“I NEVER, EVER PLANNED that this was where my life was going to take me,” says Boca by Design sales manager Lauren Fine about her event career. The New York native, who holds a degree in interior design, says she “didn't even think there was a market” for planning events when she started organizing luncheons and meetings as a student member of the American Society of Interior Designers. Her first ISES meeting, which she attended at the behest of a friend, proved otherwise. “I learned that there was an [event] industry — this whole other world out there,” she says.
Not long after Fine found the world of events, she found herself on site at the Boca Raton, Fla.-based Boca Raton Resort and Club, home of six-year-old in-house event department Boca by Design, which provides full-scale design and production services for on-property corporate and social events.
According to Fine, the property's architectural consistency is a draw for corporate groups, which make up 70 percent of Boca by Design's more than $5 million in annual sales. “Even though in January 1998 we opened a convention center with every single high-tech amenity, it's absolutely beautiful,” she says, noting the building's Spanish Revival style favored by architect Addison Mizner, who built the resort in 1926.
Its 30-member staff dedicated to “complete experience” events has enabled Boca by Design to create elaborate themed events such as “Quasimodo's Bell Tower,” Fine says. “The chef read the book ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame,’ and each course correlated with events in the book. One of the great benefits of being part of an organization like this is that you've got every single department cooperating to make an event into the ultimate experience.”
Forward-thinking management helped guide Boca by Design out of post-9/11 doldrums and into its best season on record. “We were never allowed to look at the glass as half empty,” Fine says. “It was always, ‘The business is going to come.’” And come it did, Fine says: “March was the best March we've done. And April was the best month we've ever done since we've been open.”
Fine says a desire among corporations to keep meetings and events inside the continental United States has helped bolster business. Mostly, though, she thinks incentives are responsible for the growth of corporate events at the luxury resort. “At the same time that companies are downsizing, they want to take care of their people,” she says. “They want the employees that they've got to know how important they are.”
Boca by Design 501 E. Camino Real, Boca Raton, FL 33431; 561/447-5444; www.bocabydesign.com
“You have to pay attention to what's going on not only in our industry, but outside it. People on vacations are whitewater rafting and mountain climbing now. When they go to events, they don't want to see some flat scenery. Instead of having a nice wave on the wall, they want to do the surfing simulator. They want to actually participate in it and be a part of it.”
“I love talking to people. Being friendly and open helps with the comfort level of the client. You may not be talking about business, but they feel more comfortable about you and what you're going to provide for them.”
“You hear all these things about competition in this industry and that industry. It's not that we don't compete against each other [in the event industry], but at the end of the day, we can look at another person's event and say, ‘Wow, that was really great.’ You're happy for people for having done something great, and you can celebrate it.”