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March 2015

Entertaining Lessons from the Griswold’s Family Christmas

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One of my earliest and fondest memories was of my mom hosting Christmas dinner for the entire family. She was a planful and detail-oriented woman, so well in advance of the day menus were planned, guests were invited and days were spent preparing for the event. But that evening, just as guests began to arrive, the electricity went out! Our multi-course meal was sitting in our all-electric oven with more than an hour to go before it was safe to eat. With great calm and without hesitation, my mom cheerfully filled the house with dozens of candles, served beverages and encouraged everyone to play cards and board games, holding out hope that the lights would come on soon.

But they didn’t.

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Kingham Signature Events supports University of South Florida Foundation with Donor Announcement Event

We’re pleased to assist the USF Foundation with the unveiling of the MUMA College of Business. The Challenge…surprise the Muma’s along with faculty, staff and students on the new name of the college by hiding the permanent installation of the MUMA name inside the school’s atrium. We used a 16′ tall kabuki drape drop, staging and Event Experience Solutions to meet the challenge!

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It’s NOT just a bite anymore.

I recently reposted a photograph on Facebook from an event designer that I follow. https://www.facebook.com/KinghamSignatureEvents It was a new twist on pigs in a blanket. It was the shape of fish made out of the dough and the hot dog inside, as if the fish had just eaten it! What a clever idea, and seeing the appetizes all lined up on a platter really was impactful and made me smile and giggle.

What made this creative food offering such a great idea was the fact that it was building human connections amongst the guests whether intended or not. Can you imagine standing in a business networker, enjoying conversation with someone you just met, and talking a bit uncomfortably on what you do for a living? You’re working hard to be engaged and learn more about the other person, it could be a good contact. As the conversation continues, a server walks up with a tray of these fish-shaped pastries and you both chuckle at the offering. Of course, once you learn it’s a twist on pig in a blanket you each take one.

Now the ho-hum conversation has turned into a much brighter conversation about what you’re both eating, and memories you had as a child eating the traditional pigs in a blanket. It lightened the moment and then allowed each of you to have a more human connection with each other sharing a new experience together. Creating a strategic event experience makes guest comfortable to be more open to new possibilities and builds an affinity for the host/organization. Why? Because guests can feel you care enough to create something different for them to enjoy. While I’m not sure if this particular event designer strategically thought through the impact it would have on their event in regards to building human connections, but I’m sure it did and that’s why it was shared on Facebook.

Food is at the center of most events, so why not be strategic in your offerings. If you’re planning an event for your company or yourself, think about the impact you want to create with your food offerings. Does the food fit your brand? Does the food help to bring people together? What is the best food presentation based on my event goals to build a human connections? Does my food selections align with the overall design of the event? These are just a few questions that you need to ask yourself, whether it’s cocktails for a few or a fundraising dinner for 2,000.

To emphasize my point, I recently attended a sales workshop where the instructor shared a story about a high-end wine salesman in France that he recently met. He was a door-to-door salesman selling $150 bottles of wine and he was the most successful salesman in his company. When asked about his success, the salesman said he wasn’t selling wine, he was selling an experience. His prospects bought the wine not necessarily because it was a great bottle of vino, but because they wanted their friends to feel important, loved and most of all appreciated when they served the wine at their next dinner party. Wow! That’s a strategy that anyone designing an event should consider. Create an experience with the purpose of making sure your guests feel important, loved and most of all appreciated. If you do, it will elevate your audience and help build human connections to your brand. Just this simple purpose statement will ensure that you as a designer examine all the possibilities with your food offerings and beyond. Next time you design an event, be sure to be strategic about your food offerings, it’s more important than you may think!

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Event Experience Strategy – Registration…Your First Chance to Impress

As an event professional, it is important to determine what key Event Experience Strategies or EES your events need in order to enrich, excite and retain your guests to buy into the brand, spread the word and/or return for a future events. One of the most forgotten strategies in event design is Registration. No matter what type of registration your organization uses when producing events, whether non-profit or corporate marketing events, it is one of the first moments that an organization has to capture the attention of the guests and make or break the experience.

One key component of EES is to create touch points across your event program(s) creating human connections with individuals and/or your brand. These great connections need to be based on real substantive interactions that will take your direct/indirect messages well beyond the event and create a heightened awareness about the experience. Keeping EES in mind, why would you not extend EES to the registration process for your guests as they arrive? It’s like the old saying, “you only get one chance for a first impression!”

No matter what type of event you are producing, guests arrive and guests leave, sometimes you have to call security to escort them out…but that is another topic all together; I digress… it’s the perfect opportunity to create a “wow” factor for your guests upon arrival and an fantastic opportunity to put a nice “red bow” on the end of their experience with another “wow” moment or memory.

