By Victoria Moy, Founder of The Mayfair Musings
I’ve been planning luxury events since I was in my early twenties and I vividly remember my very first event. I was at Royal Windsor Racecourse working on a prestigious, annual food and drink awards ceremony. Among other tasks, I was placing hundreds of delicate meringues into goody bags for guests – one wrong move and the meringues would turn to dust. This was the first time I knew how much work went into a large-scale event and I really understood the importance of attention to detail. I was hooked.
Four years ago, I decided it was time to start my own business, mainly because I was tired of my income being restricted by the companies employing me. When you go out on your own, you can charge a fee that reflects your experience and the work you put in, rather than feeling overworked and underpaid. This really appealed to me and the future I had in mind, so I quit my 9-5 publishing job and launched The Mayfair Musings, an online publication devoted to Mayfair, with 1-3 luxury networking events per month.
My experience in event planning allows me to produce extraordinary events, from intimate, themed dinners to large scale press events. I pride myself on my meticulous planning, attention to detail and creativity and I like to go the extra mile for my clients. On any given day, I might be found meeting with a calligrapher in a café, collecting a mountain of fresh hydrangeas or sampling a sparkling Rosé Brut in a Sussex Vineyard. It’s safe to say that the fast-paced world of events has its perks.
Following the pandemic, we’re at a point where the events industry is back up and running and I could not be happier. For anyone looking to get into the world of events, or for those looking to host a corporate event – now is the perfect time to plan.
My Top Tips for a Successful Corporate Event
When the time comes to start planning your event, you’ll need to know how to get from A to B without a hitch. Here are my top tips for a successful and memorable event.
Set a Clear Objective
Before you start planning, know the objective of the event. Are you hosting an in-store event to promote a new product line? Are you hosting a dinner for clients to say thank you for their business? Once you are familiar with the objective of the event, you will know who to invite and can consider the next steps.
Work Within a Budget
Before you get planning, it’s important to know how much money you have available. Keep this figure in mind when you reach out to vendors – you might find yourself having to negotiate with venues, caterers, vineyards, florists and entertainers to stay within budget. When you’ve been planning events for a while, you’ll get very familiar with the different costs involved, but always try to stay under budget regardless.
Manage your guests’ expectations. If you’re serving a set seven course tasting menu with a wine pairing only, make sure guests know they can’t order anything outside of this menu before they arrive. If the venue has another event to host after yours, make sure guests know they have to leave by a certain time. This will save confusion and prevent disappointment.
Put Your Best Foot Forward
There are two types of Event Planners – those who love to be the star of the show and those who wear an invisibility cloak as they seamlessly work away in the background. Both types of people should be presentable and professional at all times. Stay on top of personal grooming and invest in a seasonally appropriate workwear wardrobe. Keep a compact / small hairbrush in your pocket so you can freshen up during quiet moments and bring an extra outfit with you in the event of a dramatic Cabernet spillage.
Honour Your Personal and Business Values
It’s important that your events honour your personal and business values. If you consider yourself to be an eco warrior, make sustainability a priority and only work with vendors who align with this. Vegans and vegetarians might like to cater for people with similar dietary requirements. Events are an excellent opportunity to display the things you’re passionate about, however subtle or extravagant.
Choose a Venue and Have a Back-up
View lots of venues to get a good feel for the space options, aesthetics, on-site facilities and local amenities. If you’re hosting celebrity guests, HNWIs or luxury industry professionals, be sure to select a suitably luxurious venue. Go for a private dining room with pizazz, take over a renowned restaurant or book the ballroom in a beautiful 5-star hotel.
Size matters – make sure the room capacity is the right size for the amount of guests you’ve invited. Consider that you are likely to have dropouts (allow for 20%) and note that some guests might appear with an unexpected plus one. Staff also take up room as they move around the room, so allow for this too.
If your venue falls through, have a strong back-up plan so the event does not need to be cancelled.
Hire a Venue Stylist
Unless you’re a Stylist or an Interior Designer, leave the venue styling to the professionals – there is nothing worse than a badly dressed table with an eye-wateringly bad centrepiece. From flowers and tableware to the choice of chairs, the look and feel of the event space plays a hugely important role – it can make or break the overall atmosphere for guests.
Select Sensational Staff & Diligently Delegate
An excellent team reflects well on you and troublesome staff will cause you a whirlwind of dissatisfaction. If you need to hire staff for your event, I recommend that you use a local staffing agency who specialise in sourcing event staff. Be as specific as you like with your requirements.
Is it possible to be in multiple places at once? No – learn to diligently delegate before you spread yourself too thin. If you are lucky enough to have event assistants, deploy them in different directions, e.g. one on the door to greet guests and one inside showing guests to their seats. You can use subtle signals to communicate with them from across the room.
Offer Welcome Drinks
Whether it’s a local English sparkling wine or a bespoke cocktail, your welcome drink is part of that all-important first impression. Put a little thought into the brands you’re using – is your client an American gin lover who likes to fly light aircraft at the weekend? If so, you might want to go for Aviation Gin. Is your client a fine dining tequila fiend? Try Goya Tequila, a premium Mexican tequila inspired by the bartenders at Michelin Star restaurants.
Spend some time connecting with different drinks brands and build on your cocktail knowledge. An exceptional Event Planner knows what goes in a Negroni and an Old Fashioned and they know where to pick up the ingredients – fast. You can negotiate some good discounts on large / repeat orders with drinks brands, so book some meetings with local gin distilleries, breweries and vineyards.
Work with Reliable Caterers
It’s best to work with one brilliant catering company for all of your events that require an external food and beverage service. Get in touch with some companies you like the look of and see if you can sample their menus. Build a strong relationship with your preferred caterer and know what they can and cannot do.
My favourite London catering company offers an express delivery service and they only use local and British suppliers. I know I can count on them to deliver pre-made canapes (including an award-winning Smoked Trout Royale) in perfect condition, beautifully boxed.
From dynamic speakers to talented musicians, entertainment can be a huge focal point of an event. Consider the audience demographic/s – you might need multiple forms of entertainment to keep different people engaged.
Fun ideas: Classical musicians, cover bands, ballet dancers, table magicians, vintage photobooths, casino tables and cocktail making experiences.
Stay Organised with a Running Order
When is your wine delivery arriving? When are you allowed in to dress the venue? Where are you positioning your staff as guests begin to arrive? Organise your timings with a firm running order and stick to it as much as you can.
Always Be One Step Ahead
Champagne spillage? Cloakroom mix up? Fire in the kitchen? Always try to be a step ahead by knowing what you’ll do when disaster strikes – people are very likely to come to you for help. Stay calm in a crisis, know where the fire escapes are and if in doubt, confidence, sincerity and politeness will buy you a little time whilst you figure out what to do next.
Victoria Moy is an Editor, PR professional and Luxury Events Planner based in Mayfair and Sussex. She creates events for British luxury brands, from in-store brand launch events to sparkling press parties and large scale awards ceremonies. Victoria is also a Co-Director at Mayfair Art Consultancy and Head of Events at The Luxury Property Forum.