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Make That Party Float!

Posted by Penelope Mohoto-Sebilwane on September 5, 2014
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Make that deck sing! Make sure Moet is flowing and the rest should be above and beyond what the world has seen. That is what a brief from the client or a boss may echo to produce a yacht-based event, especially when it is a mogul in entertainment or the Fortune 500 millionaire who’s hosting a celebrity throng during prestigious events such as the Cannes Film Festival. You won’t always have 3 months or more in advance to plan an event aboard the blue seas, given the fast-paced lifestyle of public personalities and the high net-worth community. Very often, with just 5 days to the big day, you could find yourself with a brief and expectations to – “bring it”!

Where do you begin? Imagination. Emotion. Attention to detail. This trio spearheads all that creates the hallmark of a yacht – based event. You therefore want to first imagine the possibilities. Assuming you now have the client or boss’ brief at hand, visualize the unfolding on the event. Consider what the client desires from this unique experience. Is it an after party, a pre-awards affair, a style lounge, a company or brand celebration, client entertainment, celebrity dining, honeymoon, a wedding (a la elope), ϋber-lux teambuilding, birthday bash or the kick-start of a vacay?

Tip (1): take your cue from the client’s life. So if he/ she sings to millions around the world, watch atleast 3 of their latest performances and take note of the theme, how they are branding their world tour and consider the underlying emotion that captivates their audience. If your client is a top-tier executive in showbiz or affluent CEO types, take note of their biggest and latest project, the image they put out in the media and be very well acquainted with their assistant, unless (lucky you!) that is one of the hats already entrusted to you. If you are at service to a film or fashion star, bring your focus once more to their press coverage, and how they promote their recent work. In other words extend this persona’s brand into the yacht event. Take that it-thing and style an image, a brand extension, a congruent perception that will run prevalent throughout the event elements. It will also assist you in standing out in a sea of similar past events hosted by others.

See the event first in your mind like a motion picture. Press play. Do this in segments, beginning with setting the scene. Ask yourself: “Where are we? What’s that place like? How do you introduce the theme (if one is desired) and Who are the people in attendance (aka target audience), their caliber”. A superb example of delivering a setting could go like this:

“For an unrivaled 2-day race viewing, we create a luxury weekend experience of a Mediterranean inspired VIP event, transforming the pool on deck The Amber Lounge Yacht using a combination of Tuscan inspired furniture with sleek white leather sofas. Perfectly situated in the hub of Yas Marina, guests are offered prime track views, F1 driver appearances, an all day open bar, gourmet buffets served with vintage wines, swag bags with team merchandise and VIP entrance to the host’s upper deck lounge party. The perfect environment is set by hosting guests at the poolside as the sun set over the sea, revealing the flickering candlelight everywhere from the beautiful kerosene lamp throughout the space to the floating candle rafts in the pool. Florals are a modern take on an old world idea, combining fruits with olive tree branches and bright yellow callas…”

Once the mental vision is formed, follow it with what I call the opening sequence. Visually see a run-through of who, what, where, when, why and how the reception leads onto the unique venue. The host will often request helicopter charter for him/herself with select patrons to make a separate and distinct entrance on the yacht’s helipad landing. Remember, just like a journo you are telling a story using an event as your medium. And like all well told tales, the 5Ws and H aptly build key elements for your story.

Transition into the plot. Give attention to detail in color, magnitude, scale, texture, mood, ambience, dress code, sound, pattern, repetitive motion, and consistency among all elements imaginable. If your event unfolds through a weekend or several days, then take your plot through each day.

Enter THE END. Give yourself a glimpse into how your event production comes to a close. Spectacular does it, but how spectacular – think details! details! details!

Tip (2): your visual process must give you a feeling of every scene in the production. Shortage of emotion at any given stage of the event means there will be a let-down somewhere in terms of what hoteliers call – the guest experience. When you have been exposed to operations in hospitality or hotel management, the guest experience is what pays the bills and your salary. It is equally what drives elements of the luxury industry, including the yacht market.

