Posts Tagged ‘Engagement’



July 28, 2012

Like the rest of the world, I look forward to the Opening Ceremonies of each of the Olympic Games. 

I look forward to how each host country captures its own essence and tells its story to the world.  Sometimes I can relate, because I have been there; sometimes, I am looking for the story of WHO they are.

And because of my chosen occupation in the Events World, I also look forward to identifying the tools used to tell that story.  I keep an eye out for new technologies and tools used to communicate the story of the hosting nation.  What can be adapted? What techniques used contribute to a memorable moment in the Ceremonies themselves?  What might be setting a new trend and adaptable in my own world…and what are the “lessons learned”?

And I admit, along with anticipation of the opening and the lighting of the cauldron, I dread the middle…so I plan what I can do as the Parade of Athletes begins.  I understand why it is included and what it means to the athletes, but as a long-distance viewer , it cannot keep my attention, no matter what.  It is as boring to me as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or the Rose Bowl Parade.  Over the years, I have come to believe you have to BE THERE- It can only  be appreciated as a live event.  No way is it transferable.

Last night, as I settled in, I, too, had some apprehension.  I’d heard nothing from the Press coverage, but questions of how was Britain going to top Beijing.  Over and over I heard that economically, Britain is struggling.  How could they beat the magnificence of the 2008 Opening Ceremonies?

 Beijing was awesome minute by minute but troubling, at the same time.  I loved the spectacle, but not what I perceived to be the message and story.

(I admit, I have trouble with China.  My memories reflect the one time 30 years ago that I visited.  I was moved by the antiquities, encouraged by small growing signs of modernism in the cities, but appalled by the squalor, bad sanitation, and fear that permeated the countryside.  Masses of Chinese in gray “pajamas” on bicycles jammed city streets, and country lanes where harvesting was still being done by hand.)

Without the personal experience of witnessing the new emerging China, the Olympics there for me was a façade….spend money needed to take care of the people to create a spectacle that broadcast a message I read as WATCH OUT!  The sleeping giant has awakened.  Pay tribute or we will use our might and our disregard for human life against you. (Ok, I admit, most of the world did not see it that way: I am just trying to explain my own perspective and why I felt the way I did.)

Add to that the incongruence of comparing a spectacle in a time of unsupportable opulence worldwide  that was about to crash into the worst downfall the world had seen since 1929, and a time four years later, when not only Britain, but all of Europe and the US are struggling, and one can understand where we were headed when comparing the spectacle of Beijing to the story shared by the Brits.

 So, I was encouraged to hear the producer, when asked by US press,” how ya gonna top it” say.. We cannot top it and that is a good thing as it allows us to wipe the slate clean, reset, and focus on telling OUR story.

And for me, that’s what they did.  

From my perspective, based on a love of history that included a year-long course at the U about the European Theatre of World War Two, and a love of literature, I had a good platform to understand the story of Britain as a country; and in my past corporate life, I learned to appreciate them as people…strong, understated, and with a sense of humor that always catches one unaware.  So, those were my expectations.

As I watched and listened, I was flooded with good memories…not just of a second grade class watching the Coronation of the Queen, but of a wonderful week in Bermuda at a Baxter Labs Symposium, where I made friends with Sir Hans and Lady Krebs of Great Britain.  Sir Hans Krebs “discovered” the Theory of Metabolism and was invited as a guest speaker.  They were traveling from Britain a little early, to give themselves time to adjust to the “jet lag”, so I, too, flew in to Bermuda early to greet them and get them settled in.  As we met for dinner, with tears in his eyes, the elderly Krebs shared how honored they were to be given the VERY suite that had been used as the meeting place of Roosevelt and Churchill during WWII.  They truly felt they did not deserve the honor.   Likewise, I was amazed at Lady Krebs, who at 80+ years old did not think she would risk the moped tour…but not to worry, on her own, she had researched the bus schedules, and she thought she could make each stop we were making…so keep her in the counts for lunch and tea!  In those 10 days, that awesome couple became my friends.

And certainly great times in Britain when I was at Carlson….including  a Goalmakers trip in 1980, many client trips, and certainly wonderful  experiences with the Brits that made up the CMG London Office… not only on their home turf, but around the world with Goalmakers, and in Minneapolis in 1988.

So, for me, my expectations were met; I enjoyed the many subtleties in the story; I enjoyed to a return to telling the story of the host country in hopes we as a world will learn to understand each other…and in keeping with the goals of the Olympics in the first place…hope and peace.  I so appreciated that although it did not shout opulence, a big investment was made judiciously…the location picked to stimulate some badly urban renewal,  the parade of countries became an interactive experience as every nation represented helped build the Olympic cauldron- one leaf by one leaf… the lighting of the cauldron itself continued the story as it paid tribute to the laborers, and a new generation of Brits to “carry on” – as they always have.

For me that was the message to the world. Woven into the Brit story, I definitely heard….hang in there; we will get through this economic reset, we and the world have done it before but it takes some grit and a little humor…keep your eye on innovation and the promise of the upcoming generations.  To me, it was a message we needed – good advice and actions from the elder statesman.

So I was a bit taken aback this morning to see several friends on Faceback were so disappointed.  That certainly has given me some food for thought. 

