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Special Events
Think ISES: March-April 2014

Think ISES: March-April 2014

The latest news from the International Special Events Society, including ISES experts on creativity, essential skills and  business strategies

We’ve Got Creativity All Wrong 

There is no doubt our industry thrives on creative output. From the environments we create to the methods of communication, from sensory stimulation to guest engagement, people pay for our creativity, and we get so much of our satisfaction out of being creatively challenged. Our problem as an industry is we leave so much creative capital on the table, untapped, unused, unrealized. And it is our own fault (yes, one more thing you are to blame for, along with diphtheria, the national debt and the youth of today).

When I speak to audiences about their creative output, they are surprised to learn a few things. First, anyone can be creative. Second, there are distinct phases and rituals to the creative process that should be followed. Lastly, failure needs to occur far more often than it currently does. Why are people surprised by these things?

Let’s look at the first point. We all have our creative go-to people in our companies. They were born with an ability to express ideas easily. The issue is, we often simply go to them for any and all creatively based problems. This has a compounding effect. It often overuses that person, and it lets other team members' skills atrophy. How often are we exercising the creative muscles of others in the company? How often during the brainstorming process do we say to others, “We need to rely on you, too?” If you aren’t exercising your entire team’s minds, you are leaving creative capital on the table.

Let’s look at the second point. If people were born fully formed the way they are as adults, most of their mothers would try to shove them back in. Ideas, like people, need time to form correctly, from an inspiration moment to a road-tested concept. They don’t come out fully baked. And as anyone who cooks or bakes knows, if you don’t do things in the right order and in the right amounts, your idea will fall flat. The creative process follows a set of steps that allows ideas to mature correctly.

Idea generation, refinement, collaboration, engineering, focus groups and road-testing are all a part of getting an idea out of someone’s head and into practice. Too many times we attempt getting to an idea in its perfect form. In doing so, we miss a lot of opportunities. Also, in this quest to make sure it's perfect the first time out, we shoot down a lot of ideas that are stronger. They just aren’t fully formed yet. We need to slow it down and tinker more.

Why do we need to tinker and play with ideas? So that they can fail. Like broken bones resetting stronger than before, failed ideas lead to even stronger, more powerful ones. But knowing my fellow practitioners in this business, we are perfectionists, and the word "failure" hurts our ears. I say this—fail fast and fail small, but fail the most. It will mean succeeding the most. And it will mean you’ve got the creative process down pat.

Name: Kevin White, CSEP
Company: XPL
Address: 24 Jenny Lind
North Easton, MA
Phone: 212/477-4993
Email: [email protected]

The Traits it Takes for Success as an Event Professional

Personality traits that set you up for success in the industry 

As I sat in a few ISES meetings at The Special Event 2014 in January, I looked around at those I have known for years, been friends with and collaborated with, and realized why we all get along so well. We are all cut from the same cloth. As we spoke, we all seemed to have similar opinions of the industry and how we managed our lives, both personally and professionally. This ignited my interest in discovering what the common threads were among all of us. Here are a few of my conclusions of what personality traits further the success in this industry. I invite you to conduct your own SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) Analysis to determine if you have the personality traits that will contribute to your success.

Friendly and outgoing: Others often describe you as approachable, and you easily get along with others. This is a social industry. None of us creates events by ourselves. You depend on others, and they depend on you. You are welcoming to those you have entrusted to be on your team and friendly to those you want to hire you. You understand the importance of a first impression—there is no second chance to make a good one.

Enthusiastic and passionate: You love what you do and are not afraid to share that with others—both inside and outside of the industry. This is an exciting industry, and you draw others in. They feel your excitement!

Organized: Paying attention to the many details of your work is paramount, so organization is key. Whether it’s keeping track of names, addresses and phone numbers, or time lines and orders, you have your information in order to allow you to take care of whatever situation is at hand in a split second.

Leader: Whether you are in charge of the entire event team or in charge of one segment, you are able to take charge and get things done. You make things happen—you are not satisfied with watching or waiting for someone else to make the call.

Confident: You consider yourself an events expert. You know your trade and know the best way to approach a job and get it done. Why should someone hire you if you are not confident in yourself and your ability?

Motivated: Doing the best you can is your motivation. You want to be the best and have the drive to do so. You are motivated and willing to do what it takes to create and produce that perfect event.

Creative: Here is the left side of the brain at its best! You are expressive and enjoy creative tasks.

Artistic: All events professionals love it when their event is visually pleasing to all who attend, and are proud of their ability to do so. You take it one step further by managing the challenge of making it beautiful and functional. Function trumps fashion!

