It’s a funny thing that happens when Event Professionals from across the world and around the nation get together for a few days to celebrate their craft, embrace old friends, make new ones, and learn more about how they can make events and experiences the world over better for all. I was privileged to be able to attend the ISES Eventworld conference a few weeks ago. It was, to be honest, nothing short of amazing and a conference I think all event planners should attend. While there, I picked up a few things that I thought you should know. These are their stories (yes, that was a reference to “Law and Order”).
What if and Why not?
I think it can become very easy for those of us that regularly host events to get caught up in the quagmire of the complacent. When we’ve been doing events for a while, we tend to default to what’s safe and secure—to what’s worked in the past—and to eschew the things that are different and untested. “Wine and cheese at the gallery opening? Yeah, people seem to like that so we’ll do it again.” “You want to have live music and dancers? No, that will never work.” Mike Rayburn was great about reawakening in each of us the desire to ask questions and realize that nothing we think about all that we “know” is necessarily sacred. We should be willing to look at our events with fresh eyes, and if we’re unable, to listen to outside voices who can help reshape and redefine what we do to keep it fresh and innovative.
Search out the story
One of the biggest and most important elements of the week was the nightly “connections lounge.” It was an informal and DJ-infused time for attendees to connect with their peers, catch up with old friends and make new ones, all in a format that felt a little like a local pub. The idea was simple: give people the opportunity to talk and they are bound to find out something interesting about their peers, and possibly a common interest. So often we find ourselves going into “networking” situations looking for someone who can directly impact our sales, our events, our “network,” that we forget to find out the information about people that makes them, well… people. You might think that the farmer from Indiana who you met at the local fundraiser might not be able to help you at your next event, but you never know who he or she might know. Even more importantly, you never know how their story might be a part of inspiring you in a direction you might not previously have considered. Always remember that it’s the people and their lives that make up your events, not just the contacts and their businesses. Search out the story in each person you meet and interesting things begin to develop.
Ask the questions… and accept the response
One of the many open sessions held this year was the “Come Together- Right Now!” session, where veteran event planners and newer planners got together to hash through the differences and problems with each respective generation that the other generation had. The self-professed goal of the session was to be “a little bit Jerry Springer, minus the fighting,” and it definitely was. As questions were asked, however, we all started to realize something: there were far more similarities between the generations than there were differences. Beyond that, it was interesting to see that there were things about each generation that were completely and totally misunderstood by the others. We had stopped actually asking “why” and just accepted our version of the truth about people as the actual truth. Questions related to work ethic and flexibility were brought up, and the answers sparked further conversation offline once the session was over. So: who is the person in your team that you don’t get? The one who seems to be different than everyone else and doesn’t do things the way you would do them? Take a moment and ask them “why?” It might surprise you to hear their response, and might shake and shape the way you move forward on your next event.
Love the one you’re with
We’re all in the business of planning events for different reasons. Some of us plan them because we love the look on people’s faces when they experience something amazing. Some of us are in it because we believe wholeheartedly in whatever cause we are representing. Still others of us are in it because we just wanted something to do in our spare time and were pretty good at this event thing. With all these different reasons, there is one underlying theme that I think should be paramount to all: love why you do it and who you’re doing it with. Will it be possible to always see eye-to-eye with everyone you’re working alongside? No. But if you’re not at least regularly enjoying the process of planning the event, and aren’t happy to see the people who are planning with you, events stop being about the experience for the attendee… and start being drudgery. It will show in the quality of what you do and people will notice.
Work Hard… Play Hard
We are in the business of giving people a great experience, but when do we relax? While it is important to make sure that every t is crossed and every i dotted, it is equally important to make sure you have a social life that doesn’t consist of planning more events. Take some time to golf, get a mani/pedi, go out to drinks with friends, or go dancing for a night out. Just do something that relaxes you and makes you smile. We work hard, it’s true. We make other people smile and find immense joy in the happiness of others. We eat great food and meet awesome people and are privileged to be a part of a world that is one of the most exciting professions on the planet, but… we need a break too. So, my final note from Eventworld is to make sure that you are enjoying life as much as you can… you only have one.