Gov. Chris Sununu's 2019 Inaugural Ball staged by Malloy Events. Courtesy photo.
Standing out in a crowded events season is becoming increasingly difficult. It requires creativity and ingenuity to produce a unique experience that not only is memorable for attendees but generates excitement for the next event.
With so many events vying for precious time on people’s calendars, what does it take to be at the top of priority lists?
“The theme is the most crucial piece right off the bat,” says Kate Malloy, who co-owns Malloy Events and Malloy Weddings with her husband, Chris, in Rochester. “It just makes all of the elements easier [to pull together].”
The couple stages corporate events, fundraisers, weddings as well as political rallies for presidential hopefuls. Malloy Events staged Gov. Chris Sununu’s inaugural ball in January and previously staged former Gov. Maggie Hassan’s ball.
Buoyed by a team of seven full-time employees and up to 25 subcontractors, Malloy says they do an average of 100 to 125 corporate and nonprofit events annually. She says the theme dictates the color and design of the materials, decorations, table settings, business packets, and other elements linked to the event. It serves as the foundation on which everything else is built. “We also need to make sure, especially for our corporate-sponsored events, that the goal and theme of the event line up,” Malloy says.
Similarly, Laurie Mantegari, owner of Everyday Details in Hampton, says it is especially important that the theme of a nonprofit’s event helps them achieve fundraising goals.
It’s About the Details
A well-executed theme comes down to the details and making sure everything is aligned with that theme, including audio/visual components, floral design, furnishings, lighting services, linens, tables, chairs, china, bands, DJs and portable bars, Malloy says.
Helping a client identify the scope of an event that meets their budget is an involved process, Malloy says. “Typically, we present up to three proposed design packages to the prospective clients.”
Ideally Malloy wants four to five months’ lead time to develop an event for a client. “We spend a decent amount of time meeting with the client to understand the nature of the event and then coming up with a plan to make the event budget and the brand work best,” Malloy explains. “The bulk of the work is the beginning design concept.”
It is important to consider all aspects of an attendee’s experience, starting with what will be the first thing they see when they enter the room? What does the invitation look like? “We want to create authentic immersive events for our clients. We are taking them out of their norm,” Malloy says.
Adds Mantegari, “The big picture is all about the smallest details.”
Create Unique Experiences
Finding a unique venue for events can be difficult as businesspeople often feel like certain venues are a second home to them. The challenge for an event planner is to make these familiar venues look different every time people enter, Malloy says.
For the governor’s inaugural ball, Malloy transformed one of the most attended meeting venues in the state—the Armory Ballroom of the Doubletree by Hilton in Manchester. “If you’ve lived in this state for more than two days, you’ve been to events in that room,” Malloy says of the challenge to bring a fresh take to a familiar venue.
The inaugural chair and Sununu’s sister, Cathy Sununu, gave Malloy a picture of a “cool paper installation” she found in a store window and told them she wanted a modern, graphic take on a winter concept without a holiday feel, Malloy says.
So Malloy hung sheer voile sheets that were 10-feet-by-26-feet along the ceiling, lowering the ceiling line to make the space feel more intimate. The sheets hid the girders and ceiling infrastructure of the space while still allowing light to come through. She then hung 24 customized 6-foot-tall acyclic chandeliers to add drama to the ceiling and bring some icy sparkle.
Malloy adorned the room with customized graphic trees and mountain cutouts, while smaller versions of the cutouts embellished lighting around the room. Sky blue uplighting added to the wintery feel, and gobos were used around the room to project customized snowflakes on the walls and ceiling. Ice sculptures graced each table with larger ice sculptures used to dramatic effect in key areas of the room.
The event also involved using the lower ballroom for cocktails, which carried over the theme and decorations, with two lounge areas created using white furniture, faux fur rugs and candles.
One of the lounge areas at the Governor’s Ball staged by Malloy Events. Courtesy photo.
The dance floor was covered in white vinyl with an Old Man of the Mountain-inspired logo in the middle.
Mantegari, who has owned and operated her company for 11 years, also emphasizes the need to create unique experiences, whether at a familiar venue or for an annual event. Mantegari says the best way to ensure that a client will receive the experience they want is to foster clear communication at the outset.
“Just like any type of business, you listen to what their needs are and then you work with them to create their vision,” Mantegari says, adding that event planners pride themselves on their creativity, so regardless of what a business may require, planners can come up with something that will work well.
She describes an event she designed for Big Brothers Big Sisters that had the theme, “Come Fly With Me.” That led to finding a unique venue for the event—an aircraft hangar. Vintage planes were brought in to add distinct focal points for the event, and a silent auction was set up around one of the planes, drawing people to an area aimed at raising money for the organization.
Come Fly With Me is also a movie about air travel set in the 1960s, so vintage suitcases were used as decorations and people were encouraged to come dressed in outfits from that era. “People were excited to be there,” Mantegari says. “Everywhere they looked around them was fun.”
Mantegari teaches an event planning class at Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth and often tells her students that when it comes to event planning, “You are only as successful as your last design.”