Telling Stories in the Age of Tactics

Think of it a little like building a high-rise. Hopefully, you don't start the building with decisions about which hammer, screwdriver, drill, or nail you'll use to hold things together. No, the ability to build something amazing starts months or even years before with a conversation about the why and the what. Why is this building necessary and what will be done within its walls? Those types of questions are key to making sure that the building you end up with is actually the one you want and need. The same thing rings true for the experiences we create. 

So what happens with our events? Why are so many of them so focused on results and tactics, when we are a people who live and love story? Why do our events always seem to default to the how we're doing things and not a discussion of the why? I'd argue that, somewhere along the way, we started to pay too much attention to the idea of events as business tools, as opposed to them as marketing endeavors. As a business tool, the event has to be all about ROI and you have to directly drive your event back to some sort of metric. Now, don't get me wrong, I LOVE metrics, and think that anything worth doing is also worth measuring, but there has to be a middle ground. 

I recently listened to a podcast by Experient, a global events firm working with trade shows and clients around the world. In this particular episode, they talked about an event design lab one of their sister companies runs that brings together all the stakeholders in an event for an open planning session. Everyone from the C-suite to the planners and event managers get together for two half days to discuss they why of the event they're looking to create. Often, they discover that what the executives want, is not what the planners understand the event to be about. This open and honest conversation creates a better event and makes the experience more engaging for everyone in the process- planners, executives, and attendees. 

I think more dialogue like this needs to happen, and more event producers need to be willing to realize that we don't know as much about our clients' motivation as we think. If we sit down with our attendees and understand who they are demographically and psychographically, and learn from top executives (who may not even be the primary contact on an event), I think we'll be amazed at how much better of an experience we're able to deliver to everyone, and most importantly, our return will be one of ROE (Return on Experience) and not just ROI. 

Your Client is Probably Wrong...

I was in a meeting with a client once and we were going over some new awesome coolness they had recently seen and figuring out how to integrate it into their event. They were over-the-moon excited about this thing and couldn't wait to debut it as soon as possible. Actually-, they were more than excited. If we weren't in a public setting, I'm pretty sure they would have been pacing or exclaiming loudly about how jazzed they were and how awesome it was. Thankfully, decorum and common sense prevailed and they stayed seated, albeit with a tremendous amount of difficulty and ants-in-pantsyness. 

Now, I thrive on creative energy and love when my clients come with new ideas that get them excited- it makes my job that much easier. So, in this instance, I did what every professional in my shoes would have done. I looked them in the eyes, and between exclamatory utterings, I told them, "I don't think this is the right fit for this particular event." 

They were crestfallen.

                                          I thought that they might fire me.

                                                                                                             So did they.

Seeing the look on their face, I quickly interjected that I didn't think it was a bad idea, just that it might not be the best fit for this particular event. Many times I've had a client show up to a meeting super excited about something they think is awesome and new and can't wait to make it a part of their next event. In the past, I've spent my time researching and understanding their new thing and then figured out a way to integrate it into the event. In some cases, it's worked out. In other cases, it's failed miserably. Was the client wrong about how cool and awesome this new thing was? No, not at all- they just didn't pick the tool that was right for their event and didn't accurately understand their guests. The latter is where it all falls apart. In my experience, almost every instance where a piece of technological interaction has failed has not been because the tech wasn't cool, new, or cutting edge, but rather because it was wrong for the group in question. In those instances, moving forward with what the client wants just because they want it and are "always right" is most certainly the wrong move and the least professional thing we can do.

Clients come to us to be the experts and are looking for us to guide them to the best decision for their experience. What they're not always factoring in is that their event isn't about their experience at all, but rather the experience of their guests. Imagine if we put everything a client wanted into their event, even if we knew the guests wouldn't connect with it. Imagine if we were right and the guests didn't and told the client that they felt disconnected. Do you believe the client is always going to remember that it was their idea that led to the disconnect? Or will it instead be seen as a missed opportunity on our part? I'd argue that, in most cases, it's the latter. That's why it's up to us to look out, not only for the client's interests but for their guests' interests as well, because those are so often overlooked.

