Sunday, January 30, 2011

Event Planning - Part 1 - Questions to Answer

I recently had the pleasure of a discussion about becoming a guest blogger and several topics were tossed around. One, Sustainability and producing "greener" meetings was an easy one, as this is something we have been talking about and doing for a long time.

The second is trickier, "What does a Producer do?"  Trickier because the topic is so vast, and so close to me that it is hard to step back and analyse what we really do. I have decided to do this in several sections, the first today will look at it from the perspective of a learner / instructor. Along with Chris Lowe and Rita Rogers, for a decade we have been teaching a twelve week Event Planning class at BCIT. This course is designed to give an overarching synopsis of the basics of planning events, giving about an hour to each major topic, and pointing the learners in directions where they can seek more information. In many cases, it is people who are already planning meetings, events or trade shows in their jobs and this for these learners provides more structure to what they are doing.  So, what do I hope they walk out with at the end of the 12 weeks? Hopefully they understand that to produce successful events you need to be able to answer the following questions to start, then it is about the process of planning with these answers.

Questions you need to be able to answer, appropriate to your event
  1. What is the mission statement / driving idea of the event?
  2. What will define success?  What is the key factor that will be measured?
  3. What is your client's ROI measurement?
  4. What do you want your guest experience to be?  What do you want them to say when they leave?
  5. How do you (with some accuracy) define your target audience? How are you reaching them / what makes your event attractive?
  6. What is the budget? What does it have to include?
  7. Where is this money coming from? (sponsors, registration, donors, fundraising, exhibitors, auction items, other?)
  8. Is an event the right way to spend your money? Does it fit the marketing mix? Will it achieve the objectives? If it is a fundraiser - is it the best way to raise funds?
  9. Why does an organization sponsor your event and how can you make your event an attractive vehicle that supports their marketing initiatives?
  10. Who are your stakeholders?  What will satisfy the stakeholders?
  11. Who is on your team - who will actually make this all happen?
  12. Where will it be? Destination, venue(s)
  13. When will it be - what impacts the date selection?
  14. What are you planning - multiple day program, single day event, something inbetween?  Conference, incentive, fundraiser, celebration, festival, public event?
  15. WHY? Why is this event necessary?  Why is there a commitment? YOU MUST BE ABLE TO ANSWER WHY.
As just a start, if you can answer these big questions, you can begin to consider the process of planning and build a plan. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Colour of the Year - Honeysuckle!

When I started talking about colour, I knew it would be hard to stop. The basic color wheel was just the beginning, and there are still many to explore.  For those of us old enough to have lived with an avocado stove, a lilac bathtub (yes, that is the next room to be renovated) or a harvest gold fridge, we know that while colours are selected for us to cross the spectrum from design to automobiles to fashion, there are always interesting choices made.

As The Special Event speeds along in Phoenix, the designers presenting are embracing the Pantone 2011 Colour of the Year - Honeysuckle and as this comes out in more design and wedding magazines, the resurgence of pink and pewter will be well underway for us in events. I am very excited to see how our clients react to and begin to embrace these colours in the coming year. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


ser·en·dip·i·ty  - noun

1. an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.

2. good fortune; luck: the serendipity of getting the first job she applied for.

"I like serendipity" tweeted back Liz Strauss yesterday when she asked the question about "how much of life should we plan?" and I responded, and believe, not all of it, because we need to leave room for the surprises, the ones that usually create the memories.

We are fortunate to live the lives we have, where we live them. This week there has been much discussion, as we move forward planning international meetings and incentives for others at least as hard working and fortunate as we are, about those who are not as fortunate. 

@debmorello had posted a haunting picture this week of a child prostitute, so wrong and still happening every day in the world. While this is very uncomfortable for us, I applaud her courage to make us uncomfortable. My 12 year old has been reading the book he received at Me to We  Global Voices, haunting stories of children hunted and living unimaginably, again every day. As his wise voice said "It's not easy to read mom, but it is important that we don't close our eyes just because we can." wow.

