The Do's and Don'ts of event planning with Irene Bosi

How to avoid replicating a disaster like Fyre Festival? Find out with Irene Bosi's super practical tips.


The do's and don'ts of event planning with Irene Bosi

Stephen Brigli Bongi: Hello. This is EvenTalks, the podcast about events.

I am Stefano Brigli Bongi, and today we are going to talk about event planning and why event planning is so important, probably the most relevant part, the most important part. In mentioning what's critical inevent planning, we're also going to talk about a disaster case in event planning that maybe some of you who are listening are familiar with. It's called the Fyre Festival.

The Fyre Festival was a catastrophe that happened a few years ago-a festival that never was. And then maybe we'll go into a little bit more detail, tell you a little bit more about it. In the meantime, I'll introduce our guest today, Irene Bosi, Head of Marketing at Yoga Academy and organizer of the Kalemana Festival. Hello Irene, welcome!

Irene Bosi: Hi Stefano, thank you very much to the whole team for the invitation.

Stephen Brigli Bongi: So the first thing I wanted to ask you was to tell us a little bit about yourself. You've been around a thousand times, No? Today you are here, yesterday somewhere else like? What do you do? Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Irene Bosi: So in life, to this day I manage all the marketing and product development of Yoga Academy. I organize Kalemana Festival with a company called We Are Marketers. We're a group of digital nomads, we all work remotely, kind of unconventionally, we don't have working hours, we travel while we work, and we're kind of crazy.

Stephen Brigli Bongi: I mean, those ugly things everyone wants to do. But the ugly consultant looks online and says...

Irene Bosi: How can that be possible! That's right. And I actually come from a slightly more traditional world.

Before I joined this beautiful group of crazy people, I worked in somewhat more structured companies just from the somewhat classic world of multinational corporations. I worked first at Procter&Gamble and then at Perfetti Van Melle.

To this day I live as a digital nomad, spending the bulk of my time in Portugal. And one of the most exciting projects I'm lucky enough to work on is actually Kalemana Festival, which I hope never becomes like a Fyre Festival.

Stephen Brigli Bongi: Eh now maybe we get into that for a moment. I just wanted to point out that by the way, talking about the things you mentioned before, Yoga Academy is the first...let's also talk a little bit about this thing here, no because then it all kind of revolves around that. It is the first totally online yoga school in Italy, which is why then the Festival that you are going to tell us about was born.

Irene Bosi: Yes, yes, yes, that's right, Yoga Academy is to date the largest Yogi community in Italy, was founded in 2018 by Denise Della Giacoma and is a community that exists primarily online.

Even before Kalemana we were already organizing some offline events, simply because to build a strong, cohesive community you also need to organize activities that allow people then to meet offline. When we saw how successful even these small events we were organizing with Yoga Academy were and we said to ourselves: Let's Do It, let's organize a nice big festival where people from this community can meet each other. 

Stephen Brigli Bongi: He's in, cool as hell. There's probably somebody listening to us doing yoga, maybe with headphones on, stretching. You know where you want to go, you know where you need to go, and this place is visiting probably the site, the portal of Yoga Academy.

Then who knows. All right. And then we mentioned the Fyre Festival, a total fiasco, nothing like Kalemana Festival.

Irene Bosi: Hopefully.

Stefano Brigli Bongi: Let's talk about the Festival for a moment, tell us a little bit more in detail about what it is. Why did you organize it.

Irene Bosi: So Kalemana Festival is a concept that was actually born in the heads of the founders of the We Are Marketers and Yoga Academy companies years and years ago. Quickly We Are Marketers is a very large community of digital marketing enthusiasts. Yoga Academy on the other hand of yoga enthusiasts and they are part of the same company. We Are Marketers has already been organizing an offline digital marketing event for years, and the founders for years thought, "Sooner or later we have to do a big event that brings the yoga community together instead."

And at the time when I joined the Yoga Academy team and started, let's say developing all the various Yoga Academy activities, I was organizing some small events, but I had no experience in organizing a big festival. But last year we said to ourselves, Covid is over, let's jump in, let's organize this big festival.

I had the opportunity to run it simply because I was running the Yoga Academy business. I had a little bit of experience in the event world, actually not even too much, that is, events of a 100 people, small. I was very fortunate that Denise and Dario gave me great confidence and believed in them first of all that I could manage such a project, and so we got to work on Kalemana Festival.

Irene Bosi: And it makes me laugh a little bit, even the reference to Fyre Festival, because at the beginning actually a little bit we were playing with it, in the sense that when we opened the sales of Kalemana actually it was a concept that existed only in our heads, a little bit like what happened to Fyrefestival.

