If the title of today’s post brings to mind images of dark, dank rooms full of weapons and intense people, you’re not wrong. But you’re also probably not picturing the central hub of a Corporate event planner’s on-site office.
Ok, ok, maybe it’s not that dark and the only weapons we have are our laptops, Blackberries, walkie talkies and breathing techniques, but if you’ve ever planned a large scale corporate event, you know it’s not for the faint of heart.
As I mentioned in the inaugural post, hosting a dinner for two can be as elaborate and labor-intensive as a luncheon for two hundred (depending on how much you like the second person). Having spent several years (and a couple hundred sleepless nights) in Corporate event planning, I’ve found that the lessons from one often translate to the other.
No request is too big.
Oh, you need your flight re-booked? You need me to ask six restaurants whether they’re totally Kosher, including an itemized list of dishes cooked in each pot and pan? You want a nice girl sent up to your room? Though I’m kidding about the last one, those in the luxury lane of life are perfectly comfortable asking requests of you that may seem a little… intense.
Once upon a Miami meeting, I was loading a group of power execs onto a bus to take them dining at the Delano when an emergency struck – no, really, someone had a heart attack. Everything ultimately turned out fine (though I almost needed to go splitsies with him on the defibrillator), but over the next few days, he asked us to re-book his flights to Spain, Ibiza and Africa, bring his items from the hotel to the hospital and call his family. I’m pretty sure if my time in SoFla hadn’t ended, I would have been filing his toenails before sunset the next day.
As a hostess, you’re always happy to help – especially in a trying time for a guest. But managing requests and making the guest comfortable with an 80% solution (umm… can I just email your wife?) will save you hours at the event and years on your life.
People have crazy preferences, and your job as the hostess is to get as close to making everyone happy as you can. Knowing peoples’ food allergies, frenemy situations and aversions to indoor / outdoor dining creates a seamless event with few to no last minute complaints.
No request is too small.
Not every 911 is an actual heart attack.
For instance, I once had a client approach me prior to a meeting in a Scottsdale hotel and ask me to go up to his room to see if he left his watch there. I wasn’t born yesterday and knew there was an 80% chance I’d end up chained to the bath tub until the maids found me when he checked out, but the client is always right (except about leaving his watch in his room – he was wearing it).
I’ve also had people calling my cell phone at three in the morning to print their boarding pass for noon the next day, knock on my door because someone went without a USA today and have headed back to the bunker in my PJs to answer some AV questions that just couldn’t wait.
Try very hard to accommodate people, and if it’s friends who cross the line into high maintenance, think very carefully about your next guest list.
And also, in hindsight, my place of yes mentality got the best of me in that situation – I had no business in that businessman’s hotel room and should have said no.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the thousand and one tasks that you have to complete before the doorbell rings, but keeping your strength up will make you a) more effective and less tired, and b) less drunk when you start hitting the happy hour wine. Most meals start in the morning for the hostess doubling as a chef / maid / coat-check girl / delightful companion, so eating some healthy, whole foods throughout the day will ensure that your Susy Homemaker persona isn’t a Lazy Susan by the time the dirty dishes demand your attention.
Get over it.
My strategy for large and small events is to proactively prepare for every, single possible situation that could arise, from rain to the Rapture, and then to stay calm reactively when the one thing I didn’t prepare for happens.
Think of the heart attack above, or one of the clients having it out in a hallway with your keynote speaker, who happens to be a very powerful and controversial politician. An event planner’s mantra has to be somewhere between the boyscout’s “always be prepared” and Forrest Gump’s “shit happens.”
When something goes wrong, fix it, go to the bathroom and quietly freak out, then come out and start dealing with other crises, like a missing name badge.
There’s no question that certain times during an event will be stressful, but that’s part of the fun. Indulge yourself when you can, whether it’s with a minute of starstruck staring at Patrick Dempsey in the lobby of the Waldorf or leaving a few dishes in the sink while you actually enjoy your meal.