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Monday, March 20, 2017

Live from Austin, Texas: Cindy Lo Reports from SXSW

SXSW 2017 just concluded - we asked our friend Cindy Y. Lo, DMCP President & Event Strategist from Red Velvet Events in Austin, TX, to share the latest news.

Cindy has 14 years of hands-on experience, either producing SXSW related events or attending the conference and festival, for "unparalleled discovery, networking, and inspiration".
It's also about having fun, as you will see!

We are happy to share Cindy's expert report.

Cindy: "We have been going to SXSW for 14 years and we have seen it change, as in "grow"! Obviously, the interactive events became more popular over the years. Attendance has grown dramatically. As the conference and festival expanded, we were getting more agency work.

Attendance was up again this year, but the event aspects involving local help of SXSW decreased. In previous years, the conference was always incredibly chaotic for us. This year, my team could handle our workload very well, allowing me to actually attend the conference. On one hand, our team has grown, so we can handle a bigger workload. But since I heard from multiple local agencies that they, too, were not as busy, I started to wonder what may be the cause. Perhaps this is the necessary correction we needed after all these consecutive growth years."

"This is an example of the activations we had grown accustomed to as SXSW grew over the years, but surprisingly there were not as many this year. And when they did happen, they only lasted a maximum of 3 days, instead of the whole week-and-a-half in the past.

We are still wondering about the reasons. Did companies cut their budgets or did they just not get the ROI they anticipated and desired? Or did they just cut down on activations and events due to the new permit regulations? SXSW has always been a decent indicator for us on how our year will shape up. Next year will really tell. If the trend continues, we’ll definitely have to pivot our position. Again, I feel that the conference itself was very strong, but have the local event needs changed?"

The Trends
"I saw a lot more augmented reality, and more virtual reality head sets everywhere. The more it is out there, the more the prices are going to come down to reasonable levels, and the more people will bring VR into their event. One great example was D.C. House. They invited you to get on a bike and put on the head set and start pedaling. It gave you the experience of riding a bike in D.C. which is a great use of VR.  I think more companies will bring this kind of experience to their events, but the price point has not come down quite as much as I would like to make it affordable for everybody."

Cindy laughs: "You would have felt left out if your booth did not have VR! Every activation I went to had some form of it.
One great example: Spredfast, an Austin-based technology company, did a great job with their activation. They provide social media analytics for large retailers, media partners such as ESPN, any business that has an online presence. Each year during SXSW, they host a 3-day "Social Suite" at their offices in Downtown Austin where guests can just relax and enjoy social media friendly activities. This year women could get their hair braided and some nail art while Men could get a trim; best part was that the services were provided by a local barber shop. Spredfast had a beautiful dessert station where you could create your own dessert. And throughout the suite attendees were encouraged to post the experiences to their social media and use the hashtags. Spredfast displayed an analytical wall that showed how many times the items were posted and how far it reached. They showed off their product and gave clients a very good reason to come to their offices!"

"I did see a slight increase in vehicles, wrapped and just driving around Downtown Austin's traffic - think "mobile billboard". This is, again, nothing new, but it's effective."

The Themes:
"We saw a lot of jungle, natural plants and earth themes. It seems that everyone wants to be one with earth at this time. Everyone had dramatic green decor. Maybe it is a good counter balance to all the cold metal."

"We had a blast at the Mashable Photo Booth! Mashable always knows how to capture the pop culture moment! The Beyonce reveal happened less than a month before SXSW. Mashable reacted immediately. Everyone took this fun photo. Here it is our Red Velvet team member LeeAnn."

Cindy: "It was interesting and enjoyable for me to be an attendee this year, versus a producer. I got to experience the conference from the other side. I took lots of mental notes, about what worked and what did not from the attendee point of view.

I think pricing around SXSW events and venues needs to get back in line with norms - prices outstripped value this year and a lot of spaces went unused as a result.  Permitting requirements have gotten more stringent, which cuts down on last minute activations - no last minute permitting allowed.  And there are just fewer open spaces to get street-level visibility. Maybe Austin needed a year to step back and re-assess - or maybe the big corporations needed a breather as the sponsorships and events rotate to a new set of innovators and brands.