Dependable: You want your team members and clients to know you will do what you said you would. There should be no question that you will be on time and trusted to do or provide what is needed.

Problem-solver: There are always issues at hand. You take control and figure it out, and you don’t wait for someone else to step in.

Time manager: When working on an event, you know what you are doing and how much time it takes. You don’t promise something that you don’t have the time to do. Time lines are an important part of the planning of your events.

Budget manager: Small budget or big budget, you got the budget under control. You know and respect the numbers, and you make them work.

Positive attitude: Yes, you can! If they can dream it, you can do it! If a client wants something done, you will do your best to make it happen. Debbie Downers are not welcome when trying to create a spectacular event for your clients. You want your clients to feel that you can do great things and your attitude fosters their confidence in you.

Flexible: You understand that sometimes you have to go with the flow. Things always change during an event, and you know each element of an event has its own reasons for what is important at any given time. As a professional, you understand this.

Educated: You stay updated on what is the latest in this industry. You attend classes and conferences to know the top trends and best products available and how to implement them.

Realist with a good sense of humor: You know if there is a chance something will happen, it likely will. When it happens, being upset is not the answer. Take it with a grain of salt and deal the best you can. When in doubt, you chuckle. Freaking out is never a good answer to making the best out of a difficult situation.

Thankful: You are grateful for being involved in a great industry, surrounded by great people. You appreciate who you work with and all they do. You trust and acknowledge their opinions and work.

I have always said I found my true calling because I was in an industry that allowed me to use the creative side as well as my more analytical side of my brain. "Artistic and analytical" is a great combination for this industry. If you lean more toward one side, then combine your efforts with those who complement you with opposite strengths. You’ll find the synergy of joining someone who has different strengths will make a positive impact on your business and happiness within this great industry.

Name: Caroline Sewell
Company: Encore Events Inc.
Address: P.O. Box 580
Cary, NC 27512
Phone: 919/468-0108
E-mail: [email protected]

Change: The Only Constant in Business

Small business owners experienced significant change in 2013, including health care reform, the delayed lending from the Small Business Administration due to a government shutdown, the hiring climate and more access to capital. While 2013 is behind us, change is not.

Change is inevitable in business. Businesses that handle change effectively—in good times and bad—flourish. Looking at the meetings and events industry, hiring people who are comfortable in a world of change is key. Doing so will enable businesses to retain any momentum already created.

This is the first time in American history that four generations are working side-by-side in the workplace—veterans, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Gen Yers. Don’t think this makes a difference? Consider this example: When asked to recall how and where Kennedy died, veterans and Baby Boomers would say, “Gunshots in Dallas, Texas;” Gen X remembers a plane crash near Martha’s Vineyard; and Gen Y might say, “Kennedy who?”

Generational differences affect so much, including recruiting, building teams, dealing with change, motivating and communication. For example, Baby Boomers are motivated by leaders who value their opinion and learned experience, whereas Gen Xers are motivated by the opportunity to do things their own way.

Looking at communication, interns typically turn to email and social media first, while seasoned professionals prefer phone or face-to-face communication. While businesses may establish standard operating procedures, most important is learning the client’s communication preference.

The rate of technological advancements continues at lightening speed and offers meeting and event planners opportunities to become more efficient and exceed clients’ expectations. From project management software to LED lighting to projection mapping to gamification, the opportunities seem endless. Keeping up with the advancements is a challenge in itself but one that must not be ignored to remain competitive. In addition, technology has resulted in the creation of different jobs, such as social media and content marketing—new jobs that may be accomplished by staffing a permanent position or outsourcing. Either way, it’s more change to manage.

So, how prepared are you for changes to come this year? It could be your competition, your client’s preferences, your supplier’s fees or your partner’s decision to retire. Is your business capable of managing change successfully? Do you have people in place who will thrive in a world of change, or will they fold when the stakes are at their highest?

Tips for Successful Change Leadership

1.      Both strong leadership and top down support ultimately drive successful change.

2.      Deliver clear, consistent and transparent communication.

3.       Be a great listener, noting reactions, emotional trigger points and opportunities for further discussion.

4.      Employee involvement will help garner their support.

5.      Identify those who refuse to embrace change. If all else fails, agree to disagree and part ways.


Name: Kathy Miller
Company:  Total Event Resources
Address: 1920 North Thoreau Drive, Suite 105
Schaumburg, IL  60173
Phone: 847/397-2200

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