BizBash Event Style Awards – Best Conference!

We have had the exciting opportunity to partner with Microsoft and their awesome team for the last 10+ consecutive years on one of their largest conferences – Worldwide Partner Conference.

And we just heard some fantastic news – BizBash Event Style Awards, honored Microsoft and FreemanXP with the Best Conference of 2014 award.

#1! The judges spend weeks carefully analyzing each entry and are focused on awarding companies who design an exceptional attendee experience. As we know well, the attendee experience is key and the synergy of a great team (and lots of planning and coordination) is essential to making that happen.

It has been such a pleasure to get to work with such an accomplished team at Microsoft and FreemanXP who continue to push the envelope (and number of attendees – almost 15K this year!) when it comes to creating a great experience. The CRG team is so impressed with their grace under pressure, their ideas and so enjoy helping with registration and event management. The 2015 Worldwide Partner conference was really exciting for our team to be a part of as well and we look forward to what 2016 brings. Let the planning begin!

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Weirdly Perfect Portland

For years Portland has proclaimed its weirdness with great pride. But on the two days I’ve just spent here, I have found it to be practically perfect – possibly weirdly perfect.

It all started with the Sentinel Hotel (formerly the Governor Hotel for you Portland aficionados). In a town that is at 98% capacity in their high season, Natalie Nellist was able to squeeze me into the absolutely perfect boutique hotel. Like all event professionals, I spend many nights in giant “convention” hotels, so I crave the best possible boutique properties: centrally located, uniquely charming, beautifully appointed, and always with the most gracious service. It’s a tall order.

The Sentinel Hotel in Portland gets it right on every score.

Portland also has the best of the things in life that I love most:

  • Miles and miles of pedestrian trails and bridges along the lovely Willamette River, just four blocks from the CBD.
  • Home of Steven Smith Tea. A trip to their tasting room is like a trip to mecca for me. Jasmine Pearl is my perennial favorite, but I discovered Ti Kwan Yin oolong on this trip and am sipping it right now. Bliss.
  • Powell’s is iconic – a veritable city of books where my daughter and I were happily lost for hours.
  • Knitting: Knit Purl is filled with yummy yarns, great patterns and really nice people. The new Sno line from Woolfolk yarns has me yearning for autumn!
  • Food: Birthplace of the food truck phenomenon and also renowned for their many farm to table restaurants. I’d need three weeks of eating in Portland to even scratch the surface. Thanks to the good folks at the Sentinel, our one evening meal was spent at James Beard Award Winning Paley’s Place, where owner and founding chef, Vitaly Paley creates inventive, fabulous food.
  • Retail: Good retail always makes me happy. My favorites on this trip were Canoe where I picked up many birthday gifts for my discerning friends and family, and Alder & Co where I picked up a particularly yummy cashmere wrap to keep the chill away from my shoulders.

And then there are all of the things that don’t make my quirky list of favorites, but I know most people love when they are in Portland: Moonstruck Chocolates; Voodoo Doughnuts, and wine, beer and spirit makers too many to list.

It was 48 hours of a very good time in Portland and I can hardly wait to go back!

 

Event professionals are creative, courageous communicators enabling positive change in our world.

Where do you love to work?

We recently shared how excited we are about Microsoft’s “mobile-first, cloud-first” vision. Their efforts help our team be productive and inspired by their surroundings around the globe. A great workplace, no matter where it is, equals better ideas, collaboration, focus and brilliance. We asked several CRG’ers to share their local favorites and why. We hope to hear from you too. Share yours here or tweet us.

You can read about mine here.

From Kristen:

Issaquah Coffee Company

“Great atmosphere and even better coffee.”

From Laurie:

University Bookstore in Bellevue

“It has natural light, great treats and bevs and places where you can plug into power. It’s always fun to browse around the bookstore too.”

From Janina:

Mingle (the common room at Urbana Apartments in Ballard)

“A few of our employees live here so it makes it easy to get together and work. Big open space with lots of light and outlets. Outdoor space and kitchen to have team lunches or Happy Hours.”

