Event Design

Lorelei Gilmore Talks With Her Real Dad

360 Live Media invited the actress Lauren Graham and 'Gilmore Girls' star to sit down for a conversation with her father — as part of 'an experience that will make our clients feel special.'

Lauren Graham_main
360 Live Media CEO Don Neal, Larry Graham, and Lauren Graham.

A hip experiential-marketing agency in Washington, D.C. A talented, beautiful actress with a new TV show and new book.

So, what do they have in common? And how did they end up in the same room?

To find out, we talked to Amira El-Gawly, chief strategy officer and executive vice president of 360 Live Media (the agency), which on Dec. 6 presented an evening with Lauren Graham (the actress) — star of television’s recently revived “Gilmore Girls” and author of the memoir Talking as Fast as I Can — as well as her dad, Larry Graham, senior strategic adviser for 360 Live Media. The elder Graham has had his own powerhouse career as CEO of various D.C.-based trade groups, including the National Confectioners Association.

How did this program come about?
All parts of this story are serendipitous in the best possible ways. A few months ago, we were lucky enough to have Larry Graham join us as senior strategic adviser. One thing I think everybody in America knew was coming at the end of November was the revival of the “Gilmore Girls” show, as well as the publishing of Lauren Graham’s second book. We found out really informally that Lauren was coming to DC for part of her book tour, and then to spend time with her family and sister, who had just had a baby. How could we design an optimal experience around this that would appeal to our clients and the community? Because one of the things we are always looking to do is create experiences for our clients, partners, and local community here in DC that inspire people to think differently.

[Lauren Graham] had unbelievable press coverage that month. One of the things that I noticed was that [the publicity] was all about her book and show — but our angle was, Lauren grew up in DC and Virginia and was raised by a single father, Larry —  so how did she get to where she is today? How do we create an experience that will make our clients feel special and feel like they gained access to something they can’t find on TV or on social media?

What was that experience all about?
Our philosophy is, if we are going to expect our clients to host inspiring experiences that will transform their members and their industries, it is our responsibility, as their partner and their agency, to inspire them with the experiences we host. Another company might have hosted Lauren Graham, asked her to speak for 10 minutes and do a 10-minute Q&A, and wouldn’t have even involved Larry in the event. I think a lot of this is about storytelling and choosing which story you’re going to tell when you host an event.

Was the program always going to be held at 360 Live Media’s offices?
That’s the question we get all the time from partners when we host events, because our space actually is not conducive to hosting events. It’s just not a ton of open space. Logistically, because of the space design, it was the most challenging event we have ever planned — but we made it work with a lot of effort, strategizing, and space planning. The truth is, when we host clients at our office for events, the space itself is part of the experience. We want them to feel like they are at a 360 Live Media–branded experience, and that’s so much more than being in a ballroom with gobos or in a rented office space. We think we have a special energy in our office, and I try to make the space work to our advantage whenever possible.

We have a dining room space, and we moved the tables and chairs, had the pendant light lifted, and set up some bar stools against the wall. Then we had rows of chairs back from that, and lots of high chairs in the workspace area. Thankfully, all our guests got seats. We had a packed room, but it felt like being in a living room with somebody. That was the energy I wanted it to have — like, I am so close to Lauren Graham. Literally every single person got a photo with her. That’s something I think that was really special for people, and it was made possible by it being a tight space. There are always lots of hidden opportunities in these challenging event-planning situations.

Christopher Durso

Christopher Durso formerly was executive editor of Convene.