I encourage you to get to know, not only your clients, but the guests at their events as well. Don't just guess at who will be there- really get to know them. Understand the demographics and psychographics of the event and, more importantly, learn how you can use them in creating an experience that guests love and that will make your client look like the rockstar they are (or want to be). So often we shy away from letting data define the experiences we create, but a little bit of research will go a long way in creating an experience that everyone will love and connect with. Using things like Google Trends and the Pew Research Center's vast library of reports will help you understand things you would otherwise have missed. Talking with the guys over at Bear Analytics will help you make sense of any data you've already collected (even the data you didn't know you'd collected but did) and give you steps to use that data to impact your event. Beyond all the online tools, get out and see what the people who will be coming to the event do and are involved in/like. I promise that, whoever the guests are, there's a group of them in your city. Go to their events/restaurants/hangouts and just watch what and how they interact- you'll be amazed at what you find.

Bottom line- observe then act. Step back and then design/create. Your events and your clients will be better for it.



Lift Limits. Hack the Cube.

I was recently featured in a video series by a national beverage brand, Hoist. It's part of something they're calling their "Lift Limits" series where they're talking with people who strive, everyday, to push past boundaries and obstacles to achieve things, great and small, everyday. It was a huge honor to be featured, but as I watched the video, I couldn't help but wonder if, maybe limited weren't such a bad thing? 

Now, I'm sure you've heard about this concept of creativity being built within structure, right? It basically posits that creativity doesn't have to come from this wide open, white board -esque place where you can stare off into space and just come up with ideas with no concern or regard for things like budget, or cultural sensitivities, or the laws. Now, don't get me wrong - those brainstorming sessions are nice and needed, but they're not realistic and don't come around all that often. More often than not, you're faced with challenges and limits that can't help but shape your creativity. For caterers, there are dietary restrictions, for designers there are clients desiring color palettes that you might HATE. For planners, there might be cultural sensitivities, client family drama, or venue restrictions that you have to take into account. Wherever you are and whatever you do, there's likely going to be something that limits or restricts you. I get it, it's frustrating. But, it's working within those limits, not seeking to push past them that makes you truly exceptional.  

I said, in the video, that we should seek, not to think outside the box, but rather to hack the cube. The box is something we willingly constructed for ourselves and then got in. I watch my kids and, from day to day, their desire to be something changes. This week alone, my oldest has wanted to be a pilot, cowboy, astronaut, knight, ninja, superhero, and "cooker." In his mind, he can be any and all of those things and there's no contradiction. That's what it USED to be like for us. We dreamed we could, and so we did. Somewhere along the way, though, our limited thinking set in. Perhaps someone told us we were "too." Too fat, too skinny, too young, too old, too dumb, too smart, too... you get the idea.  Those toos created a box we jumped in and on occasion peer out from to get creative. But, instead, we should hack the cube. The Rubik's cube is a multi sided toy that can be shared and changed by how you align parts of it. While the goal is to get all sides to look the same, there are many ways to get there. So it is with our limits. We all have some goal we have to accomplish, some thing we're limited by. The true test of your creativity is in how you get there, and what you create because of, not in spite of, your limits. 

Maybe lifting limits is less about eliminating them, and more about elevating them to see past where you thought you could go, too what you actually can accomplish. 

Props to Jennifer Miller and D Magazine for recommending me and check out the video and article when you get a chance. 


My 24 hours in Munich: An Encounter in Experiences

Ok, first I'll start with a slight confession. I lied to you. In honesty, I actually spent a week in Munich working on a client's program. But, we were so far out in the boonies that we may as well have been staying in a completely different city. So, for the sake of this post, I basically only spent about 24 hours in the city. I know you're not supposed to start off a relationship with a lie and I did. I'm sorry and hope you can forgive me.

Ok, let's move on.

For my last night in Munich, I decided to spend some time experiencing the city as a local and to eschew, at all costs, those touristy things that people do when they're in a new place. I'm sure Munich has amazing museums, and the tour on top of some bus is a lot of fun...but I didn't do them so I can't say with any sort of surety. If you've been to or are going to Munich and do those things- hit me up and let me know your thoughts. Maybe I'll do them next time- probably not though. I set out in Munich determined to have a day full of adventure and beer (always beer). Surprisingly, I instead found lessons about event tech and engagement in one of the oldest cities in the world.