Then for goodness sake, I work with people who are so much more honest, so much more realistic, that they would never have gotten to the point where they did. But let's say it was a bit of a plunge a little bit, in the sense because we started selling a concept that we really still didn't know how to implement.

How to organize a festival? [05:58]

Stephen Brigli Bongi: Nice, very, very creative as a thing, obviously. Then maybe talk in more detail about Fyre Festival and mention some of the pills not to replicate at home.

So this is the first time actually that you have jumped into doing something like this. And as you've already learned, where did you gather the information from and who did you lean on? I mean how did you do it?

Irene Bosi: Some common sense. And so, actually the only external partner that we have involved in the organization of this festival is a person named Mattia who is a consultant who has been working in the event world for years, who has supported us with everything related to the direction.

Which is a job that it's not that one can make up, it takes a lot of experience, and in addition to directing he supported us in managing all those key suppliers, such as for example service...

He is then also an extremely kind person, so at the time when I was dealing with things that put me so much in crisis, that I really had no idea how to handle I would give him a phone call, "Oh Mattia, what do you recommend here?"

But actually there is no instruction booklet, I simply went by common sense. By the way last year that we did the first edition, we decided to do Kalemana in May and Kalemana happened in September, it was really a rush.

So maybe I didn't even have to waste time thinking about how to organize an event because I just thought I have to run, do everything.

Stefano Brigli Bongi: I have to do that.

Irene Bosi: I have to do something. So I know that the areas of work are these somehow they all have to happen. And to do it well by also working in a very unstructured way, that's important to say.

Stephen Brigli Bongi: If you don't even know where to start, it's already a good thing you got the result. It's too bad you didn't know Kampaay because apart from the brands KK, Kalemana and Kampaay.

Irene Bosi: They also play well together.

Stefano Brigli Bongi: So cues for the future, who knows. What about your activities? specifically what are actually the organization of this festival? Can you describe them?

Irene Bosi: I mean it's really about putting on many different hats because as I told you precisely it's not that there is an agency that supports us in the development of this format. And so I take care of everything from the conception of the format where at the creative level they definitely give very useful inputs especially Dario and Denise who are two extremely creative people.

And after that I handle the whole part just of managing the location search, managing the location, searching for vendors, thinking about just what format what activity to propose, who to contact, contacting performers, making the budget, contacting sponsors, thinking about all the various materials to use trivially to set up the beach. All the bureaucratic part that in Italy I really wouldn't wish on anyone and maybe the part that's a bit...

Stephen Brigli Bongi: Come on, what are you talking about? I don't know what you're talking about.

Irene Bosi: No, mamma mia, then this year we are show audience. Look, I really get a stomach ache thinking about that one is really very very complex. Then the communication part, ticket sales, budgets, in short a little bit of everything.

Stephen Brigli Bongi: But this beautiful location which by the way is Ravenna.

Irene Bosi: In Marina di Ravenna.

Stephen Brigli Bongi: How did you choose it? Why that one right there?

Irene Bosi: Because location-wise we had really very specific needs. That is, we had in our head the idea that we wanted to do a festival in a mega beach where you couldn't hear the noise of the city, so all the beaches for example of Rimini like that didn't fit because there is the street right behind.

Where they would give us the ability to do what we wanted to do in terms of set-ups and that it wasn't too complex to get to. That at the same time had the ability to accommodate performers, guests and people who decide to come to the festival nearby.

So I when I was working in Perfetti I also managed all the sponsorship activities and worked with Club del Sole, which precisely is the partner with whom we do Kalemana. And I remembered precisely this beautiful village where we had had volleyball courts branded Big Bubble.

So I simply went back to this partner that I had already met, we explained the project to them. They incredibly believed in us, also because they are a very big partner, I went there myself like this, "Hey we want to have a festival here, will you leave us all your beach?" So, there, they were not too sure.

Irene Bosi: But then you know.

Stephen Brigli Bongi: They had seen the documentary Fyre Festival maybe...

Irene Bosi: Ahah, maybe. I mean, definitely I alone maybe didn't give all the credibility that was needed. It helped so much to share him some names of performers who were involved in the format to have a little bit more credibility, I mean telling him Paola Maugeri, the presenter of the festival obviously gave us a credibility that without her it would have been really very difficult to have.

And so nothing they gave us precisely the possibility, "We give you all this beach at your disposal," it's really a very big beach, "We take away all the umbrellas and set it up as you like."

Of course within the limits of what is allowed by the municipality etc. etc. and we became partners. We did the first edition with them, we will do the second edition with them again because it is too difficult to find a location that has all these characteristics.