1 Urbana Apartments 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cafe Appassionato at Fisherman’s Terminal in Magnolia

“Conference room for rent $10 an hour, up to 12 people. Great atmosphere with comfortable seating areas and they even have a piano.”

Cafe Appassionato

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Event professionals are creative, courageous communicators enabling positive change in our world

 

The U.S. Open at Chambers Bay – an event planner’s perspective

Some people are saying that the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay is the biggest sporting event ever to come to the Pacific Northwest. Really?

A 250-acre golf course scraped from the remains of a gravel pit in Tacoma, set on the edge of the incredibly beautiful Puget Sound. No decent ingress or egress for the anticipated 210,000 people who would come to visit. No club house to speak of. Virtually zero parking. Whose idea was this and how in the world would they do it? I had to experience it for myself.

Masterful.

That’s my report. The planners did a masterful job of making this work.

The pre-event communications were thorough and easy to understand. The parking happened 30-40 minutes off-site, and the luxury shuttle buses ran frequently. Signs at every juncture were big and easy to understand, and were always augmented by “human arrows” giving friendly instructions.

The area surrounding the golf course has become a showcase for tent manufacturers the world over. Working with the event organizers, they have built a medium-sized town with seating for 18,000 people, over 60,000 square feet of merchandise space (filled with surprisingly good retail), and seemingly endless arrays of hospitality suites, restaurants, bars, and hundreds of restrooms. The flagship entrance at Gate 1 is a veritable piazza with lovely gardens, benches, and plenty of room to meet and greet your friends.

Oh, and the golf course was pretty amazing, too.

U.S. Open 5U.S. Open 4

 

The Mobile Office: So many options – share yours!

At CRG Events we frequently work with Microsoft on their events and so “mobile-first, cloud-first” is a refrain we hear often. Can I just say that I love this mobile-first, cloud-first world that we’re living in? It means we can all be productive from nearly anywhere in the world, and that makes for some wonderful “days at the office.”

Today I’m working from Ada’s Technical Books, one of my favorite bookstores in Seattle. An old house that’s nestled into a lovely Capitol Hill neighborhood, Ada’s sells technical books and sci-fi novels (I found one of my favorite sci-fi novels here), has a beautiful café/coffee shop, and is a wonderful community gathering place with lots of events, book clubs and discussion groups.

Whether you’re looking for a dose of inspiration, really great wi-fi, or just enjoy being surrounded by interesting books and very nice people, take advantage of this mobile-first, cloud-first world to really love the way you work.

Where do you like to work? We would love to share your favorite places with our colleagues and readers (whether it is in the US or abroad)!

ada

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Event professionals are creative, courageous communicators enabling positive change in our world.

Attendee Networking – How can we make it better?

Creating connections isn’t easy for everyone, so we event planners need to help make it happen. I have shared before some truths and tips about networking and it is something we will always explore, because creating events where people make valuable connections is our passion.

The best events provide multiple ways for attendees to connect with each other. A few examples:

  • Structured networking where attendees search out each other before the event and schedule meetings.
  • Interactive content sessions where facilitators help attendees share and connect.
  • Happy Hours and social gatherings where serendipitous encounters can occur.
  • TED sets the standard again with giant name badges that include attendees’ interests and potential points of connection that serve as conversation starters.

What we can do better: Put yourself in the shoes of your attendees, and make networking easier for them. A few examples:

  • Facilitate networking, both in sessions and during social hours.
    • In sessions, by training your speakers or hiring facilitators
    • During social hours with “speed dating” or “structured networking” tools
  • Make receptions and parties more conducive to conversations:
    • Turn up the lights (so we can read name badges)
    • Turn down the music (so we can hear each other)
    • Add meet up signs (so we can text our newfound friend “I’ll meet you under Golden Gate Bridge banner”)
  • Make breaks longer – at least 20 minutes – so people can connect while between sessions.
  • Make your trade show floor inviting and functional:
    • Provide places to sit and chat
    • Provide coffee stations throughout
    • Have a unifying theme and intuitive paths to find both new and familiar exhibitors
    • Group exhibitors together by common offerings – this makes life much easier and more productive for attendees, and encourages them to chat about their common interests and questions
    • Enable attendees to rent meeting rooms in order to hold their own meetings. This provides a revenue source for the event and can provide significant ROI for the right attendees.

