Preston Bailey has designed events for Oprah Winfrey, Donald Trump, and Jennifer Hudson and published four books of his designs. His next book, Dear Preston: Doing Business With Our Hearts: A Practical and Friendly Guide to Running Your Own Creative Service Business, comes out in January from Greenleaf Book Group.
1. Remember that an event is an experience for your guests. Try to have some kind of surprise for them every 30 minutes.
2. I believe music is the soul of an event. It’s essential to choose the right playlist and monitor the volume. Music should be loud enough to enjoy, yet low enough for guests to carry on conversations comfortably.
3. Carefully placed scented candles are a must for all events. Preferable at the entrance, always in bathrooms.
4. Be sure to have enough servers—at least two per every 10 guests—when hosting a seated dinner.
5. Carefully time the service of your courses. You never want some guests finishing their appetizer while others have moved on to the main course.
6. Assign one person to remain close to the client. As the host of the event, it is essential they have quick access to someone who can attend to any last-minute needs or suggestions.
7. An event is an escape. Always make sure the decor creates lots of “OMG!” moments.
8. Maintain good communication with clients, and make sure they know what to expect. “Preston, that is not what I had in mind” is a phrase I have heard too often.
9. No one talks about guests who smoke. You’ll likely have a few attendees who would like to do so—without guilt. Be sure to create an area with them in mind, even if the event is outside.
10. You know you have had a successful event when guests do not want to leave. Be sure to have additional food and entertainment available, should you find yourself hosting guests who don’t want to go home.