How to seek and engage guests? [11:14] 

Stephen Brigli Bongi: Well yes, actually it sounds complicated in the sense that we who live in the world of events to find such a place know very well that it is complex. Well so beach, tranquility, you know? A place where maybe it makes sense to go.

And you talked about the people who have let's say line-up no, people who have been involved in being a bit of a host, a bit of a presenter a bit of a yoga teacher during the event How did you create this scene? How did you get involved, what did you sell them, how did you manage to do all these things here, before you had the festival in hand I guess, by the way.

Irene Bosi: Yes, so there are many, I start with the talk of how we were able to involve talents of this caliber, as can be a Paola Maugeri or Shiva Rea who I don't know if you are inside the yoga world though...

Stephen Brigli Bongi: So I tell you I tried to do yoga, Bikram yoga, I had 3 classes, on the 4th class I injured my meniscus.

Irene Bosi: Doing Yoga? But how is that possible?.

Stefano Brigli Bongi: Doing yoga. This is the first time I've said it live. Guys don't tell anybody and nothing after a while I'm still, so I'll probably take up yoga again, maybe.

Irene Bosi: Maybe in Kalemana.

Stephen Brigli Bongi: Maybe Kalemana, yes.

Irene Bosi: If you feel like coming.

Stephen Brigli Bongi: But the next Kalemana could be... Yes, it was not a wonderful experience, however I tried I can say, right?

Irene Bosi: No, let's say the key there was really the power of the Yoga Academy Community but also We Are Marketers.

That is, it was enough to say to these people Denise and Dario are organizing a festival, would you like to come, we'll all be there, the whole family will be there, and people are happy to come so definitely the key element in being able to get all these talents involved was the strength of the community that unites all these people.

At the very content level Denise definitely contributed a lot in terms of especially the whole yoga content part, and otherwise we simply did a search for activities that we thought would be cool to propose at a festival of this kind.

I am very passionate about holistic disciplines, even extreme sports, sports in general, so it was just a beautiful job to think. Okay, we have a beach and a day and a lot of people, what do we make them do? And so it was really a quest to think, "What would I like to do a day at the beach?"

Stephen Brigli Bongi: Like what? One of the activities?

Irene Bosi: Activities like aerial fabrics, or like sound baths or silent yoga ecstatic dance, pole dancing, skateboarding, climbing, slackline, balance board, sup.

Stephen Brigli Bongi: Half I'm not sure what you're talking about, though...

Irene Bosi: I am super happy because we really say, Kalemana is a festival where people come and try activities for the first time. Not all of them of course, but it's a context where we really want people to explore new things that they've never done in their life. So I'm glad!

Stephen Brigli Bongi: As soon as I recover from my knee, maybe I'll jump in, I'll understand what the balance board of the, because it looks dangerous.

Irene Bosi: No, no, they all survived the last edition.

Event Planning: key things to think about in advance. [14:24]

Stephen Brigli Bongi: Look, going a little bit more in detail about the event planner part, if you were to give advice, more on the time management part, communication, guest management. What are those things that you would say makes sense to do, or at any rate the things that you've done in your experience obviously.

Irene Bosi: So that definitely if you want names of a certain type at your festival, it's crucial to block them as soon as possible. Because especially after Covid, when they have resumed all the events a little bit, anyway people, if they are valid, have a full schedule, so it's worth blocking them right away. And then especially so the word also starts to spread, right?

We involve people who for good or ill are all part of the same industry. We talk about the industry of yoga, wellness, digital nomad, mindfulness, and so on. So, it's all groups of people who: I'm going there too, I'm going around there I want to go there too, So it also helps a lot to start early with invitations from performers and guests to create some hype.

And another thing that is important to start very early on is the arrangements. For example, this year I found that beautiful Bedouin tents either block out a year in advance or you forget about them, because there are so few suppliers offering them that it's really very difficult to find them.

Stephen Brigli Bongi: How did you do from May to September? 

Irene Bosi: Last year in fact we did without Bedouin tents.

This year I moved practically a year in advance to block four tents, which you may know how to give me better advice, however, only one supplier in France I found that makes them nice.

Stephen Brigli Bongi: Nothing, nothing easy to find.

Irene Bosi: And then also in terms of timing definitely important to move early even with sponsors because anyway, you will know well, then companies allocate budgets tend to be almost a year in advance. So it's important if you want to rake in big budgets, anyway to contact them well in advance.

