Archive for October, 2009



October 30, 2009

I love this time of year for many reasons – one of which is that the market is flooded with the latest books – just in time for holiday shopping. And of course, I can’t resist, so I spent every penny of discretionary funds in my budget this month on replenishing my resource library. Thank goodness for Barnes and Noble’s “used books” option that saved me almost 50% on the purchase prices!

I’ve oohed and aahed over Preston Bailey’s Celebrations and Colin Cowie’s Wedding Chic and had a whole evening of brainstorming with myself on potential applications as I absorbed Ultimate Materials page by page. And I still have a stack next to my desk of new design, tabletop, and culinary tomes including Damn Good Food from our own Hell’s Kitchen– mixed in with the latest positioning on Metrics and Analytics, Shaz Smilansky’s Experiential Marketing, and Carol Krugman’s Global Events –all food for the brain as we approach winter and that time of rest and renewal in between all the event industry shows in the first quarter.

I started my day this morning, at 5AM only to find we had no electricity AND I had not shut down my laptop last nite, so no computer either, as the battery was drained. So, I didn’t even feel guilty as I was tempted with that stack of new ideas – and pulled Simple Stunning Parties from the pile.

Surrounded by candles, flashlite in hand, I curled up in my reading chair for an hour or so of exercising my imagination as I waited for sunrise and light. Almost immediately a paragraph caught my eye and made me sit up and take note:

Special occasions seem to encourage people to appreciate each other openly. They have permission to put aside their differences for a few hours, to laugh and talk and feast together. They gain a sense of life’s preciousness and their own good fortune, a feeling that a place in time is being held just for them.

Over the next few weeks, as holiday parties become the focus for us both personally and professionally, this is, I think, a worthy goal-to create experiences for our guests that make them feel this way.

As the book’s author, Karen Bussen, went on to say..

(This) is an invitation to celebrate life…and to spend time with people you care for, toasting and tasting the wonderful flavors nature has to offer.

And when it is over, there will be ample time for the restoration and renewal waiting for me next to my desk.



October 28, 2009

Almost killed this cat!

Been hearing from industry friends that a former colleague of mine has been soliciting LinkedIn recommendations from them-which they have been unwilling to give, based on their experience interacting with her.

So when members of that same group started forwarding e-mails from that same colleague asking them for assistance in her job search, I took a minute to read through the message.

My first reaction was one of envy that I do not have that same skill of self-promotion. She does it so well, and it is so difficult for me to ask for help or boast of accomplishments. So thinking, “Good For Her “, curiosity spurred me on, tempting me to check the Linked In Profile.

Again, I saw a well-polished and impressive profile of a capable individual – until I scrolled down to Honors and Awards.

That’s when I almost stroked out!

2009 ISES Award Winner (sic)
Best Event Design & Décor/Best Corporate Event Planning (sic)/Best ISES Team Effort

Quite an accomplishment, I’d say-since those ISES Minnesota Star Awards were earned for an event that was executive-produced by me and was the result of the efforts of a very talented team of event professionals and companies which did not include her!

Took me almost 24 hours to calm down, realize that anyone that understands what the awards were, knows she was not involved, and to let it go.

But the thought that still keeps buzzing in my head is that if it “just ain’t true”, how much of the remainder of the polished profile just ain’t true” either – and why would someone risk injecting that doubt into a recap of one’s life’s work?

I just don’t get it.

But at the end of the day, I give thanks that I have escaped that life I shared with her and am back where I belong-thinking about how the world has changed and a new paradigm of leadership is evolving…one that does not have room for those kinds of antics!



October 26, 2009


Yesterday, as I was searching for something else, I stumbled across a promotional postcard I used “back in the day”. It sang praises to the Minneapolis Riverfront as a great destination for special events and was the impetus for the Creative Events/Apples Catering Esprit Award for Best Off-Site for an event we staged along the East Bank for 2500 guests for Carlson Marketing in 2001.

Along with it, I found this clipping (with the source indecipherable):

People who live beside moving water have been given the gift of living light and even if they never come to recognize it as such, any other light, no matter how clear or brilliant, is pale and static to them, leaving them with a sense of loss, of vulnerability, as if they have suddenly found themselves without clothes.