Last year I had the opportunity to see Patrick Henry Hughes speak at a conference we were supporting. What an incredible young man and an incredible family, for seeing past his challenges and instead focusing on what he could do. He has some words he lives by, that spell out the first letters of his name
  1. passion
  2. patience
  3. perserverance
  4. abilities
  5. attitude
  6. trust
Read his story and you will understand why I was inspired by his story, his virtuoso piano playing and singing, and what his father shares as well. We would all be blessed to have a family unit this strong.

Then there is the ongoing saga that began with Greg Mortenson and his three cups of tea. What one man can do with determination, and the earned support of many is truly incredible. 

Speaking of positive momentum, who has been touched by Love Drop in a postive (and only) way. What a great idea - stand up, applaud, support. It is simple.

At the end of our discussion, my friend Lisa and I determined that rather than feeling inadequate that we were not leading as many of the above are, we can and do choose to  live each day with good intent and positive, if smaller, actions, as every bit of positive momentum helps.  We will also try to not have every moment so planned that we can't take a path that might lead  us to surprising, magical, haunting, friendly, fun places where we can create connections and memories that might not have happened if we would have stayed in cleaning the house rather than enjoying a sunset at the beach... for example. This year is about continuing to embrace the experiences as they come at us.

I would leave just asking, what has been serendipitous for you?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Is your organization socially engaged?

In my last post I wrote about ways I have seen that will increase employee engagement- how to keep people interested in their organization, working with their leaders and ultimately producing better results with excellent customer service innately practiced on a consistent basis. 

Today I found this awesome article that articulates it even more clearly so I am sharing it here.  5 new paradigms for a socially engaged company by @SorenG Apparently we are on the right track, and we definitely appreciate when the client organizations we work with are organizations that share these beliefs, that taking care of our talent will always lead to better customer service and an engaged workforce just makes work a better place to be!

Do you have an experience to share about what your organization is doing to engage you?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"Bossisms" - engagement in practice

Culture eats strategy for breakfast. Over the course of working since I was 13, I have been the lowliest assistant, an awesome coordinator, an instructor, and a project and team leader from hair salons through a variety of organizations (PCO, DMC and Incentive House) in hospitality, and I have had many fantastic leaders to learn from and grow with. Some things I have learned, and try to practice.  (Don't worry, my team calls me on things I miss, and I do appreciate that!)
  1. Say good morning to the people you work with.
  2. Share passion and enthusiasm for the work we get to do - what we do is FUN, don't forget that.
  3. Be authentic, it shows.
  4. Assume you don't know everything - be curious.
  5. Be humble. Share the credit / give credit when due.
  6. Ask questions - of your team, your suppliers, your leaders.
  7. Say thank you.
  8. Saying please goes a long way too.
  9. Show genuine appreciation.
  10. Allow flexibility - everyone has a different work style - it needs to fit within your orgnizational culture but you will get the best of people if you allow them to work at what they are best at. Embrace the weird. Keep it interesting.
  11. Be realistic.
  12. Respect each individual for what they bring to the team.
  13. Provide challenges - and watch people rise to meet them.
  14. Be fair. Be transparent. Be aligned. Know your organizations' values and make it easy for people to be aligned.
  15. Embrace every experience - for whatever it provides.
  16. Share knowledge. Encourage ideas. Contribute.
  17. Share the positive - when we receive great feedback, share it up, down, sideways.
  18. Think holistically - you could call this "people, planet, profit" but it is about looking internally and externally and not in silos or with tunnel vision.
  19. Understand and be part of your industry, locally and globally.
  20. Provide opportunities.
  21. Trust your team.

Final Colour Fun

There are so many colours still to explore, even black and white! So just before I move on to other burning topics, a few fun things and other people whose colour work I find inspiring. 

Well this one is just for fun... tells you by what colour you like a little about you. Check it out.

I have previously mentioned the Colour Institute (fascinating) but this year, the Pantone Honeysuckle I also find fascinating - this is the noted "Colour of 2011" and its applications will make the world seen "through rose coloured glasses" for sure.

