Archive for the ‘EVENT DESIGN’ Category

h1

MEETING DESIGN: The What, Why and How

August 15, 2013

Yesterday, I received the advance copy of the MPI launch of their new initiative – a focus on Meeting Design.  It, along with a supporting case study based on our own collaborative efforts in conjunction with Boston Scientific and the CRV All-employee meetings of 2010-2011, will be introduced to 71 chapters of MPI around the world over the next several months. 

On one hand, I feel like the proud mom, to be even a small part of the movement that grew out of the mid-2000s, that I was experimenting with here in Minneapolis in 2007-2008 with some good successes surrounding the Republican National Convention.  As I was reading and researching and re-thinking the world of “meetings”, Maarten Vanneste was doing the same thing – “popularizing it in his book,  Meeting Architecture, a manifesto (2008)”.

Slowly, the interest and understanding of a new approach to our business grew; the successes happened and were acknowledged in trade press; fortunately for me, a colleague in the industry here in the Twin Cities was also following the transformation and change in thinking and opened the doors to us at Boston Scientific so that we could become the case study that is included in the MPI international launch.

Although I am tempted to use the cliché, “The Rest Is History” – it really is not.  It is only the beginning.

I have associations with several professional organizations – two of which seem to be launching the new approach Big Time this year…and that is a good thing.  Nevertheless, it will not be an easy transition.

I myself am currently working with a client that daily reminds me of the great task ahead as we move forth to try to modernize our own industry.  I have been working with this “Event Team” for 6 weeks now; and long ago lost count of the number of times I have been challenged by two members of this mini-steering committee (who in their professional lives handle meeting logistics for their own organizations).  I have no doubt they are passionate people; that they are passionate about logistics; and they are passionate about being right and doing it their way.  They are not so passionate about collaborative thinking, however – which is, indeed, the very key to the successful transition into the new world before us.

That first step –the Principle of Collaboration is an elusive one for many people. MPI describes it and its importance well:

Tap into the collective intelligence of the group to better understand its needs, generate new ideas, determine best solutions and put plans into action….the wisdom of the crowd is an invaluable resource.  Inherent in every meeting, is the opportunity for change, progress and innovation.”

And so, as I proudly read the final version of the MPI Meeting Design initiative, and the final version of the accompanying case study, and forwarded it to the rest of the team, I was quickly brought back to reality.  

Yesterday was a baby-step forward.  The rollout in MPI Chapters internationally will be baby-steps; the fight for successes in this new world will be baby step after baby step.  The work is not done in modernizing our industry and pulling it – screaming in protest- into the 21st century.

 PCMA is doing a great job in moving forward leading the industry as they have done with forward thinking since their first publication of the book “Professional Meeting Management” in the 1980s that led to the CMP certification process. (And yes, I am as proud to say that I was one of first five CMPs in Minnesota, as I am to say, I am proud to be one of the 5 founders of  the ISES chapter in Minnesota, and proud to be working with MPI to launch the Meeting Design approach all these many years later).

 MPI has now made the initial move; I think ISES is trying to do the same with their new educational approach.  But none of us have learned to walk yet, let alone RUN with these new ideas.  With time, we will get better – just as over time, we got better with the logistical end of our business.

In the meantime, I am comforted to read in the new initiative:

Meeting design challenges the status quo.  It represents a paradigm shift-a profound change in the fundamental meeting model that sees every meeting as a nail for the proverbial hammer of logistics. Logistics is building a house; meeting design is making that house a home….meeting participants needs are evolving beyond satisfying their basic needs for food, shelter, safety, proximity to others and  exposure to others.”

Basic needs:  food, shelter, safety, proximity to others and exposure to others.  Taken out of context, that conjures up man’s move out of the cave and exploration of the world around him, doesn’t it?  Those that were afraid to leave the cave and explore for new opportunities died.  And that’s what makes this exciting! 

“Attendees want innovative, unique experiences that challenge their senses, their expectations, their knowledge and their ideas.  Fulfilling on that is the ultimate value of meeting design.”

 

 

h1

NEW MEDIA

December 17, 2012

At the recommendation of a friend, last week I attended an IFP meeting at the Crooked Pint.  I went for several reasons – the title, “It’s a Brave New (Media) World” caught my attention professionally; the site, Crooked Pint, was a neighborhood location I had not visited; and the aftermath of the weekend snowstorm presented a personal challenge –could I walk over there?

