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www.smallmarketmeetings.com Managing Meetings 16 Courtesy Special Event Company The Special Event Company created an over-the-top elegant affair for the opening of the Mint Museum in Charlotte. 3. Do your research, Research is essential, especially when organizing a cultural event or working with a foreign company. "With a bar mitzvah, for example," said Sasha Souza, founder of Sasha Souza Events, "you have to be able to convey to the client that you understand each part of the ceremony and why it's important." Likewise, if you are taking over an annual event, look into how it was produced in the past. Does the theme evolve each year or stay the same? What were its most successful features? 4. Manage risk. "Risk management is the most important aspect of any event," said Berry. How does your team plan to communicate during an emer- gency? Have you chosen an evacuation site? Is everyone aware of the fire exits? These are the kinds of questions that are critical to large- event planning. Another risk to consider is power failure. If the success of your event hinges on a generator or a projector, then always assume you need a backup because you never know what could happen. "Once we had a generator literally melting at a wedding," Souza said. "There's a saying when it comes to power and audiovisuals, 'If you have two, you have one, and if you have one, you have none.'" In other words, plan for a worst-case scenario. 5. Don't skimp on lighting. Lighting does more than set the mood. Poor lighting can make a five- star hotel look dull and flat; great lighting can transform your backyard into an elegant patio. And sometimes all it takes is a trip to Lowe's. "When people walk into an event, you have about 15 seconds where they're going to make their mind up on what that event's going to be," Berry said. "If you spend your money on nothing else, spend it on lighting." 6. Always read the rider. Bringing in a celebrity to appear or perform at your event is a sure- fire way to make an impression on event attendees. In addition to their appearance fees, many celebrity performers also have a rider, a set of terms and conditions that the artist requires to perform; it can entail anything from a helicopter pickup from the airport to an entourage of 200 people. In some cases, the conditions in the rider cost more than the book- ing fee itself. Berry recalled how she was once offered a free concert from Kool and the Gang at one of her events, which sounded fantastic until she realized the rider alone would cost nearly $120,000. Publicity clauses can also be problematic. Berry described how a friend of hers booked a major artist whose contract prohibited any photographs being taken during rehearsal. Later, one of the waitstaff snapped a picture with a phone and posted it on social media, which led to a $100,000 lawsuit. If you have any concerns or questions about the contract, make sure to voice them before signing. 7. Get the community involved. Grogan's annual festivals are beloved in Flagstaff, Arizona, because she frequently brings the community, from city boards to independent businesses and local schools, into the planning. "They all feel like