Thursday, June 29, 2017

Resiliency is Our Most Important Trait

Thanks to Kristi Casey Sanders for the original share of this
If you met me now, you probably think I seem pretty together, and have things pretty good. I do. Most of the time. We all have stories of our own, of joy and pain, love and despair, falling down and getting back up again. This is life. We are never prepared. We must learn, usually the hard way, to be resilient. To develop the capacity to recover from difficult situations. To know these are situations, and they will pass is a first step. Knowing who you can count on to help you, who is truly on your side is another tool to get through challenges. Perhaps one of the most difficult is choosing our attitude. Will we wallow in the misery? Sometimes. Will we look forward and seek hope over despair? If you ever think you are having a tough day, read Amanda Lindhout's story, one of resilience beyond imagination.


If you have known me since my teens, you will know about recovering from Bells Palsy. If you have known me since my twenties, you probably still want to carry something for me because you remember when I could not lift my arms long enough to wash my own hair. You may have known me through losing my brother, father and numerous friends and extended family members. I am not alone in facing challenges. I have wallowed, and overcome. I have been resilient because I had to be. It is one of the toughest traits to develop; a skill hard to teach, experience being the teacher with impact. It is a key, core skill for getting through what may come. As we send one child into the world, with the other not far behind, I question if we have taught them this and know it will be only time that will tell. All we can do is be there when they need us.

If you have been by my side working on one or dozens of events, thank you. Every single person has contributed to making each event better and darn it, a lot of these have taken a ton of sustained effort in sometimes seemingly impossible conditions - from the tops of glaciers where you pack it all in and out to remote communities with little infrastructure and fewer supplier partners, to massive sets, movements and strikes, often with unrealistic timelines. 
Every time, we dig deeper and get it done. Then we get up and do it again. 

Eventprofs know the power of resilience. When a client chooses to leave our agency for any number of reasons, we bounce back and find new clients who can use our support and expertise. When challenges arise, from a tanking economy leading to unexpected cancellations, from security to transportation, mudslides and road closures, venue changes and so much more, we find solutions. We find the people we can trust, we move forward, we adapt. 

Many of you have shared your stories with me, from living with chronic conditions to losing what is most important; through illness and recovery, cross-country or global moves and a million brave choices, overcoming large and small fears as we navigate the mundane and complex day-to-day challenges of life. To each of you, thank you for choosing to include me in your journey. I salute your resilience.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Power of Not Yet-Kirk Style



This is Kirk, above with his wife Lorraine and their children Melissa, Nicole and Kenton and below with his sister Zella. This week Kirk is in the biggest "Not Yet" moment any of us can face. As in "Not yet God, I still have work, and play, to do here." So with his family at his side, I would like to tell you a little bit about Kirk and why everyone should send a little healing energy in his direction.

As a member of his community, Kirk does everything, and I mean everything, with the best of intentions. He has conviction in his beliefs, as outlined in his book The God Process and a deeper belief in kindness to all. This was instilled their whole lives by their parents, who were both gone too young, and whose legacy Kirk, Zella and his wife Lorraine have perpetuated - they always start with love.

Kirk loves ice cream, and chocolate, and cookies, and did I say ice cream? His love for ice cream is combined with a love for bike riding, soccer and any other reason to get outside and breathe. It was at a soccer game this past weekend where a faulty aorta burst. He has been through five surgeries this week, and WOW, what a committed surgical team at Foothills Calgary hospital. The deepest gratitude from all who are touched by Kirk is extended, words inadequate for their skill, effort and belief. Each moment, his family keeps remembering to breathe themselves and reminding Kirk why he needs to keep fighting. Each day he is now getting a little stronger.

Thirty six years ago Kirk and Lorraine fell in love and were married. Zella and her friends welcomed Lorraine to the family by removing all the furniture from their apartment while on their honeymoon and replacing it with Barbie and Ken sized furniture. Lorraine decided to stay anyhow. What I know is the strength of their bond and a love that wraps around their family. When you are first married, you are a team, holding hands and facing the world. When you start a family, you become a circle, focused inward with love and outwards to protect. As you grow together you become a quilt, each piece adding to the story, and when something this surprising happens, it is if that has been ripped in half, and now, with each stitch holding Kirk's body together, so this quilt becomes whole again.

I have lost both my father and my brother, and I know how difficult it is to lose a parent and to lose a sibling. For Zella, your bond with Kirk is incredible and I have seen first-hand the love and support you each rely on. Yours is an honest relationship which has survived the loss of too many, and for even just this reason, he needs more time here - and is indeed fighting for this. For Kenton, Nicole and Melissa, your dad is your rock. He is also your parent and for all of us, these are complex relationships, as we go from small children requiring care, to teens and now young adults finding your own paths. Always, you have known you are deeply, truly loved and also for you, it is not yet time - he will fight to see how each of you goes forward in your own strength.  

I will close with this - Kirk, there is a big bowl of ice cream with your name on it just waiting. Yes, of course it's chocolate. 



