In his new coffee table book, 82-year-old Italian fashion designer and icon Valentino Garavani invites readers into his refined world of graceful living, offering a glimpse of his entertaining style that’s as high-end as his red-carpet gowns. While all planners know there’s much more to planning a conference or meeting than organizing a dinner party, there are a few tips from “Valentino: At the Emperor’s Table” that translate for meetings:
1. “The American couple… they always want to be together. That is not nice. You have to make conversation.”
To prevent attendees from being cliquey and congregating at tables with only those they already know, designate a conversation topic for each table during a meal session—for example, technology lovers, social media fanatics or foodies. Not only does it get guests meeting new people and talking, it gives introverts a way to find a table where they’re comfortable.
2. “My tables today, they are most like one of my dresses. I try to put in detail.”
When it comes to table decor, attention to detail is important. Multifunctional is good—and locally sourced is even better. At one corporate event, a planner enlisted the help of a catering team to create centerpieces of fancy, community-grown crudites (think purple cauliflower and broccolini). Not only did it serve as a colorful table accent, but also a healthy alternative to a breadbasket.
3. “The people in the room are as important as the chairs they’re sitting on or as the food they’re eating.”
Even when every element of an event is meticulously planned, things can—and often do—go awry. Meeting planners should always be prepared to deal with challenges as they come (whether it’s a lunch gone wrong or a technology fail in a breakout session), keeping in mind that creating a positive experience for attendees, which includes smart problem-solving, is paramount.