11 Things NYFW Can Teach You About Event Planning

New York Fashion Week (NYFW) is an event to behold and offers a number of great ideas and tips for event planners. Here, the event is secondary to what’s going on behind the scenes and in the audience. Are you ready for the zaniness and how you can apply it to your business?

NYFW Week is like the Super Bowl for event planners, a microcosm of excitement. There’ the giant event itself and tons of spin-offs. Some parts of it are made to make you laugh, others cry and moan. Amidst the ridiculous and the sublime there is plenty that catches your eye and makes an impression.

There’s no way to prepare yourself for the big event. There are fashionable freebies, big-name celebrities, and enough photo ops to give you content for the rest of the year. But just like an event planner’s life, it’s not quite as glamorous as it seems. There are big crowds, pampered pets, and lots of waiting. Still if you keep the right attitude there’s a lot to learn, and most of it falls under the “It’s okay for Fashion Week but not for your event” advice.

 Models on runway

Models on runway

Here are a few lessons from this year’s NYFW that event planners can take back to their businesses:

  1. Comfort Is Key

Whether you’re an attendee of Fashion Week or a male model in a form-fitting suit, (clean) sneakers were all the rage. While I’m not suggesting you replace your trendy heels or shiny loafers with white kicks with contrast soles, comfort sure does help when you’re going morning to night and with lots of the designers leaning towards casual, “thrown together” looks, event planners might just be able to give up some of their long-standing devotion to the starchy staff uniform.

  1. Rushing Around Kills the Buzz

You may assume that Fashion Week is held in a huge convention center and it’s one parade of pretties after the next, but it’s not. The shows are held all over New York City and there’s a lot of mad dashing through huge crowds.

Large conferences can be the same way when there are multiple learning sessions in different locations. Hubspot’s Inbound conference, for instance, is so large that attendees have to leave sessions early in order to ensure they make it to the next session in time to get a spot.

While there may not be anything that can be done to centralize NYFW or condense sessions for large conferences, it’s important to understand how this affects the attendee experience. Rush is not a rush of good feeling. Add ample time so that attendees can get where they need to be. Even if you try to arrange similar learning session near one another, you’ll always have the crossover attendee who chooses completely different back-to-back tracks and needs to speed across the building (or town, in the case of Fashion Week) in order to make it on time.

  1. Make it Worth It

If you’ve ever waited in line at an amusement park for hours, only to have the ride thrill you and spill you in less than three minutes, you know how frustrating that can be and you know what it feels like to attend Fashion Week. To get your spot, you’re often waiting 20-40 minutes for less than 15 minutes of a show. This causes a lot of groans from newbies, especially if they just battled an hour’s worth of traffic to get there.

Don’t do the same thing to your attendees. Make sure the wait they experience is worth whatever you’re putting on. If you can’t ensure that, do your best to make the wait part of the experience. Entertain them with live social media post broadcasts, contest, or photo ops. Use introductory session leaders to get conversation started as people wait for the main program or any number of creative approaches to take their minds off the wait.

  1. Desire for Personal Space Is/n’t Important

Seating is what matters, not your personal space at Fashion Week. Seats are arranged practically on top of one another.

For event planners, seating is one of those incredibly important details that no one wants to overlook. Whether you assign it or serve it up Southwest Airlines style, make sure you allow ample room. There is nothing enjoyable about literally rubbing elbows with the person next to you, even if they are an a-lister.

  1. Media Overload Is a Thing

While attendees enjoy the live runway action at Fashion Week, their emails notifications are going off like hail stones on a tin roof. Yes, it’s nice everyone is into social media and technology but too many alerts and media overload is a thing.

A good event makes use of technology but does not overwhelm with it. For Fashion Week, each fashion show is its own mini event so the marketing messages aren’t coordinated. At your event, they need to be. Don’t burn your attendees out with notifications or they will begin to ignore them.

  1. Don’t Rely Solely on Cool

Kanye West rolled out his Yeezy Season 4 in what appeared to be a post-apocalyptic trance of a show set to music that was described from one tweeter as Dory from Finding Nemo (and Dory) talking to a whale. What was intended to be a two-hour live feed of his outdoor show, faded into shots of the New York City sky and reruns of the first hour as models became overheated and passed out.

Event planners could learn from Kanye’s blunder. You can’t rely on past success and there really can be something that’s too weird or too hot. Comfort needs to trump experience. Ensuring your audience and team are fed and comfortable is more important than how something looks. If they’re starving and uncomfortable, that’s what they’ll remember. Not your ambiance or atmosphere.

  1. There’s a Difference Between Waiting and Being Stuck

I’m afraid we’re going to pick on Kanye’s Yeezy show again but the show that was hosted on Roosevelt Island, that shipped people in (literally), was between 1-2 hours late in starting. Reports indicated people were uncomfortably hot. His handler reportedly leaked that the late start was a theatrical attempt to get everyone in a “meditative” mood, ready for his show. But instead, they were trapped on a hot island.

Event planners long for people to talk about their events but you don’t want it to be for the reasons people are still talking about Kanye. His pretentious desire to affect and build the mood just ended up leaving attendees feeling stuck.

  1. Food Is Part of the Experience

Food is part of most event experiences but not at New York Fashion Week. There’s plenty of free champagne and a clear lack of anything more substantive than a granola bar.

If you want to throw a memorable event, you needn’t serve dinner but you do need to provide something. Events without food are memorable, but not in a good way.

  1. Hashtags are Akin to Backstage Passes

A backstage pass is no longer needed to find out what’s going on behind the scenes at NYFW. From celebrities to designers and models, everyone has a phone and they all love selfies. You can watch the entire thing unfold between selfies and live broadcasts.

Fashion Week provides a great illustration on how social media can really work in an event. But it’s not the social media marketers who are making it so, it’s all the participants and the first-hand accounts of non-marketing people that made it so special and well covered.

  1. Be Bold and Buck the Stereotype

Ashley Graham’s lingerie show sizzled with body positivity and at least three other shows used plus size models and “real” people. In a refreshing deviation from the size zero model stereotype these shows made the headlines for all the right reasons.

If the fashion industry can challenge the status quo and push back boundaries we can certainly learn from this in our own event planning, innovate and do things differently. Go on – be bold! Your audience might just love you all the more for it.

  1. “Thrown Together” Is Only a Look

People kept saying that the beauty of Victoria Beckham’s line was that it looked “thrown together,” a casual look we all could achieve. But the importance behind that comment is to know it only appeared that way.

The same goes for the organization of NYFW. It appears to come together with the natural beauty and majesty, of say, the Grand Canyon. But in reality it is hours and hours of preparation, mixed with blood, sweat, and tears. The planners at Fashion Week are hard core organized and elevate coordination to an art.

In Conclusion

Fashion Week is a flurry of activity on the micro and macro side. Organizers of NYFW events need to coordinate egos on top of time slots and giveaways. The challenges they face are large but the lessons we learned, valuable. Post via Event MB