Event Innovators 2011: 25 Tips on Leadership, Design, Clients, and More

Photos: Sasha Nialla (Back), Dan Hallman for BizBash (all others)

Our first Innovation Issue includes profiles of 68 people who are changing the industry. We asked them to share a piece of advice relating to events, and they came back with a range of practical tips and insightful observations covering everything from decor to running a business. Here are a few that stood out.

1. “Don’t just think of [an event] as a one-off moment in time—think of it as an ongoing brand experience.”
Tara Back, president, Jack Morton Worldwide, New York

2. “Think big, but not too big that you are out of your comfort zone. Try not to ‘build the dream and service the nightmare’ or it will eat you alive, and your friends too.”
Michael Nedeau, 38, president/C.O.O., PBD Events, Braintree, Massachusetts
3. “Be confident in your choices, but never too arrogant to consider others’ visions.”
Eric Michael, owner and creative director, Occasions Caterers, Washington

4. “Fail to plan, plan to fail. It’s really true in the event business, because more often than not, things don’t go as expected. It’s always about Plan B—if you have one.”
Philip Dufour, 49, principal, Dufour & Co. Productions, Arlington, Virginia

5. "Imagine yourself as the guest. From receiving the invite to walking in the door, think through every step of the process, as if you were the invitee at your own event."
Jayne Sandman, 31, director, BrandLinkDC, Washington

6. “Prepare, prepare, prepare. Think out every step in advance because there will be enough craziness with things that pop up in the last minute to handle. The more you can control from the get-go will save you.”
Suzanne Goin, 44, chef and owner, Lucques Catering, Los Angeles

7. “Go for quality over quantity. Quality stands out—it reads to your audience that things were thought out a bit more.”
Bobby Taylor, 47, owner, Taylor Creative Inc., New York

8. “Fight monotony—drive innovation by embracing newness and change…and fun.”
Maneesh K. Goyal, 36, founder and president, MKG, New York  

9.Be prepared for hard work, because though [this field] has glamorous qualities, it is a lot of long hours and [requires a lot of ] energy.”
Julie Shanklin, 52, president and C.E.O. Syzygy Event Productions, Gaithersburg, Maryland

10. “No matter how many times you checked your to-do list, check it again. Then make your motto, ‘No problem, we’ll have that handled ASAP.’ And whatever the request is, follow up and handle it quickly, and smile.”
Cara Kleinhaut, owner, Caravents Inc. Event Production & Design, Los Angeles and New York

11. “You can get the biggest bang for your buck from lighting. You can manipulate the entire mood, theme, and energy of an event through lighting and music.” Branden Chapman, 38, vice president of production and process management, The Recording Academy, Los Angeles

12. “Be confident in your choices, but never too arrogant to consider others’ visions.”
Eric Michael, owner and creative director, Occasions Caterers, Washington

13. “Anything can be beautiful if it’s placed in the right context.”
Youngsong Martin, founder and chief designer, Wildflower Linens, Buena Park, California

14. “Keep scale in mind. Lounges are very popular now, but when a room is full of 600 people, what do you see? I try to focus on what’s above people’s heads.”
David Stark, president and creative director, David Stark Design and Production, New York

15. “Make sure your organic bark centerpieces are free from termites. Yes, seriously—just when you thought you thought of everything.”
Tricia Costello, president, Fresh Wata, Las Vegas

16. “[Events are] all about the details, whether it’s flowers, food presentation, or a load-in schedule. The more times you go over the details, that’s the formula for success.”
Liz Neumark, 52, C.E.O. and founder, Great Performances, New York

17. “Never settle, and don’t let anyone criticize you for being a dreamer. Your goal for every event should be to have guests walk away saying, ‘This was the most amazing moment of my life.’ Don’t accept any less.”
Rehan Choudhry, director of entertainment and special events, the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Las Vegas

18. “Tell your clients what you think and then do what they want. Manage expectations.”
Isabel Chattas, co-founder and chief operating officer, Siinc Agency, Miami

19. “Creativity makes the difference and doesn’t always cost much.”
Paul Scott, general manager, Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Hotel, Lake Buena Vista, Florida  

20. “Always step back and enjoy what you have created. Too many people get caught up in the minutiae of things and lose sight of the big picture. Taking that moment to admire the end result helps us reset for the next challenge that lies ahead.”
Craig Waldman, owner, 15/40 Productions Ltd., Hawthorne, California  

21. “Make sure a guest has all your attention when they need it. Guests can really feel that.”
Arthur Backal, C.E.O., Backal Hospitality Group, New York

22. “Lighting is your best friend. Think of the old movies with a spotlight on the beautiful heroine. Lighting creates drama and forces your eyes to focus on what really matters.”
David Solsbery, 49, executive design director, Hargrove, Lanham, Maryland 

23. “Always listen to your clients, I mean really listen. There is so much to learn from them. They look to you for professionalism, creativity, leadership, and ideas. It’s your job at the end of the day to make them shine. Remember not to compromise yourself or your company's goals.”
Andre Wells, 38, owner, Events by Andre Wells, Washington

24. “Always plan on rain.”
Bryan Rafanelli, founder, president, C.E.O., Rafanelli Events, Boston

25. “Create a 'power triad' tailored to your objectives. If you don’t have one, start with this: ‘Think like a strategist, create like a filmmaker, measure like a C.F.O.’”
David Michael Rich, senior vice president, strategy and planning/worldwide, George P. Johnson Experience Marketing, Boston

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