Another thing this year that I would have liked to have done before we couldn't is to try to open sales as early as possible. In the sense in my opinion it's ideal if one can open sales for your event, if it's an event that's repeated every year, as soon as the event ends, taking advantage a little bit of that climax of excitement that people have as soon as an event ends. Here, this thing we were not able to do this year we started a little bit later, however one thing I would like to do for the third edition.

How to keep the community alive after an event? [16:58]

Stephen Brigli Bongi: Definitely because they leave you at the time when you are hottest, just coming out, it kind of holds back all that emotion, it fits. In my opinion it's very good advice.

At the level then of managing the community that you created around the post event, so after the festival. So aside from ticket sales, how do you need to maintain that? If someone who is listening to us, maybe who wants to try their hand at something like that.

Irene Bosi: So, let's say we have a bit of an easy game in the sense that the bulk of the Kalemana community is part of the Yoga Academy community anyway. On Yoga Academy, if I had to say the thing that the company does best, it's definitely community building.

So let's say it's a community that even after Kalemana we continue to warm up with all the activities that we do on Yoga Academy. After that another way to do it is, every once in a while at the level...I mean obviously social media an event, I think an Instagram profile, it's hard to keep it active all year long, because anyway after a while you've shared.

Stephen Brigli Bongi: Also because to see beaches in December, then I get pissed off....

Irene Bosi : What are you making up? Right, so we reactivated, let's say the profile, about two-three months ago I would say. So trying to activate it a little bit earlier, let's say five-six months before the event , mainly by leveraging all the emotions that were generated.

How not to be like Fyre Festival: managing the unexpected [18:25].

Stephen Brigli Bongi: Putting photos of super mega millionaire influencers, no, like Fyre Festival by the way. To recap a little bit on the theme of Fyre Festival, maybe tell a little bit of context, after a beautiful and virtuous example, a successful event, we go into a catastrophe.

I would like to open this parenthesis for a moment, the Fyre Festival was a festival that never was, that's the very point of this colossal fiasco.

In 2016, two entrepreneurs wanted to create an app for a marketplace of famous artists. To promote the app, they organized a private festival for VIP influencers, featuring artists such as Major Lazer and Blink 182. Whatever, nonsense stuff, on a private island in the Bahamas, with transportation, private jet and so on.

Of course, of all the things you said, they didn't do a single one. Zero no. In the sense they didn't organize in advance, the only thing they did is spend millions on the advertising campaign, with the supermodels of the moment, Bella Hadid etc.

They did a media campaign they had never seen for an event, people were canceling Coachella to say, I have to attend this Fyre Festival, and in the end nothing was organized plus they had unforeseen rain, mud everything.

So let's say people got there. There was nothing, tent cities, mattresses thrown on the floor, tickets costing tens of thousands of dollars if not more, and crazy contingencies. Did you have any unforeseen contingencies?

Irene Bosi: Yes, yes

Stefano Brigli Bongi: Impossible to do events without contingencies.

Irene Bosi: And then ours is an outdoor event, which can only happen outdoors, that is, it's not like there is a plan B you say you move it to an arena, no

Stephen Brigli Bongi: It is there, on that beautiful beach that you have already been granted...

Irene Bosi: In Ravenna, where there are often events that change the weather conditions from one moment to the next. So yes, the unexpected maybe more. We had two, one that was perceived by the audience, one that the audience on the other hand probably didn't even perceive. The first one was that the Festival was supposed to start at 9:00 a.m., 08:30 a.m., started pouring, pouring I'm not kidding.

Stephen Brigli Bongi: You wanted to replicate Fyre Festival...

Irene Bosi: I wanted to cry, so away take away the setups you ruin everything. We had all these Bali style setups like palm trees, straw, Panic. I felt like crying, withdrew everything, then fortunately it stopped. You know those summer downpours that last for half an hour, so just to make us all panic so much.

Look tremendous, a wind. It looked like a really really apocalyptic scene and wind, the whole stage where the towers were, that oh my God we were on the brink, on the brink there with the strength of the wind.

So really a panic and fortunately after half an hour it was all over, so there was just a little bit of panic with people who were already there in real time. We didn't know where to put it, we had to rearrange some of the set-ups that we had taken down and that was it. So that was the first setback.

The second setback was with a vendor who had provided us with precisely the facilities for the experience areas, and they were not what they were supposed to be at all. And so that's something that obviously we in the organization perceived, the guests had no idea how they were supposed to be, so they probably didn't notice. But for me it's something that sent me over the edge, that I just went out of my mind.

Stephen Brigli Bongi: You said, if this happens just don't do it anymore.

Irene Bosi: No, no, I mean, I couldn't take them as yogically as I probably should have.