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Power of Not Yet



Have you ever caught a fish? Just now.
Motivation is a tricky sport. Carol Dweck has been studying it for years, and in her TED talk I enjoyed recently on my commute home, what struck me was the idea of the power of "Not yet."

How often do we say "I can't"...
  • dance, sing, play an instrument
  • climb a mountain
  • draw, paint, sculpt
  • race a car
  • ride a horse, or a llama
  • play soccer, basketball or golf
  • grow a garden
  • win a snowball fight or build an igloo
  • run 10k, or wheel 1k
  • snowboard a black diamond run
  • master a paddleboard
  • write a story or even a haiku
  • present to a group, or try improv theatre
  • solve that math problem
What if...
Instead of saying "I can't", we said, "Not yet."
Instead of saying "I failed", we said "I tried."
We remembered that none of us are masters of anything the first time we tried.
We forgave ourselves when things don't go exactly as we had planned.

The power of positive thinking, of reinforcing that learning is a process, and there is more reward in effort put forward than in getting everything right is measurable. It is measurable because when we offer the opportunity to try a little harder and to approach a problem in a different way, and to step up and meet a challenge, we start to see results. We see personal betters, we see organizational improvement. When the lowest ranked schools, the ones with the highest numbers of marginalized students were told, you can do this, just not yet, in the course of a year (one year!) the students believed their efforts could pay off. They wanted to try harder. Time after time, they went from the lowest ranked in a district to the highest.

If we apply this to our own organizations, not just saying "you have to do better" but really looking at how you can apply positive reinforcement for trying, learning, and trying again, you will see innovations and improvements. You will see teams working more collaboratively and you will see individuals keen to rise to new challenges. You will see them enjoying the process.

When we produce events, we have the opportunity to let people try new activities in safe environments. We can provide incubators for ideas and hypotheses to be tested, to see what sticks and to see what may need to be adapted. We can do this in a group of peers who can go from "we're close" to "we got this." 

Let's change our language. As parents, educators, and #eventprofs. We got this.






Friday, May 19, 2017

Defining Ready


We have all been here, in the throes of preparing to open your event. In this case I had arrived to register six hours after registration was open to find the signs still being painted. Days later speaking to some members of the organizing team it became clear why - this was an event with a reported 15,000+ attendees, and one of 4 events being produced globally, and they don't have an event planner on their team of eighty people.

Shades of the Fyre Festival which had a similar decision making process, and ultimate catastrophic ending were surfacing around this same time. We know there are more than 1.8 million events annually in just the US, and the same amount in just the UK, and let's extrapolate that to the other 190+ countries in the world, and it is stunning to me that events of this magnitude can think it makes sense to bring together thousands of people and not have any sense of organization around the logistics.

Let's face it, it's complicated bringing people together. They have to travel across time zones and with international documentation. They needed places to sleep and eat, and they want to learn and network. Their safety and enjoyment is reliant on our planning.

I know we have an industry with low barriers to entry, with a dearth of formal education, and with clients who don't understand the value that the experienced event professional brings to an event - but examples like this continue to surprise me. When will the world wake up to the value of what we bring across the board? Event professionals who have an ounce of common sense and often years of experience don't just make your event more beautiful and more fun, they make it happen on-time, safely, deliciously, on budget and with strategic outcomes in mind. They give meaning to your brands and ensure your participants leave with more than they arrived with in terms of knowledge and context and memories and often a positive shift in mindset. Intentional event design doesn't mean the painting will be done, it means we are taking all we know about feeding the brains and nourishing the bodies of our guests and creating experiences and environments that are transformational. Don't you want that for your next event?

Friday, April 7, 2017

Explore Beyond Boundaries

Susan Cope kindly shared this picture which inspired
me to think about taking the road with the bumps,
and being happy about it!
As we navigate life and plan events for our clients (and their organizations) it can be tempting to take the easy road, stick to the status quo and stay comfortable, to stay 'out of the muck'. 

This got me to thinking...
When did we grow up and stop looking for what might be under the surface of a puddle? 
Why did you trade in your 'wellies' for designer footwear and stop exploring? 
Was it when you decided you are - eek - a "grown-up"? Here is the thing - the events we admire as being innovative are often being led by the grown-ups who are not taking the easy road. They are the experimenters, the dreamers, the moment-makers who are willing to invest the time to understand human nature and develop experiences that build on our human willingness to join group situations - festivals, events, conferences - and take calculated risks, celebrate shared success, test out new ideas, or learn in unexpected ways.   

How do I jump in the puddles? I have always had (endured) teasing from colleagues about my unstoppable curiousity - bookmarking sites, endless magazine tear-outs, notebooks full of ideas and walls full of post-its always looking for what will become "sticky". When event technology moved to the forefront I had to know more because this is our new audience, the ubiquitous digital native and while it is nearly impossible to keep up with #eventtech, we can't just lay down and let it overwhelm us.