I got to my Air BNB and immediately dropped my bags and asked my host where I should go. She pointed me in the direction of Marienplatz, about a 15-minute walk from where I was. Armed with comfortable shoes, a Google Maps enabled phone, and the ubiquitous presence of my portable backup battery, I set out having no idea where I was really going and even less of an idea of where I'd end up. I decided there was no agenda, I had no timeframe to work within, I was simply going to go and see where I ended up. It was the best decision I could have made.

About 20 minutes in, I found myself randomly meandering down a side street and stumbled into an antique store. After looking around, I asked and found out that the owner had been in the exact same location for over 20 years. Beyond that, he was a wealth of knowledge about every piece that I picked up or showed interest in. He knew where it came from, the relative age of the piece, and how he acquired it. In short, he was able to tell me the story of the pieces in a way that drew me in and made me have to buy them.

Lesson One- Story Matters

Many times when I have an initial meeting with the client and they start launching into the specific piece of tech or solution that they want, I'll stop them and have them back up. I ask them to describe their event in detail. What's going to happen from the moment people walk in the door? Who's coming? What are the goals of the event and what is considered a "win" by the client or key players? These questions may seem as if they have nothing to do with the actual event, but they absolutely do. The better we can understand the story of the event, the better we are able to create an experience that wows guests and delivers to the client the experience they're wanting as opposed to the one they describe to you because they're not always the same thing. Learning the story of the experience is one of the first and most important tools we have in our arsenal (mixed metaphors FTW).

After spending far too much money on gifts for just about everyone I could think of, I set out in a completely different direction (because, why not). As I strolled, I passed no shortage of cafes teeming with people. There were friends enjoying liters of beer, couples on brunch double dates, kids weaving their ways in and out of chairs and old men smoking pipes and oglingly remembering their misspent youth with wry smiles. No one had anywhere to be and they were simply enjoying their time.

Lesson two- Work Until You're Not

Here's what I'm advocating- ditch the tech. Now I know that seems a little odd for a guy who makes his living in event technology to say and, I'm by no means advocating we get rid of it all or go backward to some pre-stone-age era before fax machines existed. That would be crazy and my family would go hungry. I'm instead advocating we make space for tech freeness (don't say that too fast). Amidst the hustle of our events, what if we created moments or zones where people could be free of the clutter of technology? What if we had wifi free zen zones where the only rule was that there could be no screens of any kind? Place some charging lockers outside of the room so people's devices recharge while their bodies do as well and let re-connection happen. I have no idea how this would play out or if people would take to it at conferences, but imagine if, for a moment, your guests didn't feel like they had to be on and could allow themselves to be disconnected. How much more focused on your message would they be once they turned back on?

Around the corner from one of these cafes was a building I almost completely missed. In fact, had it not been for the plaintive sounds of Miles Davis' trumpet, I absolutely would have. Inside was a small gallery owned by a guy named (name redacted because I can't remember). Now, I'm pretty sure someone called ahead and told him I was coming because the show they had was perfect for me in just about every way. A collection of artists who used light as a medium for their creation, the show consisted of pieces that messed with your definition of perspective by incorporating digital screens into 3-dimensional objects, or embedded iPhones playing looping video into sculptural pieces, or pieces designed using modeling software and then created using 3-d printing. This show was pretty much my spirit animal.

One of my favorite exhibitions by far was by two younger artists- BJORN AND SOMETHING. Their work sought to answer the question "do I have to be there," and was a direct response to people who feel that art can be experienced on phones and screens with pictures of pictures somehow doing justice to the original work. I know I took pictures of the work to show you the pieces, but we'll ignore the glaring irony there.

Lesson 3- Physical Trumps Digital

So many times, I see experience designers focusing so much on the medium that they forget the message. People come to events for the other people- bottom line. I'm a huge advocate for online experiences, but the power of events is in their power to create shared moments and that has to extend to the online moments as well. If you're looking at incorporating some sort of online experience into your event, think through ways to make it more physical. Maybe everyone who goes online can receive some sort of physical totem that connects them to each other and to the live event. The power of physical interaction is why we are in this business, so let's be sure we don't lose sight of that because something shiny crosses our path.

