Friday, March 15, 2013

Maroon 5 - Conducting

Do you remember your first concert?  (Mine was Trooper) Last weekend I had the pleasure of taking my daughter and two friends to see Owl City, Neon Trees and Maroon 5. There is nothing more infectious than the energy of 3 x 12 year old girls getting ready to go to a concert, but at the same time being as cool as you can only be at certain specific points in your life.

As an event producer, I cannot attend a show without looking at the technical details. (and many of you are the same) Kudos to the Maroon 5 team, who used technology in so many incredibly smart ways to tell the story, some of my favorites I will share with you here.
Owl City

Neon Trees
First, I always love seeing the difference in the look for the opening act(s) to the headliner, and this show did not disappoint. Backing the stage for the opening acts a large white backdrop, lacking enough finesse I knew it would not stay. This was used well for projections that added depth to Owl City and Neon Trees - both excellent bands and a perfect fit for the Maroon 5 audience.

As Maroon 5 was starting, I could see two sections behind the "kill zone" (essentially behind the stage) full of people, and knew for sure the white drape was outta there. Sure enough, in the build-up to Maroon 5 taking the stage, this was literally lifted in a "whoosh" revealing the white off shoot stages you see above to be part of a larger "M" backed by projections screens that were used smartly and to great effect throughout the show. One of my favorite uses was the strips that brought in the colors that tied to the overall theming (and merchandising), but had Adam Levine sharp in black and white.

Every song brought an entirely new look, and used every part of the stage, set and screens to bring every song to its own life. We have the technology, it is rare still to see it used so completely and effectively, and I thank those who masterminded this. The bridge that arced down from overhead for just the encore, delivering Adam to the crowd waiting in the middle of the arena for the whole show for him to be just this close, was an awesome addition and added the right sense of highlight to the finale.

We also appreciated the depth and breadth of the music, and their obvious joy in doing live shows.  With no bad language, lots of gratitude to the audience for the ongoing support and a really good show, it was a choice I could feel good about sharing with three young ladies! For all of us, it is good to remember how lucky you are, with how hard you have worked, to be able to do what you love (and they said it out loud).

Yes, they bought the t-shirts. This was their criteria for choice - "this one, it isn't just cool on its own, you have to make it cool." And yes, they wore them home and slept in them!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

(R)evolution of Mobile

Time for discussion -
EventCamp Vancouver
In January Hyper-Connectivity and the reality that we are all on, all connected, all the time was a point of discussion, and how we can possibly keep up this pace remains at issue. How we are now seeing approximately 63,000 words every day, and a plethora of images and infographics, all competing for our attention, all taking us away from old - fashioned human face-to-face interactive conversations is a new reality, but is it better? 

I have made so many friends on social media that I have now met IRL that I cannot disparage the power of social media for connections, but I can definitely say I prefer the time spent live with friends, colleagues, peers, and family.

Last week I wrote about the collision of social and mobile - "SMobile" as Claire Smith referred to it, and the challenges and opportunities that will come from the global shift (yes, global) to "we want it now and we want it on an app" that we are seeing all around us.  

Yet at the same time, Thom Singer this week looks at the reality that adding an app or even an app with a gamification component does not a conference community make - which I agree with, although I have seen it be successful, I have also seen it be a non-starter.  Both TED and SXSW - the two largest proponents of technology on many levels, have boldly said at their 2013 events "please, put down your devices".  The two links will take you to TED's 13 rules for attendees, designed to increase human, live, intuitive interaction, and then at SXSW how the festival is using human tools to draw people away from their devices and back to f2f collaborations.  I agree with all of these, there is a time to engage via mobile (it is a great way to find friends especially at large events) and a time to put it away and enjoy the people.

What are you going to do at your next event to increase the human engagement factor? The kinds of interaction that leads to collaboration, friendship, and real opportunities. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this ongoing (r)evolution.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Planner...or Conductor?

The ultimate fire and ice event
orchestrated by Cantrav Services.
At a recent conference, our (amazing) client commented, as the 200 guests arrived, that this was the part she liked best, when the six people who had been planning for months could now turn it over to the energy of the participants. I LOVE THIS perspective. I told her I loved it and would be turning this into a blog post, and here it is.

