This interview was made possible by our friends at Guidant Financial:
The leader in alternative startup, franchise and small business financing.
Great events don’t just happen by chance. They’re the result of choosing the best setting, knowing who to invite, and keeping an eye on detail.
Lana Wescott Events will guide you in capturing the right look, feel and flow for your special occasion…your guests will come away already thinking of your next celebration!
MO: What initially attracted you to the event planning industry?
Lana: I have always been a details person. I enjoy knowing the “who, what, when, where, why and how”…of everything. Event planning challenges me to combine all these factors, plus add a twist of creativity. I previously worked at an adoption agency, but could often be found in the Development office, asking questions about our next fund-raising event. Then, I found myself volunteering for charity events…and soon I knew I wanted nothing more than to be the one planning these exciting events!
MO: What are some tips for creating a memorable event on a tight budget that still creates a buzz?
Lana: If the event is for a nonprofit organization, I would encourage you to look to your current and past donors, Board members and volunteers. Let them know about your pending event, and what you are hoping to achieve. Find out how they can help you reduce costs and add the WOW factor to your event that your guests will remember! If they can’t help you, chances are they know someone who can.
For social events on a budget, my number one tip is to BORROW your decor! You can reduce your expenses by borrowing from local drama clubs, auxiliary groups and theatres. You’d be amazed at how willing and eager they are to help.
MO: What are some strategies you’ve used to help your nonprofit clients raise nearly half a million dollars in the first six months of this year?
Lana: In addition to planning the logistics, I am a big believer in ‘relationship marketing.’ I work very closely with event committee chairs and members, coaching and guiding them. I meet with them individually and find out who they do business with, then create plans for leveraging their connections. I also guide them in how to make the ‘asks,’ to whom and why. People are usually surprised at how easy it can really be to get what you ask for. When committee members are successful, they gain the confidence to do it again and again.
MO: If had unlimited resources and could choose any client that you want, what would your dream event look like?
Lana: I have planned several “dream events!” But on an unlimited budget, I would love to plan the after-party of a New England regatta, bringing together my love of the ocean and its offerings. My dream event would include some of my favorite “luxury” foods like lobster, oysters, shrimp and escargot. Of course, we’d have a signature “boat drink” and an array of delicious wines like Silver Oak cabernet, Dominus red blends, and Dom Perignon champagne.
Music can dramatically change the mood of any gathering. On an unlimited budget, I might book Harry Connick, Jr. to perform the classics or Jimmy Buffett to keep us in the mood…maybe both!
I like to use flowers native to the area of the event or the event’s theme. On an unlimited budget, I would also bring in rare exotic flowers. Lots of them!
MO: What’s been the most challenging event you’ve ever planned and how did you overcome the obstacles it presented?
Lana: Every event presents its own set of challenges. My success lies in the pre-planning and the execution of ‘Plan B,’ and sometimes ‘Plan C.’
For the past 5 years, I have been coordinating the George HW Bush Celebrity Golf Classic, and the Point of Light Gala that follows to benefit Gary’s House. The event incorporates 108 golfers from all over the US, 10-12 celebrities, 50+ volunteers, multiple VIP’s and sponsors. We host 250 people at the dinner event, whichfeatures a silent and live auction (a combined 100 donors) and entertainment.
Planning the itineraries for all sponsors and celebrities, managing the volunteers and overseeing the fundraising activities are just a portion of the planning. Even with all these details in place, the one thing I can’t control is the weather. This past June, our tournament was held in a downpour of rain the entire day. We kept our golfers well-fed with two food tents, offering a place to warm up with hot seafood chowder, hamburgers and Maine lobster rolls. We also offered dry towel service along the course. Our golfers smiled throughout the day, keeping in mind the reason we were there – to raise money for a worthy cause. Incidentally, we had a record-breaking fundraising event!
MO: Can you explain why Operation Shower, is your chosen charity?
Lana: I grew up in a military family. My grandfather served in three wars, and received a Purple Heart. He taught me to value military service and the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform. Of course being a mom to 2 little boys, my heart was naturally drawn to Operation Shower, which provides baby showers to pregnant women whose spouses are deployed. Working with Operation Shower is just a small way to honor my grandfather. I leave the baby showers with a sense of personal fulfillment that I don’t know I could find anywhere else.