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Sunday, April 13, 2014

BizBash Live - Alyse Pask Interview

Since 2001 BizBash has been my home page, and I feel fortunate to now be one of the bloggers able to share information about the great people in our industry as they appear at various fabulous BizBash events around the country. Today we have an interview with Alyse Pask of PASK productions who will be at BizBash Live on April 23rd in Fort Lauderdale, talking about "7 Values Every Planner Should Live By".  In an industry where we can struggle with the how / ethics of doing business I think attending this will be an excellent way to spend some time - being inspired by a thoughtful presentation which ties success to values.  Following you will see why I think this, as Alyse shares her thoughts.

Q1. Your transition from Army National Guard to president of PASK Productions must have an interesting story, would you like to share a little of your journey between the two?  
A1. When I started the company, I remember thinking that there was nothing that had prepared me better for the challenge then my military training. I am sure many people would think the transition would be difficult however the military and the business world have many similarities which are parallel... In both worlds you must set a goal and determine the best path to get you there. The military helped to strengthen my personal confidence to take on any challenge and the stamina to push myself at all costs to attain my goals. I think everyone can relate to this...There are moments in everyone's life that you must believe in yourself and know you have the ability to succeed... My personal journey in the military mentally prepared me to fight to achieve my dreams. 

Q2. Through your career you have focused on a variety of luxury brands – what drove you to found your own company to focus on this?  
A2. It was the passion to elevate creative energy that drove me to focus on luxury brands. Many luxury brands are dedicated to embracing unique experiential design in their events. PASK is driven to create one of a kind experiences that inspire people. I believe this passion can help deliver authentic experiences for the luxury category.

Q3. Did you just find it was time to bring your own values to each and every project?
A3. In the fast paced industry we are in, I wanted to stand for something I believed in. I am passionate about the work we do. We want to inspire the world one person at a time ;)   (Editor's note - isn't this what keeps all of us producing events to some extent?) I decided at the inception of the company that I would put a piece of myself into everything we touched. I have done this by encouraging my team to embody these values. I believe it is what sets us apart.

Q4. You obviously understand brand management. Tell us a little more about how your core values at PASK have defined your brand.
A4. I strive to instill my personal values in all we do. By living these values, it allows the team around you, the work you produce and the clients who bring you opportunities to have the same positive thread that hold it all together. We are all drawn to like minded people that respect our work, this is what the values help to maintain. 

Q4. I believe events can be done in a sustainable manner (and teach a Sustainable Event Operations class at BCIT) and I love that you also are responsible for an eco-music festival, EMU – can you tell us a bit more about this festival and how it came to be?
A4. EMU, Eco MUsic, Festival was my brainchild and passion project for 5 years that I turned into a reality. It was an epic experience that challenged my value of personal courage. I have always dreamed of doing my part to make the world a better place and this festival helped me to feel that deeper connection to the world around me. We wanted to shift people's consciousness through education and music to create a party for positive impact. 
Please see the link below which explains all our efforts to inspire change for the eco conscious movement:
Author's note - this looks AWESOME and accessible and interesting and FUN 

Q5. PASK has a great roster clients including a host of premium liquor brands – after creating their special events, what do you do for fun and relaxation?

A5. I LOVE to travel and see the world... I am drawn to adventure travel. It allows me to push myself out of my own boundaries to be more. Whether I am traveling to India for Kumbh Mela, hiking to the top of Mount Fuji in Japan, or meditating on a sailboat with my Dad I find myself deep in moments of adventure. It inspires me and in turn allows me to build that inspiration into the work we do.

Do you want to hear more?
Alyse will be speaking in Fort Lauderdale on April 23rd during BizBash Live: The Expo, South Florida in the Event Innovation Forum track. More details on Alyse's session "7 Values Every Planner Should Live By" can be found here

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

New Job Week One

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First let me tell you this is not the beginning of a week to week dialogue of my new job, but I know many of us have faced the same first week anxiety I did this week, so here we go... Tahira's short list of highlights of my first week as the Manager, Events at QuickMobile.

