipated waiting lines or, where people are most likely to linger."
"For example, if you put the drinks bar too close to the stairs, then everyone will feel overcrowded because they will walk into a natural bar line as they enter. That’s why it’s so important to consider your entrance last instead of placing it where it just looks good."
Having a balance between seating practicality and comfort is a challenge, which is why you need to know your attendees.
There are different assortments of seating and walkways throughout a PGA event. Salcedo groups chairs for conversations, drink rails with 1,000+ barstools for watching the golfing action, and grassy areas/bleachers for a mix between the two.
"I feel like there are two people who come out to professional golf events: people who like golf, and people who were invited and like to socialize," says Salcedo. "We do our best to accommodate both sides by setting up spaces with great tables, lounge seating and views."
3. Considering Your Surroundings
It’s important to think of what your surroundings mean for your hospitality experience, especially when it comes to indoor and outdoor functions. Since the Rocket Mortgage Classic is a week-long outdoor event, furniture versatility is top of mind.
"We like to avoid linens whenever possible to keep everything sanitized – and avoid stains – as well as purchasing items that are easy-dry and OK with getting wet," says Salcedo. "We also position our 200+ couches closer to the center of a hospitality tent to prevent any potential weather damage."
4. Breaking Down Your Budget
As one can imagine, budgeting is a critical factor in planning events of any size.
To stay on track, you need to pay attention and diligently monitor each expense. "Rather than having my budget in one lump sum, I make sure to break down my budget by category," says Salcedo. "That way I know where I’m saving money. So, if we have an unexpected floral expense, I can pull from another budget and adjust at the backend."
Food Prep For The 2021 Rocket Mortgage Classic
Salcedo estimates over 100,000 beverages and food will be served over the course of the weekend at the tournament.
"For food and drinks, because the tournament is held in Detroit, we like to use a lot of Michigan-inspired food," says Salcedo."We also think about the players just as much as the attendees. Michigan cherries are popular and something we like to look at. Something funny about the players is that they’re fond of PB&J sandwiches and milkshakes. So, we added a fun, Michigan twist by using a Michigan cherry jelly for the meal."
How Do You Manage Stress And Unexpected Setbacks When Planning A Large Scale Event?
"I think it’s really important to have a good team on your side," says Salcedo. "When you have a good team, you want to see them succeed just as much as the event. And sometimes that means over communicating with each other or understanding when you need to take a step back from all the stress for a bit and rely on them to carry through."
Do You Have Tips For Any Golf Fans Planning Their Own Events This Summer?
You want guests to immediately feel at home in your gathering. To help, Salcedo’s two biggest hosting tips revolve around food:
- You can never have too much food (you can always have leftovers!).
- Don’t forget about dessert. Not everyone thinks about preparing a dessert, so it brings easy, unexpected excitement to a gathering.
"Also, hosts don’t normally think about smells but it’s important," stresses Salcedo. "People notice, and experiences are immediately elevated just by feeling aesthetically pleased in a room. So always be aware of where you have your trash placed or how cleaned up an area is, as it can make a difference on how long guests feel comfortable staying."
When planning a big event like the Rocket Mortgage Classic, it’s important to understand how a space comes together. Salcedo masters the game by considering her space, budget and the type of people attending.
And Salcedo’s favorite place to entertain guests? "My back porch," grins Salcedo. "It’s my favorite room in my house. Like our hospitality tents, you can never go wrong with a setting that lets you enjoy people and what's taking place outdoors."
Need home entertainment and project inspiration? Lean on Rocket Loans to help master your next home gathering space.