We had the good fortune of connecting with David Pressman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi David, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
My father was an Optometrist who had wanted to be an archaeologist but wasn’t allowed to pursue that path. I never forgot that or the idea that just because I might be doing one thing (as a job), that didn’t mean that I had to continue doing that (job) for the rest of my life. I also accepted the risk/reward ratio – if I never asked for that raise, never asked that person out, never asked to close that sale, then my chances of getting the outcome I was after were pretty low. In accepting that the result of taking any risk could have a downside, well, then I really had very little to lose by not taking the risk. I’ve had five successful careers so far – I never rule out what new opportunity might come my way – and I began each career knowing that I would have to learn on the job and prove myself. I had no “training” when I began a career in high-end fashion after college. Years later, when I left the fashion industry to become Executive Director of an art gallery in SoHo, I had no background in fine art. And, a few years later when I decided to become a private art dealer and move from NYC to Los Angeles, I knew very few people there and even less about the City. But I did have over ten years of experience between the worlds of fashion and fine art, trusting that I would be able to find a job (working for someone other than myself) if things didn’t work out. I was still moving across the country that in itself was pretty risky. If I hadn’t made that move to Los Angeles to become a private art dealer, I would never have been asked to become Location Manager for feature films. And being a Location Manager led to a meeting with the owner of an entertainment advertising agency and several years working with creative teams to create the artwork (key art) for movie posters. Each of these careers, spread out over twenty-five years, was filled with risks, but nothing compared to what I faced after being fired (for the first time in my life) from the last advertising agency I had worked for. I spent a year depressed and disheartened before waking up one morning with the idea that I should go back to school to learn something new. In this case, the risks included a healthy dose of fear on many levels. I had chosen to enroll in a two-year program at UCLA to earn a Certificate in Fundraising and Institutional Development so that I would be able to start a new career in the world of philanthropy. I knew zip about the right ways of getting from where I was to where I thought I needed to be. I was scared at the thought of being back in a college classroom, not knowing if I could keep up the pace after having left school years before. I was afraid of failure. What I didn’t know, and would never have found out, had I not moved forward and enrolled at UCLA, was that the first required course I took was about Event Planning. It was during this course that I had an a-ha moment when it dawned on me that I already knew a lot about what the best practices were for organizing an event. Many of the best practices for fundraising events had also been present to various degrees in my previous careers – from staging fashion shows or art openings to finding and managing film locations or asking senior studio executives to hire the agency I worked. And each experience had included sales, negotiating, and managing expectations. It became a case of applying the knowledge that I already had to a new situation to achieve the results expected. I loved being on campus and interacting with the instructors and students, who ranged from recent grads and people already working in nonprofits to CEOs and nonprofit board members wanting to expand their knowledge, and I loved the program. I knew one of the risks would be that I wouldn’t be able to land a job after completing the course work. I sent out about 100 resumes, and I had one response which led to a Skype interview with two of that nonprofits senior execs from their Chicago offices. I prepped, made notes, checked the background, and after about an hour with each exec I was pretty sure I had nailed it. I mean, they both were like, “ok, this was great, we’ll get back to you about the next steps.” I never heard another word from them. That was always a risk, but a risk I had not allowed for, given the circumstances and their comments. Was the risk worth it? Absolutely. I would have done it again because the opportunity so outweighed the risk. Later I met with the COO of a large Los Angeles nonprofit who told me that I had been applying for the wrong levels of jobs. He said that with multi-career experiences, and my studies at UCLA, I would make an excellent candidate for nonprofit management. In this case, instead of my having initially applied for more senior jobs, I discounted my own set of tools and knowledge to get a foot in the door. While I was sending out all of those resumes, a friend asked me to plan a wedding for her brother. She was taking a risk because she knew I hadn’t done this before; I had helped plan a few parties with her. She told me she was leaving the country for work and would be back a couple of days before the wedding. And she told me not to spend a dime without getting her ok. My risk was screwing the whole thing up on top of disappointing her. I said yes immediately. In this case, the risk/reward ratio worked for me because I knew what I didn’t know – how to plan a wedding – and I knew what I had to do – find the best people to help me get the job done. And I found them, and I learned from them (and continue to do so). It’s now quite a few years later, and while there are still a lot of things I don’t know, I do know that taking professional risks has worked out for me. Personal risks, well, that’s a whole other story…
What should our readers know about your business?
