Have you ever walked into an event where every detail was thoughtfully planned, and wondered how it all came together? We all know perfect brand touchpoints, well-planned photo booths, and refreshments that appear at the perfect time don’t just happen on their own. We sat down with Ali Schajer and Maya Katz—co-founders of Alimay Events and the mastermind event producers behind our recent All About That Mama summit—to learn how they pull off perfect event after perfect event.
For All About That Mama, we saw you transform a co-working space into a dynamic, thoughtfully planned event space. We’d love to learn more about how you made that happen. When you walk into an event space for the first time, what are you looking for?
Maya: First and foremost, we discuss the event goals and programming with the client. Then we walk through the space to take it all in and discuss the event as a whole. Once we do that, we take a look at the floor plans and plot out what our best recommendation is based on the space(s) available, venue capabilities, power locations, potential load in challenges, and any restrictions. We call ourselves event architects because you have to lay the foundation first to build out a successful event and make sure everything will work out well logistically. If the event doesn’t flow well, it doesn’t matter how pretty or instagrammable it is….that is what people will remember.
Ali: I know this sounds funny, but I get a visceral reaction when I’m in the right space for an event. It’s like you can just see the flow. We look for a staff that has imagination and is willing to explore interesting solutions.
What are your best tips for creating a sense of intimacy in open spaces?
Ali: Framing out a section of space can happen through a variety of ways—building walls, using screens, draping or even placing a plant. You need to take into account budget and the time you have for set up when coming up with appropriate solutions.
Maya: For All About That Mama specifically we were working with a gorgeous open concept space at Camp David in Industry City. We needed to create a main panel space while also allowing guests to enter the space and check in during a live program. We always plan for people to arrive at different times to a conference so we need to find a solution that won’t disturb the programming. In this case, we built faux walls and used drapes to separate the space while also buffering the acoustics.
Tell us about the creative process behind the inventive photo booths you’re known for.
Ali: It’s all about making personalized moments for our clients and playing to the fun of whatever is available. For a bride and groom who got married on Valentines’ Day, we did a Kiss Me Cam photo booth moment.
Maya: For All About That Mama, we thought about the marketing message that HeyMama wanted to showcase. We had 20 feet of wall space so we separated the wall into three sections, which allowed people to take a GIF or still shot under one select header or under all three. Due to space restrictions and the nature of the booth, we brought on Total Entertainment to provide a mobile photo wall that could achieve what we wanted without adding a bulky machine that would hide the branding wall.
How do you weave instagrammable moments into the whole event?
Maya: We really like to create multiple instagrammable moments throughout a space so it feels like guests are taking a journey from the moment they walk in until the time they leave. It’s important for the event to tell a story and for guests to have little moments throughout the event because we believe the luxury is in the details.
Ali: We always say the devil is in the details. Once you place the right detail, you create those moments. And they’re not always the ones you expect them to be.
Despite all of the best planning, sometimes things happen. What’s one challenge you’ve faced the day of an event? How did you solve it?
Maya: We had a tented affair the day of Hurricane Irene. Mayor Bloomberg suspended all special events permits in NYC, and roads were closed. Overnight, we had to take down a tent that had taken us 10 days to set up. We then moved the event inside the home and arranged private cars for people to get there because the bus company cancelled. We troubleshooted the entire day and pulled off the event.
Ali: Typically, as the keepers of the blueprints of our events (in regards to Maya’s earlier comment about us being the event architects), we insist on reviewing all final plans down to the rentals for the catering kitchen. However, every once in a while, a vendor’s order is kept proprietary and we are not privy to the details. On one occasion, we were working with a caterer and weren’t give the opportunity review their alcohol order. They ran out of vodka in the first hour of the event, which we had never seen happened before. The event was held at an offsite location, so we didn’t have the luxury of raiding the back of house supply. As soon as we realized their supply was dwindling, we sent our own emissary out to purchase as much vodka as they could fit in their vehicle. It happened to be a themed event with our team were in service costumes, so we made light out of situation by having our staff personally make rounds with the bottles of vodka, serving beverages until every glass in the house was filled. Even when things go wrong, if you keep a cool head (and keep the glasses filled), you can find a way to keep the guests happy!
We really think that experience and knowing how to troubleshoot plays a big role in this, but the long and short of it is that we never take no for an answer. There is always something that happens that you don’t anticipate. It’s how you handle it with the client, your team and vendors that makes all the difference. We always discuss the situation as a team and come up with solutions we think are best. For example: the adhesive on one of the signs at All About That Mama didn’t stick to one of the walls, so we adapted on the fly and turned it into a floor cling. It was our first choice, but it worked and the brand messaging was still there. No one knew it wasn’t part of the original plan.
You two define the term “dynamic duo.” What do you love most about working together?
Maya: That we compliment each other in the best ways and we are truly like sisters. We finish each other’s sentences and always think ahead of the other. We are very different in our approaches, but that makes it fun and interesting along the way. We definitely play to each other’s strengths.
Ali: How we compliment each other. We are so strikingly different but also very much alike. After working together all these years, we can finish each other’s sentences. Knowing your partner’s strengths and weaknesses helps you both grow. And I hate being an island!