Lee Brian Schrager knows how to put an event together. For the past 15-years, Schrager, the man who created the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach and New York City Wine & Food Festivals has been overseeing events in 35 states as the Vice President of Corporate Communications & National Events at Southern Wine & Spirits of America. Schrager stresses maintaining your cool. "No one likes to see someone frantic, crazed and overwhelmed. Fifteen years ago, I would say of course I can't talk to you now, but now I know better.
Schrager took a break from his travels to tell us what he's learned about staging events.
1. Know your audience. "One of the great lessons that we have learned is around pricing, particularly with millennials. Pricing your events correctly matters. Pricing at $105 could do ok. $95 dollars could generate double the attendance. People come up to me and I listen. Add this, offer that, and we learned to listen to them," says Schrager.
2. Manage expectations. "We have to manage the expectations of our sponsors. We have 150 sponsors and they want to feel important. Whether it's putting them in an ad, or social media, it's about being clear up front. As horrible and long as legal agreements have become, that's what you need up front. For consumers. Some of our events are hosted by big names, but it doesn't mean a host has time for pictures for 3000 people."
3. Keep it fresh. "You can't let yourself get bored, you must remain excited and this means looking for new talent. Spotting trends and recognizing them, we have things we love like fried chicken or Burger Bash, but we'll tweak them like adding mac and cheese to the burger bash. Move the stage, small things keep it different."
4. Build the right team. "Empower your team, and allow them to make decision. You don't hire the right people, pay them the right money and not allow them to make mistakes. That's how you get better."
5. Be clear in your offerings. "There's always a reason why something isn't selling, and most of the time it's because the consumer isn't clear what the event is. If they have to guess or keep reading, they move on. We did (an event called) Salsa at Sea, and it was not selling, and we changed the name to Brunch at Sea, not Salsa at Sea and it sold out."
6. Align with the right partners. "It takes a village, and having the right partners is key. We've changed partners over the years. A sponsorship fee is the least part of their of their investment. They need to be able to do more to make it successful. It's important to make clear the costs around activations."
7. Watch your costs. "I wish my personal finances were as well-managed as the events. We run a lean mean ship. We don't even want people to donate flowers because it looks like we were too extravagant around a not for profit or even at a for profit event."
"Lee will check in with us every day to make sure we're making our numbers. One time we didn't and he moved our booth the following day and it was exactly what we needed. He's on top of everything," said Alfredo Malatesta, Founder/Executive Director, Flavour Gallery.