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Event experts advocate creativity, purposeful planning

Mark Weinstein, Jill Prince and Chris Dessi
Mark Weinstein, Jill Prince and Chris Dessi

The host always plans for beautiful weather and smooth sailing.

It’s the job of people like Victoria Dubin, Chris Dessi, Joe Guilderson, Jill Prince and Mark Weinstein to prepare for the elements, plan for all contingencies and to still deliver.

The quintet headlined the April 25 roundtable, “WOW: Event planning from the experts,” which featured a discussion — and some added surprises — of how to best leverage an event space, entertainment, graphics and social media.

But at the end of the day, Dubin said, what’s most important is not the venue or entertainment, but you as the host.

“The most successful event is when you, as the person throwing the event, know what your objective is and know the kind of feeling you want to evoke,” said Dubin, founder of Victoria Dubin Events Ltd. in Purchase, N.Y. “I always say to my clients, ‘I can get you the most incredible venue, the best entertainment, the most beautiful décor … but it’s you, as the individual, who is going to make your event successful.’”

The event, presented by the Business Journal and Wag magazine and hosted by Gabriele’s Italian Steakhouse in Greenwich, featured everything from an a cappella group to a belly-dance artist to David Ferst, who goes by Magic Dave.

Dubin said one job of event planners is “to look for fresh ideas, to try to be creative and to try to come up with things that people have not seen before. … Everything you do, everything should be purposeful.”

Her fellow panelists advocated a holistic approach.

“The branding is important and finding that image that conveys the branding” can make or break an event, said Weinstein, president of CGI — formerly Color Group Imaging Labs — in Hawthorne, N.Y. “It could be a graphic or visual or a photographic image, but something that conveys your brand.”

Likewise, the entertainment should tie into the broader theme, said Prince, co-owner of Hal Prince Music and Entertainment in Mount Kisco, N.Y.

“Every event needs music and I think for the wow factor, consider music that’s going to fit the mood and vibe of your venue,” Prince said.

Social media can be used to reinforce the theme of an event, before, during and after, said Dessi.

“You can’t just open the door and let them come in and then that’s the end of your job,” said Dessi, founder and CEO of Silverback Social, a Chappaqua, N.Y., digital media firm.

Instead, he advocated the use of traditional social media platforms and tools like EventBrite or Constant Contact that help to get the word out prior to an event and to proliferate photos, videos and other marketing material after an event takes place.

During the event itself is “when the real social media fun stuff happens,” Dessi said, citing platforms that encourage live-tweeting and that can even be used to collect donations via text messaging.

The key, Guilderson and his fellow panelists reinforced, is sound planning and preparing for every contingency.

Guilderson, president of Corporate Audio Visual Services in Elmsford, N.Y., said it’s important to start with the logistics, such as whether a venue has the electrical capacity to support the planned entertainment and lighting elements.

And, he said, “factor time.”

“Everything takes time and everything coordinates together,” he said. “Every single person affects how a production flows and time is the number one thing, whether it’s to rehearse or to set up.”


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