Archive for the ‘TRENDS’ Category



December 14, 2010

A new term in my vocabulary, and perhaps in yours…and if so, make note of it; remember it; seek out more information because I am convinced, we will all hear much more about this as we move forward into the second decade of this century…some of us still dragging our feet and holding on desperately to the familiarity of what we know and excel at in our past.

Thanks to the big winter storm here in MN, I was given a precious gift-two “found” days this weekend to lose myself in “The New Social Learning”  -with a short break once in a while for a peak outside or a quick escape into the world of Tom Clancy, to allow my mind time to process what I was discovering.

When I read the forward by Dan Pink, I knew I had found a gem…”Twitter, Facebook, and their social media kin are not all about marketing.  They’re equally if not more so, about learning….”  YES, finally a resource that positions social media not as a personal or corporate marketing tool but as a collaborative aid to facilitate learning! 

With that to peak my interest, I delved right in and before I finished the introduction, I was impressed with the authors’ realistic and thoughtful approach to this topic.  After an opening chapter on trends reshaping the workplace, the challenges and opportunities of these shifts and how social learning fits in this environment, the authors address, chapter by chapter, a specific social media category, its application, how these practices overcome business challenges, and how to address the critics of each.

Criticism.  Now that is a phenomenon I have encountered most of my life, and certainly recently as I have used this blog to contemplate ideas gleaned from industry thought-leaders  re adult learning, alternatives to consider when structuring conferences going forward, and possible options to minimize ineffective general session costs.  I recognize that criticism is a normal reaction to defend the familiar status quo, and generally, after the first sting, adds value to the innovation process, as it points out weaknesses to be overcome, or sometimes simply prepares one for that natural phenomenon of naysayers that are lurking in the wings.  But Bingham and Conner reassure the reader that the criticism generally falls into 3-4 predictable categories; then they build the case of how to dismiss its negative impact, and offer up success stories of those national and international organizations that have already forged ahead to embrace the change.  They even include top-notch examples of Governance of social learning use within some impressive corporations.

And best of all, they did not write this book frozen in time, but as two of the most respected names in training and development, they recognize that the tools discussed in the book may have dramatically changed by the time the book is read, so they created a complimentary website to keep the conversation current; provide more about applications of interest to each of us, and even “getting started guides”.

All that and I had not even started the book yet!   Needless to say, by the end of the weekend, the book was filled with margin notations and my ideas journal reflects a long list of action items; including some quality time devoted to that website! Today, let me end with some memorable thoughts put forth in the Afterward of this new treasure chest of ideas:

Once you move away from the push of information to the pull of learning, you liberate creative powers  in your people to succeed in this rapidly changing environment…once you make it easy for people…and you create an environment where people are not afraid to fail, you allow them to ask the really hard questions. …It’s about making learning a priority and using the tools of social media to facilitate a culture where we get better at getting better. It’s no longer about just being a better competitor.  It’s now about being a stronger contributor and a savvier learner. 

AMEN to that.



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?



October 25, 2010

For a month now, I’ve been struggling with a short attention span and have jumped from one thing to another – seemingly accomplishing nothing. Maybe that is because I have no major pressing project to keep me focused – or maybe I just don’t recognize that perhaps I have returned to “normal”. Or maybe it was simply the distracting wonderful Minnesota October that signaled – don’t waste this time – it will soon change.

This morning, with the courtyard filled with withered brown leaves but a noticeable absence of summer birds not yet replaced by the wintering friends that choose this space to survive the harsh cold; and the gray skies and forecast of rain for a week merged with piles of beginning thoughts all over my desk. I am determined to “clean house” and get my thoughts organized. And that first step is to address that disorganized pile of paper to my left which I optimistically call “future blog topics”.

So, motivated by my “cleanup mode”, here are some thought-starters that have not yet been developed into anything meaningful – although I sense there are important thoughts here!

