The Luxury Events Planner
I met with Jayne Walder last week, director of Walder Events. Self-effacing, bubbly yet incredibly understated, Jayne walked in troubled by the impact Coronavirus (COVID-19) is having on the corporate and private events market. However, as soon as we started chatting about the pressures of corporate event planning, she absolutely lit up and I couldn’t imagine anyone better placed or more capable to take over the organizing, facilitating and negotiating of any event. From sourcing a flotilla of yachts to race up the Solent on the south coast of England, to gun-dog handling at the celebrated Chewton Glen or facilitating a fundraising gala dinner at a glitzy London hotel, her extensive list of contacts would shame any little black book!
How many people do you know with duck herder, marquee supplier, chauffeur and ice sculptor on speed dial?
No two days are the same!
Jayne: One day I could be organizing a family weekend including ferret racing, a beach-clean or children’s tea party for VIP’s, celebrities or royals, the next a corporate team-building event on a private estate in the Cotswolds.
We offer an event management service for corporate parties and a concierge service for private clients, visiting some of the most iconic and luxurious venues across the UK; the stunning red-bricked Chewton Glen in Dorset, the Grade I listed Cliveden House and the historic Lygon Arms – all part of the Iconic Luxury Hotels Group.
As their preferred events supplier, we put on all sorts of events, from a 2-day conference including board meetings, to team building events and fun-filled activities.
But before we start any planning, the first thing we have to determine is the event’s purpose. What does the client want to achieve?
We have to ensure the event gives them what they expect. Whether it’s time with clients, a reward to staff for working hard or for continued loyalty, a team building exercise, or just a bit of downtime.
Client events are valuable, that time with clients or staff in a relaxed environment where someone else is shouldering the organization, responsibility so they can concentrate on getting to know each other better or just switch off.
You can’t put a price on magic!
Jayne: Once we’ve established purpose, budget is key.
With over 20 years’ experience planning and organizing events, my mantra is “there are only 2 restrictions on your event. Budget and Imagination.”
Who’s in the room?
Jayne: Next, we have to Identify what kind of people will be attending, introverts, extroverts, what are their roles within the organization, the number of people involved? Are they colleagues, varying levels of management, clients, friends and family etc?
We think about all the people attending, after all we want everyone to enjoy it. If it’s a staff morale boost or team building event, then it’s our job to ensure they have all loved it, whatever their involvement.
Everyone’s different, some love problem solving or racing around a field, but others might find that torture! It’s my job on the day to observe, watch the quieter ones hanging back. I need to make sure they feel comfortable, suggesting alternative ways they could get involved, so they get just as much out of the experience.
Breaking down barriers
Jayne: When companies build teams, there can be a communications issue, it’s our job when we’re facilitating the connecting and interacting of team members to encourage that and remove barriers like social media, emails etc. Creating an atmosphere of cohesion, collaboration, trust and fun.
You can’t try before you buy!
Jayne: Often it’s the Events Planner or boss’s PA who’s been tasked with putting on the event, so they’re invested emotionally in putting on a great event, getting the food, the drink, the venue, the activities just right.
With events you can’t try before you buy, you’re trusting that what I’ve said will be there on the day, will be there on the day! It’s a big deal, your boss might be putting you under immense pressure to get it right, so we appreciate it’s a big deal.
When things go wrong
Jayne: I won’t lie, the unexpected does occur, so flexibility is a must. Things change on the day; timings, weather, people not turning up, changing their minds, illness etc, but most things can be solved and it’s how we react when disaster strikes that matters! Supplying umbrellas, wellies and hot chocolate when it starts to pour with rain!
Flybe going into administration for example, we had a group planned to fly into the UK for an event in June. We had to look at all the other feasible solutions, tap into our list of contacts, react quickly, smartly and deal with it.
Putting sustainability into luxury
Jayne: Where possible we build sustainability into our events, offering elderflower gin fizz, beach cleans, art workshops using materials found on the beach, forage walks etc.
We provide a concierge service for private clients and often plan and organise the weekend’s itinerary for families, including plenty of fun-filled activities for the kids, from a mini farm, mad scientists, archery, arts master class to paddleboarding, kayaking, gun-dog handling and ferret racing! All overseen by experts in their area and nannies who are fully CRB checked.
As long as it’s not illegal, immoral or interferes with the other guests we can do it.
Jayne: Concierge service is not a 9-5, it’s a 24-hour service, but you get good at pulling things out of a hat quickly, you’ve got to have the desire to get stuff done!
Discretion on steroids!
Jayne: We’ve got NDA’s coming out of our ears. Often the less we know the better, so we often refer to clients or guests as ‘no name’ because discretion and privacy is paramount.
It shouldn’t impact on the level of service you receive, whether you’re royalty, celebrity, private client, CEO of the largest corporation or you’ve saved up for months, you deserve to feel special and leave feeling you’ve had an amazing experience. To consistently provide that you should go the extra mile, be thoughtful, rather than being wowed by the individual. We had a lady once who absolutely loved the sticky toffee pudding, so whilst she was enjoying her dessert, we went into the kitchen, asked the Chef for the recipe and popped it on her pillow that night. A lovely little gesture she appreciated.
Time of Writing - Early March 2020