Was I wrong?  Is this ritual not about telling the story, and commitment to hope and peace, but instead is about TOPPING what came before in a like manner?  Was I wrong to think “spectacle“ for spectacle’s sake would be in poor taste? 

Was I wrong to adjust my expectations when I learned the producer was a film-maker?  I was intrigued with some of the projection techniques he experimented with, and saw several examples of rethinking how to engage the audience in creating the experience.  Was that just wishful thinking on my part? Was that just a reaction that at LEAST it was not a talking head and powerpoint…a different communication medium was used that told a story?

Could the event have benefitted from what most of our own events need…a bit more engagement pre-event to mold the expectations to the event?  I do see that as a lesson to be learned for all of us.

 I need to noodle all this a bit, but for now, I’m feeling good about London meeting my own expectations – but disappointed and sorry it did not meet those of my friends.



May 14, 2012

Little did I know when-as part of my commitment to Plan It Hennepin-I confirmed my participation in half of the available opportunities to interact with Charles Landry, that I’d be sitting here this morning wishing I would have done MORE!

To prepare, I ordered “The Art of City-Making” and immediately found myself immersed in a whole new “Landry” world…a 21st century viewpoint of cities that melds my UM days of history and city planning – not only with my passion for the river, but also with idea after idea for my world of event-making in terms of collaborative thinking AND wonderful fun ways of creative engagement and interaction that balance the hard edges of social media and the narrower window of just interactive media applications to achieve those goals, create community, and facilitate adult learning and change.  YES!!!

So excited to learn more, off I went last Monday to the Cowles for “Connecting Cities, Connecting Cultures”; Tuesday we were at the Capri for “North Minneapolis: Arts, Culture and Community Development:, missed an important “Intercultureal City-Making Workshop” on Thursday; but rejoined the group on Friday for the Close on Harriet Island where Landry shared his observations, made recommendations and call to action for our own MSP city-making.

WIth my head full of ideas and action steps, I was charged up when I went to FAIR School on Saturday for the Talk-It Hennepin workshop “Coming, Going, and Staying on Hennepin” – a three hour exercise that took us to the streets.

Broken into five groups, each group set out for their assigned area, and using Landry’s system of YES and NO, we acknowledged the Yes things; and  took pictures of the five “nos” that need to be altered.

Our group, led by Harry Waters and supported by some great FAIR students were assigned the stretch from Hennepin Avenue Bridge to Washington Avenue. We quickly rallied, hopped on a bus and we were off!

Our first NO was the non-pedestrian/bike friendly bridge itself; then on to the Post Office or at least its “weedy knoll” leading down to the river walk, a third NO at the sad little Gateway Park of concrete and a dead fountain, and finally to the four corners of Hennepin and Washington…with a thought or two to the side streetscapes intersecting Hennepin and to the Public Housing High Rise seen a block away.

Along the way, we staged a mini-“Occupy” event as we reminisced about a once-welcoming NWNL campus that now under the ING regime was posted “No Trespassing”.  So of course, the rebel in us called for a picture of the team relaxing on the grass – “OCCUPY-ING”. The police that drove by during our “sit-in” did not move to arrest us, so I would like to think perhaps they agreed with our statement.

Then back on the bus and back to FAIR School where with the help of our talented students, we developed our PPT of significant Nos and wonderful images of what some of those Nos could become in the future.

This morning, thinking about that day, I am still charged up and looking forward to June workshops at the New Century Theatre in City Center.

This is just an AMAZING process!  And once again, I say Thank You to Hennepin Theatre Trust, Walker Art Center, Artspace, and the City of Minneapolis funded by the National Endowment of the Arts for inviting me to be a part of it!



August 31, 2010

WE DID IT…and what a rewarding experience we had along the way! Little did I know last May when we embarked on this journey, that I would disappear from the world as I knew it for three months as we followed a pathway to create a new world with an event that I have come to think of as the pinnacle of my career.

We began with a need, supported by our conviction that it was time to throw out old paradigms and embrace the 21st century thinking of collaboration, interaction, and engagement wholeheartedly in order to achieve real listening, learning, and change.

As I look at the initial concept presentation, I am amazed that we were able to so clearly define a revolutionary plan and execute it almost in its entirety as we grew from a small nucleus of two to a base team of 20-supported by facilitators, technicians and crews that swelled our ranks to over 150 on event day.

Was it easy? Not so much. Was it worth it? You betcha!

There is almost nothing better than a team that came together with a purpose to support one of the best clients I have had the pleasure to work with, all wrapped up in excited and engaged participants, an executive team of “believers”, and future plans to continue the dialogs and conversations that began in the CRV Experience. Add to that, new friendships, four great articles in the Strib and Pioneer Press within three days, interested national trade press, and the immeasurable things we all learned from each other along the way, and you have what I would call a winner.

More to come, I am sure, over the days ahead, but two other clients who have waited patiently on the sideline so I could take full advantage of this opportunity are now demanding the attention they deserve-and they want it NOW.

So suffice it to say that we were given a glimpse of what our event world can be and do. I hope never to revisit those old paradigms of the 20th century again. I wish the same sense of accomplishment and euphoria to all of you.