Even the most respected and recognized veteran professionals have been there: the first event. We’ve all had them, and many of us have spent years trying to forget ours. However, first events are some of the best learning experiences around. At the risk of triggering some long-suppressed memories, we talked to some of today’s top talent and asked them to describe the lessons they learned from their own first events. Here is what these brave souls shared.
It was terrible!
“Oh my…the first event. I didn’t even know anything,” says Emily Sullivan of Emily Sullivan Events. “It was terrible. It was the first seated dinner I’d ever even attended!”
However, in retrospect, Sullivan did see sparks of what would someday make her exceptional in her chosen career. She shared, “What went great is that I’m a problem solver and a ‘fake it till you make it’ kind of girl, so no one knew it was my first event or that I was afraid. I thought I was prepared, but as I look at how I prepare now, I definitely wasn’t.”
If she could go back in time and give herself advice now, she would tell herself to “think through every possibility that could occur,” said Sullivan. “I’d also do a better job speaking with vendors in advance and being prepared to deal with their questions as vendor relationships play a huge role in my events now.”
Charge What You’re Worth
CeCe Todd of CeCe Designs and Events had experience working for another business but hadn’t had to take care of all of the details herself before her first solo event. She found that she didn’t order enough flowers. “It is an art more than a science, and I continue to improve the ordering process with every wedding and event,” said Todd. However, she was encouraged by “Seeing the overall design of the room come together,” which went better than she thought it would.
If Todd could go back in time and give herself advice before that very first event, it would be to “Charge more! I made the mistake that so many others have, and that is thinking you have to undercharge to build your portfolio or get the job. You can create a hole for your business that is hard to crawl out of, so charge what you are worth from the beginning.”
“Even though I was in a situation of being more of an assistant for my first ever event, I experienced first hand how a ‘less than honest’ client would handle a situation where they knew they didn’t have a signed contract for absolutely everything for an event,” said Tommy Waters of The Renaissance. “There are certain times during almost every contract negotiation and creation where I remember this incredibly tense and frustrating situation.”
While his first event made him feel much more cautious about contracts, it also made him very careful in the future, which has come in handy. “Documentation should come as an automatic reflex/response,” said Waters. “My best advice is to sleep on a contract AFTER its creation and then revisit it the next day with a refreshed set of eyes to see if everything is included.”
All first events are learning experiences for events professionals. Look forward to yours, and to gaining the kind of experience that helps mold the best in the business. Also, remember – you only have to go through your first event once!
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.