Are you ready to explore what boundaries can be stretched to create deeper and more meaningful moments at events? This is my challenge - moving past the comfort zone to ensure we deliver events with maximum comfort that surprise, engage, move and transform clients, stakeholders and participants through live experiences.

For this reason, I am excited to attend the invite only Haute Dokimazo in Austin in May - because they are bringing together people who are breaking down boundaries. Who will I see there... You can request your event invitation at the link above, but don't wait!


Monday, April 3, 2017

Using Disruption to our Advantage


Participants were encouraged to add their wishes, hopes and dreams for the future to this wishing tree at an annual corporate celebration event. What would you wish for? 

We live in disruptive times, and the idea we could just make a wish, and have it come true, is both idealistic and desirable. I have been doing some writing about disruptive times, and include the links below. 


For Corporate Meetings Network, the Power of Events in Disruptive Times  When “unpredictable” is the new buzzword for the economy, everyone in the meetings and events industry should be a little nervous.
We have been through cutbacks, recessions, governances, regulations, and threats from both Mother Nature and other humans, all forever changing our ability to deliver hospitality to our guests in the way we (and our clients) feel they are most deserving of. Yet, as humans, we still travel, meet, attend events, and celebrate all that life brings us.


Disruption at Meetings and Events  As human beings, we have been innovating since the beginning of time, from the invention of the wheel, to trade routes, the industrial revolution…. you get the point. Our pace of innovation has rapidly accelerated with the digital age and the sheer number of people on the planet – as inventors and consumers. We understand more about human response to marketing and to experiences than we ever have, and we have the greatest opportunity to use all of this knowledge to elevate experiences, making them more relevant, memorable, and useful than ever before. What we can’t do is expect that anything will stay the same. It won’t.

How are you and your organization moving forward?

Monday, December 19, 2016

On Losing Lilly

Life is not fair, or reasonable and much of it makes no sense. Saturday we lost Lilly, this bright, creative, Viking warrior artist. It is unimaginable, and unbearable. A perfect day on the bright, crisp winter ocean with her father, a dinner with family friends and Norse poetry, one minute painting her brother's Christmas picture, the next, gone. With no clear reasons yet why she was taken suddenly, today I will tell you about Lilly and her family while we wait; for answers, and for the daily things to happen that will fill the yawning chasm of time and space she used to fill so completely.

I have known Zella, my sister-friend since I was 17, Richard since I was 19 and Lilly and her wonderful brother Morgun always. From the colic to the giggles, to playing with slugs (hey they are creatures too) on Bowen Island to a fascination with the Aquarium and all things living, Lilly deeply lived with a connection to land and sea, and the peace and sustenance both could offer. To forage, she forged her own knives. To fish, she crafted her own lines. To live, she followed her own path. Not one always easy for a parent, the labels applied could include "train kid" when she spent two years traversing North America with her rescue puppy Vader; she lived many places where she was known to reclaim unused yards and turn them into gardens with shared bounty; a sailor living on her own boat and navigating the islands of the west coast, finding artists' communities to call home, collecting friends at every stage of her journey.

Lilly never understood "stuff" beyond having the basics you need to live. For her this included paints and sketch books, a mandolin, enough clothes to stay warm, and enough food to survive without waste. Never afraid of hard work she has wrestled mistletoe at nurseries, farmed on land and in the sea, milled grains to make bread, crafted traditional Easter loaves complete with tiny bread birds and has filled all our homes with stunning artwork. Most recently she was working with Richard, learning welding from this master, and sorting through the boxes of memories that make a home with her mother, shared laughter and meals, walks and puppies, and time to reconnect. A painter, sculptor, sewer, gardener, gatherer, jewelry maker, she was always collecting interesting pieces of nature - treasures from the sea, greens and mushrooms, beach glass, rocks, bones, wood - to make into something beautifully unexpected or delicious. 

With our kids we have spent nearly every New Year's Eve in Sechelt, which means every year we have had Nicholas's birthday here, and almost every birthday cake of his life Lilly has crafted. The unique stockings we, and quite a few other friends use each Christmas were created by her and as I sit quietly in the early dawn there are some on this mantel now. The art she has been creating since she was a small child is on every wall, and the decorations she put up this year to welcome the season surround us.

Any parent with children of a certain age (teenagers) knows the feeling of your child arriving home and leaving a trail of their stuff from door to destination, and the mild annoyance they have taken over your space so completely making it their own as you pick up this and that, tidying and perhaps, muttering about the "mess". To think that Lilly will never again come in the front door and leave this trail that so clearly states, "I am home and here to stay for as long as it's convenient for me" is unfathomable.

There is nobody who lived life more completely as their own, on their own terms and always without harm to others. There are many lessons in this for the rest of us if we choose to take them. Always respectful of individuals and animals, bending the rules that didn't clearly make sense and creating a life that made sense for her, this was our Lilly.

Take care Lilly, we know you are watching over us, probably knitting something with your namesake grandmother right now while you cook up your next adventure.