What is your favourite colour? My friend, highly talented artist Doug Swinton, and lead customer service agent at Swintons Art has a message if you call him that says "leave your name, number and favorite colour" - of course I always do... the colour changes though!

Choosing colours is something that some people are very comfortable with, and some people simply are not. Shows like HGTV's Colour Confidential offer a really safe environment as Jane Lockhart has a unique way of sharing colour with people, and finding what their comfort zones are and then pushing them a bit.

I have already mentioned hair (Marsha, Marsha and Nicole!) and a little about red, my personal favorite. During my years as a stylist I also worked as a colour technician and instructor for a world leader in hair colour. I have always loved colour - red, black, blonde, brown, for various reasons and for various people that carry these off really well. Jaclyn Smith was my first brunette heroine; my friend and superstar owner of Greenscape Silk Corinne of Greenscape has amazing black hair, often with blue highlights; and blonde, well Portia Rossi in Ally McBeal - hello... and my daughter has just had her first (at 10) "when I was five I had blond hair" highlights - gorgeously natural from my long time stylist Trina, a true master of hair.

I love all things about colour, in light, linen, fashion, nature, events, and more. I appreciate also the comments from friends who have been inspired and who have remembered what they love about colour too - from times living in the Caribbean, visiting India, cooking and planning events and how they love it as I do. Now it is on to a new subject!

"Bossisms" - when engagement goes down

Employee engagement will always be a hot topic - if your talent is not engaged it is tough to run a successful business, of any size.  I have always worked for organizations between 4 and 50 people, which means they are mobile, dynamic and have highly involved ownership. After nearly 30 years in service (hair salons followed by meeting management and event production) I have learned a few things about customer service, recruitment, retention and engagement. For fun today though, I am going to review some of the career changing comments made both by my bosses and bosses of the people I know. You can judge the impact for yourself.
  1. "I can't really see you taking on more of the creative". Obviously a change was needed for me to get to this current position of Director, Creative and Production!
  2.  "Flying home and watching movies on the plane will be considered a day off. After all, you are relaxing." Now I don't know about anyone else in this industry, but the reason I am watching a movie on a plane is because my job, that I just spent 18 hours a day for the last week doing, was far away! This is not really the aforementioned relaxing time off.
  3. "That's only one extra day a week." As I faced a third year of working 2,400+ hours...
  4. "I can't deal with this right now". Heard in more than one instance by more than one person, but really, when will be a good time to tell you that we have a problem to solve?
  5. "You will never cut hair again." from the surgeon after two major TOS surgeries. I cried - then I went to school - hello Event Management!
Do you have any career changing comments to share?

It is easy Being Green

Contrary to what Kermit said, it is easy being green. Green is life, signifying growth, health, renewal and of course, our environment.  Green is a movement, a way of life as we continue with the 4 r's and increase the health of our burgeoning planet. It is positive, GO with the green light signifying forward motion, or a green thumb as gardens are successful.

Green can also be the colour of new, as in a fresh sprout, or as in "being green" or "greenhorn" - the new kid on the block, lots to learn, and potentially much to contribute. 

As I have looked at all the other chakra colours, we will also look at green, the heart chakra, in the fourth position between the physical roots, and the metaphysical, it equalizes feelings as they pass through the heart; green is the balance point.

Green rooms are where the talent waits backstage, preparing to inspire and wow. A golf green is a place of deep happiness, challenge and occasionally frustration, or in this case, of astounding awe.
Furry Creek 14th hole
When we move into events, green can please, green can soothe or inspire. In centrepieces a whimsical recreation of golf, or fresh florals provides a pleasant counterpoint.

A much more impactful design can create a moment of "aaahhhhh" as guests enter. No matter how green is represented it enhances comfort as this cool colour soothes and re-energizes.

Two gorgeous events by Cantrav, capturing the light.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Violet, Purple, Lilac, a colour by any other name...