  1. QuickMobile is a collaborative environment - there are always multiple meetings going on crossing departments, sharing ideas.  This collaborative mindset also reaches externally as the power of "collective smartness" is embraced and truly understanding partnerships and dialogue is a core value. There are no silos. (I love this)
  2. I will never meet everyone. Since I have never worked at a company with more than 35 people, this is an idea I am having a hard time wrapping my head around. Not that I won't make the effort - there are just a lot of people to meet!
  3. They want us to meet each other. The first thing you have to do - in the first three hours of your job - is send an email to everyone introducing yourself.  They also do a weekly appy hour - and yes, the keg is open for those who choose to enjoy a tall, cold, fresh one.  Why? It promotes idea flow, which is the first step to innovation.
  4. Accessible C-Suite. The doors really are always open, and our CEO Patrick is often seen roaming the floor and engaging in active conversations about every aspect of the business - he cares about how the end product will make meetings better, and also about the environment which nurtures these products and the people who create them and since 2008 (for real!) has been active in building this.
  5. Food always breaks down boundaries. In my immediate vicinity I know who are the healthy eaters (ie the chocolate has to cover fruit to be considered) and those who are on the flip side of this (ie they wish chocolate could be deep fried) and I am happy to share any kind of chocolate, or whatever works to start a discussion and bring a smile to someone's face.
  6. The coffee robot. There is no other way to describe this magical machine, but I thank whoever thought this was a good idea. I also appreciate the coffee purists in the office who made sure the espresso machine remains a countertop feature.
  7. Mobile, mobile, mobile... for years as a meeting planner and event producer I have been working to see apps integrated into meeting design and exploited for the possibilities to begin connecting people, to instigate and continue conversations, and yes to be the next step in building communities and as a place to collect and share content.  To be surrounded by heaps of like minded people - it is a highlight of going to work every day to be surrounded by others who are embroiled in working with so many organizations to make this a reality and to be part of the continual evolution of mobile and meetings!
And now... it is time to rest. Tahira
Now found at and lots of awesome events in 2014!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Eventprofs Success - 17 Tips

This week I had the great pleasure of being at Event Solutions, a fantastic show very smartly co-located with Catersource - a natural alignment as we are so reliant on great collaborative relationships between producers and caterers in creating phenomenal, memorable events.  This offered a great combination of trade show and thought-provoking education delivered by a fantastic cross-section of speakers. There was an excellent social stream that allowed those who were there and those who were not to follow along - check out #CSES2014 for the stream and its great notes and links.

A consistent theme was how to succeed in an industry (hospitality, catering, event planning / production / design and all the supporting partners) that requires a great deal of commitment, and there were some specific points that came up around this for me as I really listened to what a plethora of speakers were consistent about which I am going to share here.

Hillary Harris @wbhillary accepts her induction into the Hall of |Fame
17 Tips Gleaned
Successful People:

  1.  Have people to support them. This includes a great team, great staff, partners or family, friends, colleagues and a peer network.
  2. Work with a PR agency (or person) to ensure their brand stays consistent across all channels.  While this may not seem practical for all - if you want to build a brand, this is a piece of doing that.
  3. Have appropriate business support, filling their gaps - which could be accounting or business development, or organizational management as some examples - the range was vast and there is no right or wrong - just know what you are good at, and just as importantly, what you are not.
  4. Stay relevant. How - see the next tips.
  5. Share knowledge - in both directions. Event Solutions speakers included many smart and successful industry leaders and they didn't fly in and out for their sessions - they stayed and they learned from their peers too.
  6. Are information consumers - catalogs, magazines, blogs, websites, books, classes, nature and patterns - they are constantly seeking information.
  7. Seek inspiration - from other people, from the natural world, from design and architecture, from trends in food, beverage and fashion... as a start. They are also inspired by the brands they support.
  8. Stay connected. In person and yes, on social media. Sharing current work, being an inspiration, supporting others in and out of the industry.
  9. Stay fearful. There is always someone more connected, more knowledgeable and yes, just plain hungrier - successful people avoid becoming complacent.
  10. Are master researchers. They dig deep, and then seek context.
  11. Are generous of spirit.
  12. Give extra. There is no "good enough" button for anyone succeeding in business. They build and design, they have great partners and they push for everyone to deliver a best in class product and service every time. And have fun doing it.
  13. Are flexible. We all know things will never go exactly to plan so they plan well and know how to react and adapt.
  14. Eat well and exercise.  You need to be healthy.
  15. Plan well and dream big. Think about where you want to be and create a path to get there.
  16. Don't define success by money, but by joy. The money will follow if you are truly doing something you are passionate about with people you enjoy doing it with.
  17. Ask beautiful questions - the kind that make you think instead of the kind that have an instant answer - they seek dialogue.

There is no secret path to being successful, and making it through challenging economic times and shifts in client desires while maintaining a personal life also. It requires being dedicated and interested, kind and thoughtful, and having a keen desire to create a successful life. If you are doing any of these, you are well on your way, and if you are seeking more, I hope these tips inspire you too!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Lessons from Ants

This week, TED moved its annual conference to Vancouver, to celebrate its 30th year in a city I love, and which TED recognized was a great fit with the culture of energy and innovation they have created for their participants. I had the opportunity to attend a sanctioned session at the Wosk Centre for many of our city's meeting / event and hospitality leaders where we were able to enjoy a live stream of an afternoon of sessions, along with three excellent live presentations from TED All-stars.  These are of course designed to inspire and ignite ideas, and this definitely happened.

