Thursday, December 29, 2011

Events by Color - compilation

Wacky Hair Day - fun!
I LOVE LOVE LOVE Color - all kinds of colors for all kinds of different reasons, and here is a compilation of previous blog posts that show you what I love. Pick one... or six... tell me what you love about colour too!

Green  (Kermit and sustainability)

Purple (The color of your brain)

Blue  (Oceans and communication)

Red (Fire and passion)

Orange (the secret favorite of many)

Yellow (Lemons, sunshine and the solar plexus)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Theatre and Community

My holiday musing is this. A great event is ultimately like going to (choose your [religious] ceremony) at (name your special time of year). Good ceremonies and great events have these two things in common; theatre and community.

They have a story woven through, some timeless and literally woven into the fabric of your being, some the current perceptions as shared by the ceremonial leader. They both have a certain sense of drama, of presence, of a production well executed. Some of the players are the stars, the leaders, some the facilitators, some play a bit part, integral to the overall experience, each touchpoint adding depth. Others still are backstage, or do their part ahead of time setting the stage for what has to happen. Theatre at its finest, brought alive in many forums and spaces, all around the world, every day.

Without a sense of community it would all be for naught, as ultimately we attend events to share an experience. If we just wanted to listen to music, we could play it on any number of devices. To experience the music though, we go to see it live, and share the (tribal) rhythms, part of a larger community who all believe in the power of this music (artist, group, festival). This sense of belonging to a tribe or a community reaches out through our interests in sports, racing, wellness and more; through our own interests or traditions, or those of our families and extended community of friends and colleagues.

When we attend an event we are drawn by the anticipation of the experience. Much of this is the sense of community that we look forward to being part of. When immersed in the experience, drawn in by the theatre, our senses are enhanced and the memories deepened by the community we are sharing it with. Understanding the importance of creating and allowing for these two elements will go a long way to ensuring that the events you plan continue to be meaningful and enriching for all.

Happy holidays as I am off to dream of sugarplums and the fairies who dance to a magical tune.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Thoughtful Event Design and Production - It Matters

Event Camp Vancouver getting set for participants
When I wrote this post it was before Hybrid was the buzzword of the year, but it was not all that long ago. If it was a TV Show looks at the different ways we can make event education more memorable for the guests and while certainly not cutting edge (since we had several years of examples of doing this) it remains important.

As we move from our viewing audiences being used to produced shows, full of laugh tracks and canned lines, to Improv (think "Whose Line is it Anyway?") to the plethora of reality TV now available, our tastes may have evolved, but our need to be entertained continues to be a reality for meeting and event planners.

When we look at the 2012 Event Trends from David Adler of Bizbash which articulate so clearly what attendees will be looking for, it does all come back to careful meeting design and thoughtful production elements that add to the overall experience. It is no longer enough to build a conference or event full of pre-determined one-sided topics being delivered, paired with traditional evening events, perhaps a welcome, an awards gala and maybe a farewell or closing event. Now we need to offer not only excellent education, we must also work with the presenters on making it interactive to build relevance and applicability for the participants, allow room for "hot" topics or organic growth of topics within the sessions, provide nutritious offerings to sustain participants, offer events that meet the expectations of the guests but also offer some surprises and delights.  We need to create "tweetable" moments and blog-worthy stories, these that happen so much more immediately than any post show PR you may get in traditional media. You must also be staffed and ready to respond to changes that may be necessitated by this immediate feedback received.

In all of this we also are considering not only the needs of face to face guests, but also remote participants, and how we can create education and interaction that provides value for both, and ideally between both audiences. This does require a certain amount of technology and expertise in its use, careful preplanning and appropriate preparation. Is it worth it? If your participants then become your biggest advocates that lead to greater success for your events in the future - I say YES. Plan, prepare, produce - and make sure it is authentic, relevant and memorable!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Anticipate, Experience, Remember

These three words can be applied to anything good in life, anything that brings us joy and makes us smile. The question of the day is how can this apply to our events? What are we doing to create each step?  How does it vary by type of event?

1. Developing anticipation. To do this you must have great plans in place for your event, plans you are excited about your guests experiencing and can play off of.

2. Creating the Experience. This must consider the objectives of the host and the needs and desires of the guests. It will often include tried and true elements, and then ideally special touches that will surprise, delight and enhance, touching a variety of senses to better engage, this is what part that creates memories.

3. Remember. For us on the planning side, creating the environment and experiences that will cause guests to remember their event positively.

Well that all sounds lovely, but how do we apply this to specific events?

Incentive Reward Trips
With an incentive program often the cycle to win a reward trip is up to one year in advance and from an organizational perspective, these trips are based on superior sales or service that contribute to a healthier bottom line. Building anticipation by choosing an attractive destination, creating anticipation through the launch of the next year's destination often at this year's meeting, and then using a great teaser campaign are all important steps in building anticipation.

The experience must then deliver the feeling of reward. This begins with the travel and arrival experience, and then with each piece of the puzzle, including activities, unique events, access to important colleagues, gifts and once in a lifetime opportunities that cannot be bought, the experiences are built. To truly create the feeling of reward it means that every touchpoint must feel special, and it must be easy - this is a week without having to worry as you have for the balance of earning this time away. It is most often shared with spouse or significant other and occasionally with families as they too have contributed to this success.