I will definitely remain in observation mode the next couple of years to see where events at SXSW are going. Was this year just a correction or a blip? Austin is a great city. Downtown is so pedestrian-friendly. Attendees can walk everywhere. There is so much brain power in Austin; the University, technology companies and SXSW. And people here are really friendly.  Austin and SXSW have real value for sponsors and attendees. My prediction: 2018 brings a moderation in prices, and an increase in event activations, which will be great news for everyone."

A Texas-sized THANK YOU to Cindy for taking the time to share her experiences and insight!

Wishing everyone a fabulous week!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Brynne Peña's Childhood Dream Came True: She Worked at The Academy Awards!

Just to clear one question up immediately:

Brynne Peña had absolutely nothing to do with the envelope mishap!
But Brynne did fulfill a childhood dream and worked behind the scenes at the
2017 Academy Awards!
Yes, it was all she dreamt it would be and she did fulfill several "bucket list" wishes in one evening!

Brynne, still glowing from the experience, explains how she ended up at the Dolby Theatre on Hollywood's biggest night:
"One of my friends at church is also an event producer. Mary is specialized in award show production and I have helped her out in the past when she was short staffed. So when she called just four days before the show looking for experienced producers, I jumped with joy and said YES!"

If you watched the show you know, that host Jimmy Kimmel let candy rain on the VIP audience. The Candy gag was added just days before showtime, thus requiring 10 trustworthy event pros on very short notice. What you did not see on camera were the Candy Servers who distributed candy to everyone inside The Dolby Theatre during the commercial breaks.

Brynne's work title: Candy Server and Aisle Captain.
"After each of the three candy drops we entered the theater during the  commercial break immediately following the to distribute candy to all attendees. I was in charge of an aisle with 6 candy servers working under my wings."

 "As Aisle Captain on the stage right I wore one of the official radio head sets to be able to listen to all the director's queues. As the three drops happened we were stationed at the aisle doors - "Candy on Stand-by" - and, upon queue - "Candy Go", I had to make sure that all 7 of us entered "my aisle"  in order to surprise the attendees with a choice of candy. I presented my candy in a portable tray, like a cigarette girl. In order to make the candy serving work, we had priority to enter the theater. At times, we were allowed to dash past the winners and stars, who were waiting to get back into the auditorium.
It was so much fun!
I delivered candy to Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Justin Timberlake, Jessica Biel, Viola Davis, Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban, Lin Manuel Miranda, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Denzel Washington and MERYL STREEP!"

Faithful readers recall that Justin Timberlake is one of Brynne's favorite artists. Meeting JT and Meryl Streep while working at the Academy Awads: a dream come true.

"I still can't believe that I got to offer red vines and junior mints to all the stars. I accidentally brushed against Denzel Washington - and I talked to Justin Timberlake! Yes, we are used to celebrities in Los Angeles and in our business, but JT and Meryl Streep are among my childhood idols. It was really an incredible experience to meet them up close."

Early on Monday morning Brynne was back in her usual role as account executive for EventWorks, and on Amtrak heading down to San Diego where she is producing a series of events this month. With bucket list memories for a lifetime!

Wishing you a fabulous week!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Event Report from Boca Raton, Florida.

Ted Bowers is not prone to tweeting, but if he did it would contain
We have been lucky to work in beautiful Florida on several occasions lately.
Here is Ted's reports from Boca Raton.

The Event: The 3-day Spring Meeting of the American College of Trial Lawyers.
Guest count: 800
Our Task: Technical and Event Support.
Location: Boca Raton Resort and Club, a Waldorf Astoria Resort.
As a few weeks ago in Miami, where we brought the local art and design into the event decor, we got inspired by our surroundings.
We incorporated the iconic pink flamingos in our opening night stage set.

Ted Bowers: "These conferences need live event audio and video support as well as a complete recording of all events for meticulous archiving. We have been working together for many years and we adhere to a strict protocol to ensure 100% secure service. Capturing top quality video and audio and preparing the material is essential to the very structured archiving. Any moment of any conference has to be retrievable from the archives easily. Providing a set technical standard is therefor paramount to this task. Recently, the College has added new technology to make the conference more interactive for the attendees. We provide support for this effort as well, especially to the attendees who have to learn how to use it."

