In "Entertaining for Business," famed party-giver Nancy Kahan talks over and over about careful planning. She took her own advice for the celebration of her book.
"I've been thinking about the party for four years," she said, one hour before guests arrived to mark the publication of what she says is the first guide to business parties.Most business parties, she said, are "blah, boring," even though tens of thousands of dollars, and as much as $200,000, are spent on a single party to woo clients, spread a company's image, or celebrate a business milestone.
With an invitation promising, "The city may be a jungle, but this party will soothe the savage beast," Kahan intended her party to be anything but blah.
And with more than 300 parties under her belt, including those for authors Judith Krantz, Jean Auel and Dominick Dunne, she set out to give her first for herself.
A former senior vice president at Crown Publishing, she recently opened Nancy Kahan Associates, working as a party planner, consultant and marketer.
"Entertaining for Business" (Clarkson N. Potter, $40) started after editors and agents she worked with told her that her specialty was worth a book. She asked a friend, Eleanor Berman, to help with the writing. And Michael Skott, photographer for Martha Stewart's books, did the pictures.
The book provides specific suggestions and information about party planning in a coffee-table book full of photographs of parties Kahan has given.
For a bash celebrating the Krantz book "Scruples," Kahan took over a boutique in Beverly Hills and filled it with celebrities. For Stewart's "Weddings," the party was a make-believe wedding reception at the U.S. Mint building in New Orleans.
But there have been a couple of failures.
For the book "How to Make Love to a Man," Kahan rented a theater and set up a bed, covered with satin sheets; guests were invited to have their pictures taken on the bed. But, she writes, "everyone was leery of that provocative bed. The joke fell flat and so did the party."
It was about a year ago that she started serious work for her own party.
When her original idea of holding the party at the zoo fell through, she wanted to retain the outdoor theme - hence a rain forest in an atrium at South Street Seaport in Manhattan, with a dance floor and rock 'n' roll band.
The food included a brownie volcano, a chocolate pool for dipping fruit, cookies shaped like Tarzan and Jane, and finger foods using ingredients from Asia and South America.
The theme followed Kahan's own advice: "Create another kind of world that transports your guests."
Many companies hire an expensive caterer, offer fancy food, "and they forget totally about fun," she said.
Kahan said companies will have to consider entertaining as part of marketing their products or improving their images rather than as an afterthought.
"There is cutting back, but people will always have to entertain for business," she said. "Now more than ever, you want to keep your good people, your good accounts."