Though short, the time I spent in Munich was rewarding for a number of reasons. The food was rich, the people friendly, and everyone was quickly willing to lend a hand to the lost and occasionally bumbling American. In fact, several times I stopped someone on the street to ask them for help with directions and inwardly grimaced for fear there would be some massive language barrier or they'd be annoyed by my ignorance. I couldn't have been more wrong. In every instance, people quickly switched their conversation from German to English, helped me out and offered their opinion on whatever and wherever I was thinking about. It made me love the city all the more.

Lesson 4- Ambassadorize

Everyone connected with your event has to represent your event and represent it well. If you have technology integrated into the event or some unique experiential component, please (for the love of all that's holy and right) make sure that anyone connected with, or in any way interacting with the public, has at least a passing understanding of what's going on. Don't assume that the experiential or techy stuff should only be focused on or cared about by the techy people. As far as the guest is concerned, anyone wearing a black/staff/branded shirt is in the know and they'll quickly tire of having to go from one person to another to get the answers they need. If you don't understand what's being integrated into the event enough to train your staff- that's fine, just make some time for those that do to connect with the entire team so they can at least tell them where to send people with questions they might have. I always tell everyone we work with that we operate under a "one team" mentality because that's how the guests see us- as one.

Henry Miller once said, “One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things." That was never truer than during the time I spent in Munich. Though I wasn't intending to go and find inspiration for how I produce and engage with events, that's definitely what happened. I encourage you to do the same. Don't go to Germany (I mean, you can if you want I guess) to find inspiration- realize that there's likely inspiration waiting for you at the mall, or at the farm, or on the train/bus. Somewhere that's not where you are right now there is inspiration and perspective waiting to be found.

Go searching.

How the Little Mermaid and LOTR are destroying #eventtech

Originally published in Special Events Magazine

The current state of event technology reminds me a lot of Ariel in the "Little Mermaid": "There are gadgets and gizmos a-plenty. There are whoozits and whatzits galore.” It seems that, around every corner, some would-be technophile is creating the new thing that will revolutionize the event industry, make our jobs and lives easier, and/or add another layer of awesome to the events experience.

With investors finally seeming to understand the inherent value in creating technological experiences for events, there’s even a fair amount of money pouring into startups and developers around the world to enhance the industry that so many of us know and love. Some would say that it’s a great time to be in event tech, and I wouldn’t think to argue with them. But as with all things that are great, there’s also the potential for difficulty as well.

With the rapid influx of technology into an industry that has historically not gone through major innovations and upheavals in the past--well, ever--many people can find themselves feeling the need to jockey for position, or to assert their awesomeness.

Their new whoozit has to be the best, the flashiest, and the gadget or gizmo has to solve every problem any event planner has ever faced--and do it with style. While admirable, this is ultimately a flawed position and one that will ultimately leave the event technology industry creaking under the weight of its own ambitions.

YOU CAN'T DO IT ALL As we discovered long ago in our industry, it is in many cases better to specialize in an area of expertise and partner alongside other specialists to get a job done excellently. I mean, it would seem exceptionally odd to see florists advertising AV services on their website, or a caterer offering to provide event app services, or planners telling their bride they don’t need to hire a DJ because they have two turntables (and, of course, a microphone).

We don’t expect those in the tried-and-true event planning community to do everything, but when you look under the hoods of most event technology startups, you find them doing far too much. 

There seems to be this almost unnerving need for event technologists to gather all the issues they can under one umbrella, as if their solution to every aspect of the event problems we face is the right one. We have apps that manage registration, and social media, and photo-sharing, and interactive gaming, and audience response, and web-based content management. There are technologies that are, quite frankly, doing too much.

This is by no means taking away from the desire of these technologists to advance our industry, but it does speak to our (and I’m lumping myself in here too) occasional suffering from, what I like to call “The Lord of the Rings Syndrome,” which is our attempt to create the one technology to rule them all!


WHY NOT COLLABORATE? Instead of focusing on creating the thing that everyone will use for every aspect of their event, what if we instead focused on developing strong collaborations with an ever-growing network of event tech professionals who create amazing pieces of the technological landscape. What would happen if, instead of seeking to create every part of the technological experience, we sought to find people who focused on the one aspect we’re not super-strong at, and worked with them to create a cohesive experience that is designed to make our attendees’ lives easier, and not our technology cooler.

I’d venture to say it would be a richer landscape if we all focused on developing areas of event tech that we were truly gifted and skilled at creating. If we stood shoulder to shoulder and made sure that our technology could talk to your technology in a way that made sense, our guests would love us more for it.