We are grateful for our client's comments!
Dennis Maggi, Executive Director of the very prestigious American College of Trial Lawyers: "The College has partnered with Eventworks on our production and events more than twenty years. It is a collaborative effort and as a small staff organization we consider the team that travels with us to be an extension of our own staff. The College wouldn’t be able to do what it does without the great relationship we have with the Eventworks team."

The EventWorks Team: Ted Bowers, Ben Majors and Marcelo Cruz during the lighting and sound check for the 12-speaker panel discussion. Ted supervises every moment of the conference.

We also managed to stand out in Boca Raton!
Ted chuckles: "Our production rental car was a Kia mini-van. We were surrounded by Bugattis, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Rolls Royce convertibles....
We stuck out like a sore thumb.

This was our view from the "office" last week. On the West Coast we enjoy sunsets over the Pacific ocean. Here we got to admire sunrise over the Atlantic ocean. The Boca Raton Resort and Club is a truly outstanding property and I personally love the sense of almost 90 years of history."

Thank you for reading!

Monday, February 27, 2017

Alisa Walsh Loved Working with Future Event Planners at Cal Poly Pomona

Alisa Walsh had the honor of being on the Expert Panel at the MPI SCC and ASEP Cal Poly hosted "Future Leaders Forum 2017" at the Collins College Hospitality Management at Cal Poly Pomona on February 21st.
The 10 panelists each brought a different set of skills and experience to share. Alisa proudly represented event production services.
On the panel: Kheam Tang, Four Points San Diego Downtown, Anna Kim, LATCB,  Sacha Tani, Universal Studios Hollywood, Jamie Oakley, Revolution RFP, Alisa Walsh, EventWorks, Marc Berkowitz, California Association of Realtors, Kim Meltzer, KidKesty Productions, John Ehlenfeldt, Visit Huntington Beach, Ajit Acharya, The Waterfront Beach Resort,
and Jon Baumgardner, Society of the Promotion of Japanese Animation.

Alisa, the students wanted to know how you got to your professional position. What is your advice to aspiring event and hospitality pros?

"My first piece of advice was to take advantage of opportunities when they are presented to you, even if they seem to be very scary at the time. That is precisely how I got to where I am.  My first role in the hospitality world came about during my freshman year in college when I got the chance to live on Maui and work at the Grand Wailea Resort as a Beach&Pool Attendant. It sounds like a no-brainer but it took me out of my comfort zone, away from my friends and family, at the time. It was there that I fell in love with Hospitality and I knew from then on, that it was what I wanted to do for my career. You have to start from the bottom. When I got back to school in San Diego, I worked at a hotel front desk. I took unpaid internships, thanks to a lot of friends who worked at hotels in San Diego. I worked my way up. During my college years, I was also able to take two semesters to study abroad. First in Australia and then in Costa Rica, where I studied eco-tourism. It again meant traveling alone and experiencing and learning a lot. I met a lot of people who are still my friends and mentors today. After 8 years in San Diego I moved to Orange County where I worked as Senior Event Manager at a Newport Beach hotel. Three months after my start, my director was promoted and moved on to another property. Consequently, I was promoted to Director of Events at the hotel, which was a great honor. At the same time it was terrifying, as I was working in a senior management position while most of my co-workers had many more years on their resumes. It was challenging but I learned a lot about management and I had to live up to my General Manager's expectations. He had trusted my leadership skills and that I could fulfill this role. I finally took another risk and joined EventWorks in January of 2016. EventWorks had been a client of mine at the hotel. It was a big shift as I had worked towards becoming a General Manager in the hotel industry some day, but when the opportunity of working in event production presented itself, I was really intrigued by the new challenge. It has been a little over one year now and I really love working with the EventWorks team. I am traveling a lot. I am attending many functions and I have grown my professional network probably 10-fold in a year. The bottom-line is: say yes to opportunities. It may be a little scary but it can be a really good thing."
Alisa in conversation with student Kevin, making new connections.