“I have to be near the water,” they will say. “I can’t live away from the ocean”…or the river, or the creek, or whatever water throws them back to the sun, or the boiling storm clouds, or the pearl of moving fog, or the wash of sunset.

But what most of them are really saying, without knowing it is:


Somehow, some way, I have to get back to the river and daily walks along its shores so that its living light can refresh and inspire me.



October 24, 2009

Recently, I have been assisting a local corporation review vendor general capabilities for both their annual user conference, and their corporate sales and services incentive program. This is a role reversal for me, as I spent a lifetime on the other side – responding to client RFPs for similar meetings and events.

It’s been a lengthy process as we developed briefs on each event, pertinent questions for which we needed answers, searched for local and national vendors, and then answered the inevitable questions raised by each recipient of the RFPs. Eventually responses started to arrive, and over the last two weeks, I have accumulated almost 2500 pages of materials.

I have just finished reviewing and judging the results for the second event under consideration.

I feel like I deserve to spend the afternoon at the spa as a reward for my perseverance.

It took far too long to learn this life lesson, but after I apologize to every client who has ever gotten a proposal from me full of the latest buzz words of the day used to communicate that I am the only one that knows how to do this right, I am going to make a new checklist for myself.

Not only must I watch the paper poundage, but re-read and re-read and re-read. Although an occasional misspelling, grammatical error, or forgetting to change all the client-specific names in the stored copy is irritating, it is nothing compared to ignoring directions, pretending to be something one is not, using a superior tone, or telling me I have to work on desired outcomes first, when I have provided C-level desired outcomes in the brief! Thank goodness I normally have–as did these vendors–some good ideas buried in all those superfluous words to give some sort of a payback to the poor readers.

Had I only realized years ago what a miserable experience this was from the client perspective, I am sure I could have invented some other way of doing this. Any ideas about how we can initiate change?



October 24, 2009

A year ago, we heard a rumor that involved a friend, and posing as event guests, we set out to investigate the scurrilous gossip and scandal. We secretly gathered the evidence and offered suggestions to curb the exploits we found objectionable. And our friend thanked us for the expose.

Over the last many months, we have kept our private eye on the behind-the-scenes intrigues- offering our support, suggestions and praise for positive actions as the situation warranted.

Yesterday, that friend and I had a catch-up breakfast at the Wilde Roast, and I was absolutely delighted to hear that this touchy situation has exploded into a full-blown AFFAIR!

Life is short! So Share the AFFAIR with the Chocolate Extravaganza. I am going to be there and you should be there too! Check out all the provocative details at



October 9, 2009

Four months ago my life changed again, as I activated my fall-back position at Creative Events to tide me over as I began a search for a better fit professionally in the work arena. I was immediately blessed with a flood of opportunities and on day two of being a “Displaced Worker”, I had two contracts to deliver event services. Between reviews of Job Boards, networking, an interview or two, and simply juggling the real work on my desk, I have hardly had time for friends or family, and certainly have not had time to decide if I continue this search for one more “new life”, or happily return to an old one and get on with developing some marketing materials and a business card to celebrate the rebirth of Creative Events by Kranz..

I did set a goal though, of trying to make that decision by the end of the year so that if I remain an independent, I can market in the first quarter and be ready to go with paying clients by second quarter. And now with October flying by, I am beginning to feel the pressure to make up my mind.

Today, I may have moved one step closer to clarity. Cleaning up my mail boxes, I stumbled on the September Trend Briefing dealing with Transparency.

We’ve all come to understand that customers make choices based on product reviews and price comparisons as transparency became a new buzz word. As an advocate for transparency in pricing, I do not think clients should expect to pay a premium for services that are provided by my vendors and not by me directly. So pricing transparency is not a concern- I charge a fair price for my expertise and time and I pass on all costs from partners without a surcharge for me. Nor are product reviews an issue as I strive to deliver the best I can to exceed client expectations, with a solid track-record, references, and awards to back me up. So the emerging transparency trend was not top priority on my “learn-more-list”.

But today I discovered product and price cover only the basics. The “whole” picture will matter to our customers, who, when looking for the best of the best, take into account not just price or superior quality, but eco, health, social and ethical concerns as well. Of course, I thought to myself, that makes sense.

As I evaluate new job opportunities, most of those additional influencers are fairly easy to ferret out – but the most important of those, to me, is ethics and truthfulness. And by its very nature, one tends to assess that by experience, not research. I am not sure I want to risk judging that attribute incorrectly again as I look for a new work home that allows me to be who I am.