As weird as it is to have linens and place settings that don’t go together, that’s how awkward it is for tech tools to not talk to each other.

Let’s push past our need to create it all, and focus on creating the all that we know well, and connect with those that are doing small parts of the puzzle better than we ever could. Because, when the curtain falls or last door closes, we want everyone celebrating our precious … vision and experience that created something amazing, with them in mind.

Press Release: The Event Nerd and Ubidock to Provide Wire Free Charging to the Events Industry

Dallas, TX -  Dallas-based event technology production company The Event Nerd, and Ubidock, the premiere provider of wire-free phone charging systems to the hospitality and restaurant markets, have recently announced an exclusive event partnership. This partnership will make The Event Nerd the exclusive domestic events provider of the Ubidock phone charging system, allowing the company to offer this unique solution to events, event planning professionals and venues across the US.

Damany Daniel, Chief Imaginator of The Event Nerd, sees the partnership as the perfect opportunity to provide technology that gives event producers and their clients what they need most during events. “We’re thrilled to be working with Ubidock to offer this brilliant solution to our clients. In the mobile connected world of special events, you see three kinds of people: ‘battery babies’- those with portable batteries they hold onto like bottles and have to remember to charge every night,  ‘wall huggers’- constantly searching for the nearest outlets, and ‘locker jockeys’ who found the one or two charging lockers at the event, but have to remain disconnected from their device as long as it’s charging. Ubidock helps eliminate these problems by providing a wire-free and portable solution to anyone that wants it, when they need it. Losing a phone charge can seriously inhibit productivity, and we’re working with partners like Ubidock to re-enhance that productivity.”

Ubidock was founded by Aaron Florez and Izzy DiChiara, and was developed after the two recognized the unmet need at restaurants and events. “I’d been in too many situations where I had to stand in the corner, with my phone plugged in and charging, just so I could finish whatever I was doing,” says Florez.

The partnership between Ubidock and The Event Nerd will give event professionals and their clients the ability to provide branded, wire-free, portable charging units to their event guests- allowing them to attend and tweet, text, and stay connected all they want, without fretting over how they’ll stay charged.


About The Event Nerd
The Event Nerd works with event professionals and companies across the country to develop strategies and incorporate technology that makes the most sense for them and their clients. More info at

About Ubidock

Ubidock is the only product and service that allows businesses to offer wire-free phone charging to their patrons. Ubidock services music venues, restaurants, bars, sporting venues, any convention host, hotel, hospitals and more. More info at


Fail Fast, Fail Often- How User Experience can Shape Event Success

Fail Fast, Fail Often- How User Experience can Shape Event Success

User Experience or UX involves the study of a person's behaviors, attitudes, and emotions about using a particular productsystem or service." There are people whose whole life is dedicated to studying it, and I think it's something the evens industry could benefit from.  Here are a few first steps to incorporating UX into your events:

Transformative Event Technology- Eye of the beholder

As originally featured on Design Dawgs 

One of my guilty movie watching pleasures is the 2001 (not so) blockbuster, Antitrust.  One of the seminal scenes in the movie involves Tim Robbins walking Ryan Philippe through his home in an attempt to woo him to join his company.  When walking into one room, he points to a painting that’s morphing before our eyes on the wall.  He proceeds to explain that the house knows who’s in the room and adjusts the room to their preferences, from art to music and lighting.  To me, this was the strangest and most awesome form of movie magic- the kind that preceded what would actually become possible.  At the time the movie came out, I remember being enthralled with the idea, in large part because I could imagine a world where things like that painting actually existed.  I could see a time when the people in a room experienced their own forms of visual magic, thereby giving them a uniquely personal experience.  I’m glad I’m around to see that day.

We’ve been exploring how the five senses mixed with a little bit of technology are shaping design experiences in the event space and today, we’re obviously talking about the often vaunted sense of sight.  It’s arguably the one that people think has the most to do with event design and, while that is true, all the other senses have their own impact on what we perceive as well- but we’ll get into that later. For now, let’s talk about some cool stuff.

