10 Questions with Event-Hosting Pioneer Tatiana Byron

Tatiana Byron is an EO New York member,  founder of The Wedding Salon and president of 4PM Events, a dynamic, full-service special events company, concentrating on high-end weddings, charity fundraisers, private parties, fashion shows, corporate functions and luxury bridal shows.

1. How did you get involved in the event-management industry?

I attended Boston University on an academic scholarship, but I still needed additional funds for ordinary living expenses. I initially worked at Smith Barney, cold-calling for a stock broker, but I thought that I was being underpaid and overworked. One weekend, I went out with a friend of mine, and I was introduced to a promoter for a nightclub. He explained the basic deliverables and economics of the business, and I was hooked!

I fell in love with everything about events. From negotiating with venues to creating flyers to managing the guest list … I loved it all. After graduation, I worked for CNN, while at the same time working with a few charitable organizations on their fundraisers. After a couple of years, I started my own company and, as my friends got engaged and started seeking advice on planning their weddings, I realized there was a business there.

2. What would people be surprised to learn about your industry?

That the US$120 billion wedding industry is about to enter a growth cycle, as the Baby Boomers’ children start walking down the aisle.

3 What are a few key things everyone should adhere to when it comes to hosting a successful event?

One must always be mindful of the guest experience, as well as the “flow” of an evening. For instance, if I’m planning a wedding, I’ll advise my clients to have a one-hour cocktail reception, followed by a two-hour dinner. It’s better to have an event that’s in constant motion than one that drags on for hours. When it comes to decor, never skimp on lighting, as it is the most transforming effect around.

4. What’s the most interesting or unusual request you’ve had a client make?

When we did a corporate dinner party in Versailles, a client asked us to hire 100 actors to dress in 17th century costumes and create a “party within a party.” It was breathtaking and unforgettable.

5. What tips do you have for successfully managing difficult clients?

Drink. When that doesn’t work, drink heavily! In all seriousness, I’ve found the best way to deal with difficult clients is to be proactive, attentive and transparent. Whether you have 50 projects going on at the same time or just one, the client experience should be the same. And finally, as a trusted advisor, one is hired to educate, advocate, create and execute … but never dominate; you have to remember that the customer is always right.

6. When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

When I realized that I could have a flexible schedule, full creative control, unlimited earning potential and couldn’t be fired from a company that I owned outright.

7. How old were you when you decided to take the entrepreneurial journey?

I think I was 23.

8. What’s the next “big item” on your business list of things to do? 

The next big item for us is upgrading and implementing new technologies to make us more efficient and productive. On the back end, we are making significant investments in mobile and upgrading our CRM systems. On the production side, we are working with specialty lighting companies to produce cutting-edge, 3D projections at events.

9. If you could be mentored by anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

I would love to be mentored by Richard Branson. He is a serial entrepreneur, and has a dedicated passion and vision for his projects. I am inspired by his accomplishments.

10. What one business book should every entrepreneur read? 

I know you asked for one, but I’m going to give you two. Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, and Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go.

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