On the downside, there was also a public forum to review the Above the Falls plan for the river that same night.  As most know, this is a passion for me, so I had a conflict-solved only because of the storm and the meeting site at MPRB which definitely was too far to walk that night.

So off I went to the Crooked Pint and I am so glad I did.  No, I am not a film-maker, so often, the discussion was over my head, but in the end, the context and questions were familiar as first the panel focused on describing what new media “is”:

Immersive; interactive; take the story of the film outside the film so the audience can interact; storytelling across platforms that create audience engagement; stories told on multiple platforms; storytelling in which the audience participates and contributes to the integrity of the story; the convergence of different media across platforms (i.e.,merging of TV and internet)

So far, so good…these are familiar topics applicable in our changing world of events as well.

Then the discussion moved on to more thought-provoking questions – questions I am not sure I can answer in my world:

  • How does one maintain a common tone across media types?
  • How do you achieve interconnectivity not just many forms of the same story?
  • Just because you can do it, should you?

Before the end of the session, I l was reminded /learned some good advice for the story “architect”:

  • Test ideas on the web
  • Learn from small failures
  • It’s not about the tactic…put the why and the who before the what
  • Find partners you trust
  • If the story is good, people will “hang in” despite a bad production

And along the way, I was directed to a wide variety of websites for further exploration and possible applications in my own world of event design.  I am sure there will be more to come on this topic as I delve into those.

As for the Crooked Pint?  I liked the ambience; I liked the BIG screen and the possibility of its use as a meeting site.

And the personal challenge of being able to safely walk over there?  Not so much.  Street crossings and medians themselves had not been  addressed yet, so at each intersection, I was forced to traverse a mountain of snow…all went well until that last one at Washington and 5th…where I took a misstep and quickly found myself sprawled out on the sidewalk! That has not helped with the pain flare-up I am already struggling through right now….but it was worth it for the new brain food I gathered at the meeting!

 

 

h1

DESIGN LIKE YOU GIVE A DAMN

September 26, 2012

This week, among other things, I am determined to tackle at least part of the stack of half-read books anchoring the corner of my desk,  Amidst the stack is a publication edited by Architecture for Humanity entitled “Design Like You Give a Damn (2); Building Change from the Ground Up” – published earlier this year. It seems appropriate that it is the first I tackle, as I have been watching snippets of the livestream from Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York all day – with its over-arching theme of “design thinking”, so needless to say, I have design on my mind already!

Architecture for Humanity simply stated exists to provide professional design services to communities in need.  This year they will be building in over 25 countries-applying what they’ve learned over the last decade.

Although I was drawn to the book originally as a means to better contribute to the Plan It Hennepin project, as I read the section on “Lessons Learned”, I kept coming back to the idea that most of these lessons have applications for all designers across a wide variety of disciplines.  So with that, I am sharing those lessons:

Lesson 1:  Unless You Build It, It Doesn’t Matter

For the involved “community” design is just a dream.  Communities want results.  The best way to achieve those results is to immerse yourself in the community to understand the need; then work together collaboratively to achieve the results.

Lesson 2:  Innovation is Only Valuable If It Is Shared

In the case of Architecture for Humanity, program management combined with multiple revisioning plans became over-whelming; a problem solved by creating an open-source, collaborative website that would empower building professionals with design solutions to improve life.

I immediately thought of the application possibilities in our own event industry and the 2 – year CRV project, about to be published as a Meeting Design Case Study by MPI Research – as a learning tool for all MPI members.

Then, immediately I jumped to my issue with our ISES chapter Star Awards Program.  Since its inception, its purpose of recognizing and honoring the work done in the chapter wrestles with the fun and glam of just throwing ourselves a big theme party, complete with over-the-top décor, costumes for those who like that sort of thing, lots of flowing alcohol, and sometimes good food….creating an ever escalating spiral and expense that is not sustainable….with very little else.

I am not a fan of the second option as it diverts the attention from a great opportunity to share the innovation that led to the winners’ success…and more importantly for all to learn what works in our market and why; to use the selected events as the focus; to engage with tdesigner and producer and learn more about our industry and how we can better serve our own clients.

Lesson 3:  Be The Last Responders

Although this is probably most applicable in disaster relief, I did find some commonalities in my world.

Just as Architecture for Humanity think of themselves as temporary operating theatres where professionals with a wide range of skills are supporting the local industry to repair, and rebuild the urban community, are we not also a short-term influx of event professionals hired to support the internal planners, client staff and executives to create, repair,  or rebuild a corporate community?