I used to love going to science museums.  Blame it on my inquisitive mind-inducing teacher of a mother, but something about touching all the cool things in a science museum always grabbed my attention.  Perhaps one of my most favorite parts about the science museum was the planetarium.  Everywhere around you was the sky, close enough that you felt like you could touch it, and more real than you can imagine.  The folks at Madrone Creative have recently re-awakened the 10 year old me with their Madrome 50’ immersive projection dome.  Measuring 50’ X 25’, this structure provides 2,000 SF of space for about 300 guests to become completely lost in whatever environment you choose to create for them.  Projection mapping is nothing new, but 360º projection that puts you in the center of the action is.  Instead of viewing the walls “collapse” on a projection from afar, you’re standing in the middle of the experience, feeling like the walls are literally shifting around you.  Imagine how guests would feel if, as they are sitting in the room it rotates subtly through the seasons, as the other elements of the event follow suit.  Imagine the party that would ensue if the lighting and projection was not just coming from the one direction of the stage, but was all around the guests, pulling them deeper into the vision and theme of the event.

Ever since I was a little boy, there’s been this push for something called “virtual reality.”  It’s the idea that you create a virtual world that feels so real that people, even if just for a moment, feel like they’re in a completely different reality from their own.  21 year old (yes I said 21) Palmer Luckey has created a new technology that is taking the computer world by storm- The Oculus Rift.  At its core, Oculus is a (arguably slightly clunky) headset that, when paired with a good pair of headphones, can show wearers incredibly realistic versions of whatever is piped through them.  This headset disconnects the wearer from the world around them, and places them firmly in whatever world you’ve created for them.  Still in the early development phases, it’s difficult to see how this technology will play itself out, especially since just being acquired by Facebook for about $2B, but one of the things I see in this visual trend is the ability to take clients through completely immersive tours of their event space, complete with room décor and sets- all built virtually.  Instead of having to physically mock up floral or set pieces, a client could someday don a headset and “walk” alongside you as you guide them through every detail of their event, turning left and right to see what their tables and stage will look like, looking up to see the lighting in the venue, or how that awesome ceiling treatment will actually look juxtaposed against that ceiling.  Currently only being used for video games, it will ultimately represent a new option in selling and creating gorgeous event design as we will be able to take clients through a true virtual walk through of their entire event.

The world was taken by storm two years ago when the Coachella Music and Arts Festival welcomed Tupac to the stage for their closing night performance.  The crowd went wild as this late hip hop icon squared off against Snoop Dogg in a never before seen joint performance.  As both artists turned towards each other, attendees were blown away to note that Tupac was…real?  In fact, the Tupac illusion was a result of some extremely precise lighting and projection provided by the team at Musion technologies out of the UK.  Based on an old school illusion known as Pepper’s Ghost, this performance represented one of the first times that such a precise 3-D hologram of a performer had been used on stage during a live performance.  What made that performance even more amazing was the fact that Snoop Dogg was able to seemingly interact with Tupac while on stage. 

Since that performance, Musion has been a part of a number of iconic experiences and there are a number of companies have the ability to bring that experience to live events.  Houston Clark, of Clark AV says that “It’s one of the most unique technologies we’ve ever had a chance to work with.  The ability to bring to life any content, any person, virtually anywhere is astounding.”  Imagine the possibilities- CEO not able to make it to a meeting on the other side of the world?  No problem- telepresence him in for the company to see.  Want to create a unique point of interaction during a grand opening?  Have virtual hostesses interact with your guests during the event.   You’re only limited by the creativity of your team in the creation of your content,  and by the brightness of your location in the projection of that content.  Musion represents a new generation of display technology that’s a lot closer to Star Trek than we’ve been in quite  a while.  Check out the video below, but be warned…it’s a little explicit.

The way we are able to see events is continuing to evolve and there are a host of new tools and technologies out right now that make that sight more beautiful than ever before.  The three technologies discussed in this article are just a small representation of what’s possible.  Ultimately, a strong visual presence at your event can be developed in conjunction with your design team and a strong technology vendor who facilitates and brings together all of the different elements you want to create the experience your client and their guests are raving about and can’t wait to see more of.

Transformative Tech- Before the Curtain

As originally featured on Design Dawgs

Today, my door unlocked simply because my wife walked up to it. Then it sent me a message saying she was home. Today the NYC Marathon has the ability to automatically play encouraging videos from a runner’s family members when they pass specific mile markers. Today, technology is shaping the way we interface with the world and changing the way it interacts with us. The same thing is true of events.

