Marley Majcher of The Party Goddess: “Provide breadcrumbs along the way”

Provide breadcrumbs along the way — This will help people get excited and invested. A real, 3-D mailed (or hand delivered) invitation is an awesome start, along with other treats like swag, “imbibing” components — basically cocktail ingredients to go, plus food and individual place settings to really get the good vibes going. As a part of our series about […]

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Provide breadcrumbs along the way — This will help people get excited and invested. A real, 3-D mailed (or hand delivered) invitation is an awesome start, along with other treats like swag, “imbibing” components — basically cocktail ingredients to go, plus food and individual place settings to really get the good vibes going.

As a part of our series about “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marley Majcher.

Marley Majcher is the CEO of The Party Goddess!,a nationally acclaimed full service event planning and catering company, and author of “But Are You Making Any Money?”, a witty and lauded business guide for entrepreneurs.

From understated elegance to rock star fabulous, Majcher is known for creating the most talked about parties of the year. Since the launch of The Party Goddess! Majcher’s client list has included Earthlink, Cedars-Sinai, Georgetown University, Art Center College of Design, San Diego Polo Club, See’s Candies, Cal Tech and Whole Foods Market. Majcher has also produced notable events for the Hollywood Bowl, the Critics’ Choice Awards, luxury car manufacturers Porsche and Rolls Royce’s Bentley brand, as well as celebrations for Sofia Vergara, Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, Pierce Brosnan, Jenna Elfman, Britney Spears, Laila Ali, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Katherine Heigl, Snoop Dogg, and Nick and Vanessa Lachey.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

For the readers old enough to remember “Leave It to Beaver”, that was pretty much my upbringing in a nutshell. My dad worked and my mom stayed home with us, made sure we went to Mass every Sunday, cooked every meal from scratch and instilled the gardening bug in me early on. We had tons of fruit trees in our backyard and my mom was amazing at making sure we always had that rainbow color plate thing covered before there was ever such a thing. My parents didn’t entertain a ton, but when they did, my Mom made it PERFECT. Like Martha Stewart perfect which set a really high bar for me, but definitely encouraged my love for entertaining and working with whatever was in season — and in Southern California with a backyard of fruit trees, that was a LOT!

Can you tell us the story of what led you to this particular career path?

My pump was definitely primed by the example my Mom set, but we were also fortunate enough to travel as well, which really got me trying all kinds of foods and being exposed to many different cultures and traditions from a young age. All those ideas further fueled a passion for cooking, so when I was disinterested in any of the available summer vacation options before my junior year at Georgetown, I decided to make up my own getaway. Since the French Embassy wasn’t far from campus, I moseyed over to see what was available in terms of French cooking schools for the summer. It didn’t take much for me to book my ticket, set up a French tutor and head off on a trip that would literally change the entire course of my future. When I returned to school, I took a speech class and needed to prepare something on “What I Knew More About Than Anyone Else”, and at Georgetown, that was nothing because everyone was so smart and I was struggling just to stay afloat. My mom encouraged me to do my presentation on French cooking since I had just returned from Paris. Sounded cool. I headed into town to get my film developed from the trip and ran into my professor and blurted out how I was so excited about the topic and had an interview with the chef from 1789 (a very fancy, well established fixture in Washington, DC). Unbeknownst to me, she loved the place and couldn’t wait to hear all about it. Well, I couldn’t wait to hear all about it too because I had no such interview, never had planned to have an interview, and remember that traditional upbringing? Well, I wasn’t exactly encouraged to lie my way through things, so racked with guilt, I trudged home to come up with an interview with that chef from 1789, whoever he or she was. Net/net: I got an interview, took one look at the chef, decided I needed to marry him, hatched a ridiculous plan to do so and got engaged the month after graduation. But that’s a story in and of itself.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

