Bold. Bright. Brilliant.
“Those three words seem like such simple words, but they’re not,” celebrity event planner David Tutera says.
“It’s often difficult to be bold. And being bright? What exactly does that mean? It’s about shining a light on—not necessarily on yourself—but on the people around you. And being brilliant; being brilliant isn’t about being smart, brilliant is about being present.”
Tutera will inspire audiences this July when he delivers the closing keynote during The Special Event + Catersource Conference & Tradeshow in Miami. This is your opportunity to hear from one of the industry’s most renowned experts on how to build your business and elevate your career with passion and personality.
Tutera has been in the special events industry for over three decades, stumbling into it by accident. While
delivering singing telegrams during his college years, a 19-year-old Tutera met a woman in Scarsdale, NY who asked if he would be interested in purchasing her small boutique. With the help of his grandfather, who owned his own flower shop, Tutera was able to not only buy the business, but open a new one in Larchmont, NY. And it was at the new shop where Tutera got his first introduction to event planning.
“A woman randomly came in and asked if I would decorate her son’s Bar Mitzvah like the window creation I made,” he says. “That helped me understand that there was something creative out there that I might be interested in. I wasn’t an overnight success by far, and it was certainly a lot of hard work.”
David Tutera will deliver the closing keynote on Thursday, July 22 at 3:00 p.m on the tradeshow floor. Don’t forget his Candid Conversation immediately following his closing session for follow up questions and networking, a terrific way to close out your conference experience!. Learn more
By all accounts, Tutera was self-educated re: producing special events, but he says he would be remiss if he didn’t acknowledge the most important teachers in his career.
“My clients were my educators,” he says. “They taught me the things I had no clue about. They taught me exactly what I needed to know in order to produce for them.”
Throughout his career, Tutera has worked with everyone from high-profile celebrities to the White House, and for the past 16 years, Tutera has been seen regularly on television sharing his creativity. But, for him, it’s not the prestige he enjoys most about this career; it is being able to do something different every day while meeting different people.
“Every client is different, every scenario has a different outcome, and everything has its own mindset,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate to have done a lot of work across the globe and that has always tapped into my heart and my mind because it’s a chance to get to know people that I normally would never have met.”
When discussing his creative endeavors and what sets him apart from other industry professionals, Tutera says he believes it has to do with how he interacts with his clients.
“I’ve always said from the very beginning I don’t take on a style, I take on a client’s personality. I’m like a chameleon and I adapt to the wishes and the expectations and wants of my client,” he says. “The one thing I do is I never tell them it’s a bad idea. I always guide or shift them in a direction that gets to the best place.
“Think of it as a piece of wet clay on a spinning board, and you’re sculpting your piece. It is the same with a client. It doesn’t look the way you want until you see the finished piece, which is when the party is over. So, I’m always sculpting a new concept, designing a new approach. I’m planning a new outcome, which has allowed me to keep myself very fresh, very relevant, and not burned out.”
Everyone knows that the past year has been challenging for the events industry, and not even Tutera escaped unscathed. Fortunately, he was able to tap into his other skills by hosting virtual tours, education sessions,
“We enlightened people and gave them some sort-of sense of hope,” he says. “We were very proud that we were able to step up and give hope and guidance, and I think that’s also helped me as well.”
As difficult as it was to see events postponed, Tutera says the biggest frustration for him over the past year was the stark realization that the events industry doesn’t have the recognition and respect that it ought to.
“We are an industry that I feel is often overlooked. The pandemic brought a very strong understanding that we have not been able to elevate our industry to where it should be because it’s become very clear that we’re at the bottom of the banister.
“It’s up to us to present ourselves as being necessary and not a luxury. We are not about luxury, but about making people feel amazing at celebrations—celebrations can change peoples’ lives.”
Tutera, just like everyone else in the industry, is eager to get back to work. However, he urges everyone not to rush into planning events just yet.
“I can’t rush my clients because I feel like they’re already stressed.” he says. “We have to be patient, and I know that word is not always an enjoyable word to hear, but with patience comes, I believe, more success.
“I don’t think we’re there yet, but what we have to do now is push for what we need. We can’t wait for people to tell us what to do. People in the industry should not be worrying about how they are going to stay in business, they need to be focused on what makes them different, what makes them stand out.”
With a career as illustrious as Tutera’s, it is no surprise that he has picked up a few successful tricks over the years.
“One of the things I tell people is that you never ever talk about another client’s event. You always want to remain as if they were the sole client you have,” he says. “Also, it’s important to ask a lot of questions, even if they are not specific to the project, as a way of legitimately getting to know your client. When you get into that sort of minutiae of emotionally connecting, you hold a little bit more control of the experience that you’re providing for your client.”
Tutera says he is eager to inspire such a large cross-section of the events industry at Catersource + The Special Event because it’s time to celebrate this incredible industry.
“Where we’ve been is where we have been, but where you choose to go tomorrow depends on being bold, being bright, and being brilliant,” he says. “We can’t be looking at all the negativity and sitting in the gloom, we have to be catapulting ourselves upward.”
So, be prepared to learn how to rise up, and how to stand up.
“Arrive with an open heart and open mind,” Tutera says. “We need to stop placing judgment on ourselves and start figuring out how to not be a different version of ourselves, but a better version of ourselves. I want people to arrive with a blank white canvas and let me throw the paint on them so that they can build their own piece of art of who they are.”