3 Dos and Don'ts of event planning [22:12].

Stephen Brigli Bongi: You didn't apply, let's say, that mantra of your guests. Okay, in conclusion. 3 Dos and Don'ts of event planning.

Irene Bosi: So, starting with the Dos. First thing, if you have the ability to do it, put together communities of really really cohesive and close-knit people.

This makes all the difference in the world, because it makes the tickets to your festival, to your event, practically sell themselves.

Why? Because people want to feel, feel, that they belong to a community, they want to be together, so it really makes it a lot easier.

Second, have people who are really passionate about the kind of industry they are working in organize the event.

That is, organizing an event if you are not the first person who would like to experience that event is not a great idea.

So I would really suggest looking for people who are quivering with the desire to have that very experience they are organizing in the first place.

And then as a third thing I would say on the sales level, definitely the thing we were talking about earlier, so trying to be ready with ticket sales for an event as soon as the event itself ends.

Obviously if it's an event that's repeated from year to year, because let's say you leverage a little bit on all the emotions and the experience that hopefully was positive for the people who just attended the event.

Stephen Brigli Bongi: Three don'ts instead, on the opposite side?

Irene Bosi: So one: avoid involving sponsors just because they give you a budget. Which unfortunately is a very difficult thing, because events, as you probably know very well, have crazy costs that are very difficult to come back on

So you want or you don't want sponsors to be involved, but try to involve only sponsors who have a value-level positioning aligned with what your event is. And on top of that if you can, Sponsors to whom you can also propose an activation within the context of the festival, other than putting the classic logo on communication materials.

We unfortunately in Kalemana found ourselves saying no to so many companies, maybe companies that were making single-use plastic products, animal-derived products and so on and so forth, precisely because it really clashes so much with what our target audience is.

Second thing to avoid is saving money on suppliers and collaborators who play a key role within the event. For example, all the service. In the case of my experience investing a good amount of money in trying to have a service of a certain type, that supports you, that in short is also able to handle any unforeseen events without always being there to tell you ah but then a 300€ more 200€ more, but is also a little bit flexible is something that helps so much.

Irene Bosi: Um. And third thing not to do is not to plan. And that's a don't that I should tattoo on my forehead because I'm the first one who unfortunately doesn't plan, but I work kind of by sight, without a workflow, trying to do as many things as possible in as little time as possible.

But especially when organizing a big event, if there is not a minimum of planning, the possibility of missing something important is very high. So I really suggest that you invest that minimum amount of time to create an event planning template, even if you always feel like you're up against it.

Million dollar question [25:37].

Stephen Brigli Bongi: Indeed, which is kind of the theme of this of this episode as well. Then I thank you so much we are at the end, I ask you a very last question that I ask let's say a little bit to everybody, it's a bit of a ritual. If you were to invite three characters, even past eh they don't have to be living people right now to an event to make it special, unique, unforgettable. Who are they?

Irene Bosi: Boy what a great question! So one is someone we would love to have come next year, so I'm saying it here maybe I don't know if he speaks Italian but whatever.

Xavier Rudd, Xavier Rudd, a musician, who makes very, very special, really very immersive music.

And one of his best known songs is Spirit Bird. You may know that one. And I would love to have him in an event like the one I organize, because just he really is able to bring out some emotions, some very strong emotions.

And another person I would certainly love to have back because we already had her the first edition. We were not able to have her this one because of a mismatch of dates, is Shiva Rea, whom if you don't know I recommend you follow on Instagram.

He is a person who can come up with experiences that, on an emotional level, will overwhelm you. You can really be the coldest, most apathetic person in the world, which in front of a discipline practice is impossible. You get emotional, you go crazy, that is, you are on another planet. Actually, those who were there at the first edition probably remember that.

Irene Bosi: And then another talent that I would love to have is Dylan Warner, who is a yogi, American fitness man, and he offers a really very very particular kind of fitness, which also integrates very well with yoga, and so I think he could be perfect for our target audience.

Stefano Brigli Bongi: Perfect! Thank you very much Irene. So nice first of all to have had you here and if anyone wants to contact you, to your references, or look you up online on Instagram?

Irene Bosi: It has been a pleasure. In the meantime, thank you and if you want to contact me, you can find me on LinkedIn with Irene Bosi or on Instagram with Ire_Bosi

Stefano Brigli Bongi: Thank you very much! Thank you Irene, from Kampaay's studio that's all! Bye! See you in the next episode.

About the author

Kampaay is the solution that facilitates the management and organization of corporate events, the ideal partner for those who want to bring innovation and digitization to their company.

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