Archive for the ‘Special Events’ Category



April 28, 2010

Little did I know last February, when after a disappointing local ISES chapter meeting, I blogged about risk management in “The Over-Looked Competency”, that ISES and its media partner, THE SPECIAL EVENT would soon have an opportunity to demonstrate to all members, attendees and followers their expertise level in that discipline. This morning, we have a live and un-folding case history, that handled effectively, could become a break-through to elevate our level of professionalism as event designers and producers.

Today, in the context of S.B. 1070 just passed by the Arizona legislature, the selection of the theme of TSE 2011 seems foretelling of a significant situation that will impact the show.

No matter which side of the immigration discussion we each represent, we now have a “risk situation”. For two days, we have witnessed reactions in the national press, and by last night we learned that the first upcoming conference planned for Scottsdale had cancelled. By this morning, our industry on-line trade publications have started to run news and opinion articles about whether groups planning conferences, meetings or events in Arizona should cancel and rebook elsewhere. What initially may emerge as an ethical vs. financial discussion, most likely will be discussed and rehashed for some time, but I expect that cancellation and attrition clauses will so heavily impact the financially-challenged conference organizer, that after much discussion, the TSE will remain in Phoenix.

And so, the Dawn of a New Beginning in Arizona based on immigration crises initiated by the passage of S.B. 1070 can become The Dawn of a New Beginning in providing some significant learning opportunities at TSE – if the organizers are willing to look past the standard learning levels of their conference and make this a powerful learning experience.

ISES in its name alone reflects the multi-culture and multi-racial makeup of members and many attendees of TSE. There will be those that may be threatened by the risk of racial-profiling. I expect there will be those in the international community that will question who we are as a country. And there may be those that could conceivably fall into the net cast widely in Arizona, and for one reason or another may not have proof of citizenship or international documents showing visitor status on their person at all times.

This may well impact the TSE on two levels.

The first, of course, after negative PR, is the potential negative impact on attendance from those that feel threatened or wish to protest the law. Setting aside the emotion involved in that, this could represent a major financial risk to TSE and potentially an educational risk for those among us that recognize that our International members, just by the nature of being international, represent a large body of the forward-thinking members of our organization. If they don’t attend, why would I go if my purpose is to engage with and learn from these people?

The second impact comes on-site during that conference, and the exposure attendees may have to the implementation of this law. If one’s path crosses those of a law enforcement officer, and there is reason to believe you are not a citizen, it will now be illegal for that enforcement officer NOT to ask for your papers. If you do not have them with you, under S.B. 1070, you may find yourself apprehended.

This Arizona law represents to TSE a first level of risk – that which can be minimized with good planning practices. Any failure to assess, evaluate, create contingency and emergency action plans, and develop communication plans broadcasts incompetency within our industry.

I urge TSE to give serious thought to this situation, renegotiate as you can from a position of strength, then focus on contingency planning and worst-case scenarios to minimize these risks. And then, add the situation to your education track – not to broadcast how well you handled it and tell attendees how to do it right, but to start a dialogue between organizer and attendee – reach out to those who questioned, or have been impacted or have expertise to question and share points of view so that all involved leave TSE with an impactful learning experience –that Dawn of a New Beginning that gives us all something to take away that we can begin to implement back home to start making a difference.

It would almost be worth attending the TSE 2011 Out Reach Meeting next month as a spectator to witness how plans to step up to the challenge emerge and are shaped in a responsible and effective manner.



April 14, 2010

Today’s issue of Special Event Eventline definitely hit a hot spot for me. So forgive me, as I vent.

No, I am not here to agree with Andrea Michaels about how rough things are. I am writing to say KUDOS to Nancy Shaffer of Bravo Events by Design for understanding that the best thing about the “Great Recession” is that it is proving to be a wake-up call in all industries and for us, I would say, Thank Goodness – there is FINALLY some that are seeing the light!

Yes indeed, the appearance of not being “lavish” is and should be a high priority. However, I would strongly disagree that it is a higher priority than staging an effective event…unless our definition of “effective event” comes only from our own perspective. Did we get to use the latest supporting tools of the trade- trends in color, floral, entertainment and furniture? Did we get some great photos that will help up win awards and promote our celebrity? Did we get to take some time away from the office to travel to the proposed site, be wined and dined and treated as a VIP as we made a value judgment on whether the destination or venue would work for what we had planned? Did we work hard? Did we make lots of money?

For those among us that think that way, that world was allowed to flourish for a short length of time only because we were a new and exciting twist in an industry that catered to clients inexperienced in the world of events. That bubble has burst and rightfully so. Again, this latest scare should be considered a reset in our thinking-a wake-up call to evaluate what we do, how we do it and what benefit and value we provide. In the corporate event world, our mission is not that illusive WOW-factor; it is to facilitate delivering a message. That WOW-factor is only a tool to help make the message memorable and deliver a call to action.

An effective event is a two-way street; if it did not deliver to our client the results it was designed to do, it was not effective. We offer a service, friends, not an opportunity for our clients to spend money. At the same time, because we have the expertise to design the on-target experience that delivers a client’s desired outcomes, we can demand respect and adequate compensation for our efforts. But we have to earn it. In the future, we may need to work smart instead of hard.

If we think we are being mistreated, now might be a good time to look at ourselves. Why is that happening? I expect more of us will do as Bravo Events by Design concluded….the change in the business climate means we have to change the way we do business – as well as our attitude.

Nancy Shaffer is absolutely correct. Effective events are achieved not thorough an adversarial relationship, but by partnering with the client. “We are not just party planners. We are the producers of the live elements of a company’s marketing and communications campaign.”

Once again, I end with an oft-paraphrased thought from Joan Eisenstodt: What we have accomplished in the past and know today means little. It bears no relationship to skills we will need to be effective in the future – whether or NOT the budgets available increase. That NEW DAY is fast becoming the NEW WORLD. Get used to it.



December 6, 2009

In November, I had a birthday. And within a week, I was flooded with mailings from a variety of heath insurance companies and others asking me how my retirement plans were coming. What a disconnect!! Hasn’t the world out there heard me say I want to mirror Ruth Code and still be doing events when I am 80 years old?

After raising her family, Ruth began her event career. From her days as a step-on guide, she grew to a full-fledged event planner and a resource for sophisticated, tasteful and authentic décor. Ruth and Leisure Code epitomized event excellence. This classy lady mentored several of us as we found our way in a fledgling industry in the early 90’s-and for that, I have always been grateful.

Debilitated with rheumatoid arthritis at 80, she fought hard to overcome the issues surrounding that. But when climbing ladders to set an event became too difficult, she succumbed and retired. With her clients’ interest at the forefront, she matched their profiles and needs with strengths of some of us and then asked us to care for them. From Ruth, I inherited a division of General Mills.

A couple years ago, I saw Ruth at the grocery store. She was 85 then, and frustrated that she hadn’t found a new career replacement to stimulate her like the event world did – but she was still looking because she did not want her brain to stop working!

Her enthusiasm and inspiration continues to motivate me to keep up and keep going and I thank her so much for being the role model to demonstrate that it is possible.

I confess, there are days, in this current world of exponential change, that I wonder if my passion for this industry will be sufficient…and then I remind myself – I am doing this not only as a career, but like Ruth, I need the Brain Food!



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.