Special Events

Stoking your Creative Spark

John J. Daly Jr. is one of the most admired professionals in the special event industry today. A winner of numerous Gala Awards from Special Events Magazine, he picked up four more at the magazine's trade show, The Special Event 2000, in January.

How does someone with more than 30 years in this business keep coming up with beautiful, exciting event concepts? Daly tells us.

Q: How do you keep your creative batteries charged?

A: I read, much of it unrelated to our industry. It keeps me fresh.

For example, I like European design magazines. I love Vogue Entertainment out of Australia. I want to see things that aren't being done here. I read a lot of art books and books on color and so forth.

I also listen to all kinds of music. If I'm working on an event with a Spanish theme, for example, I will listen to that music. It opens my mind.

Q: What do you do when you hit a creative block?

A: I spoil John Daly. I take good care of him.

Rest is very important. If I need a break, I will take a walk in the park. If I'm at a dead end, I will call the clients and say, "I need to take a week off." If they can wait, fine; if they need to go to someone else, then they can. But they call back.

Q: You did a lot of research for your "Global Links '99" project, a multiple-day incentive event, which just won three Gala Awards. Why is research so important?

A: As professionals, we are hired to do a job for our clients, to better their businesses-not just to spend their money. If what we do isn't authentic, then it isn't real. Research is very important. I have a saying posted prominently in my office: Big Fun is Serious Business.

Research teaches you. A Mexican event doesn't have to just be pinatas. What about hammered silver, mosaic tiles? Try to approach the project from a different perspective.

Q: How do you balance being boldly creative, yet still making sense for the client?

A: You have to know your client. When I'm working on an event, I'm interviewing the client, too, before I make a proposal.

You have to give the clients what they ask for. If you say it will be a $20 job, it isn't fair to turn in a $30 proposal. But in the proposal, I'd rather go over the top and have to pull back a bit rather than not go far enough. So we will offer additional things as options.

My enthusiasm is what sells the client on me, more than the product.

Q: Are you afraid of other people imitating you?

A: If I do something today, then it's old tomorrow. I don't want to do it again. I'm flattered if others copy it. Let them take it and put their own spin on it.

Q: How do you keep the people who work for you creative?

A: I value their opinions. They feel that they are part of the team. They are the people who work with-not for-me.

Sometimes I'll just stop everything everyone is doing and say, "Let's go out for a hot fudge sundae." So we may be gone from the office for 45 minutes. But do you know what? Those people will then stay three hours late that night.

Passion for work is like love-you can't buy it.

Q: How do you evaluate the level of creativity in the special event business today?

A: I've seen a lot of creativity over the last five years, more than in the 10-year period before that. We have new people in our industry who are excited to be here.

Also, the special event industry is being regarded more as a profession. People respect it more.

Q: Our readers tell us that they are genuinely afraid of losing their creativity. Why is that?

A: This is particularly true of Americans; we're so uptight. We aren't allowed to feel. It's not acceptable to be outside of the box. But I wear my emotions on my sleeve.

Q: What do you do for fun-write, cook, dance, garden, sing?

A: All of the above!

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