Every great visionary has a mantra he or she lives by and works around, and Colin Cowie is no exception. Over the years, he has fine-tuned a set of skills shaped by each of the hundreds of event experiences he has lived. Add to this his accomplishments outside of the events business as a Creative Director for Net Jets and the Mira Hotel in Hong Kong; designing lines of home furnishings, holiday collections, and gifts for JCPenney and HSN; and author of 10 books as well as a TV personality. His secrets for his success not only make business sense, but also are applicable to his philosophy on everyday living.

“When I first started out, there were only a handful of choices in the event-planning business, and you were known by the resources that you had. Now with the Internet, everyone seems to have access to everything so there is really no proprietary information anywhere. What makes us unique is how we edit, curate, style, and produce.”

“My signature style is really about an acute attention to detail. For example, after an amazing night, expect to head to your hotel room now ankle deep in rose petals and magically find two bottles of coconut water and some aspirin on your pillow that can get you ready for the Bloody Mary bar the following morning. We leave no stone unturned in terms of the client’s needs and in creating the ultimate customer experience.”

“I look at the DNA of a couple, a product, or a building, or whatever it is that we might be launching, and that becomes the basis of the event. To that, I add the season and the venue, and then layer on the five senses and take you on a journey by manipulating, enhancing, and developing what you smell, touch, feel, taste, and hear—from the time you arrive to the moment you leave. And that is why no two of my projects ever look the same.”

“We live in a jaded world where we’ve seen everything and it’s 20 minutes too long. Every movie and every show is 20 minutes too long. Most speeches are 20 minutes too long! And so is every dinner service. To keep the party and guests on schedule, we take a very proactive approach to the timing of the event. It’s what separates a good party from a bad party. If guests are looking at their watches–you have lost them, unless they were wondering where has the time gone! My rule of thumb is cocktails should last 45 minutes. It takes 15 minutes to move a crowd to the next destination. I serve dinner in 90 minutes and like to keep speeches brief. Good timing is the most important tool in the box, and it does not cost a cent!”

“Our secret sauce is what we add to the mix. It’s that certain je n’ai sais quoi that’s there, but isn’t obvious. With the subtlety of a conductor’s wand, we decide how we move and how we produce. It’s not just about the lighting and the sound—I look at each event as a living and evolving organism. We’ve built this masterpiece that must have a conductor to keep it on course. We stay two steps ahead and continually ask: Do the lights need to be brighter? Does the sound need to be turned down? Or do the servers need to speed things up? A great producer sees the opportunities to make it better well before they ever happen.”

“Always keep your eye on the ball and look for opportunities to live up to the promise and the dream. Because at the end of the day, as the famous American poet Maya Angelou once said, ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people never forget how you made them feel.’ I have used this, and quoted it daily even, for as long as I can remember. It’s what we do. It’s how we make them feel.”

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