While it wasn’t funny at the time, when I booked my first major tv appearance I had to fly to New York, but had just given birth to my daughter and was still breastfeeding, and kind of a hormonal mess on top of it. Of course, the segment was only going to be 3–4 minutes long, but in such a fear of being unprepared, I remember shopping for enough product for my entertaining demo that I stayed up most of the night with a friend who had flown in to help me, playing super crafter for the segment. After almost no sleep, my treasure trove and I paraded to the studio to set up and all I can remember is how that poor news anchor had to do this story with a table so packed full of stuff it’s amazing the viewers didn’t get vertigo. By that point though, I had stopped worrying about the table and started to worry about the real issue which was that I was moments from having milk spew all over the cameraman if that thing didn’t get taping fast. The joys of working motherhood.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I am positively obsessed with Michael Gerber’s “E-Myth Revisited” and have “revisited it sooo, so many times. It’s a tale of a pie maker who is so busy making pies that she doesn’t take any time out to work on her business instead of just in it. For me, it was one of the first times I felt like someone really “got” what my whole life as an entrepreneur was about: just on that hamster wheel, feeling like you’re going nowhere fast. I still need to ask Michael someday how he teleported so effectively into my head!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

That’s an easy one: “Never, never, never give up” — Winston Churchill. I have it framed outside my window so every morning when I wake up, I’m forced to see it. It’s such a significant quote for me, especially with the “never” appearing three times in a row because as an entrepreneur it feels like all you want to do is give up and you’re constantly grasping for any shred of hope the universe is willing to send your way.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit about your experience organizing events in general?

My experience started at an early age as I mentioned, riffing off some of my mom’s philosophies of entertaining, one of which was to invite anyone you felt like as long as they were interesting. Having gone to school in Washington, DC as well, she said that the best parties were always full of very diverse characters from Senators to a garbage collector and what made the mix so great was the pure inability to predict who would actually hit it off. It really affected me because it was my earliest lesson in not worrying about what anyone else thinks or who “should” be there or over scripting it. The message was just to go with your gut and if you liked someone, chances are the rest of your friends would too. From when I first started entertaining on my own, I followed the same formula, with magical results I might add!

Can you tell us a bit about your experience organizing live virtual events? Can you share any interesting stories about them?

They’re a lot harder than they look!, Technology really can throw a wrench in virtual events on so many levels, because you’ve got to manufacture the buzz that makes connecting one on one so important. At the same time, you need to make sure you meet everyone where they are — in terms of when they actually join the event as well as how skilled they are technologically. It’s just so important to have segregated duties so one person can completely focus in the background on tech challenges and guest issues while someone else focuses on playing host or hostess or emcee to keep things rolling.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job creating live virtual events? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

AOO Events just knocks it out of the park. The founder, Dave Merrill, has a long and fabulous history of flawless event production and he’s really parlayed that into the virtual space and made a name for himself. What impresses me is how he’s been in the industry forever and instead of getting burned out, COVID seems to have fired him up totally and he’s just crushing the virtual event space. To quote him: “Just because it’s virtual doesn’t mean it can’t be experiential” and that just nails it. A quote largely attributed to Maya Angelou (but early evidence shows Carl Buehner should probably get the credit): “They may forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.” The only way to really feel something is to experience it and I think that’s why AOO has been so successful in the space.

What are the common mistakes you have seen people make when they try to run a live virtual event? What can be done to avoid those errors?

People don’t realize that a successful virtual event needs to really draw you in and isn’t just a filmed version of an event that could’ve taken place in person. There is some kind of magic that is created when people are together, closely packed into a space experiencing amazing music and crazy decor. When events go virtual, you’ve really got to have a plan to draw people in, to hook them into wanting to participate and stay engaged. And it’s not easy.

Which virtual platform have you found to be most effective to be able to bring everyone together virtually?

These are basic, but because people have such disparate tech skills, I like to use the basics that everyone’s already got Zoom, Facebook Messenger, and Facetime. Are they perfect? No and there are definitely fancier alternatives out there. But at the end of the day, the latest and hippest doesn’t matter if people aren’t used to logging on.

Are there any essential tools or software that you think an event organizer needs to know about?