What sets me apart is everything I bring to the party. All of those careers I had before becoming an Event Planner provided me with a unique skill set. And combing those skills with the bespoke services I offer, which to me, becomes a great advantage to clients. My background in fashion makes it easy for me to guide my clients (brides and grooms both) through the process of shopping for or having gowns, suits, shoes, and more items custom made for their weddings and celebrations. And making these experiences stress-free and fun is, more often than not, a best practice in the world of Events. My background as an Art Dealer has helped me to understand not only the variety of mediums that art encompasses but also that art, and the reaction one gets from it, is very personal. I am a major proponent of the importance of having the best possible photography done to memorialize a wedding or special event. Great photographs evoke memories and emotions and are a visual history to share with friends, family, and future generations. My background as a Location Manager for feature films taught me how to manage properties and the logistics needed for moving a small army of trucks and people quickly, safely, and efficiently. Not to mention managing the expectations of everyone from the drivers and caterers to the studio executives and film stars. And most importantly, how to spend money to get the biggest bang for the buck and still stick to the budget. My experiences in advertising, aside from reinforcing everything already listed, reminded me that there are always multiple and sometimes very subtle ways to tell a story or create visual references. Also, having survived being fired from the fourth ad agency I was to work for, I was propelled to take on other risks and adventures that I would never have been able to do. By the way, entertainment-related advertising is particularly nasty, so it was good to get part of my soul back. Going back to school at UCLA and earning my Certificate in Nonprofit Fundraising and Institutional Development is one of the best things I have ever done. And while it didn’t result in the career in Philanthropy I had hoped for, it did lead me to become the Event Planner I am today. And in doing so, I have been able to take part in numerous charitable activities, offering my time and skills to help others. I am very proud to have worked with multiple clients, florists, and caterers to have flowers and food donated to charities, hospitals, and soup kitchens (with necessary safety precautions taken into account) after events. The world should know that I love what I do, that I am proud of what I do, and that I almost always shed a tear when I see my couples get married. David Pressman Events isn’t right for every client. My services are truly bespoke and, as such, tailored to the needs and budgets of each client. There is no menu to choose from, and there are no set packages because every single couple and every single event deserves to be unique. I believe in transparency – something my studies at UCLA reinforced – and I like my clients to know that. I also believe in my own set of best practices: know what I don’t know.; always hire a professional; clients always come first; events are not about me, and there’s no place for my ego, nor should there be. And finally, shit happens. And by working with great and trusted colleagues, we always make it work.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’m going to pretend that my best friend is filthy rich to avoid any issues about the obscene amount of money we’re going to spend during this “make-believe” week. And to make it easier, COVID-19 would no longer be an issue. The week would start with me picking up my friend at LAX, which is pretty nuts, to begin with. Our first stop would be the patio at the Polo Lounge to enjoy a McCarthy Salad – among the great salads in the world – French Fries and share a spectacular dessert. I think sitting outside on the patio at The Beverly Hills Hotel is a great introduction to Los Angeles. It’s also the perfect spot to plot the best way to get through a list of sites, sounds, and places to hang that help tell some of the stories of Los Angeles. Food & Drink: Redbird, The Water Grill, Pacific Dining Car (for a very late – or very early – breakfast), Seven Grand Jon & Vinny’s, Craig’s, The Tower Bar, Musso and Franks, and one of Sinatra’s favorite haunts, La Dolce Vita. Museums: The Broad, The Getty, LACMA, MOCA, The Annenberg, and Petersen. Galleries & Book Stores: Jeffrey Deitch, L.A. Louver, Hauser & Wirth, The Last Bookstore Hennessey & Ingalls, and Book Soup. Neighborhood visits: Abbot Kinney, Larchmont, Atwater Village, Fairfax, Los Feliz, Malibu, and a visit to Dodger Stadium. And to tie everything up with a nice bow, I would drop them off at LAX, which is so much easier than picking someone up from there. My parting gift to my friend would be James Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet – “The Black Dahlia,” “The Big Nowhere,” “L.A. Confidential,” and “White Jazz” together in one volume. Ellroy’s take on post-war Los Angeles should have them hungering for a second visit.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’ve been incredibly lucky to have worked with amazing colleagues since the day I started David Pressman Events. Colleagues who went out of their way to support me, to answer my questions, to share resources and so much more. And this includes other Event Planners who might at some point have been up for the same job as me (and continue to do so). I can count on one hand the number of times a vendor has gone out of their way to backstab or steal a client that I may have introduced them to. And after more than a decade, a couple of times is pretty damn good in an industry where many businesses are multi-faceted and offer more than one area of expertise. My shoutout is to all of the small-business, single-member, and gig-economy professionals who add their talents to the incredible community of vendors that make up this industry. I wouldn’t be in business today, were it not for this community.
red plates – Michelle Lacson Photography single long outdoor table – Lily Glass Photography outdoor ceremony – Aaron Delesie ceremony site overlooking ocean – Gloria Mesa Photography couple with baby – CallawayGable Photography holding gown train – Beautiful Day Photography 3 woman & smiling man – LIly Glass Photography couple in front of ocean – Ana and Jerome Photography photo of ring – no credit needed