 

Event professionals are creative, courageous communicators enabling positive change in our world.

What do event attendees really want?

In short:

Infrastructure: Excellent and invisible.

Content: Compelling and interactive.

Networking: Facilitated, intentional and meaningful.

Excellent Event Infrastructure

First and fundamentally, attendees value what they don’t see: behind the scenes logistics that make everything flow seamlessly from an attendee’s perspective:

No attendee wants to call a help desk because the registration website doesn’t work – this requires your event team to test, test and test.

No attendee wants to decide whether to stand in line to register or get lunch – helpful event staff, good signage and clear communication regarding timing is key.

No attendee wants to have to choose between talking to exhibitors or getting coffee – think about creating an event environment that facilitates what attendees need at the time they need it.

A strong infrastructure is invisible and absolutely essential if you want to create a compelling event experience for your attendees to enjoy.

Compelling Content

As an industry, we spend enormous amounts of time, energy and money ensuring excellent event content. We select well-known, well-respected, well-informed speakers. We train them to deliver compelling presentations. We spend even more to be sure the learning environment is as comfortable as we can afford to make it.

What we can do better:

  • Make the presentations shorter. Adult learners have a 20-minute window to comfortably listen to a speaker from the stage.
  • Provide interactive content sessions where facilitators help attendees share and connect.
  • Offer a wide variety of session types – lecture, discussion, hands-on-learning-labs, etc. Variety is valuable.
  • Ask your attendees what they want before you spend time and money on content. This could be the difference between ‘just another conference I need to attend’ to an “I can’t miss this conference — there is going to be so much to learn.”

Once you have your infrastructure and content in place, it is time to focus on networking – one of the main benefits of any event. Ensuring your attendees are able to connect in-person onsite deserves a dedicated post. Come back next week for tips and ideas on how you can create meaningful networking opportunities.

 

Event professionals are creative, courageous communicators enabling positive change in our world.

I Want What She’s Having

You know that woman who works hard, plays hard, and looks 10 years younger than she really is? I am blessed to work with one of those people at CRG Events: Meghan Finley is one of the best in the business. She’s smart, savvy, and produces events that will blow your socks off (follow her on Instagram @beachmeest and on Twitter @meest). She’s been in the business a long time, and has the experience, resume and contacts to prove it.

And she truly looks at least 10 years younger than she really is. How does she do it? One of her secrets: the daily morning green smoothie.

Ugghh. Not another one. Remember Renee Russo in the Thomas Crown Affair? I seriously want to be her (and have her wardrobe), and in the movie she drank morning green smoothies. Clearly this is something we event professionals need to add to our daily ritual. Immediately my inner child starts whining “But it looks so hard”, and “They taste terrible,” and “I know I’ll hate the texture.” But it’s the new year and all that, so I spent 10 minutes interviewing Meghan about her morning ritual. Here’s what I learned:

She loves them! She says they taste great, and they’re super easy to make. She keeps a few staples in her freezer and refrigerator and then whips up one of these tasty treats every morning. A few caveats:

  1. You do have to go to the store and buy food to have on hand. She keeps her freezer filled with fruit in the off-season, and uses fresh fruit in spring/summer, and buys boxes of baby kale and baby spinach to keep in the refrigerator.
  2. They do look kind of gross – purple-greenish color – but they taste great!