From immediate on site registration, to cashless purchases, and instantaneous connection with like-minded (and previously unknown) people during an event, event technology is transforming the way we “do” events. With that in mind, I want to take a look at some technologies that are transforming the way we “do” event design, and the way that event design could be shaped by that same technology.

Over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll dissect some of the coolest event technology transforming event design, and how we can use some of them right now. In addition, we’ll do some “dreamineering” and brainstorm some ways that existing technology could shape event design in the future. We’ll focus on six main points through all of this, pre-event, sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell, and show how these diverse technologies impact many of these components of the event design experience.

Let’s start with the pre-event experience.

Whenever I have the opportunity to speak with groups of event professionals, I’ll ask them a simple question: “How many of you have done floor diagrams/seating charts in your career?” Invariably, just about every hand raises. “How many of you enjoyed the experience?” Just about every hand drops (there’s always one masochist in the group). Why is that? It’s because people are used to the “tried and true” method of room diagramming. There’s a big sheet of paper, some circles, a lot of pencils, some Post-It Notes, and I’m sure a fair amount of fairy dust and magic incantations, all with one aim in mind- creating a room diagram that everyone is pleased with.

Once the room is set, it’s typically shipped off to some exceptionally talented person who understands the mysterious language known as “CAD” and who is able to take the seemingly random scribblings of an over worked (and over-wined) event planner and turn them into something that a creative and logistics team can work with. It’s a long and laborious process fraught with much frustration. Several years ago, the team at SocialTables sought to change all that. Now, table diagrams are as simple as dragging and dropping them onto an existing floor plan (to scale I might add), moving them around and putting people’s names where they belong. You don’t like where someone is sitting? Drag them somewhere else — it’s as simple as that. SocialTables has taken the first step towards transforming the event experience by allowing event designers to focus on the thing they love to do — designing the event.

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Another pre-event element that elicits almost as much ire from #eventprofs as seating — the site visit. You start with a (hopefully) scaled diagram, add in pictures provided by the venue and taken from your phone, mix in a healthy dose of anecdotal commentary by an engineer or two, and you’ve got something (moderately) approximating an accurate site map.

Google’s (relatively) recently announced Project Tango seeks to change the way our digital devices see the world, and (potentially) become a strong tool in the event professional tool belt. It’s still in super-ultra-mega-secret beta right now, but the projected applications are promising. In essence, Google has created the mother of all smartphones, outfitting them with a host of sensors and cameras that allow it to understand and record the world around it more like we do. By taking into consideration an objects’ relative size and shape, and plotting them in a three-dimensional rendering of the world it just captured, you will no longer have to snap a picture of a balcony from the floor of an arena and hope that you remember the distance to the first row of seats. Using a Project Tango phone, you’ll be able to walk around the entire room, capturing every detail, floor to ceiling, while the phone simultaneously records distance and height. Wondering about that balcony? Drag a line from the floor to the ceiling and instantly have the measurements in the palm of your hand. As Johnny Lee of the Google team developing this project says, “The goal of Project Tango is to give mobile devices a human-scale understanding of space and motion.”

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The potential applications for Project Tango are pretty astounding and our friends over at Event Manager Blog do a great job of outlining some different ways we could use the device in the near future. There’s even a video showing it in early use by the team over at TechCrunch (which is a blog the inner nerd in you should definitely check out). But, just in case, it’s also below.

Technology is literally transforming the way we operate at events, and the pre-event experience is just the beginning. I’m excited to focus on a few other #dawgtreats over the next few weeks that play to all of our senses, so be sure to stick around.

Next time, we’re talking about transformative tech for visual design. It’s looking like a great article so far (see what I did there?).

The Data in Design

As originally featured on the Design Dawgs and The Simplifiers Blogs

Event designers are arguably some of the most creative people on the planet, hands down.  The ability to create something majestic and beautiful, or quaint and subdued from just the embers of an idea is nothing short of amazing, and a skill that is to be celebrated.  I’m by no means an event designer, and each time I see one come together, I am in awe of the way that it does.  One of the things that’s always struck me about the power of event design is where the ideas come from.  What and who shapes what ends up in a ballroom, on a stage, or in a space is as intriguing to me as the actual end product itself.  Being a self professed Event Nerd, I started to wonder what would happen if a little bit of technology were involved in that creative process, and one word kept popping into my head- data.  I know- not a sexy or exciting word, but I really think that using data effectively can make event design that much more powerful.  Let me explain.

