CHERYL FISH, vice president of Las Vegas-based MGM Mirage Events, has come a long way since she launched her first event company in a Los Angeles garage 21 years ago. “The first time we did a large event, we had 22 centerpieces, a stage marquee, a sign-in board and a table to transport to the hotel. We thought we could put everything in the back of my sister's Volvo station wagon — we didn't realize you had to measure the space,” Fish says. “But that's how we learned.”
Eventually, her days decorating upscale bar and bat mitzvahs and weddings led to a few projects in Las Vegas. After dashing back and forth between the coast and desert for five years, the single mother of three grown daughters convinced Mirage Resorts to support an on-site company devoted exclusively to producing events at Mirage properties. Once she got the OK, she sold her L.A. company and opened Mirage Events in a 15,000-square-foot warehouse “with not even a thumbtack.”
Now with 50,000 square feet of space, Fish's operation — named MGM Mirage Events following the merger of Mirage Resorts and MGM Grand in 2000 — has plenty of thumbtacks, as well as a full stock of inventory for creating more than 500 themed events annually.
Working in the heart of one of the nation's convention hubs, Fish has shifted her focus from social to corporate events, and she says the change suits her. “Most corporate clients want something that is going to brand their company,” she explains. “Our goal is for the day after the event, wherever they're going to be on the show floor, their guests are still talking about the experience.”
Fish regularly dreams up celebrations for such high-stakes clients as Dell Computer. For this high-tech client, her staff outfitted a 150-foot-long airwall with a 24-by-12-foot Dell computer replica that split down the center and slid open to reveal a “Dell'Arte” cocktail party waiting for guests in a hidden ballroom on the other side.
The Dell reveal is a fitting achievement for Fish, who learned to operate her own office computer a mere two years ago. “I used to do everything by hand, and now I think, ‘How in the world?’” she says. “It's never too late to learn something new.”
MGM Mirage Events 3665 Industrial Road, Las Vegas, NV 89109; 702/792-7798; www.mgm-mirage.com
“Times have changed. Even if clients have an unlimited budget, I don't think they want to do something over the top. It isn't in good taste. What we've had to learn to do is scale back, but still provide all the tantalizing ideas.”
“We keep a database of all corporate events that have come in for five years. We can look in the computer and see: Is it a large event? Is it a small event? Are they going to have an opening or closing session or closing night gala? It lets us court the client. We can romance them a little and build up a relationship.”
WORD FROM THE WISE
“Anyone coming into the field today needs to look around to find out who are the ‘oldies but goodies.’ Who can be a mentor? I have young kids working in our office. I see the sparkle in their eyes when they get a letter from a client saying what a good job they did. No money can pay for that. You see the passion come through — it's very empowering for them.”