Recently, we helped our client DSi plan and throw an incredible 15th anniversary party at the home of Country Music star John Rich. Thanks to thoughtful planning, meticulous execution, a unique location, a marvelously gracious host and plain old star power, it was an over-the-top success – one of those once-in-a-lifetime occasions that people will tell their grandchildren about. (Click here and here for party photos and here for a post-party video.)
On the thoughtful planning and meticulous execution side of the ledger, credit goes to the operational team of Whitney Cheshier of DSi, Caitlin Varley of the Bradford Group, Dawn Young of Catalyst Repository Systems (a DSi strategic partner that participated in funding the event) and Mandy Peebles on Rich’s staff. This uber-organized event team made sure that the party came off without a hitch.
Of course, there are many well-planned, well-organized events. (In fact, they are the only kind the Bradford Group produces.) What set this 15th anniversary party apart was John Rich. Here are the lessons I learned from Rich about how to throw an event that people are clawing to get into and don’t want to leave:
- Don’t do it if you don’t feel it: Rich is not just an artist, he is also a professional with a finely tuned business sense, so he doesn’t invite strangers into his home for a huge party just because it would be a blast. It was a business transaction. (By the same token, there are easier ways for a big time recording artist to make a buck. For that reason, he does not regularly host business events at his home, though he has been known to host fundraisers for non-profits he endorses.) So, did we just get lucky when we approached him about having DSi’s anniversary party at his home? Maybe. I’m not sure. But what I do know is that Rich felt a strong connection to DSi and its entrepreneurial journey over the last 15 years. In some ways, it was similar to his own journey of combining hard work, perseverance and native smarts to create a life’s work. As he made clear every step of the way in planning and carrying out this event – including his congratulatory remarks to DSI from the stage during het party – he really gets what DSi is about. He didn’t have to manufacture enthusiasm.
- Help with promotion: Rich was happy to help us promote the party to DSi’s key clients and prospects across the country. (We held the party during a national industry conference in Nashville so that important people from through the nation would be in town.) For example, he spent an afternoon with us to film a video invitation – even picking up his guitar at one point to sing part of the invitation. He even allowed us to incorporate the music and images from one of his music videos. You can imagine how much more powerful a video invitation featuring a big star is than an ordinary mailed or emailed invitation. A serious buzz began in the eDiscovery industry when these video invitations starting going out.
- Charge what it’s worth, not what it costs: A super event like this is not a cheap date. Was it worth it to DSi? Absolutely. They would say it was some of the best-spent marketing dollars in their 15-year history. In terms of new business generated from both existing and new clients, it was worth every penny, and more. John Rich was smart enough to know that value is a function of results, not costs – and he knew he could deliver the results.
- Don’t nickel and dime: For a set fee, we got everything – all drinks and food, wait staff and bartenders, a professional photographer, security, an event coordinator, Rich’s performance – plus the star’s commitment to mix with the crowd throughout the night and pose for as many photos with guests as they wanted. He even opened up his personal cigar humidor to the party guests. Every possible facet of the event was included so there was no need to, or even possibility of, niggling over details. As a result, things went very smoothly, no nerves were frayed and everyone was friends at the end.
- Surprise and delight: Our agreement was that Rich would perform a 45-60 minute acoustic set during the party. That is, just him and his guitar, which would have been wonderful and more than enough to make partygoers feel special. But, a few days before the event, Rich told us that he was going to bring his full band at no extra charge just because he wanted DSi to have a spectacular event. The performance, which lasted well past 60 minutes – I mean, it was a real concert in an intimate setting, just incredible – blew people away. Rich and his band put their heart and soul into it, nothing perfunctory. The room was engulfed by the energy of a man and his band who obviously love what they do.