Trend Followers vs. Trend Setters: Maybe I am too harsh in my on-going criticism of our industry’s take on trends. I am beginning to think the question “What are the Trends” mean for many in our world, “What are your clients asking for?” Perhaps for many event professionals the philosophy of “give them what they ask for” is the guiding principle – and so, they think of trends as being driven only by their customers- who generally are 2-3 years behind emerging trends. They want to copy something successful or a“wow” they have seen in a magazine, or heard about, and thus they request it be done for them as well. And it is. Sometimes, very expensively. And is that so bad – to be the source that fulfills a wish or a dream?

Perhaps I am simply a member of a smaller group that due to my nature always questions why? That my curiosity drives me to ask about cultural and learning trends that can be expressed in Event Design – and thus, I care less about what the latest color is than I do about how can I use color to facilitate the message, help people learn, and most of all, engage. And is that so bad – to be at the forefront of a changing world? Someone has to be – or we would still all be doing theme parties rather than marketing events.

I expect there is room for both approaches in the wide audience of those needing assistance with their event.

Bling is Back: I read this morning that luxury shopping after an 8% decrease in 2009, has soared. Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Hermes, and others have experienced double-digit increases in the first 9 months of 2010. And who is leading the pack as the consumer? A few days ago, I wrote about Lederman’s “Brand New Day” and the economical upswings of the BRIC…and yes, you guessed it, CHINA had a 20% increase in luxury purchases last year, and is expected to grow by 30% this year. By 2015, China is predicted to become the third-largest market for luxury goods.

And immediately following that article, I saw another sign. A book review of “Three Stations” by Martin Cruz Smith included this description: “Here is Moscow, bingeing on capitalism, greed and lust…and the image is unsettling. The rich and famous rub elbows with the down-and-out and the infamous in this superb performance. “

It is unsettling, isn’t it? To think that the BRIC countries are replacing the USA in so many areas we measure for success and importance. I need to spend more time processing this…how do we turn that emerging trend into something positive rather than threatening?

A New Economy: Two years ago, as we realized our folly and saw our worlds as we knew them crash, we recognized that we had falsely created something that was not sustainable. We understood that women entering the workforce in the 70s and 80s generally fed an economic growth within families and for our country that allowed an increased in our standard of living. And then by the 90s, still looking for sustained growth, we had another cultural shift, and second jobs and long hours pushed that economy forward. By the 2000s, we no longer had those untapped resources, and turned to borrowing on home equity to continue the perception that we were still growing. And for many, the local, national, and international ponzi schemes were the only way to achieve status and reputation.

Two years ago, the politicians and pundits alike talked about a false economic standard that was not sustainable and that we were experiencing a needed adjustment. What happened to that truth and how did it get buried in the rebellious dissatisfaction that in the 2010s, we are not perched on the precipice for another “feel good” ride?

And finally, the last thought for the day.

Tax increases vs Tax Cuts: Can someone just explain to me why with state and federal taxes cut in the early 2000s, the only way to realize economic growth was to encourage false hope through the borrowing against home equity – the very thing that caused our current issues? Even the tax cuts included in that maligned “stimulus” package, did not work as planned. Business cut staff because they could, and saved money PLUS received the stimulus tax cuts. Were we to cut taxes again, why would it this time encourage business to spend their money and create jobs – if that did not happen for the Republicans nor the Democrats the last two times it was tried? And what about the related fact – we all expect the Federal Government (whomever is in charge) to solve all the problems we can’t, but do not want to pay taxes to facilitate that help? Where do we think the money comes from? What am I missing here?



October 22, 2010

Earlier this month I attended the Minnesota Meetings and Events event in St. Paul (yes, I like the concept of smaller, focused gatherings – keep it up) which featured 3-4 vendors “reporting” on event trends they see will be big for the holidays.

