Published on Nov 23, 2020

Video Transcript

JOHN WHYTE: You're watching Coronavirus in Context. I'm Dr. John Whyte, chief medical officer at WebMD. Indeed, we're all thinking about, what are we going to do for the approaching holidays? Are we're going to try to do it virtual? Are we going to travel?

Are we going to eat outside? What are we going to do? So to help answer that question and provide some creative ideas, I've asked the best events designer that I know. Edward Perotti. Edward, thanks for joining me.

EDWARD PEROTTI: Thank you for having me. It's good to see you.

JOHN WHYTE: You know, we spoke in the spring, when you told us what we could do for the summer, whether you could have a wedding, how do you manage it, and now we need to talk about upcoming holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's. Let's start off with-- let's assume, it's going to be some variation of in person. Scale it down.

Can you give advice to people? Because no matter what, we say you got to look to see what the numbers are in the area, it's not going to be these big events that we might have been used to. So how are we going to do it?

And I just have to say, everyone can't eat outside. I live on the East coast. I'm not eating outside in a coat.

So give us-- you always have good ideas and creative ideas. Last time you were sending boxes of creative things. So tell us how to do it.

EDWARD PEROTTI: Well, I mean, based off on how the weather's been in San Francisco-- yesterday was 85-- today, it's 50-- so I'm not planning on anything outside either.

JOHN WHYTE: But let's assume in person. And then we'll move to completely virtual.

EDWARD PEROTTI: So this is where it gets-- now we're getting to the holidays, it gets really dicey. It is about the numbers. And it's at-- we're at a point to where with the holidays coming, this is the time for people to psychologically start feeling comfortable about getting back together again, because we do know that we are going to slowly start moving into that in the spring.

JOHN WHYTE: But do you scale it down? Do you make it--

EDWARD PEROTTI: You completely scale it down. And I'll tell you what I'm doing with some of-- with some of my people. So it's definitely scaled down. From the notion of Thanksgiving and Christmas, just when I look at those, there's a lot of travel involved. And people will feel uncomfortable traveling.

So I'm going to back into this first with the first one to get together would be I would focus on friendsgiving. Because your circle of friends should be around you. I mean, you do have some that are cross-country, but the people that you would talk to every day, from your church groups or your kids playgroups, or your neighbors and so forth. So let's work on that first to get your comfort zone going.

And look at those in small pods. Don't do one event. Don't think of it as I have to do one. Why not do three or four of four or five people? Do a couple of days worth.

I mean, make it more of an entertaining and have that segue into-- once again, I'm not going to call myself a doctor. I actually take everything that's out there, read it all, and find my truth in the middle, because there are underlining truths that are in every article and every news outlet, everything. And my feeling is part of this is I have to get people over the psychology and the fear of coming together. So let's do it small.

Let's do it small. Let's do it up right. It doesn't mean that you have to put everybody in a bubble. You can still do a dinner party on your dining table if you're doing four or five people.

So one personal event we're doing is we're actually going to strip out, because our house is a-- we have the great room feel with the kitchen and everything-- is we're actually going to take all the furniture out and store it in one of the spare rooms and then set up cocktail size tables that'll take four people per. And we're going to space them around the room, enough distance apart, at least to six feet apart, I mean, ideally 10, but when you're indoors. But keeping that six feet apart and just walking people through, but setting those up per household.

So if there's a couple, they get their own table. And I think key would also be key-- well, you need to tell everybody, if you're going to be indoors, you need to keep the windows open. You need to keep that air circulating. You don't want that stagnant air. Little things just to think about, this is when the details matter.

JOHN WHYTE: Are you going to plate everything ahead of time so people are using the same spoon and fork?

EDWARD PEROTTI: Yes. So different events call for different scenarios. So a cocktail party, we're actually doing Bento style boxes. So they're all going to be pre-done and with everyone's name on it.

They're going to be decored properly for the event. They actually can take them home and use them for picnics or whatever after. For an event, the Indian style stacked are brilliant, because you can actually-- you would have three stacks. And you could do a warm, a cold, a dessert.

JOHN WHYTE: And we ask people ahead of time what they want. We don't just have [INAUDIBLE]. Is that right? I mean, in theory, you could-- or you could just people pick it, or you could say ahead of time, what do you want in your box?

EDWARD PEROTTI: Correct. You could do that. I mean, I'm a big fan when it comes to events like this is, if it's small enough-- and, from a friendsgiving mentality, I actually would arrange-- you could gold belly it. You could DoorDash, or you can cook, depending on your skill set, but bring that person's favorite meal.

Why not cater to them on a personal level? If it's small enough, it's executable. If you're talking 10 people, you might want to make it a little bit more generic and easier for yourself.