Lesson 4:  It Is More Fun To Partner

The lesson itself pertains to an opportunity to partner with Nike and streetfootballworld, which enabled them to broaden the mission to involvement in a “sports for social change” movement.  Adding partners created new issues in communications – ultimately solved by sharing space and rethinking a better approach to work together collaboratively. 

While partner led to all sorts of benefits for the organization, an applicable part of the lesson may be that while creativity can lead to a single good idea, innovation – which is adaptable and constantly learned- happened as part of the collaborative partnership.

That is a lesson our team has learned through our CRV collaboration as well.

Lesson 5:  Design is an Economic Tool

Too often, non-governmental organizations fail to engage and support the local business sector.  To rebuild holistically, it is imperative to have strong economic anchors in the community.  Project success occurs when one includes gathering spaces and commercial activity.  

Again, with CRV, we used the coffee shop concept as our design anchor to improve community; in Plan It Hennepin, each team in one way or another naturally migrated towards including gathering spaces- almost as if we each searched to find a way to bring back the town square lost in Americas urban landscapes today.

Additional lessons outlined incuded:  Unleash the Local Talent; Let Scale Happen; There is No Such Thing as Typical; Have a Sense of Honor; and finally, Design Yourself Out of A Job.  Can you think of ways those lessons are applicable in our world?

I think this gives you the idea; my point is simply that Design in any application is not merely pretty or breath-taking; it needs to stimulate and accomplish a desired outcome.  It’s sometimes hard to remember that in our event world, when at least in the short term, we can still get away with a WOW pretty-party; but as we move forward and grow as an industry, more is being and will be required of us.              

h1

REST IN PEACE, Tom Langlais

April 27, 2012

Forty years ago, I met a hotel man that  inspired me to become who I am today.  This morning, I am saddened to learn of his passing. I am flooded with memories of what I learned from him-not only about hotel operations- but more importantly, he taught me to follow my instincts, deviate from expectations, and most of all, have fun!

We shared some great success stories at the Radisson South, beginning in the early 1970s with Winnebago Dealer Days and continuing well into the 1980s when I returned to Minneapolis and was employed at Carlson Marketing Group. The Radisson South was still the flagship hotel at Carlson Hospitality in those days, so our paths crossed frequently from company and departmental  holiday parties to internal meetings, and of course, the South was the preferred site to house and entertain visiting clients.

One ocassion in particular stands out.  We had just been awarded the Control Data 100% Club – a long-time client of another local incentive house (and my first travel coordination project as I began my journey in the world of incentives and performance improvement when employed by that same competitor).

So I knew the client personalities well, had hosted them in that favored suite overlooking the pool, and was not looking forward to more of same to celebrate not only the holiday season, but also the signing of a three – year agreement with them. I instinctively knew the client would not be looking forward to yet another cocktail hour mingling on best behavior with their new vendor any more than I was going to enjoy it.

So off I went to meet with Tom, having explained I was on a mission to find someplace NEW and EXCITING to hold this celebration.  We started at the top of the hotel, in what was once Mr. C’s, and looked at every empty space, every restaurant and bar, every ballroom and meeting room from the main building to the newly opened annex and “new” lobby area. Since chef’s tables in facility kitchens were an emerging trend at the time, we even wandered through the kitchen.  Nothing was clicking.

We finally sat down for coffee, to discuss how we might be able to make the new lobby area work, and yet still have some privacy…and in the course of the conversation, I mumbled something about I wanted this to not be the same old, same old – that  I wanted the evening to demonstrate that CMG was different, good things were ahead, and I wanted to demonstrate we were starting with a clean slate.

That triggered an “epiphany”…I believe it was Tom who mentioned the hotel laundry room and as they say, the rest is history!

We were off to tour the space and within minutes “The Clean Slate” Laundry Room party was born…we quickly had a plan and both of us had some work to do – to sell the idea at the hotel, and at CMG. On my end, this was no easy task…the account executive agreed, but the CMG president, although he followed my logic, was not totally convinced.  So permission came wrapped in a threat – if this was not a success, I would no longer be a CMG employee!  Undeterred by the doubts, and with Langlais encouraging me, we went forward.

Invitations went out for holiday cocktails at the Radisson, and as expected, we got the RSVPs- most with caveats that the person would “stop” but had another commitment that evening.  This fed into my original  instincts and encouraged both Tom and me to do all possible to make this surprise location become the background for an experience all attending would long remember.