A session we watched by Deborah Gordon included in the Signals section of the program focused on her 28 years of research into ant colonies, looking at the many varieties of colonies which vary to suit their natural environments, ants being found around the world in many climate conditions, as well as their approach to interaction and security, and even a look at ants in space managing in their own micro-gravity colony. 

One of the key take-aways for me was the notion of clustered resources, such as ants would find when they march into your picnic. Ants are smart, and they share information well, so when they find a plethora of clustered resources, such as the luscious food sumptuously available at a picnic, they are eager to share the information and to rally their team around maximizing these resources.  If we consider a conference or trade show as an ultimate "clustered resource" for a specific industry, what are we doing to maximize the opportunities to work together (as a colony) and make the most of the limited time to maximize the opportunity?

Is your environment set up to ensure the people 
  • can hear the information
  • contextualize the information (reflecting alone or discussing with others)
  • share what is relevant and may spark an idea or innovation - at the event, at home with their peers, other ways?
  • can build relationships based on shared ideas or potential opportunities
  • are comfortable enough physically in the space to be pushed mentally or emotionally by the content
Is your content and the presentation / presenting  
  • a great mix of storytelling and technology
  • visually stimulating
  • touching multiple senses
  • compelling
  • engaging
  • thought-provoking
  • captivating
Are the connection opportunities
  • spread throughout the available time and space
  • open and welcoming
  • facilitated when this will increase the breadth of discussion
  • supported by technology ie. a mobile app with messaging option
  • meant to build a community that extends beyond just the event 
I would love to hear from you on what you are doing to maximize your clustered resources - your planning team including vendors and the participants who arrive ready to be part of a greater whole.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dreaming up a Trade Show

Not only a trade show event, later pockets of hosted games,
food stations, dancing, and themed lounges allowed for connecting.
The more I attend trade shows, the more I long for these to become more human experiences, more immersive, more fun (yes, FUN) and to allow for deeper conversations that lead to mutually beneficial relationships to be developed and to flourish. 

How can we make this happen?  While I don't have all the answers by any stretch, I do have some ideas - some random, some gleaned from readings and some that have been fire-started in conversations such as those found on the weekly #expochat.

If you have ideas to share - please do!

  1. Beacons, beacons everywhere. In our Event Alley Show last week we had to talk about the impact of these devices that allow us to track how people move through trade shows, and allow messages to be delivered to participants based on their interests ie. close to a session, person or exhibitor they are interested in.  Used with forethought, these have great potential to lead to meaningful and timely connections. 
  2. Pop-up education. Navigating a multi-faceted schedule of appointments, meetings and sessions can be a daunting task, and yet we are also seeking knowledge enhancing opportunities at shows. What if these sessions just popped up - a few pre-set areas around the floor space, an app based message sent to participants, hostesses with overhead lollypop signs announcing the session and (adopting open space thinking) whoever comes - these are the right people to be there.  Make these full of bite-size, consumable information and facilitate these to foster conversation - allow the participants to own this space and time.
  3. Why not a pop-up re-energizing dance break? 
  4. Live interviews on the show floor, taking advantage of the wealth of knowledge we know is on the floor as industry professionals (in any sector) join the swarm.  Capture the ideas and the energy and live stream these interviews to a virtual audience. Engage this virtual audience as well - share their ideas, and share what they could participate in live should they attend next year.
  5. Forego traditional aisles and consider hub-and-spoke or alternate designs, including spaces for introverts to pause, relax and reflect; lounges where at the very least water can easily be found; add key association mentors throughout to introduce people who may share common interests but aren't that comfortable introducing themselves to new people - for all but the deepest extrovert this can get tiring. 
  6. Consider the role of the sponsor - and create relevant opportunities for the sponsoring organization which allow them to rise above the clutter, and are adding value for the attendees.  I know this seems basic, but it is not always what happens.  Traci Browne has many great ideas on her blog and I encourage you to read these thoughtful ideas. 
  7. User-friendly apps. We use apps to track our fitness, food, schedule, finances, find directions to nearly everywhere, pay for parking and so much more, order transportation and yes, even plan our meetings for the most forward thinking organizations, and yet only some shows have great apps.  What to me is great? It has to be easy to navigate, include current floor plans, lists of who is there with at least basic contact information and in app messaging option, schedules of education and networking programming, social media integration (how I like to share my experience),  a place to store show information vs. collecting any paper / make notes, and an element of gamification to add to the experience and to drive traffic flow to all areas of the show.  Access to information that is easy to navigate should allow a deeper personalization of the experience for the participant.  Ideally this also allows for data to be collected which allows for improvements to the show the next year.
  8. I want to discover hidden treasures on the floor - that perfect "je ne sais quoi" item you know your client can't live without; a supplier who not only has the service you require, but actually understands how to make my life easier - I don't want to watch one needless demo after another - I want my problem to be solved.  (hey, I said I was dreaming up my ideal trade show!)
  9. wi-fi. that is all.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Social Media vs Magazines

Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 5.21.50 PM.png
social-media-influencers on MeetingsNet

I LOVE magazines - consumer and trade. I love flipping pages, pulling out pages, adding post-its and sharing with friends. I recognize it is not the most sustainable choice, and I have not yet developed exactly the same love affair with digital magazines, but I am learning.  I am enjoying the layout and ease of finding information on the digital edition of Event Solutions and I am learning to get through the pdf versions of association magazines I have long enjoyed such as MPI's The Meeting Professional and PCMA's alternate approach to sharing Convene digitally, in a click and read format. What I was very impressed with most recently is MeetingsNet app, as I found the information was very easy to "flip" through, and my conversion may be starting...

What I love most about Twitter / LinkedIn / Facebook et al is the easy ability to share information, a quick link away, and you can while away an hour or a day learning about innovations, reading different perspectives and generally enjoying the mind-stretch. I was lucky to learn from Jenise Fryatt at the beginning of my journey, and embraced her #EIR - Engage, Inform and Retweet philosophy. More than three years later, I have continued to meet amazing people and hear inspiring stories and ideas on a daily basis, and I LOVE SOCIAL MEDIA for its knowledge and its connections. 

I was truly honoured when MeetingsNet chose me as one of their 11 social media influencers for this year, and I think most of us smiled when we saw it was first Richard Branson... and well then all of us who are focused on smaller audiences and rather more of a specific area or industry.  Likely many of you have had in your minds too the "dream companies" you would work for, and for me Virgin has long been part of my short list, so the irony of being so close and still so far was not lost on me! 

Anyhow... I had a lot of fun reading about these other influencers, and I hope you do too!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Thank you Cantrav

My Ode to Cantrav
As I look forward to some holidays and the end of my time at Cantrav draws near, I look back with fond memories on the many friends and fabulous events I have enjoyed during my five years as the Creative Director here.  I have had many fabulous creative and production team members, notably Kelly Clarke, my compadre and the other half of my brain whose balance to my skill set has been (in her word) "awesomesauce", the lovely Jen Aldridge, fiesty Luiza Junqueira aka Darth Vader and the quietly fabulous Tristan Bassett, all who made my work life more interesting, and more enjoyable.

George, our fearless leader; Lisa who brought me here to start with; Janice and her endless energy and depth of knowledge; the Resource team of Marijke, May, Teresa, Monica and recently Priscilla and Krista whose intimate and updated knowledge of our area astounds me; our support team with Brian, Ruth, Jenny and Lynne, and the inimitable Sue who keeps popping up; Christine and Selene, Dave and Tom with their stories; Our Service delivery team of smart, funny, customer-focused women including spunky Kim in Whistler; adventurers Lynn, Kim, Tracey and Claudia who have Rocked the Rockies with me; Michelle who balances my early mornings with her late nights, Jen and Jo-Anne and Missy, our Director of Business Events who pointed out today that we have worked together for all but nine months of the last nine years, and whose yin is my yang and who with the team members will continue to make conferences brain-friendly and awesome.

No DMC or Event Producer is complete without great vendor partners, and we have had these in spades. You know who you are because you are the ones working our programs, and bringing it home with us show after show. My deep gratitude to you.

For me, the journey to engaging events using technology is a logical next step, and I look forward to seeing where this leads, and working with many familiar faces in a new way, and learning and growing as we move forward in our fast - paced world.

They asked today what my favorite events were in the past five years, and there are really too many to name, but here are a few...
Four Seasons of Canada - 600 guests

MPI WEC 2010 Welcome Reception
My last "Fire and Ice" at the Olympic Cauldron, 2012
Would I recommend Cantrav? In a heartbeat. The things I have loved - the depth of knowledge, the passion for service, the innate skills and the dedication to excellence, these are all still here so if you need an excellent partner for your business or special events, you can trust they will get it right!