What to remember? As humans we do not buy a stay at Trump Towers, instead we buy an experience. The luxury swimwear designer does not gift her husband with a Lamborghini, she gives him an endowment of speed, pride, adrenalin or uniqueness. When some very big art collectors descend at say The Opera Gallery to view and buy works by the Godfather of Graffiti in London, they are driven by something far beyond the physical intrinsic – emotion. One must therefore mist and musk all elements of the event with emotion. How do you achieve that? Rely on your senses, all biological 5 plus the unseen 6th. Personally, I love strategically partnering with a luxury brand in fragrance or room amenities and use befitting scent from their collections to bond the atmosphere with an aroma. Have you ever caught a whiff of something that transports you back in time or reminds you of someone you love or miss? The association of smell is a nifty plan to captivate hearts and ignite imagination. If it doesn’t move you, do not give it a second thought. Replace it. Otherwise you may never have another shot at staging an event of such stature. Arouse emotion. (And strive to do so each time you serve affluent persons)

Who to call? In this business, you need a glam squad for every occasion, and everything. A trusted army to tackle and support projects you work on. Building relationships and filling your little black book with quality vendors, service providers, specialists and go-to gurus in all aspects of life serves as a commodity you can trade in and use to leverage situations, events, and conditions you have not yet conceived possible. If your client/ boss require you to charter a super vessel to host 100 of his guests, who do you turn to?

You can get referred to who’s-who of the yacht market or you can make it your business to follow yacht shows, leading luxury lifestyle content, publications and entertainment news. A lot of times a client has preferred charter management they will expect you to further an existing rapport with. Not just any yacht will do as London-based The Yacht Company ( will tell you; a yacht isn’t just a yacht. It’s your gateway to a world of incredible experiences with the people who matter most. With over 1000 yachts one can charter, you need a team or management company who understand and know their way into port regulations, processes, intrinsic and extrinsic attributes of the market. A superyacht will have all the amenities of a 5-star hotel property to meet your needs and create a fully bespoke experience. The management will also assess your event needs, like how many cabins your party needs, multi-country stop-overs, island hopping or even drop anchor between the islands for special activities – like diving into the blue. These considerations will be paired with the right boat, crew, facilities and location to meet desired outcomes. Other collaborations and vendor specialists you will call for include decorative interior & ambience; entertainers; celebrity brand chefs (they’ll often be requested by name), special activities (like race speedboats); corporate hospitality packages (if your type of event requires this element) and much more.

Check-in with next month for PART (2) of the article, when we take a detailed look at vendors and suppliers, including trends and tips on vetting these specialists to meet your requirements. Thank you for travelling with us on this first leg of the article series. Until next time!

Penelope Mohoto-Sebilwane


Her work life spans 15 years.She has called many executives in different corporate sectors boss; developed great skill at the birth of privately owned enterprises alongside founding investors; supported a newly appointed board of directors; to coordinating the successful sale and acquisition of her own established online business.

Knowing the ins and outs of celebrity life from working with PR & Talent Management Agencies earlier in her career, and successfully applying into mentorships and mid-career intern programs in the creative industry for 3 consecutive years, she became well-poised to initiate projects where she consults independently as a celebrity assistant, talent coordinator & lifestyle manager to a host of media personalities, celebrity talent, celebrity managers, publicists, stylists and entrepreneurs they work with in film, TV production, casting directors, studio facilities, advertising agencies, fashion and women's magazines.

Determined to grow the list of international celebrity talent she supports; coordinating talent for bigger headlining projects; engaging emerging talent and using herself to change the face and perception of assistants worldwide;- Penelope is fiercely growing her personal brand as a coach, public speaker, author, career stylist, contributing writer, entrepreneur, and THPH: the highly paid help (an evolved and ever enterprising top-tier assistant)

For reviews on her service and brands she has worked with // Visit .za

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