And yes, considering it was the 1980s, it was a little too “themed” but it communicated our message – CMG was not going to be content with the same old, same old  and we would be a great partner for CDC.

Did it work?  I can only say that at midnight, Tom had to ask me to shut down the 6 PM gathering so that the hotel could get the laundry done and be ready for business the next day!  Who knows what happened to all those commitments our guests had for later in the evening.

Was it memorable?  Many of the 30-40 guests assembled that night in the laundry room at the Radisson still are in town, many still in the business, and whenever we cross paths, once the greetings are over, the first topic of conversation continues to be the Clean Slate holiday party!

And yes, the event’s success ensured we both kept our jobs at Carlson Companies!

Thank you Tom Langlais for the memories.

h1

IT KEEPS ON GIVING…

March 15, 2011

The March Issue of BIZBASH Chicago featured yet another gift we have received from the CRV EXPERIENCE this past summer. Yes, we knew BIZBASH was including us in an article, but what a surprise to open the magazine yesterday to “14 MOST INNOVATIVE MEETINGS…New ways of thinking are revolutionizing content-driven events, and such gatherings are experimenting with new formats, technology and strategies-and seeing their ingenuity pay off.”

And there we were, right after the TED Conferences and along with Oracle, NTEN, SAP, The Cable Show, Cisco, IBM’s Lotusphere, and several other innovative companies that are working hard to escape the bonds of old thinking to bring the meetings and event business into the 21st century. 

Each of us took a different approach, but oh, the wonderful experimentation that was represented in that article!  Just look at the results this group accomplished:  Building attendee engagement, Getting Green-Long Term, Integrating Social Media, Bridging Live and On Line Conferences, Curating Conference Content, Managing Noise, Integrating Mobile Technology, Boosting On-line Interaction, Engaging Exhibition Layouts, Connecting Buyers and Sellers, Luring More Exhibitors, Sparking On-Line Content, and Streamlining and Tracking Content.  I am sure there is not a good producer or designer in our industry that has not wrestled with these very same issues.  How many of these concerns have you encountered in your own world of meetings and events? And how have you dealt with them?

Yes, it was a spectacular “high” to be grouped with this awesome list of industry-leading events, but more importantly, what fabulous brain food for us as our thoughts are slowly turning to CRV 2011 to bookend the journey Boston Scientific is taking this year following the launch of CRV last August.  It reinforced our initial thinking is on track, and sparked new thoughts about how we can best keep that interaction between employees and leadership moving forward. 

Over the last several months, I have often used this blog as a platform to air my passion about innovation, interactive meetings, social learning, and how to address new thinking about adult learning through good event design, experiential marketing and the birth of a new meetings and events industry that has risen from the ashes of the old.  

So although the recognition of CRV 2010 is a very fulfilling “high”; the gift we received from Bizbash was much greater:  More good ideas to stimulate our movement forward in this very slow process of changing our world.  There is more to this industry that the WOW of a pretty party!

Check out the whole article. Anna Sekula, the author says it best:

“When choosing the events to include, we looked at organizations that are pursuing these new avenues, and that are seeking long-term solutions beyond gimmicks and one-off experiments to build bigger brands and relationships with attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, and other partners.  With tangible results, each of the 14 gatherings highlighted demonstrate how such options are setting the stage for smarter, results-driven meetings.  They also help prove the power of well-produced meetings and their value in a larger business context.”

That succinctly sums up the purpose of my own life’s work and why I continue to describe CRV 2010 as the Pinnacle of my own 40-year career in this business.

h1

LESSONS LEARNED Pt 3 EXPERIENTIAL DESIGN

November 21, 2010

And now, some final thoughts on experiential design.  Over and over again, the importance of the Shanghai Expo to our event world is conveyed by various designers in various trade publications.  They communicate the same message – a message that has resonated with me and has driven me forward to improve my own skills and the experiences I create for my clients. Here are just a few more excerpts from EVENT DESIGN, October 2010 issue:

Each tells a simple story throughout the pavilion…

…meld architecture, media and message throughout…

Unique story telling…whimsical, interactive, artistically crafted…

The little gems discovered along the way are more memorable than the “over-the-top” elements

Use of building surfaces and advanced lighting technology to create art…building surfaces (became) a communication medium

Move from interactive to immersive

Unique storytelling …360 degree projections…floor, ceiling and surrounding walls

A different way of thinking won

Unify the exterior and the interior

An affirmation that there is no better medium to communicate a message than through design

Design plays a significant role in communicating ideas

The designer brings a story to life to deliver a message

You need a well-defined storyline and you need to use all parts of the experience:  the media, graphics, structure, space, and circulation through it in service to the messages that you want to communicate.  If you have a clear storyline and have everything support the few clear messages you want to communicate…

It’s not so much about the technology or materials; it’s about putting design in service to interpretation

High-level projection is everywhere and levels the playing field. It brings it back to content.  It is not about shiny technology…the resonant experiences were tied to emotional communication, not necessarily to technology.