You were also asked about your biggest work-related blunder and how you solved the problem.

"I guess my biggest blunder so far occurred early in my work life. I was an event manager at a San Diego hotel. As every event manager, I was very busy, all the time. I had a group in-house, about 450 people. During a prep meeting I became aware that I had neglected to place a B.E.O. for 450 lunches for the very next day. My team was completely unaware of that request. Of course, the client was expecting lunch for all of her attendees the next day. I felt sick to my stomach and turned pale white. Thanks to my efforts of building relationships, not just with clients, but also internally, I could go to my executive staff and admit my mistake immediately and work it out. It would have been much harder to confess if we had not had such a great working relationship. I was in the kitchen at 3AM the next morning, working with the catering staff and helping put together those 450 lunch boxes. The client never knew of my disaster, thanks to the support of everybody at the hotel who helped me recover from my mistake. It's important to learn that it takes a whole team to make it work. You cannot succeed alone.

After the panel presentation we had a chance to mingle in a mock networking event. The Food-and-Beverage students had even created a mock bar! In my conversation with Kevin I shared my experience with networking. It's what I do every day now and it can be very intimidating for people, especially at the start of their career. But it's hard for almost anyone. I shared with Kevin my personal approach: realize that all the attendees started off as strangers at some point and that everyone will treat you like a friend after the first time of meeting you. It's easier to set a goal of making a connection with one particular person. Maybe choose a C.E.O. or someone else who may seem difficult to approach. Once you succeed in making that connection you will gain a lot of confidence and it will become a lot easier." 

The students were very interested in all the advice from the panelists. Many wanted input from the pros on what area or field in the industry to pick for their degrees to have the best chances after they graduate.
"We told them that it does not really matter. Even if you pick one area now, 10 years from now, the industry will have changed so much that you have to evolve with it anyway. I suggested that they concentrate on communications, as communications play a part in anything else they will do. It crosses all areas."
Our Thank You goes to Sacha Tani, Manager, Group & Special Event Sales
Universal Studios Hollywood, MPI member and Volunteer, as well as a Collins College Cal Poly Pomona Alumni.
Sacha had organized the expert panel and invited Alisa.

Sacha Tani:
"We were looking for a variety of planners to inspire the next generation at the Collins College of Hospitality Management at Cal Poly Pomona. Alisa is great at speaking with the student population as she is passionate about the industry and she is also an advocate for MPI. Her being part of Eventworks also helped the students understand, that there are various stages to planning design. Alisa was able to explain how a production company works with third party planners and end users."
Thank YOU for reading and....
Happy Mardi Gras!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Event Report from Miami: Inspired by Art All Around Us

The Event: 3 days of events supporting a high profile car reveal in the Automobile Industry
Locations: Mana Wynwood and Fontainebleau, Miami, Florida
Date: January 2017
Guest Count: 750

Our Challenge: Tailoring the look and feel the client's brand prefers into the overall design, and integrating the local art-infused atmosphere into decor settings for an international VIP group. Furthermore, we were tasked with creating all events surrounding a high-impact reveal of a new car model.

Ted Bowers, Kristen Rensch, Rebecca Motus and our crew just returned from 10 days in Miami and Kristen confesses that they still have post-event blues. "We had the great fortune to be able to work with a very creative client in a wonderful environment. Despite some challenges - we had a tornado warning call waking us at 3:45am on the night AFTER our tent install, and some last minute changes - it all turned out perfectly! The client was happy. We were happy!"

Our main tasks: creating and producing decor, lighting and sound for the two nights.

Night 1 took place at Mana Wynwood. We had visited the ultra cool, artsy neighborhood during pre-production and our client and we were very inspired by the public art that infuses every wall and locale in Wynwood. We decided to bring the art inside.
We had 100,000 square feet of blank canvas event space at Mana to work with. We used about one third for the event.
We brought graffiti art and the brand's favorite hue of blue into the event.

Night 1: Welcome Reception and Car Reveal     

We selected a black-and-white decor and very linear design to highlight the artistic neighborhood.
Voile was used as perimeter treatment.
We separated the room into three spaces -
1) Reception/After Party Salon
2) Reveal
3) Production spaces
using voile wall curtains to hide the cars prior to the reveal and to hide the after-party space.