Those of you who attended (or not) that know me very well, know that once again I was disappointed in the shallowness and out-of-date ideas shared by some of the vendors represented. Color revisited and not necessarily up to date; ideas that have been in the marketplace for 2-4 years now; some on-target food comments but generally, nothing that lit up the light bulb for me at all. No wonder we are considered the fly-over zone here in the Midwest.

And yet, every day, right here, I am inspired by innovative thinking and trend applications. We have one of the top “trend” companies located here (Iconoculture) and certainly “trendy” companies as well with Target at the retail level, some top line media companies in the forefront nationally, and then my personal favorite –the internationally recognized design firm of Blu Dot. Not to mention five or more national event industry trade magazines not counting the familiar two that focus on Minnesota…from InTents to Event Solutions, Catersource, Corporate Event , and Exhibitor- we all have easy access to a wealth of input that should be stimulating us to experiment, innovate and just generally do better. And that does not count our easy online access to what is happening elsewhere; what are the applications here, and just what are the thought-leaders in our community doing to make events more impactful and experiential?

For instance, just two weeks ago, I attended the fall meeting of UMEDPA – and was inspired by a report on the Shanghai Expo and trends that were seen there. The list was long: fully immersive, multi- sensory environments; intriguing “control of space” stories; 4D theatre presentations; experiential exteriors that start the engagement BEFORE you enter; lighting as architecture; organic shapes; better line management techniques with “pre-show” applications; 360 degree media projection; projection on unusual shapes; touchscreen applications; interactive experiences; LED, LED, LED – not as a little light on the wall, but as an installation; projection on fabrics; projection surfaces that interact with each other; augmented reality applications emerging; layered projection-the list went on and on. For two weeks, time permitting, I have been expanding that input via the internet – and have a growing list of applications that I could consider for events that I produce.

So I sit here contemplating why once again, we continue to fall back on same-old, same-old uninspiring input from same-old tired design teams when our city is brimming with new fresh talent and ideas that inspire me on a daily basis. Come on people, we can do better than this! Not to worry, I won’t give up, and hopefully, I will harvest some new food for thought from the November ISES chapter meeting. It’s being advertised as an opportunity to learn more about experiential design and creating events that POP!



June 20, 2010

What a study in contrasts this morning, as I got comfortable on my porch with a cup of coffee and the Sunday Paper.

There, “below the fold” on the first page of the first section was an article on the ultimate Experiential Event showcasing the latest trend of the local food movement – killing and processing your own meat.

From the Callister Farms in West Concord holding processing classes to the U of M Extension services plans to design a poultry-processing class in the future, we learned about this growing movement.

I’m old enough to vaguely remember the tail end of that way of life in the 1950s, of picking eggs in a tiny coop at Great Grandma’s in Chetek, and our childish complaints about a missed feather or hair in the roast chicken offset by the good tastes of food served by my mother that simply cannot be replicated today – even though we all have her recipes to go by.

And I also remember a more traumatic experience as a little one- visiting the Kranz farm and watching a cow being led by the tractor into the barn, hoisted up and the start of the butchering process accompanied by bellowing moos and a lot of blood.

Fortunately, it took me a long time to associate that experience with the arrival of a new supply of meat wrapped neatly in butcher paper and deposited into our old ice cream freezer to supplement the few remaining soup bones and hamburger still residing there. That meant we’d probably have steak for supper instead of a soup or stew or some other dish filled with vegetables we didn’t like or other unrecognizable and therefore “suspicious” things. I am sure, from my mother’s perspective, it was also a happy experience as she would be spared the whining “oh ick, what is this? I’m not eating it” discussions that often frequented our dinner table conversations!

The article continued as it discussed the difficulty of witnessing the butchering in the classes- quoting Lori Callister that the process, especially the kill, is never easy but it has to be done, so they try to do it as humanely as possible.

And then right there on page three of the same first section of the Strib was a story about a booming pet craze in China which caters to wealthy Chinese: Pet Spas that use dye and special hair cuts to turn dogs into turtle-dogs, zebra-dogs, Spider Man-dogs, tiger-dogs, and even an Old English Sheepdog dyed to look like a panda bear!