An event organizer especially must have a good backdrop — simple and professional is good without random books and things in the background to distract people. In addition, you need good lighting, and definitely good quality sound. Believe it or not, these things can be harder than you think to put into play. It’s always a good idea to have a test run with the lighting and sounds event if you just used all of the aforementioned because if the natural light is different at a certain time of day or the kids have poached your mic for some kind of Tik Tk madness, you’re toast.

Ok. Thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our discussion. An in-person event can have a certain electric energy. How do you create an engaging and memorable event when everyone is separated and in their own homes? What are the “Five Things You Need to Know To Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

The Five Things You Need to Know to Successfully Run a Live Virtual Event are:

Provide breadcrumbs along the way — This will help people get excited and invested. A real, 3-D mailed (or hand delivered) invitation is an awesome start, along with other treats like swag, “imbibing” components — basically cocktail ingredients to go, plus food and individual place settings to really get the good vibes going.

Visuals that really draw you in — We process images insanely faster than text which explains why plain old PowerPoint presentations are so dull, and you’ve got about 30 seconds to get someone’s attention, so use it. Have people log on and wow them from the get-go so they feel like this virtual event is like a beautiful package that keeps getting peeled open, only to find another surprise inside.

Provide a clear road map — This will clearly show guests what’s going to happen, then let it happen, then recap follow-up instructions (if applicable) at the end of the event. And then in a FEW follow up emails afterwards collecting photos, testimonials, and just fab feedback. Of course, instead of emails, anything that can show up post events that are 3-D are big bonuses.

Send multiple invitations and reminders — When do this it is BEST is to get a mobile number when they respond so you can text the event reminder and log in details the day of the event and then the hour before. This prevents that: “Fricker, I know I have this in my email somewhere!” Small details make ALL the difference!

Have a dedicated emcee to keep things moving — Remember, people join virtual events at different times, just like they walk into an open house so, an “emcee” can welcome people, bring them up to speed on what’s happening, what they missed, etc. so no one drops off because they are just totally lost.

Let’s image that someone reading this interview has an idea for a live virtual event that they would like to develop. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

I would absolutely Google holding a live virtual event and create a Pinterest Board of the resources you come up with so there are all in one place. That way you don’t have to edit yourself too much from what will be a dizzying amount of information flung at you and you will have some ideas to launch your creativity. Then I would peruse Pinterest specifically for ideas and add them to your board. It’s a good idea to tee these things up ahead of time so that when you have a spare 10 to 15 minutes waiting for an appointment or something you can keep adding to your Pinterest Board. My other go-to is to take quick and dirty photos of ad I see for certain apps or event from advertisements from TV to add to my Pinterest Board. So, when the time is right, I can just put a really successful event into motion without having to be both inspired AND in execution mode.

Super. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

It’s tough to narrow my movements down to just one​,​ so I’m going to give two and have you be the bad guys and pick one 😊. I have always been passionate about entrepreneurship and fostering that excitement in kids and teenagers to just think like an entrepreneur and find a need and fill it. Just the pursuit teaches problem solving skills, critical thinking and is such a good exercise in thinking like the consumer and not just from the perspective of what YOU are good at. Recently jumping into the abyss and buying a ranch in Central California has gotten me to take an even deeper dive into where our food comes from, which sounds like such a cliché. It’s not just where our food comes from, but now that I’ll have the land to make a difference, how can I offer something to the world that perhaps combines both passions. So far, my exact direction isn’t determined as I’m still mired in the Department of Agriculture website and the current struggles facing California farmers, but how perfect would it be if I could pull something off in my new venture that taught kids how to grow their own food AND sell it which would inspire entrepreneurship, help with our national hunger issues, and simultaneously get our kids away from the blasted computer screens! Story developing on this one!

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S., with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

And I would be so blessed beyond belief to meet one of my all-time entrepreneurial heroes, Richard Branson. He is so inspirational to me because he’s forward thinking, sharp as a tack, way ahead of the trends and on and on. He also EXUDES truly having fun in business which makes him and his brands to totally appealing. So, Sir Richard, would ya’ consider giving me a jingle? I could name a dairy cow after ya!

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