I am a huge fan of Benjamin Zander, a man, a speaker, a teacher, a classical music lover and a Conductor (Boston Philharmonic Orchestra) and find I am always moved by his messages.  In watching him enrapture a TED audience on an archived TEDTalk this week it made me think about the similarities between being a meeting planner and being a conductor.  First though, an obvious difference. When a CD of the orchestra is released, it will have a picture of the conductor on the cover, and this would be the exact opposite of what happens at a meeting, where the planner is in the background, typically by choice, certainly by the nature of the work, but the role in creation just as vital.

The similarities include a reliance on everyone around you to create a cohesive whole. An orchestra will have percussion, woodwinds, strings, brass, keys, and potentially featured artists to create a symphony, led by the conductor.  They may then combine this music to create an even greater whole, adding to opera, a play, an awards show, as examples.  Every single player has to be able to be fully responsible for their own part, and yet be part of the greater whole, cohesive in timing with everyone else, all guided by the conductor, rehearsed and yes, orchestrated.

As meeting planners we too have to bring together a group of supplier partners to create an event we have invested ourselves in, usually beginning with a proposal (and budget) sold, and now to be brought alive. We will work with parameters dictated by the venue, desired by the stakeholders, and set out to meet the objectives, and most importantly when we plan an event, there are no rehearsals!  A great meeting will have rehearsals for their general sessions, possibly gala awards, and maybe even dry runs for their breakout sessions but nobody gets to rehearse a reception or welcome event, or "mind blowing, unforgettable off-site event in a unique location". Understanding this will affect our ability to be great conductors, what steps should we / could we take? I have had the opportunity to lead teams on many multi-faceted projects, and share my ideas here, and welcome yours.
  1. First play the symphony. Play it through once and inspire your team. (with an event this is sharing the creative description and objectives)
  2. Lay it out, create the event version of the "musical score", critical path leading to a production schedule, floor plans, imagery, whatever it takes to tell the story.
  3. We MUST share this vision with everyone who is part of the team. Get their input, make sure they know their role, and are comfortable with everything it encompasses.
  4. Have everyone play nicely together. We don't get to have rehearsals but we can have a meeting ahead of time and run through it all from set through event to strike.
  5. Then, watch the magic happen.
There is magic in music, and there is definitely magic in the events we create, and seeing how people respond to what we have created... that is what keeps us wanting to create. But back to the beginning, the magic truly comes from the people, and yes, when we watch the guests arrive, feel their energy, their buzz and see them smiling, collaborating,  connecting, our invested energy, ultimately rewarded.

Voting currently available with winning choices announced in Toronto March 21, 2013. I appreciate your support - plus it is fun to see all the nominees!

Thursday, March 7, 2013


Parked, checking flight status
while waiting
In a recent post I spoke about hyper-connectivity of the world being an issue we need to address as we plan our meetings.  At the recent (excellent) MPI BC Chapter Education Conference, there was a word used by Claire Smith as she opened the day that stuck with me. She was speaking of shifts (something happening that will change the way we do business) and trends (something topical now that will evolve) that are and will soon be impacting our industry.

The Word: SMobile. The combination of social and mobile. This is a SHIFT, so we must pay attention to it. What does this mean to our meetings? (To our lives?) This ubiquitous and ongoing intrusion as we now spend, in many cases, more time connected to our virtual world than building real-time connections with people we are face-to-face with is impacting how our meetings are affecting people. 

This collision of technology and talking, this new way of sharing information, it is not going away.  We now have multiple ways of connecting with people through one device. Like many of you, my mobile phone connects me to thousands on Twitter, hundreds on Facebook, more on LinkedIn, dozens by text - SMS, WhatsApp, OnChat, and still more by voice or video with Skype and Facetime, and for very few, by telephone.  

We shop, drive, research and register all with the device in our hand (tablet or smartphone) - we are are no longer road warriors, we are mobile maniacs.  We rely on apps for the weather, for recipes, for maps, for sharing ideas and storing content, for playing games, passing the time, and learning.

As an organization or event who is looking to find sponsors, increase ticket sales or registrations, or ideally build a community around us, are we taking full advantage of this SMobility?  Ideally you are collecting data about HOW people want to be connected to you, and creating messages unique to each of these social platforms that are useful to your audience.  While apps for events are fantastic, useful, sustainable and able to change at a moment's notice - an excellent tool for many reasons, you should be considering how your organization can create an app that builds ongoing engagement and communication within your unique social network.

How is your organization going to meet the challenges of our globally changing, totally SMobile world?