We all have experienced how painful it is to learn you have somehow “misjudged” and now need to extricate yourself from a bad situation. For most of my career, I have done well, but I’ve also experienced one or two mis-steps. So I want to avoid that kind of pain again-at least in my work life. I need to stand tall on my reputation of these many years of doing the “right” thing.

So thanks to the broadening elements of transparency, I am beginning to see that coming home to Creative Events may be in my best interest long term–at least until all the meetings/events world catches up with our customers in terms of the “whole” transparency trend.



October 9, 2009

Congratulations are in order today:

To a personal favorite of mine, Diana Pierce at KARE 11 for her induction into the Broadcasting Hall of Fame in recognition of two decades of bringing us the nightly news;

To President Obama, for being awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize;

and, to the five vendors responding to the CUE RFP before the deadline. Thanks for the headstart!

It’s Friday and Life is Good.



October 6, 2009

Robyn Waters, formerly VP of Trends at Target, and today a reputable trend specialist, once explained to me that her success was due to constant global travel combined with reading some 40+ magazines in-flight as she winged from place to place.

Absorbing the content of more than 40 monthly magazines seemed a great accomplishment to me—until I took stock and realized I, too, was a magazine freak!

A weekly news magazine, 8-12 trade publications, Arts from MIA, and Minnesota History from MHS, Metro, and that AARP one for good measure and today, after weeding out many of the design and culinary publications as subscriptions expired, my mailbox is still stuffed monthly with almost 20 welcome “windows on the world” that provide me with hours of education, entertainment, and good creative ideas-plus a fabulous visual experience.

And yet, hardly a month goes by that I don’t spend a Sunday afternoon with a cup of coffee at Barnes and Noble, looking through a stack of Metropolis, Met Home, Creative, Traditional Home, Wired and 3-4 food magazines – all of which were once conveniently delivered to my house – trying to decide which ONE treat I can buy!

So I am sad today to say goodbye to Gourrmet. Although it has not been a monthly visitor for perhaps 30 years, it was my first culinary subscription oh so many years ago, and I am sorry to learn of its end.

And yet, I understand it is a sign of the changing times as the print media world continues to fade and is replaced by less costly and faster means of communication with Web 2.0. As the News Service so aptly pointed out:

“Gourmet’s demise…illustrates how the ability of print media to make—or break—anything is waning. Increasingly, it is the viral aspect of social networking and blogging, that gives rise to new faces, places and flavors. ”

So be it. RIP, Gourmet.



October 5, 2009

As I read the title of Garrison Keillor’s Sunday column this week on healthcare reform, I anticipated I would be reading a humorous account of his time spent in my medical mecca, the Mayo Clinic, after he suffered a recent stroke. I scanned his view – waiting for the punch line. When it came, it connected so strongly to something I have been mulling over, I had to sit up and take note with my yellow high-lighter.

“Old men shouldn’t be allowed to doze off at the switch and muck up the works for the young who will have to repair the damage. Get over yourselves. Your replacements have arrived.”

First let me explain – I was born on the cusp of the Boomer Generation – technically a Traditionalist, but with a nod to them for saving our country and for instilling guiding values in all of us that followed them, I thought it was time for them to get out of the way-particularly in the workplace. I bonded with the Boomers, ignored the barriers, worked harder, out-strategized, built a collaborative network of support and succeeded. And I was blessed with results. I became a corporate director at age 28; and became a VP in a second company before I was 40. I left the corporate world as part of an executive team that had taken a sleepy $20 million dollar company to an industry leader with almost $1 billion of sales in less than 15 years. And what was among the motivators for my departure? I had no time for that generation entering the workforce in the early 90s- Generation X – after all, what did they know? Sound familiar? Different times, different terms, different outcomes, but it continues to happen throughout the centuries and we are in the midst of it happening yet again.

Event Marketing became my next life, and to succeed, I had to be open to new ideas, new technologies, and new thinking. Our industry is one of change and new trends and a continual search for what’s new. Most of the stars in our industry, like event marketing itself, are young-with little need to protect how we have always done it because it has not always been done. We all understand, as our objectives and audience change, so too, must we.

