You are what you do

Man is a social animal.  Yet, the fun one has at an event is often inversely proportional to the degree of involvement in organising it (as it turns out, organising a big event is the fifth most stressful job in America!).

Being a host, like everything else, is a learned skill.  It helps when you grow up in a family where random guests, conversations, laughter flow in abundance.

I don’t organise parties for a living.  This year, however, was special as I had committed to organising my 30th anniversary old-school reunion – and I wanted to do it in style.

There were a few logistical challenges: as my old school, Nunziatella, is situated in Naples (Italy), most of the guests had to travel a few miles, for the venue I had chosen was the magnificent Cutty Sark in Greenwich  (I did say it was special).  Also, after 30 years, there were plenty of families swelling the numbers.

However, with the help of an array of amazing professionals and the support of friends generous with their time and money, we somehow managed to rock the boat with a truly memorable black-tie dinner-dance for children, their parents and – in some cases – their grandparents.

There was some collateral damage: a few months of working double-shifts (the day at work, the evening planning the party from home) required my close family to cope with my head being mostly elsewhere for a while.  I also had a growing fear that, once the event would be over, a big anti-climax would ensue.  

But in the end it was a massive success which truly repaid all the effort that had gone into organising.

And then I thought: “if I can do this for my old friends… why can’t I do it for my company?”

For it dawned on me that employees, clients and professional partners, and my family, after 13 years of my company being in business, also deserved a big THANK YOU party.  Needless to say that having a group of stakeholders in the same place having a good time afforded the opportunity to do some soft marketing.  And so it was that I almost immediately set out to organise it.

This time round it all was much easier: I knew musicians, magicians, potential venues, event managers.  We picked a killer venue: the über-cool Croc Bowling alley at the Ham Yard Hotel in Piccadilly, London.  No-one had to fly in from Italy and the catering was in-house. 

On arrival, after cocktails and a short speech from yours truly, everyone had a go at bowling (in a specially imported 1950’s American, 4-lane vintage alley).  The more confident ones tried karaoke in the adjacent room.

It was a very enjoyable evening where work and fun mixed in a natural way.  A perfect cocktail of the Apollinean and the Dionysiac.

So what’s the fuss all about? 
…I cannot even begin to describe how beneficial this year was for me, both personally and professionally, because of diving into these non-ordinary activities.

To venture outside your comfort zone and take on demanding projects that are not part of your normal routine, where you put a lot of skin-in-the-game, is a truly exceptional experience that I would recommend to anyone.  

Meeting new people from different industries and professions, interacting with organisers, guests and suppliers, planning the before, during and after, coping with the unknowns – all of these made my brain fire in different ways and has definitely put a spring in my step.

As a result, I am daring to venture in new directions at work, aiming to launch a new product early next year; in my personal life, I am driving initiatives to do with education and mentoring.  And it’s not just me, me, me!: many of the guests and fellow organisers involved in both events have come back to me describing how participating in something beautiful and different has fired them up.

After all, we are what we do.

Moral of the story: PARTY ON and, if there’s no party… organise one!


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