Originally published in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Daily Times-Call.

Henry Sell knew that details matter.

The publisher and editor of Town and Country Magazine was a well-known figure in the New York literary scene years ago. He loved books and the West. After reading an article that my dad wrote about the West for the Rocky Mountain News, Sell contacted my dad. He wanted to meet the man behind the article. The fact that dad was Choctaw was the cherry on top.

Mr. Sell, as I knew him, was a wonderful man. He was full of fun and adventure. He loved to throw parties for his literary and celebrity friends. I became involved when he decided to hold a Western themed event at the famous Four Seasons in New York City. Real sagebrush from the prairies of Wyoming became a central component – a key detail to the whole event.

Cutting sagebrush is difficult. Sagebrush is tenacious. However, dad and I spent a day out in on the hot prairie cutting sagebrush and stuffing them into big black trash bags. We were both sweating and muttering as we conducted our task. It seemed endless. Eventually we had enough. Dad, ticket and sagebrush bags in hand headed to the Big Apple.

The event was a hit – the sagebrush on display enjoyed by all. And while I’m sure that everyone in attendance that day would have had a great time without the sagebrush, the fact that there was sagebrush direct from Wyoming was talked about for many years after. The fact that a real Choctaw Indian delivered it was even more exciting.

When I think about events today, I always remember Mr. Sell’s big event. I know that how people feel about an experience depends largely on the details. Whether you are planning an event, a retreat, meeting or conference, consider the experience of those who will be attending.

Most businesses and organizations start out considering how a gathering will move them forward. Attention is given to defining the goal and what needs to be accomplished. Discussion is usually given to the end result. All of this important.

However, failure to consider the experience of those participating may leave those in attendance feeling decidedly underwhelmed by your event.

Focusing on the details of an experience will ensure that events are memorable. Not every event requires sagebrush, but thinking about unique ways to involve your participants makes good business sense.

Details include many things. Themes and decorations are part of many events. Refreshments, location, speakers and agendas are also details that should be looked at very closely. Activities should be carefully considered. Many events and gatherings are negatively impacted by asking participants to do something that they are not comfortable doing. Understanding your audience will help define the details.

Professionals may be able to help you with planning. Event planners have great ideas and know how to make gatherings memorable. Facilitators know how to keep meetings and conferences moving to reach goals. Public relations professionals know how to frame your messaging and what you hope to accomplish. The experts are worth the expense when your event, retreat or conference is successful and participants feel their time was well spent. Lack of experience may lead to confusion, wasted time, frustration and ultimately a bad mark on your business or organization.

It’s been many moons since I collected sagebrush with my dad. The events that I work on are not held at the Four Seasons. The retreats facilitated, meetings planned and messaging delivered are very different from Mr. Sell’s parties. However, I’ve never forgotten that the key to success is always in the details.

Stacy Cornay is the owner of Communication Concepts Public Relations & Advertising. 
She may be reached at 303-651-6612; scornay@comm-concepts.com; www.comm-concepts.com; Facebook.com/Communication Concepts; Twitter @CommConceptsPR; or Linked In.

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