That discipline spills over into other arenas – so I have often found myself bothered by the disconnect that is happening in our world today.

After 9/11, we all heard and used phrases such as: “the world has changed”, what is the “new normal”. That, coupled with the exponentially increasing technological advancements in the last ten years, along with the arrival of the Millennials in the workforce, gave rise to “move forward in the 2lst century” and “21st century thinking”. And the devastating recession of 2008 accounts for another major shift as we “reset in the new economy”.

Generally, I tend to be a moderate. I don’t have any right answers to all the issues we face today whether that be the economy, the wars, healthcare, or anything else – all I have is a viewpoint, based on what I hear from the opposing sides. But like every other citizen in 2008, I had to make a decision between Obama and McCain. And I passionately chose change-away from the traditional-to collaboration, citizenship and community. Those were methods of success I had learned in the corporate world which are reinforced in the world of event marketing today. And with that choice, I understood success would come in small steps and would be hard to judge, as we were entering new territory. To achieve change, we would need to monitor and evaluate, adjust and continue to move forward, without digging in with yesterday’s out-dated thoughts.

Yet just eight months into a 4-year term, our hopes for change are being judged harshly, We are quick to question progress and find it wanting, justified because “WE KNOW FROM PAST EXPERIENCE”, as I heard this morning on Meet the Press.

What do we know from past experience? None of us have experienced this before. Nothing we have read, been a part of, or lived through can replicate this new world that is just emerging.

We have become the old men; is it time to get over ourselves. get out the way, and give hope and change a chance to play out?



October 2, 2009

The morning paper today was filled with economic discussions– from the announcement of Michael Moore’s CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY opening in theatres today; to the Business Section lead story of “Saint Nick-o-Less” and a re-evaluation of gift-giving based on need and necessity; to reports of stock markets falling and financial legal suits; to an opinion column David Brooks wrote for the New York Times which hit home to me.

Because yesterday, I received a general announcement to all card-holders of the credit card company I use-explaining the latest new interest rate increase. My immediate reaction was USURY!

So I was especially interested to learn what Brooks had to say about our economic values. I found I was nodding in agreement through the entire column, as he described our economic values slide and advocated for a restoration of those values with a “goal to make the US again a producer economy, not a consumer economy.”

As I entered my office, my usury complaint about the credit card company, and Brooks’ column merged together. I wondered why I react negatively to a rate increase that impacts me, and yet I try to show tolerance for those in our industry that utilize a pricing policy that is equally usurious.

A small part of me, says good for them if they can continue to win business while doing that, and a larger part of me waits for them to be impacted as our customers demand more pricing transparency AND accountability and realize how much more message value they would receive if expertise pricing from vendors was reasonable.

Some meeting/event companies have taken three separate pricing strategies of the past and combined them; assessing charges for employee time, commissions from hotels, venues, and other vendors AS WELL AS a 20-40% profit made from the work of others-without whom we could not deliver integrated services. In fact, recently I heard of one example where a company does not even want to be involved in concept or production at all. Taking advantage of the recession’s impact on our business, they hope to hire the entire team from the independent free lance pool and expend no internal time or expense. Do they expect profit with no investment and recognition and industry awards, with no sweat or financial equity?

I don’t profess to be the expert that knows WHICH pricing methodology is the best; I just know I want it simple. In my past professional life, I have often spent more time discussing our pricing strategy vs. that of the competitors’ than is spent on understanding the client’s needs and brainstorming ways to meet them. So as I started CEK, I chose to establish a price for my expertise. Almost 20 years later, I still believe customers are willing to pay well for expertise they do not have internally; they just are not willing to pay a premium to get a service from us they could purchase for less dollars if they went direct.

But the real question in this discussion is: WHY are those triple-charging event companies often the ones that run into financial trouble – go into bankruptcy, or have one reorganization after another- without any change in the product or level of service?

I used to think it was weak leadership and lack of business acumen, but perhaps there is a lesson here that we can take from financial institutions. Do we need showy offices, a new car every year or two, weekly golf outings, out of sync bonuses and other perks we have grown to feel we are entitled to? Are we charging more than we are worth simply to maintain our sense of ballooning entitlement as reflected in all that we “have”? Are clients impressed with what we have or do they return to us for assistance because of what we DO for them?

This may be a topic to think more about as I expect there is not an easy answer.