For me, that sums it up.  The world of experiential design has spoken.  It’s time to put away for good the theme parties and pretty events without purpose of the 20th century.  For now, save that for the social customer, although I predict they, too, will migrate to more personally meaningful events as time goes by.  Our industry is growing up. We provide a means to an end, and should not think of ourselves as the end by itself. Are you ready to join me in the exploration of this evolving world and its contribution to the New Economy of the 21st Century?

h1

KEITH GOLDBERG’s LESSONS LEARNED

November 20, 2010

And now some excerpts taken from Goldberg’s report in EVENT DESIGN October 2010.  The pavilion descriptions definitely reflect effective rules we might all do well to embrace!

OLDER FOLKS DIG (THE RIGHT) TECHNOLOGY.  Interactive touchscreens delivered content in such graphic, intuitive ways that a child or senior citizen could get into it.

THE MOST POWERFUL TOOL IN MARKETING IS THE NARRATIVE JOURNEY – those that embraced the expo theme of “Better City, Better Life” by creating journeys that reflected the progress of their own cities were rewarded  with buzz throughout the visitor audience.

INTIMATE STORYTELLING IS KEY TO CREATING COMMUNITY – and Chile did it best!

SIZE DOESN”T ALWAYS MATTER. It was inspiring to see an unexpected and smaller exhibitor step up and leverage technology to tell its story.

KIDS EVERYWHERE ARE SELF-CENTERED (IN A WONDERFULLY CHARMING WAY, OF COURSE)

THE HOLOGRAM MAY (UNFORTUNATELY) NEVER DIE …despite being an unreliable technique that often does not work.

OVER-PROMISE & UNDER-DELIVER IS NOT A WINNING STRATEGY. Don’t let this happen to you.

NO MAN IS AN ISLAND…BUT A PAVILION CAN BE.  Saudi Arabia created a desert island with rooftop oasis with a 3D/360 degree theatre the size of two football fields and people waiting in line for up to 8 hours for the privilege of seeing it..proof that if you build something people want, they will come.

CAPTURE HEARTS AND MINDS…AND BUTTS..”dwell time” is partly dependent on level of comfort…whatever you can do to integrate comfort into the experience always pays dividends.

KEEP THE IDEA BIG AND THE EXECUTION SIMPLE …as did Belguim with their “iceberg in two blocks, separated by a crevasse” to demonstrate climate change.

EVERYONE LOVES A PANDA and World Wildlife Fund with their panda logo did it well

DELIVER ON YOUR PROMISES. Poland promised an experience to meld its folk heritage with its position as a modern nation and through integrating its established exterior look into a design that enabled technology, media and theatre to bring their story to life – did just that.

COOL MATERIALS DRAW A CROWD. Just look at Spain’s pavilion with its wicker panels adhered to steel and glass to suggest the flowing lines of a Flamenco dancer’s skirt.

YOU ARE DEFINED BY THE COMPANY YOU KEEP- Just as our parents taught.  In the event and exhibit world, it is important how you are positioned in the minds of customers as well as “on the floor”.  In Shanghai, Iran and North Korea were virtually connected – with not much to show.  Lines were short and that may be the real insight gleaned.

BE AUTHENTIC as Canada so skillfully demonstrated.

RETRO NEVER GETS OLD – as China proved with the flying saucer-shaped Expo Culture Center.

EVERY MASCOT IS A DESCENDANT OF GUMBY – and the official mascot of World Expo, “Haibo” caused Ken to wonder “What happened to Pokey?”

IF YOU HAVE HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE, USE IT.    And China did. After  dictating size and height parameters to the rest of the world, they broke their own rules –and built bigger, and beautiful for their own pavilion.

And the parting comment from Keith was that perhaps the most powerful part of the experience in Shanghai was touring with thousands of people from very different cultures…all waiting in line together…all surprised and delighted by similar things…moved by the same stories…and were happy to share these moments with each other…Face-to-Face.  Live.

So much food for thought from his insights. Thank you Keith Goldberg and EVENT DESIGN for sharing.