How to make your Holiday Parties entertaining

Planning a wedding or holiday party is like building a team. You look for the best blend of performance, reviews, hustle, grit, experience and winning attitude. Of course you are never sure how any event will go until it’s well into ‘show time’, however, you can hedge your bets by choosing wisely. That’s the formula for success on how to make your Holiday Parties entertaining. Pick the best Vendors, just don’t wait too long as the best ones get booked EARLY. Make sure they are true professionals and enjoy entertaining people themselves. Like Mark and Shelli Olsen of Get the Picture Photobooth, here in St. Pete. They are perfect examples of pros who know how to party. And I guess I’d know after hosting and surviving over 1000 successful weddings and events here at NOVA 535 in downtown St. Petersburg.

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Mark and Shelli always show up with smiles on their faces and ready to make a LOT of people happy. Young and old, nice and not so, sober and sometimes horribly sloppy drunk. The photobooth is one piece of the entertainment package that we almost always recommend and Get the Picture Florida is always our first call. Some of the other great photo booth companies here in Tampa Bay are run by Monique of Shutterbooth and the crew at Foto Box Live. In any case, the photobooth generates delight for ‘the whole family” and provides excellent value for $ spent per smile generated.


Shelli Olsen, of Get the Picture Photobooths, pictured above, always comes ready to invade your space! =D

Speaking of photos, your photographer (and videographer) can also be an entertaining part of your holiday party. We use many excellent photographers, like Brandy Morris of Brandi Image Photography, hubby and wife combo Rebecca and Michael of Limelight Photography, the delightful Carrie Wildes Photography, Andi Diamond,  Kenzie Shores, Wes Webber, Wendy Stains of 12-1, and my fellow Entrepreneur Social Club members Sheri Kendrick of Enchanted Forest Photography, the lovely “Downtown” Carol Gallagher, and Mr. Wild and Lively Barry Lively of B. Lively Images. They all know how to have a great time, some more than others, like my pals Sheri and Barry, who are what you’d call extroverts (especially when they have a camera in hand). For those party party type of holiday parties, a FUN PHOTOGRAPHER can add that extra kick of good energy and excitement to your event. So the gold here is you can use a photographer also as an entertainer, getting double value for your $. Barry (pictured below) looking a little bit Hunter S Thompson-ish..

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The Hoola Monsters here in downtown St. Pete are also always a hit. I mean who doesn’t love watching several lovely ballerina gymnasts with LED hoola hoops dance, and twirl and whirl and perform? I know our clients and their guests do!

hoola monsters downtown st pete

So you ask, “Hey Michael, how do I pick the best vendors?” Well it’s kinda like dating, where there is no perfect 10, except in our mind’s eye, so we have a balancing act. We balance our vendors on a number of scales and conditions: total price, value, availability, trust, unique skills, reputation, ease of engagement and so on. See you’ll be working with humans, because every company great and small is just a collection of us humans, and our working journey together is so much smoother when everyone works well together. And working well together is founded on clear timely and full communication, which defines our mutual expectations.

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[] Expectations. What is your vendor including? What is NOT included?
It’s as important to understand exactly what you ARE getting, when, for how much, as what you are NOT getting. Aligning expectations is one of the key components to overall event happiness. When are they arriving? Who is setting what up? Where exactly does it / they go? Is there a floorplan? Who is in charge? Who is supplying things like: power? chairs? tables? linens? napkins? Don’t take ANYTHING for granted, get it ALL in writing. Who is doing What, When for How much and When does it end? Then who is cleaning up what when? When do all the rentals have to be returned? Night of? Next morning? Do you have everyone’s updated contact info? What happens when the band is taking a break? Are you providing food and drinks for your vendors? I say yes to feeding them and providing NONalcoholic drinks, at least until after they’ve finished. Then they are welcome to my bar. They’ve earned it!


The flyer (pictured above) was designed by the lovely and talented Patty Filomeno of Ink Graphics. Call Patty and let her work her excellent designer magic on your digital invitation. If you prefer old school paper invites, head next door from NOVA to Beach Papery and Gifts and enjoy their delightful selection or hire Ruby Thomas of Ruby’sPearls and she’ll custom design the perfect invitation for you. Because having the right mix of fun, interesting and goofy people AT YOUR PARTY is the key to how to make your Holiday Parties entertaining. People = Party.

