How To Be A Host: Designing A Micro-Gathering
Events expert Hanna Kim teaches us how to think big when planning a small get-together.
If picking out florals and setting up photo activations weren’t complicated enough when planning a party, now you can add coronavirus protocols, such as social distancing and in some cases, rapid testing and waivers, to the list of things to consider when designing a micro-gathering.
“Now, hosts are really having to take into consideration every guest they invite, having that conversation with them, ‘Are you comfortable being at an event with this many people?’ and really assessing everyone’s comfort level as a host,” says Hanna Kim, an expert in the event production space. “It’s no longer about just the experience in itself but making people feel very comfortable to come to something that you’re hosting now.”
Kim got her start in nightlife 10 years ago as the director of a major nightclub in Atlanta. She moved to Los Angeles in 2014 and worked her way up to vice president of events at The h.wood Group. Kim left the company pre-Covid to launch her own agency called Reservedx, which connects event producers and marketing freelancers with agencies and brands. She shared with Loop Magazine what it’s like to plan a party for high-profile clients and the best ways to make an event memorable for guests.
How would you summarize the current challenges hosts are facing when putting on events?
I find that a lot of people hosting are going through hoops and hurdles to make their guests feel comfortable. And then when you talk about the legal guidelines, technically, you’re not supposed to; but there are ways around it. A lot of times now for these small gatherings, if it’s something that would qualify as an event, there’s a lot of waivers, a lot of paperwork, and i’m seeing that as a trend now a lot of legal teams are getting involved because insurance doesn’t cover Covid. So how does that process look like for deposits? And who assumes responsibility if someone were to catch a case? Are guests here on their own free will? Is the staff here at their own free will? Those are the hurdles I’m seeing as a host or party planner or anyone who’s wanting to put together a gathering, having to protect yourself and the guests.
How can hosts rise to the challenge of making people feel safe right now?
This goes back to the fundamental rule that it goes back to what the client wants. Sometimes there are people who are very very cautious with these gatherings, who only want six people at a table, you know, do we have sanitizing stations, are we doing rapid testing, are we doing the temperature checks. Events used to be organized chaos, and now you have to take that extra precaution to really think about every step of every staff member, every step of every guest, depending on the comfort level.
When did you notice people beginning to do in-person events again?
If you lived in Los Angeles from March to May, it was a very scary time; I mean, you didn’t even feel safe going to see your own family a lot of the time. So, I started to see that upward trend of people gathering again probably around Memorial Day, which rolled right into the heavy protesting for social injustice in the middle of summer. Around July, I started noticing people felt more comfortable making plans to do small gatherings for 4th of July, everything quote-unquote outside. When rapid testing became available to people who could afford it, they really dove into that, and then still now, virtual has still been really big. We’ve seen some really well-done virtual events.
How do you approach designing an event?
Design and elements of design for an event are really custom tailored. Some people get crazy and have absurd asks. Live animals have always been a thing; wanting to fly in a helicopter and ladder down from the helicopter. People get really crazy, and as much as we like to say yes to everything, I like to make sure we’re checking all of the boxes for safety and regulations and permitting.
Instead of wow-factors, how can you make an event memorable?
Takeaways. People love to have something custom that can live forever. I think that’s why people love photo booths so much; it’s a way to signify that you were there at this event. Which, by the way, photo booths have now gone virtual as well. Customizing things for the guests’ experience, whether it’s something as simple as a place card with their name on it. Wow-factors are more for a shock value, but some of the most memorable stuff that comes back to me from attending a memorable event is great service, great food, the personalization to the guests, those all take into what makes a great event. Not everyone needs a $30,000 floral landscape design to make their event great.
Related | How To Be A Host: House Party Etiquette
What are some of your favorite vendors in LA?
When it comes to vendors, live entertainment of any kind is so huge. Some people get turned off by it because they think it’s too wedding-y, but I don’t mean live entertainment as just musicians. I’ve had clients who have hired actors to integrate into the crowd and then have a big surprise moment where suddenly you’re in a murder mystery game, or even the prop-y actors who are on stilts or in costumes. Aerialists are huge; something to look at—that was the biggest thing.
When it comes to vendors I love working with, Artist Creating Entertainment, they are fantastic. I mean, I’ve had some crazy requests for live entertainment. You name it, and they’ve always delivered. They really know how to keep the guests engaged.
Any dos or don’ts?
Always ask a lot of questions with the venue. There’s a lot of compliance that needs to go into designing an event, aside from the aesthetics. And when designing, always know what your budget is. Know how much it is you want to spend so you can make great finds on everything you want. Being realistic with budgeting and being compliant with what you can and can’t do within the venue.