The exploration coninues as we move to violet, the wicked combination of red and blue that is gorgeous in any form from clothing to nature, linen to light.

Violet is the colour at the top of the rainbow, and not coincidentally is also the colour of the highest chakra, the crown chakra which hovers over the brain and provides energy towards our thinking, spiritual awareness and self-knowledge. In nature it is the color of spring from crocuses to tulips, hyacinth to lavender, the first to spring from the earth and imbue us with colour.
In my backyard this always makes me smile as I know summer is not far off.

This picture, a classic shot of Vancouver, shows this city as it truly is, vibrant and cool!
In fashion, all shades of violet and purple are cyclical and fickle, it is truly a colour that is in or out when it comes to what we wear. In events, all shades are found, as this cool colour provides a depth and interest that plays well, from the icy cool in an ice palace themed event, to setting the stage during a fire and ice spectacle, or simply setting a tone for some truly awesome music to be enjoyed. Violet, purple and all shades between, it is not about the name, it is truly about the feeling it evokes.

The Commodore Ballroom in both these shots above, is an excellent venue to create a PARTY. Although several years apart, Brian Dennehy, that photographer who always exceeds, responsible for both captures.

Mobile, a great Canadian band on stage.
Does violet make you long for the fleeting glimpse of nature's wonder, the rainbow, as it does for me?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Blue - a cruise to the cool side

Well here we go to the other side of the color wheel. The cool side. Blue, violet, green, with blue being the only primary color here, the last of the three true primary colors. Today this picture was shared with me, so because it made me smile I share it with you. It's blue, it is memories that are all good, and it involves my second favorite thing, cookies! In the last post I talked about great redheads - I suppose blue fur has its place too! Marge Simpson's hair... well we all know it's not exactly a natural shade...

Blue has many differences in how it makes us feel from the warm colours just explored in recent posts. This cool colour has shades from sky blue to ocean blue, and so many shades in between. Blue is a color that nearly everyone feels an affinity with as it is a calming colour. Spiritually blue  represents the communication chakra, and has to do with our will, and our willingness to communicate honestly about how we are feeling. Sharing joy, expressing anger, getting past the "lump in the throat" and communicating, all important to our health.

In nature, blue brings awe. A gorgeous night sky always soothes, especially as dusk fully settles.

Gorgeous night in Vancouver, with our old BC Place as it no longer is, photo by the amazing Anton Teterine

Our Aquarium tells us these are Japanese stinging nettles. We still call them jellyfish.

Where blue is limited - in food, where there is little true blue seen (but where so much vibrancy from other colours is found). Where blue comes to life though is in blues music, and with so many truly talented musicians sharing their skill and passion for this music with us,  even those not familiar with the genre will find themselves captivated.

When it comes to events, blue is absolutely one of my favorite colors, Its depth, its calm, its ability to create a space where people feel comfortable when they come in, and where we need to be prepared to have them stay all night.

Lindsay Donovan captured this moment at the MPI WEC 2010 Welcome Reception

When the SVP of All Things Creative (obviously some liberty with the title but he was in charge of all visuals at his organization) came into the room for the rehearsal he said "I feel as though I have walked into a little slice of heaven" (I thought "my work here is done"... but of course it wasn't quite!)
How does blue make you feel... especially compared to the hot colors?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Red, Beautiful Red

Oh red, how I (heart) thee! Your energy, your beauty, your light.
First, a few notes on fashion and red.
  1. Red hair - love it, always wanted natural red, long, curly or straight, fabulous hair (think the original Nicole Kidman or oh so current Marsha Collier or Bree on Desparate Housewives). As a hairdresser, also LOVED creating red highlights- so vibrant, so alive, so darn pretty in the sun, and truly, since it is natural in hair, easier to attain and maintain.
  2. Red lipstick. Enough said.
  3. Red nail polish. Not for me as I seem to chip in nanoseconds, but for anyone who can carry it off - admired!
  4. Red dress. Every girl should have the LBD, but a red dress, now that makes a statement.
Red is a primary colour, and exists abundantly around us. Red roses, so classic, and statement making. (think American Beauty). The red of maple trees in autumn. Red rocks - Ayers rock - magma - so much power. Red flowers of all species, abundant and glorious, and the poppy with its delicate short life, a favorite. A cranberry, so diverse in its use, from tart juice to sundried sweetness. Red wine.