A whole industry is sprouting that panders to people who love to show off their dogs and draw attention to themselves.

Although that article included veterinarian comments asking owners to be careful of damaging the dog’s mental and physical well-being as “some dogs are not used to being in the spotlight so may react negatively to the sudden attention” -there was no discussion of how to do this humanely.

It’s easy for me to pick which of these trends is acceptable in my personal world. How about you?



March 30, 2010

March has been a whirlwind of learning opportunities that has my mind stuffed full of new ways of looking at things and new discoveries of experts in many fields in which I am interested- from experiential events to new trends in connectivity and community; from better means of communication and education to the efforts taking place in our industry to clearly define what event design is and means. After all, who knew that Twitter is about to (or has) peaked in effectiveness; and will fade away at some point to make room for emerging new social media such as Foursquare and Gowalla? Books, magazines, blogs, and stacks of paper surround me, just waiting for me to give some quality thought to each so that Creative Events and I can continue to evolve and provide value in a world of event production that is changing exponentially by the day.

This morning, the latest Trend Briefing (see caught my attention with its current brief – “Brand Butlers”. I read that serving is the new selling; our job is to assist customers to make the most of their daily lives versus an out-dated model of broadcasting and selling them new lifestyles and identities. Although Trend Briefing is consumer-based, I always discover some application that applies to business to business transactions, and how we can assist our clients to better connect with their consumer audience. And so I read on.

After a reminder to define our own brand essence and understand that of our client’s, the article moved to creating the ideal Brand Butler Omnipresence that mixes being there when customers want you to be there and pleasantly surprising them with your presence when they least expect it – through both online and off-line activities. And then page after page, example after example, I saw how companies around the world have developed and demonstrated service to their customers – in eight major service categories of Transparency/”In the Know”, Saving Money, Finding, Connectivity, Health, Skills and advice, Eco, and Tools and Amenities. Little did I know that I and my clients were so far behind!

The scope of this was initially daunting, but as with most trend briefs, I was then directed back to Opportunities and how I could capitalize on this – one of the most important branding trends currently out there.

And so another project is added to the To-Do piles but I know what I already gleaned will “percolate” for a while and then I will be able to find the right application to make CEK and me more valuable to my clients. If you are not a follower of Trendwatching, check it out and subscribe (no cost).

You’ll soon understand why I get frustrated when our industry insists on focusing only on the surface of color trends and furniture style when there are so many impactful trends that support our efforts to provide value and make a difference to our clients.



February 5, 2010

Last month, I shared my views on our industry’s tactical trends focus; and with that mindset, I approached the sessions on trends at the State of the Industry with some trepidation.

I knew the design roundtable led by Ryan Hanson was positioned to focus on strategic meeting/event design trends – providing his audience was interested. But a quick survey of the attendees clearly indicated they were looking for more of what’s new in colors, décor and other accoutrements. Fortunately, offline, Ryan shared new and interesting perspectives from national industry people I did not know – Mary Boone and Jay Smethurst – and I went away with some great food for thought.

My original mindset reinforced, I took in catering trends and then moved on to Kris Young’s “Crafting More Strategic Meetings.” Here we had a good discussion on the use of events to advance one’s business strategy and in the course of the roundtable, we touched on changing demographics, a new approach and look to general sessions, the misuse of ROI as a term for cost-savings, and much more. The table was not physically full, but we all left full of new insights-and a great handout positioning Meetings and Events as Strategy.

So somewhat stimulated, I progressed to the Closing Session and the reason I had come to the State of the Industry in the first place….a longtime colleague, Joan Eisenstodt, was addressing the group with “Where we go from here: Future Trends”. After following Joan’s column in a major national trade magazine since the late 70s, I first attended one of her seminars in New York in the mid 1980s and left in awe. For more than 25 years since, when I have a chance, I make a point of listening to what she has to say about who we are and where we are going. Tuesday, as usual, Joan was all I expected – and more.