There are so many ways in which you can create EES for your registration. As you develop your program, revisit the purpose for the event. What is the end game that you are wanting to achieve, are you wanting to raise a certain amount of money, do you want your guests to remember your brand, what action do you want them to take afterwards…you need to know that purpose that fits into your organizations business plan in order to determine the best strategies.

For example, if you are a non-profit organization that is looking to raise money with your silent auction and bring awareness to a particular service line that will be supported by the funds raised, this is the chance to get information in your guests’ hands the moment they arrive. Guests arriving should already be aware there is an auction through the marketing plan, in fact, most guests should already have a clear idea of what item they want to bid on, because they’ve seen a listing well before the event. Print a news piece on nice card stock with a very short write-up of the service line, real life testimonial from someone supported by the service line with their picture and on the back side a short listing of all the silent auction items to remind guests.

A must strategy for your registration is never have your staff sitting at registration. Create kiosks or tall cocktail tables, if that’s not practical, have your registration volunteers stand in front of the tables and engage your guests. Create script points for your registration volunteers so everyone is getting the same information upon arrival and the same experience. It’s about maximizing the 15-30 seconds you have with your guest and getting them excited. Smile, look in their eyes and welcome them! I tell my staff just before doors open to pretend as if these individuals are walking through your front door of your home and treat them as if they are friends and family. Greet guests how you would like to be greeted when visiting your best friend you haven’t seen in long time. It works! Human connections make all the difference.

Finally, as guests leave, this is a great opportunity to have leadership (wearing name badges) from your organization personally thank guests for attending. If guests see they are important in the eyes of the organization’s leadership and in some cases from individuals they just heard from the stage, it will make a huge difference in the way in which they remember and talk about your event/brand. Most of all, invite them back next year if this is an annual event. Send off your guests as if they were leaving your home at the end of a fabulous evening.

Always implement Event Experience Strategy for your next event’s registration process.

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Up on the Roof Time Lapse Video

 

 

 

This video shows a gala I produced for over 1,000 guests in a football practice facility.  It underscores the amount of pre-planning it takes with amazing clients and vendors to pull off an event with Event Experience Strategies.  Watch and you’ll see load-in, set-up, guest arrival, entertainment and load-out in less than 3 minutes.  Thanks to Mills James for producing such a great video demonstrating what it takes to create a great evening for the guests and the host organization.

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Event Design Strategies

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For our great client TechColumbus…creating a stage for a room over over 1,200 guests keeping the audience engaged was our challenge. This image represents, with our great partners at Bartha Audio Visual, the concept of creating interesting eye candy, but also giving us a platform to strategically cascade valuable information throughout the event and during the awards program.

Twitter and Facebook live feeds, Image Magnification, rear projection video screen used as our stage back drop to reinforce messages, showcase organizations, play back videos and brand the stage at our finger tips.

The use of color and form brought the stage out into the audience and the sight lines were all carefully calculated to ensure every guest had a “front row seat.”

This drawing was used to gain approvals from the client our the “concept” and allowed us to work with our vendor partners to create an evening that was unforgettable.

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Event Experience Strategy – Building Human Connections

Producing large events is thrilling. The biggest thrill for me however, is not the event size, but the human connections that an event creates on any scale large or small. With social media, technology, demands at work and family demands taking up so much time, we crave personal face-to-face human interactions even more than ever. Events give us that opportunity to connect and bring people together, whether it’s an intimate dinner party or a gala with thousands of guests- events need to be designed to encourage and share human experiences, connect individuals and most of all be real in purpose and form.

Providing a platform for human connections builds engagement, builds community supporting a cause or brand, and lasts well beyond the experience by building memories and a sense of belonging (greater ROI). Think back to an event where you had the time of your life, the conversations, the laughter, the connections with others…if you keep thinking, you may remember the host, the environment, and what made it such a great time. In most cases, you would remember everything, because it was an amazing experience. That is a great event experience! Was it strategy or just good luck? Organizations can’t afford to count on good luck any longer. It’s relatively easy to create an event, invite people to attend and show them a nice time…but today that’s simply not enough.

  • Build Experiences to create Human Connections

Strategy is what you need to stand out of the crowd. Just like a great marketing strategy, an Event Experience Strategy (EES) is even more important when producing an event. It will create a buzz that will transcend any marketing plan. People will talk about the experience, become loyal to your event/brand and encourage their network to attend, because we want to share this amazing experience with others.

Today, our personal time constraints mean that we have to be strategic with our “spare time” and choose wisely how we want to spend that time. We want to find opportunities that will feed the craving for real human interactions and improving our own human experience. Event Experience Strategy is key to finding your next event success!

Our next post will dive into specific Event Experience Strategies and how you can use these ideas for your upcoming events.

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