The power of red extends to brands we cannot help but recognize. Our Canadian maple leaf, so symbolic. The red serge of our Mounties, recognized around the world. The red of a Coke can, the most internationally recognized symbol of the organization with the world's greatest distribution network. Virgin. The Red Room.

Red is of course, the 1st chakra color. Stability, physical energy, passion, courage, desire. It is connected to our spinal column, adrenal glands, legs and more. As it is the color of passion, it is also the color of anger. Red can be demanding. It demands we stand up and take notice. NOW.

Then there are events. Red is representative of so many great cultures. From the red and black of our First Nations, coming from the ochre and graphite used in their first art, to Asian cultures where red is so prevalent, to just being a truly impactful color that creates stunning visuals when guests arrive, and then carries through its energy as an event progresses. There are so many ways red can be used to create expression, to build mood and it is always a colour that when we speak of it, our client's eyes change as they too can feel the energy that will happen. Red is passion, and it easily inspires. BRING ON THE RED!

Brian Dennehy, photographer strikes again!

Photo by Erin Wallace in the Van Horne Ballroom at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

How does red make you feel? 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Next Stop: Orange

Orange is awesome for lots of reasons. Linguistically, it has no rhyming words! It is the colour of the second chakra, representing the navel/lower abdomen, and is the color of joy, of power in wellness, sexuality and enthusiasm.

Orange, unlike yellow, is a secondary color, an equal combination of two primaries, red and yellow. It can denote change, and stimulation... does anyone else remember when McDonalds first opened and decorated all in orange, hoping to stimulate people to eat faster and leave sooner? It truly was the colour of "fast" food.  Orange, quite simply, gets noticed. It can get people thinking and talking. In feng shui decor planning, orange is used to help promote a vibrant home full of social conversation.

It is the color of what we love most in nature, from sunrise, when a new day dawns inspiring us with new hope, and the sunset, a peaceful time, a time of renewal. This is the "Magic Hour" to photographers and film crews, when light is its most interesting, changing with each minute. It is also the colour of leaves changing, a season where people follow to where the colours are the most vibrant, where change is most felt, and all is beautiful, and safe. We know what comes next and we fully embrace what is happening now.

Nick and Julia near San Diego - Spring 2009

It is also the colour of CREATIVITY. In events we generally use orange sparingly, as it is not a colour that creates comfort for everyone. It is easy to talk about "red hot" or "icy blue" but orange has to be woven into themes... "autumn" "maple" "fiery" are words that denote warmth, coziness and energy, all appropriate. Touches appear in light, in floral and even dried elements, and fresh and energizing citrus. It may even be in live goldfish (babied through the event and sent to good homes following) or an interpretation of goldfish in incomparable shortbread... For those of you who may have joined us last summer at MPI, orange was interspersed throughout with pink, the hot colours celebrating a vibrant summer and perfect for the energy beginning this meeting.

The MPI WEC 2010 Welcome Reception on the stunning Vancouver Convention Centre Terrace, where Mother Nature weaves a vine, captured by Brian Dennehy

In a word, yum, shortbread biscuit, blackberry sorbet, basil gelee and rich light mousse - Four Seasons Whistler outdid themselves... they also made the best lavender creme brulee I will be lucky enough to ever enjoy!

How do you feel about orange?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Colour of today - Yellow

In exploring color, I have decided to work my way around the color wheel and do a little exploring that way. In my last post colouring events I talked about one of my favorite events "When Life Gives you Lemons" - a concept that was originally written in 2009 when we could not wait for the economy to turn around - and that was about finishing their conference with a lightness that looked toward the future. When it came to life, with great jazz, lemon tree centrepieces, the wine fairies and bright yellow tones through lighting and florals and candlelight - it really was magical.