Meghan always uses:

  • 2 fruits
  • 2 veggies
  • scoop of protein powder
  • almond milk
  • flax seeds

She says “Whatever I have in the freezer and refrigerator, that’s what I use.” Huh. I needed more specifics, so Meghan gave me this recipe that you can try. Just throw these all in a blender and enjoy!

  • frozen blueberries
  • banana
  • greens (baby kale or baby spinach)
  • almond milk
  • flax seeds
  • Vega protein powder

1.8.15 Smoothie Ingredients 2

 

 

 

 

 

Other fruits and veggies that she uses include:

  • strawberries
  • blackberries
  • raspberries
  • pineapple
  • apples
  • a scoop of almond butter if she’s feeling the need for fat.

Shortly after my chat with Meghan, I received this photo from my daughter, another young woman who looks absolutely fabulous

1.8.15 Smoothie Ingredients

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What’s in it?” I texted. “How’d it taste?”

“Spinach, a banana, some frozen peach slices and almond milk. It was awesome!” she replied.

 

So, I’m going to give it a try. I feel it in my bones that 2015 is going to be a fabulous year, and maybe these green smoothies will be one of the reasons!

 

Event professionals are creative, courageous communicators enabling positive change in our world.

Autumnal Gifts

Halloween is complicated for me. It’s a “holiday” that I don’t really love for itself, though I dearly love autumn and piles of pumpkins and golden days that are frequent enough to give me hope, and rare enough to make them precious.

I know that Christmas is lurking, but it’s a distant mirage at Halloween — it’s coming, but I feel no frenzy yet around gifts and lights and trees. For me, at Halloween, it’s all about Thanksgiving.

It’s time to start thinking about Thanksgiving menus and guests and seating arrangements and football games (the Seahawks play at 5:30 PM PST on Thanksgiving Day this year) and how to make the holiday warm and wonderful for everyone in our home.

Isn’t Thanksgiving the best of all holidays? An excuse to cook lovely comfort food, to browse the aisles of Williams-Sonoma and come away with Pumpkin Bread mix (heavenly with some chocolate chips mixed in), taper candles for the table, and maybe a soup tureen. I always gaze upon them longingly, but maybe this year I’ll actually buy one, because I have the most amazing soup guy.

If you live in the Seattle area, you need to know about Jerry Baxter and Got Soup? I met Jerry at my local farmer’s market where he sells different soups every week. Add some crusty bread and you have a meal that is warm, healthy, and makes your home smell divine. Jerry makes these soups from scratch using locally sourced ingredients, but the best news of all is that he delivers! He puts them into a cooler on my front step, I pop them into the freezer when I get home, and then we have soup for days. Autumnal warmth and comfort with ease!

Wishing you (yes) a Happy Halloween, but also wishing you warm soup, spicy pumpkin bread, and all the magic of this autumnal season.

Event professionals are creative, courageous communicators enabling positive change in our world.

Booking the band…or the jazz trio or pianist or DJ

Booking musical acts is part of an event planner’s job, and has always had an air of mystery around it – you need to get the right agent representing the right artists, and then the actual booking process is like a long game of telephone – you describe your needs to the agent, he sends you a list of possible acts, you send your selections, he responds that those acts aren’t available any longer, etc. until finally you end up with a group you’ve never heard play.

SO frustrating and inefficient! This is a commodity that is ripe for a change a lá Uber and Airbnb – using technology to take out the middle man, and I’ve found two companies that are currently offering this service: Gigit and Sidestage.

Gigit is a fabulous site – it’s easy to find acts that work for your city and your dates, with cool links to Soundcloud and YouTube so you can preview these artists. They have artists ranging from Lourde to brand new acts, and it appears to be an online auction system, whereby you put in your date/venue/event information and a price you’re willing to pay.

Sidestage is newer than Gigit, and currently has booking options only in Berlin and London, though it promises to grow quickly.

Have you used either of these sites? We’d love to hear of your experience with either of them or others that may be out there.

Enjoy!

 

Event professionals are creative, courageous communicators enabling positive change in our world.