To create lasting memories that build loyalty requires a balance of time with colleagues on shared social experiences, activities that let you build on or learn a new skill, sometimes inspiring speakers who add depth to the experience and knowledge you can apply on your return, fun that engages multiple senses and time to reflect on the experience and the people you are sharing it with. Tangible items such as thoughtful gifts, photo or video memories and new skills will add to the remembering.

Association Educational Conference

The anticipation can come from the programming planned, from knowing you will see colleagues and friends you may only see at these meetings - the education and networking that are the crux of association membership are indeed critical to the anticipation. For new members it is about creating a sense of excitement tied to the sense of belonging and shared positive experience to come.

The experience should be built around these two tenets - great education which in its most ideal form combines formal, interactive and informal learning with tools to apply the enhanced learning on return to work. The networking should be throughout, not just at the traditional evening events, some of which may be buy in and some hosted (ie a welcome or closing). This is perhaps one of the most challenging areas to create experiences as you are dealing often with people from around the world with different expectations, languages and bases to draw from and a larger gamut of age and experience. This is about asking questions of those who know the demographics and psychographics of the attendees and building in variety to create a comfortable experience for the majority.

The memories will come from sharing knowledge with peers so you must allow time for this. The education must have relevance and be applicable on return for the value to be justified.  Memories that make you want to return again are based on connections, and will come from the opportunities to "break bread" with old friends and new enriched with conversation. For us, we have to provide food and beverages that are familiar and tasty enough in environments that may showcase a destination or a theme, with music that enhances the space without overwhelming conversation as this all becomes part of what is layered into the memory.

What will you do to build anticipation, create enriching experiences and ultimately create memories for your guests, the kind that make them want to achieve, and to return?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Details make it Special

When we are planning events, like in life, it is the small details that are remembered. In this photo Darth Vader saved the day by ensuring the awards would appear and could be delivered to the recipients. For the guests and for the character inside, this was less than three minutes of an evening's program, but one that brought delight to all.

When we are with someone special we can't possibly recall everything done together, what creates the memory is often fleeting... a touch, a glance, a feeling created.

When you receive a thoughtful gift, it is not the value of the gift but the care that went into the choice that makes it special, knowing someone thought of what you might like.

When we talk about events we often call them Special Events. Truly, who wants to create or attend an ordinary event?  What keeps me passionate about our industry is the opportunity to evoke memories.  The logistics have to be well thought out and that is the part that makes us professionals, but it is the creating that separates the fantastic event professionals from the merely good; the special events from the average.

It is always about creating an environment and then adding the details what will offer those small moments that make a memory. It is the combination of venue, lighting, soundscape and music, seating areas and decor elements, entertainment that engages and moments that surprise (as in the above) that will allow memories to be created... because we as event producers have created a space that allows for connections to happen.

We might remember an exceptional meal for the food, but if the most average meal is shared with the best company, it is elevated. When you have a fantastic meal and it is shared with brilliant company, then you have a special event that creates memories.

Many years ago I attended an event produced by a colleague. This event had the biggest dance floor we had ever created for a group of about 1,000 guests, all part of an association for retired professionals. The Dal Richards orchestra was playing, and when I came by to see this event, the giant dance floor was indeed full, with many of the octogenarian and older guests - mobile, in walkers and in wheelchairs having the time of their lives dancing up a storm. This is what makes events special.

What will you create next?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Cheers - to Holiday Parties

Why do we love holiday parties? Better question... do we love holiday parties?  I would venture to say YES and NO. There are the dreaded holiday parties, the ones that you know you will have to deal with the uncomfortable questions, the awkward pats and the drunken dealings, yet we still feel obligated to attend.

Then there are the parties we can't wait to attend. We know the company will be fantastic and we won't even get to to talk to anyone long enough, that the food will be delicious and easy to get to, the beverages sparkling and the music and atmosphere fabulous.

So what makes the difference between the two? (and leads to the many variations between)  It goes back to the basics
  • the guests - invite people who you want to spend time with and who by extrapolating that would likely enjoy each other's company as well - a mix of old and new is great
  • the venue - it should be inspiring, fit the size of the group well and have an ambience that works for whatever you want to create, whether that is a ballroom or a skating rink, a pond or a restaurant, your home or a nightclub...
  • music sets the tone, so from all holiday to cool dance - choose music that adds to the tone of the experience
  • food simply needs to meet the expectations of the guests - if they are expecting dinner, make it hearty, if it is a dessert reception - well you get the point - it is distracting to be hungry and unable to find food and then eventually irritating and you have to leave
  • beverages should provide for the drinkers, the drivers and those in-between, offer a special cocktail/mocktail and the basics
  • gifts, trinkets and give backs - are you asking people to give something that will go to a charity or are you having fun gifts on offer for the guests - both work but know what mood you want to achieve (giving and getting are both part of the season!)
  • unless it is an event specific to a religious celebration, in this diverse landscape most of us live in, keep it about celebration and togetherness
  • decorate to suit - last week we did a very traditional Christmas dinner and a "naughty Santa" event - very different, both very fabulous
  • entertainment for holiday events should enhance - you may have live music or a play or a focal point that starts with or is followed by a reception to share the joy, otherwise let people focus on each other in this season of joy, and if for your friends that means rocking a dance floor - do it!
Like all events, it is about the details, knowing your guests and catering to their enjoyment. At this time of year, comfort and enjoyment are key - once you have a plan for your guests you will enjoy the event more too!

Happy Holidays!