Yellow is a primary color, meaning that like red and blue, it exists alone. It is abundant in nature, and signifies hope, such as in the song "Tie a yellow ribbon around the old Oak tree" from the time when women wore yellow ribbons as they waited for the men to return from war. It is a cheerful colour generally, one we associate with the flowers of spring, and sunshine.

In art, visual merchandising and display work, yellow is often used as a contrast or feature point. When used sparingly it can create visual texture and light, a subtle energy and excitement.  When used in its muted forms it is an excellent neutral that works well with an earthy palette. For a more natural event we often find ourselves incorporating yellows, from sunflowers in a market stall, to elegant uplit orchid centrepieces.

Yellow also signifies caution, such as its use in traffic signs and lights. It is not stop or go, but "be careful". It can also be the colour of fear or cowardice as in "(s)he has a yellow streak". It is associated holistically with the third chakra, the solar plexus, and is the colour of ego or personal power, associated with being internally strong and accepting of our place in the world. It also is where our "gut instinct" comes from, something we should always listen to.

Yellow is a perfect color to provide you with a lift, whether it is smelling a flower, wearing a yellow shirt, painting a wall yellow so you always have lightness to look at... it is even the color of the original post-it note, so if your computer looks anything like mine, there is always yellow ideas floating nearby!

As seen at a Toronto Home Design Booth several seasons ago, and still fabulous!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Colouring Events

I have always loved the power of colour, its ability to change mood and emotion - whether it is in nature (as in a grey day vs the mood of a city on a sunny, blue day, winter or summer) or in fashion (the former hairdresser in me) or in events. With a lifelong fascination for colour, warm and cool, primary, secondary, tertiary, how colours can calm or energize, refine, define and impact. I love how the Colour Institute decides two years ahead of consumers what colours will be available from cars, to paint, to fabric and more; how our chakras are defined by colour; how our retinas work to process it, the differences between RGB and CMYK when developing video / web applications vs print or painting... yes, I am a colour nerd.

I am also definitely an event nerd - learning, teaching and doing events is important to me - I can't imagine doing anything else now. There are so many facets to events - destination, venue, goals, intent, stakeholders, c-level requirements, programming, logistics, transportation, appropriate activities that all have to be in place, but what often is the tipping point - from a proposal perspective for sure - is the "creative components". The first step is always for us to see what the organization who has made the request is all about - what is their brand, their culture - what COLOUR are they? When will it make sense to use their brand colours in creating an event and when do we use colour to create a mood - "Red Hot Canada" or a magical violet and blue "Ice Palace" or a dark and mysterious "Matrix"... or how can colour create transition as in the "Avatar" event that would take the group from a sterile white lab, to a magical amber and green forest with a finale at a fiery dance party (some obvious liberties taken!) - from invitation to entrance, lighting to linen, floral to costuming - putting together each component to make a cohesive whole that makes sense, that has impact and that is memorable - well doing this definitely makes me a #3 - drawing unique lines and selecting colors energetically!

Fantastic event photos by the incomparable Brian Dennehy

It can be as simple as above - "when life gives you lemons", or as complex as your imagination will allow. I am excited about the colour palettes (textures, environments and energies) we will see created in 2011!


This year my son started late french immersion. It seems that so far much of his homework has involved what the teacher calls "art" and what appears to the uneducated parent mind to be - colouring. Since this is grade six, we are surprised by the sheer amount of "art" that is used to help them learn a language. We are also always amazed at their ability to take a thought, draw a truly well done and representative picture and to have more tools to express their ideas.

Using art to create environments is an awesome talent to share - below is a wall garden painted by a young artist, Chelsea Knutson when she was just 14, for our daughter.

It has also made me think about colour and expression. In the creative fields there is always the question - Do you
  1. Colour inside the lines? 
  2. Colour outside the lines? 
  3. Draw your own lines and choose your own colours?
All of them have their place... which way do you colour?