Ethics…Confidential assets…Climate change…Social responsibility…Changing demographics…World economy…Terrorism and other risks…Technology…and Education, Training and Professional Development Delivery-The nine future trends she addressed should not be a surprise to anyone. What lies ahead is more than GREEN and VIRTUAL. These trends are challenges faced by all of us in all industries and countries around the world.

But as we focused on the list, Joan pushed us to the next step. Knowing what is coming, she asked us to think of core competencies we each would need to manage those trends, and how we would acquire them. “Some joined this industry because they loved people and travel and were good at details or sales/marketing. Future competencies will be different.” That was an attention-getter!

I think most of us in the room struggled to respond so she shared some tips. Learn to improvise and think on your feet. Gain an understanding of the adult learning model and how it is changing. Read the American Disability Act and understand it thoroughly. Find legal expertise. Find technical expertise. What you are good at today will not help you be good tomorrow.

Then, as time ran out, she reminded us to access the many resources she had shared with us, including the World Future Society at and closed by holding up a book I immediately recognized….DRIVE by Daniel Pink! Amen, Joan. Thank you for the jolt to move us in the right direction. You made the time I invested on Tuesday more than worthwhile.



January 22, 2010

As can be expected at this time of year, trade publications are filled with predictive event trends, and industry conferences and local meetings focus on the same.

Each year, with anticipation, I try to absorb which colors will be hot, which décor elements will emerge, which new entertainment will be the hit. And yet, as I look through the tips and advice, I am usually disappointed. I find myself thinking to myself, over and over – “that’s not new; it’s a best practice we have been using for 12-15 years”…”What? Celebrity Chefs were a key element in our selling approach before the RNC!” …”Small portions and spoons, room temp food, and food stations instead of buffets–and the new twist to that is what?”

What does this feeling of “Been There, Done That” mean? Am I so old, everything is coming around again? Is my global background and experience from a past life still coming into play here? Is our industry in the Twin Cities really that parochial? Are we still battling that phenomenon of lower expectations on the home front? Is it worse today because of a perceived need to operate under the radar in a struggling economy? Am I a trend-setter instead of a trend identifier or follower? Does this have nothing to do with me? Is the answer a mix of all or some of the above? Or am I missing the point entirely?

Every year I ruminate about this, and never come to a firm conclusion. But this year, just maybe, a theory is beginning to crystallize. I think it is the difference in outlook between the strategic planner of corporate events and the tactical vendor that serves the multiple markets of corporate, social and non-profit.

Generally, I DO look at things differently than most of my friends in the industry. An event to me is not primarily about the WOW and what’s new. It is a strategic tool in the bigger world of marketing and communications. I need to get the attention of the audience, engage them, and deliver memory joggers that move them to remember the experience after the fact so that they ACT ON message. So, I include tactical trends that help me get their attention and tell the story. Likewise, I need to gather the message from the audience for further action on the part of my client. Those things can’t be the same elements seen, heard or served at an event the guest attended last week. So I am often looking outside our Midwestern world for ideas that have not yet made their way here, and then working with my event vendors to adapt ideas and inventory and to try new things not done before.

That, together with a commitment to budget and to guest comfort, is what drives the concept and design of my events. I expect that those in the industry that play the role I play in the event can relate; while those that provide the needed tactical elements of food, décor, linens and entertainment think I am nuts.

Nevertheless, our local press tends to reflect the tactical trends, and so I will continue, I think, to yearn year after year for an article based on how we in the event world tap into emerging trends such as “Urbany”, (F)luxury, “Mass-Mingling”, “Embedded-Generosity” and use them to enhance our event efforts. Until then, I’ll continue to subscribe to Iconoculture and TrendWatching and try to interpret, integrate and move forward without help from our press or our industry organizations.