Q&A with Renowned Event Designer Andre Wells

Even if you’re brand new to the event industry, it’s likely you’ve seen the work of world-renowned event designer Andre Wells.  Perhaps you’ve heard some of his clients like Disney or…Aretha Franklin? That’s what we thought…

BizBash Editor-in-Chief Anna Sekula sat down with Mr. Wells during #ElevateDC for a Q&A to discover what drives his creativity, the stories behind some of his most celebrated events, learn more about his design inspiration, and much more!

Anna: How has the event industry changed over the past few years?

Andre: Event industry has changed so much over the past few years but one thing has really stayed the same — it’s all about how you make people feel. Anyone can put together a beautiful room, but can you provide a memorable experience? As an event planner, your guests should not have to think when they attend an event. They should know where to valet, where the bathrooms are, etc. Your clients may not remember that there were 1700 roses on the table, but they will remember that guests had a great time, and at the end of the day, that is all that matters.

Anna: What are your thoughts on the topic of social media and events?
Andre: There are really two schools of thoughts here. On one hand, social media has done wonders for our industry. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, etc. can provide a ton of excitement and help grow your business via word of mouth marketing.

However, there’s sort of a dark side to social media at events. A lot of people take credit for work that isn’t theirs or they fully produce. You really need to be careful to give credit where credit is due. Also, sometimes sharing images on social media before an event can really ruin the surprise for the guests or clients if it gets posted and they see it before they arrive. Remember, there is a time and a place for it. Social can drive a ton of excitement about the event, but only if used correctly.

Anna: Do you see social media fatigue with guests?

Andre: I think it’s important to understand your market and understand your clients. Why are you having that event? Are you just including social media because it’s popular or is it truly integrated into the event itself? For example, if you’re hosting an event and the average age of your guest is 75, are those slick-looking iPads on the tables going to provide much value?

Additionally, if you’re using these social media element, it’s important to have someone there on site to explain how it works and how your guests can use it.

Anna: Lets talk about your design process. Where do you start? Where does your inspiration come from?

Andre: Love the initial meeting – learned over the past 10 years, it’s so, so, so vital to listen to your clients and understand what the purpose is of the event and what they are trying to achieve. During that initial meeting, I bring along multiple staff members. Once we leave the meeting, we debrief and talk about what they all individually heard. Sometimes we call the client again before understanding what needs to be produced.

After we establish the purpose and the goals of the event, I turn into freak of nature! I always have my iPhone on me and am taking tons of photos. I’m constantly inspired by things around me. Once I gather all of the elements and inspiration, I start laying things out. It’s during this stage that we decide what we can actually deliver on. I hate to over-promise and under-deliver, so we will be honest with clients immediately if we don’t have the resources to pull something off.

Anna: What are your top 3 rules for designing and planning events?

Andre:

Rule #1: Know what you’re getting yourself into. It’s important interview the client just as the client interviews you!

Rule #2: Know every aspect of the event from load in to load out, when the band arrives to when the entre hits table 10. Details are key.

Rule #3: Finally, make sure every sense has been taken care of: smell, hear, touch, taste, see. Once the five senses are taken care of, everything else sort of just falls into place.

Anna: So, even though you’re a pro, sometimes things don’t always go as planned. How do you plan for the worst?

Andre: You have to stay calm! Find a good set of vendors – I like working with nice people. You know, yelling and cursing doesn’t ever really motivate people. Once you have your team in place and everyone knows their responsibilities, stay calm – if you’ve done all of your homework it’s gonna be fine. Do your best to hide the hiccups and move forward as planned.

Anna: Ok, it’s time for my last question! What’s the single most important piece of advice to give someone starting out in the industry now?

Andre: There is no such thing as instant gratification. Take your time. Be true to your brand and know who you are, what your capabilities are.  Stay true to yourself.