Posts Tagged ‘EVENT DESIGN’



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.



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.


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


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


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.



November 20, 2010

I have spent most of my free moments of late immersed in photos, videos and commentary from the Shanghai Expo.  I thought I was getting my arms wrapped around the hows, whys, and why nots, as my list of ideas inspired by the commentary from US visitors continued to grow.

But experience designer Keith Goldberg’s article in Event Design Magazine jolted me into a new perspective when I read his introduction to lessons he learned in Shanghai:

“I can’t help but draw a parallel to the legendary “White City” built for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Just as its expanse and majesty heralded the coming American century, the grandeur of the World Expo in Shanghai (and the efforts made by exhibitors to impress their Chinese hosts) heralds China’s modern-day rise…there is no more amazing window into how our world has progressed and changed over the years…you also realize what hasn’t changed is the motivation of host countries and exhibitors to put forth their best efforts, tell their stories in engaging ways, and create the kind of community that leads to relationships (a/k/a commerce).”

Like Goldberg, I am a history buff, so the US/China World Fair comparisons hit home immediately and pointed out that I was so engrossed in the detail that I missed a very important overview – that feeds into Lenderman’s “Brand New World” and his theories regarding the developing hypermarkets of the BRIC and their influence on our world of the future.  (see blog October 20, 2010).  Once again, I was jolted out of the safe world of US superiority in innovation/creativity/power over the last century into a whole new world – where unless we adapt, we will be left behind.

And more important, I was so focused on the details of the “how” that I failed to pick up on the more impactful “why”.   Oh yes, I was looking at the broader “trends” communicated over and over that pertain to my professional world – that of experiential event design – but I was shutting out the global impact of the phenomenon itself – and shutting out that nagging comment I heard in my first exposure to Shanghai a month or so ago…that comment about the American Pavilion being “underwhelming”. 

Lots of big thoughts here – but the reality is none of us can afford to continue to do over and over again what led to success for us in the past.  We need to keep engaged in the world and what is happening around us – and let our human curiosity for how does that work, what’s next, how can I do it better, guide us towards improving what we have done before.  A lesson we seem to have to learn over and over again – while we “rest on our laurels” and pontificate about how our experiences allows us to know what’s best, the rest of the world will pass us by.



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!



April 11, 2010

Those who know me, know I follow the holistic philosophy of event design in which events are a marketing and communication option that has proven to be an essential and effective tool in today’s world. As an event designer, I work in an interdisciplinary field to create solutions to problems. Since I use a planning approach that views the situation as a whole, the creative artistic elements of light, media, decor, and food and beverage are balanced, and geared toward supporting the over-reaching design to deliver a message from both the client and the attendees. I continually strive to tell that story through events that are perceived as a creative achievement of a unified whole as the event accomplishes its primary function – to deliver purposeful, measurable results.

And so for me, a successful event is not the creative and pretty party of the social world, in which everyone had “fun”, good food, and probably too much to drink. In the corporate and non-profit world, it goes much beyond that. And so, I often lament that organizations to which many of us belong (which grew since the late 1980s out of social and party planners need for community, education and sharing) have adopted the words of “event design” without an understanding of what that is. Most continue to judge successful events on the accoutrements of look, entertainment, and food, rather than on accomplished results.

However, since I understand that we, as designers, totally depend on those creative elements as the equipment we use for memory joggers that lead to learning and thus a pathway to accomplish our purpose, I try to be patient as our industry continues to struggle and learn. Even though, there are times when I think we will never grow up.

So, it was comforting yesterday when I was browsing at Barnes and Noble to pick up a book by Anna Klingman entitled BRANDSCAPES: ARCHITECTURE IN THE EXPERIENCE ECONOMY. As I scanned a chapter near the end, I was amazed that her action steps for architectural design so closely aligned to my concept of event design. I’ve included below some notes I jotted down which illustrate where Klingman feels designers in the architectural world need to progress. Perhaps there is applicable advice here for both the event designer and the creative artistic elements of events. What do you think?

Transitions needed:

From Product to Brand: To communicate an innovative and authentic design scheme, the architecture (event) must be combined with a well-intended message that is clearly formulated and readily understood.

From Needs to Desire: The paradigm of need has been surpassed by the paradigm of desire. The audience is searching for emotional satisfaction; on a quest for identity; are looking for the ability to distinguish self, and aspire to belong.

From Performance to Experience: We must move from “how it is designed” to “how it feels”. Appearances and usage become banal if not designed for senses. Experiential design is about creating architecture (events) that people truly enjoy. Experiences are intangible and memorable.

From Plan to Choreography: In the experiential, approach, you must relinquish absolute control and accept fact that you only choreograph and direct the desired effect which ultimately takes place in the mind of the user (attendee).

From Program to Ambience: Monotony results from mindless repetition and predictability. You must be open to influence from all realms of culture. Architects (event designers) must create sensation-rich environments that can encourage unexpected patterns of socialization, interaction and collective engagement and that allow new cultures to emerge. One should stimulate the user’s sensory abilities but must be loose enough to initiate a field of freedom and complexity encouraging each person to free associate in accord to his/her cultural background, habits, passions.

From Impact to Contact: We must shed old paradigm of dictated visuals of the past that tell and must embrace the current and future models of suggestive, open-ended identities that emote.

From Function to Form: Form no longer follows function; form is content. True power and relevance is revealed as experienced space and transcends self-contained prescriptive narratives and embraces programmatic and organizational models.

From Commodity to Catalyst: Move beyond role as a commodity to become a marketing tool. We will be judged on What It Does, not on What It Is. We need to improve image, experience and field of interaction among people. We need to stop the proliferation of templates.

From Physical to Human Context: People and places are the most important inspiration for everything that is done in design. Only by understanding people’s motivations can the status quo be challenged which in turn can lead to the most exciting expressions of creativity.

From Object to Subject: Klingman began with a quotation from Pine and Gilmore – The very idea of transforming people and places demands that we think about a word little used in architecture today: wisdom.

A feasible transformation depends on the client’s sustained willingness, commitment and resources to carry out the desired change. Once it is determined that a transformation is indeed desirable and viable, architects (event designers) need insight to determine the best course of action to attain the goals outlined in the diagnosis. During the entire course of the design and implementation process, this rigorous dedication to qualified decision-making needs to be maintained to instigate a meaningful development that fulfills or surpasses the client’s aspirations.

We cannot focus on competition or objectives of the architect (event designer). The goal is NOT to impose a set of established expectations but to discover and express the unexamined dimensions of people and places…which will naturally lead to an authentic and persistent identity.

A very long thought for a Sunday afternoon, I know, but an important one, I think, for our industry to contemplate and discuss as we strive to gain that wisdom we need to help not only our clients, but our industry to grow in a purposeful way.