We throw our own annual downtown St. Petersburg Holiday Party here at NOVA 535 Unique Event Space called NOVA NOEL. It’s a party that begins with entertainment for the whole family and as the evening matures so does the crowd. Us grown-ups unwind and celebrate our successes and commiserate our failures, of this soon to be past year, celebrating together with our community of family, friends and workmates.

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Below Santa is getting his own list filled with some time with the incredibly talented, spellbinding Gypsy Allure and in red the vegas hot, ultra delightful Miss Mayven Missbehavin. If you need a Vegas style show, some burlesque or magic for your next party or VIP event, reach out to these ladies and you won’t be disappointed. Neither was Santa!

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Even though we are here in beautiful sunny downtown St. Pete, Florida, within the “Sunshine State” we do have some off weather days. So what are your plans for bad weather? Have you thought about a tent? We love US Tent Rentals who also provide our seemingly limitless supply of linens and napkins. Just make sure to book your tent in advance, because it’s like umbrellas, they won’t do you any good if they are somewhere else.

NOVA Sign with Clouds and Sunshining

[] What does the online review community say?
Make sure to read many of the vendor’s reviews from a number of different online sources. If you, as a vendor, make an error and you get called out publicly then fine, take it with a stiff upper lip and FIX the issue(s). That’s tough love and how we grow. What I do personally is if a business drops the ball, I send them a PRIVATE email reivew so they know exactly what’s wrong and I offer solution(s) for them. Don’t just complain, offer solutions. This gives them the opportunity to fix this without the PUBLIC black eye. Many times they do. Sometimes they just don’t give a hoot, so then I circle back and make my review public, warning everyone to steer clear of this business because they just don’t care. NOVA 535 has received almost all 5 Star reviews with only a few negative, those that were warranted we fixed the issues immediately. A few were just people who will never be happy and are venting because they can act tough behind a computer screen. Some that were lies we defended vigorously and they were removed. At NOVA we believe in continuous improvement and LOVE people to pull us aside and offer their suggestions. It’s all about a commitment to excellence, not about your ego. And we’ve grown so much by listening and improving. Thank you everyone for your love and support!

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[] What does your GUT say?
Bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called BLINK, The Power of Thinking without Thinking. Good read by the way. His story circles us back to how our gut reaction is usually right and many times we outthink ourselves into a bad decision. If the person / company doesn’t feel right, then maybe it isn’t. Check the reviews and see what others have had to say but ultimately if it doesn’t feel right then avoid it. Holidays are meant for celebrating not for more headaches.

Hire seasoned professionals, not your friends and family, especially when it comes to catering, DJ, entertainment and event coordination. These 4 , are the MOST CRITICAL vendor elements that if you get any of them even kind wrong can KILL your party buzz. Spend time with your friends and family, let the experts be experts. You’ll be glad you did! Entertainment like my pals at Got Jokes? Entertainment, hilarious, unique, witty and well they won best of the bay twice. Just saying!

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A shout out here to Syd, this year’s Santa and to his fabulous wife Heather, the Boss of Mama’s Sauces, healthy and delicious! She filled her cute gift bags with Spicy Marinara and Fra Diavolo sauces and pasta for me to share with our team. Mmmmm!! With cookies from Ray’s Vegan Soul and gift certificates from Marina WIlliam’s at the coolest vintage shop in St. Pete Art Pool, the team was delighted!

So we conclude another wonderful evening here in downtown St. Pete at wedding and event venue NOVA 535 Unique Event Space. People always ask “Is NOVA open to the public?” and I explain that 98% of the time NOVA is closed for private events, Weddings, Receptions, Mitzvahs, Film Shoots, Corporate Parties, Fundraisers, Birthdays and such. If you or a friend is looking to rent NOVA 535 for an event, please click here. Thank you and good luck to us all!

What about that 2% you may ask? Well we do open up occasionally for PUBLIC Events…some truly unique and amazing ones, like NOVAWEEN, NOVA NOEL, Sunscreen Film Festival and more. 

Happy Holidays from the entire Team NOVA 535!