Monday, April 18, 2016

The Lost Art of the Question

Asking questions is a lost art. Yes, I just said that. 

As humans, we are good at asking questions that don't mean much ie "How are you?" or "How are things going?" - often not waiting for the answer. What we need to get better at in developing events is asking questions both in developing the event and in delivering the event. Imagine if in the table above you sat down, and were unfamiliar with the art of Dali - you may question why everything is the way it is... a little "off" and always interesting. You may also be shy to ask, or worried that you may be the only one. In events we need to make sure there are safe ways to create comfort for questions - it is often in the search for answers that innovation is found.

Questions allow you a safe way to look at new solutions from different perspectives. Imagine if instead of presenting the (creative, out of the box, on-target) idea for an event, you instead were able to put your stakeholders in a room and instead of saying "here's the plan for our conference" opening up the door to them to potentially rethink the approach to the event by asking questions that get to the heart of objectives. 

At the Exclusively Corporate Day at #IMEX16 the first presenter of the morning Kaihan Krippendorff shared with the group the importance of questions and creating space for disruptive thinking. Kaihan is truly an expert on "disruptive thinking for future expansion" and to be introduced to this concept even briefly made me want to go out and buy at least 3 of his 4 books to better understand how to increase our mental agility using the patterns our brain responds to, and how to use various narratives to better understand and tell our own stories. It always comes back to starting with questions - to ensure you are on the right track and to open up to new ideas and ways to approach what we are doing.  Check out his website, and begin your Question Journey.

Now back to comfortable learning spaces for your participants. We have SO many ways to ask questions, including using apps where the question can be typed in with a name or anonymously and the group can up-vote, making it easier for the moderator to choose in what is always limited time to continue the conversation between presenters and audience. (yesterday we used all day, while ICCA's session used another tool from Corbin Ball, and there really are an endless array available to try). There is the "old-fashioned" microphone, and the new tossable Catchbox which is a million times easier (no runners needed) and so much fun it encourages questions from the floor. However you do this - bring back the questions! 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Dandelions vs Orchids

 This is Henry. Henry doesn't know that dandelions are considered weeds, he just knows they are pretty. He also knows how to win hearts with cute smiles and by bringing the girls, including his mom Jayne and I said dandelions. He doesn't know we are snobby event planners, exchewing these, carnations, baby's breath (really what baby breathes out flowers!?) and other "lesser" flowers in our never ending quest to design beautiful event environments for our guests, adding stylized flowers, props, lighting, entertainment and seating into gorgeous destinations and stunning venues around the world.

Henry also doesn't understand time, or our lack of it as we rush to meet the demands of our clients, in ever-shrinking time frames. He doesn't know as we answer texts while holding him, tired from running through fields of clover that we have forgotten how to just stop and hold onto the moment. That moment of stillness with the one or two people more special to us in the world than any others, never to be replicated and too fleeting as they race to grow up. 

There are lessons in love, laughter, play, learning, and being fully engaged in the moment we can learn from Henry as we work to design event spaces that tap into this sense of joy we once felt running through dandelions, oblivious to all but the birds we chase in front of us. In a world ever more dominated by the small screens in our pockets, sending us information - good, bad, indifferent, horrifying, smile-inducing - at all hours of the day and night; our attention deficit selves so continuously inundated it is not only challenging to find this elusive "balance", it is nearly impossible to allow ourselves time to just stop, listen and enjoy. As event designers it is equally challenging to create environments where our guests can find time and space to learn, be inspired or motivated, to connect to ideas and people, and to just breathe.

At IMEX next week they are embracing this new concept of sweatworking inviting all to join a 5k run - and here is the real secret - when you are doing a run you really can only focus on the motion of your body, and the people around you. You may be in motion, but you are still taking time for a positive for yourself and those with you - you have to be engaged in the moment.

I had two wonderful hours with Jayne and Henry before heading home to enjoy time with my own family, and I deeply thank Jayne and Henry for this time of nothing more than fresh air, sunshine, a good breakfast and my beautiful dandelion.