JOHN WHYTE: So we'll have these boxes. We'll do space spacing around the house, maybe multiple areas or multiple tables. Now some people have suggested if you do decide to travel, because you really just need to see grandma and granddad, you could consider doing testing ahead of time to make sure, recognizing there are some challenges with test.

I do want to put that out there as well. And definitely look at the area and maybe not travel long distances. But let's be realistic that some people are going to choose to stay at home, and that's their choice. There's no right answer.

And everything has to be virtual. And you still want to see those family members. You still want to do those friends. So what creative ideas can you give us to say, how can you make it so it's just not the iPad on the empty chair?

EDWARD PEROTTI: Well, so we'll take it one step further. Don't ever use your iPad in an empty chair, at least use your laptop. Invest even in a $50 webcam to put on there. I mean, not that I'm going to be arrogant, but, dang, we look good on camera. And actually, anybody can look good on camera. Just get the right [INAUDIBLE]

JOHN WHYTE: I have a lot of post-production, Ed, just so you know. Good thought, but OK.

EDWARD PEROTTI: Well, then I hope you have the software to make this look 20. So as an example, and I know we talked about this briefly in May, but I'm taking it one step further. With the holidays, I literally this morning just went shopping and bought China crystal flatware, basically spent the money of one plane ticket, because there's three of in this house that would be going to Florida for the holidays. We're not going.

So I knew I had that money anyway set aside for tickets. So I'm going to invest that money in something for the family. And so I bought all this equipment to then parcel out per household the right amount of plates, the right amount of glasses. I'm going to do a complete table setting for each house.

I will take a picture. I will send it to them. I will tell them exactly where to put their laptop and their camera so that when we're all sitting down and we're on the Zoom, we're all sitting at the same table.

JOHN WHYTE: Edward, tell us what's been the response of your clients responding to the pandemic, whether it's smaller gathering that they would like or the recognition that they have to do it all virtual.

EDWARD PEROTTI: It's been a lot of emotion, because at the end of the day, nobody-- there's not a consistent answer. There's not consistent feedback. There's not-- for good or bad, and you definitely don't want to go down that path, but there hasn't been a single source of truth.

So nobody really knows how to navigate it. And most people, human nature, are going to read and hear what they want to hear or be told. So when I come to them, because I am high risk-- I am super high risk at this point.

And when I come to them with, if we're going to work together, I need to protect myself and my team, along with protecting you. Here are my rules of engagement. And if you want to do this and work with me, here are the things that we're going to need to do. And reality might be, we need to shift this to virtual.

You just can't-- if your numbers go up in your city, we need to prepare it. But if it goes back to the transparency of telling your guests, what could happen, what your plans are? They're not happy about it. I mean, my clientele likes to gather. My clientele likes to show off.

JOHN WHYTE: We're all going to have to do it differently this year, right? We all have to acknowledge it's going to be different. If it's going to be in person, it's going to have to be smaller.

We're going to have to have some air ventilation, whether it's inside with windows open or outside. We're going to have to try to figure out some ways that we space inside the home, either removing tables, having smaller tables with one or two persons focused on families, not having, as you point out, common utensils that people are using. And then virtual, you always give us good ideas in terms of what we might be able to send family members. So we have more of those experiences. Any other ideas you have in terms of making a virtual event a little more fun?

EDWARD PEROTTI: So for fall and winter events, it's all about warmth. It's all about this kind of coming together is-- and I love these, and I have to I have to figure out a way to get them in mass quantity-- is we had a campfire night, campfire Zoom night. And we ended up sending everybody their individual s'mores kits, their individual hot chocolate, and then their individual, and I can't believe I found these, but their individual cast iron hibachis.

JOHN WHYTE: Oh, wow.

EDWARD PEROTTI: And the whole idea was everyone's going to sit around and we're just all going to talk and tell stories, making s'mores, eating our hot chocolate. Everybody was told they needed to pick a winter background, a fall background. The whole idea was once again to disarm everybody and make them feel comfortable.

JOHN WHYTE: You have clever ideas. You always have creative ideas. That's why I enjoy speaking with you so much. And it's really trying to think of that creativity to do it a little differently, because otherwise I could just microwave the s'mores.

EDWARD PEROTTI: OK, I'm going to hop on a plane. I'm flying to the East Coast. And I'm going to make s'mores for you then.

JOHN WHYTE: All right, Edward Perotti, I want to thank you for providing your insights, for being one of the best event planners there is in, and helping us think through some creative ideas, as you said, even if it's virtual or not, trying to make it fun in a different way this year.

EDWARD PEROTTI: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

JOHN WHYTE: And thanks for watching Coronavirus in Context.