Data is defined asindividual facts, statistics, or items of information.”  Now, I know that might be the most boring series of words to have ever graced these design dawg-y pages, but stay with me.  Usually when you think about data, you think of spreadsheets and calculations, tables and pocket protectors, or glasses and comparisons; but what if we thought about it differently?  What if we found a way to make data help us design?  To be clear, we use data every day.  We ask our clients for their desired color palette, get to know them via their websites to understand their tastes and desires, and dig into their past events to understand what has worked and what has flopped for them in the past.  All of this is data.  It’s what we do with it that makes the greatest impact.  Data is something that we can use as event professionals before an event to shape the event, but it’s also something we can use during the event to make the experience unique and intimate for everyone who walks through the doors.  Here are a few tools using data in new and sexy ways and some tips for how you can use data to make your next event shine.

1.    Pinterest- I was recently honored to be a sponsor for ISES’ brand new conference, ISES Live.  While there, I sat in on a session hosted by lead Dawg himself, Dave Merrell, where he talked about some of the ways he designs his events.  One of the tools he mentioned using was Pinterest..  Each time he works with a client, he has them create an account and pin everything they can possibly think of to a board that they share with him and his team.  Using this information, he and his designers are able to get in the mind of the client and deliver them a design that seems as if it came right from their own creativity- mainly because it did.  As much as I love that idea, let’s take it a step further.  If we, in addition to using the boards our clients share with us, do a little more research and see what other boards they, speakers, and guests (if you can find out who they are) are liking and looking at, you can add a little bit of that flair into your design. Often, clients aren’t going to know everything to put on a board or think that something that they see or like is going to help shape an experience.  They may see a flower or a video clip that they like, but can’t quite explain why.  Figure out a way to incorporate those elements into your design and seem like the rock star you truly are.

2.    Facebook- Using Facebook is fairly commonplace for most of us these days.  What most of us don’t realize is the virtual treasure trove of information available just beyond someone’s profile picture.  Think about it for a second- how much have you shared with the world?  Your name, place of birth, where you live, gender, and age (or the age you want people to think you are) are just a few of the gems inside your profile.  Imagine if, as event professionals, we were able to get access to that info- what could we do with it?  Thankfully, there are companies like SocialPoint who are making it easier to get that access.  Before or even during your event, they can work with you to create incentives for guests to login and share information by giving them everything from exclusive content, to VIP passes, to unique experiences reserved for only your friends and followers.  The SocialPoint team then gives you insight into who your attendees are based on those interactions and you can use that information to help create design elements that speak to them specifically.  Again- personalizing the event experience based on who’s in attendance.


3.   Scanalytics- This Wisconsin company is helping events track what’s making their attendees stop and take notice.  Using thin (and brandable) mats positioned throughout a venue, Scanalytics is able to tell you what elements of your event are getting the most traffic, and for how long that traffic is staying put.  In addition (and perhaps most importantly to designers), the software is able to trigger different things based on how long or how frequently people are standing in a particular spot.  Imagine being able to play a video in an area only after people have been standing still for five minutes or more, or being able to change the color of the lighting around a silent auction table if it’s been getting a lot of traffic, letting people know it’s a hot item.  Take it a step further and pair the Scanalytics tools with things like Imerser interactive projection, and see a dance floor, entryway, or wall change based entirely on what people in attendance are doing and where they’re going.

These are just a few of the many #nerdapproved tools out there right now for incorporating data into your design.  By combining them together, you can let your guests and their tastes shape your event, allow your spaces to evolve as the event progresses, and leave your client in awe of the way you continually seem to capture the essence of their desires, and impact the guests in ways they never thought possible.

BlinkFX Lights Up My World (like nobody else)

Joel from BlinkFX came by today and showcased their new wireless and wearable DMX controllable LED lights.  To say they're cool would be an understatement.  All sorts of ways to incorporate them into event design and make the audience and attendees part of the actual event.  Check out the demo they did for us with a simple DMX controller.