Table tops were covered with a custom-printed black-and-white graphic design.
Pillows to match and white floral to complete the modern look.

Four display cars and an art car had to be integrated in the After Party space.

The view of the After Party and what was to come was concealed during the Reception and Reveal phase of the event. 

Lighting effects highlighted the display vehicles, that were eventually revealed by the voile in the After Party.

The Entertainment: a DJ in company of a live saxophonist.

Our BIGGEST Challenges:
a) turning the reception space into the after-party space while the reveal was taking place. We made it!
On cue, we created a kabuki drop of the voile to reveal the reset space for the After Party, inviting guests to freely flow around the now combined, open space.

b) Due to logistical challenges, we had to set up our furniture before the four cars came in. We had to plan the floor plan and setup in a manner that allowed us to accommodate the last minute move-in of the cars in a fully setup space. 

Night 2: Dinner on the Lawn with Entertainment                                     

We got to work at the beautiful Fontainebleau and we are honored that hotel management allowed us to occupy both lawns to set up TWO separate 40x99 foot clear-span tents on the Ocean and La Côte Lawns. We received permission to build a new custom, wood walkway to compliment the existing walkway and connect the tents on the lawns. 

Iconic South Beach hotels and museums were the inspiration for the sophisticated beach design and decor.

Each tent received its own design treatment and seating arrangements. We alternated weathered wood and white-washed furniture, natural wood chairs and custom weathered, white-washed boxes. 

Our Floral Artist, Rebecca Motus, created signature, one-of-a-kind floral art pieces. 
Low-profile driftwood-and-orchid centerpieces were placed on all dinner tables. 
Cylindrical orchid arrangements were suspended from the tent ceiling. 

The Challenge:
a) Last minute enhancements to the floral design.
Rebecca worked miracles, sourcing the flowers and materials locally in record time. Once she found the great source, she also hired their local floral arrangers to assist with the assembly of the hanging orchid columns. 
b) did we mention the tornado warning? 😄 Thankfully, the tents survived high winds and rain. By event time, Miami had the best weather in a long time: blue skies, mild temperatures and beautiful sunshine.

Entertainment: live music, consisting of a singer and a 5-piece band. 

We are very grateful for the feedback we received from the
Fontainebleau Convention Service Team.

"The creativity and unique design presented by this talented team had transformed this space into a magical element. It was a beautiful production that left us amazed!"

We loved this production in Miami! We had a wonderful time. The locations were just beautiful and such an inspiration.
Yes, as usual, it took very long work hours and and an army, as they say.
Thank you to our Friends at TPG and our local partners!
We could not have done it without you.

Wishing everyone a Great President's Day and a good week! 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Alisa Walsh Honored to Co-Chair MPISCC 2017 (WE)CON

Our Director of Sales, Alisa Walsh, is grateful to have had the opportunity to co-chair the MPISCC 2017 (WE)CON event this past weekend.

"We had a 1:1 ratio of planners and suppliers, which was a great way to meet and connect with colleagues and build relationships, that will be really valuable to all of us. But besides the business aspects, we had a wonderful time mingling, learning and participating in great group activities.
As co-chair, I was in charge of hotel logistics, which ties in so well with my previous professional life. It was an interesting experience to work with a hotel from the "other side". I know how hard it is to impress 130 meeting and event planners and suppliers. Our host hotel did a fabulous job."

Looking swell under professional pressure!

Alisa Walsh, Co-Chair,
and Michelle Thornton,
Chair of the Weekend Education Conference,
got ready with a professional blow dry at Fashion Island.

Alisa: "We had a truly outstanding and inspiring group of Keynote Speakers.
We learned a lot about loyalty during James Kane's session on Friday morning." 
"We were thrilled to experience the high-energy presentation "The 10 K's of Personal Branding" by Kaplan Mobray." 
"Amanda Armstrong presented "Evolving Trends in 2017",
Mike Staver reminded us how to manage "Staying Calm Under Pressure".
Michael Dominguez's closing speech was the perfect match in a changing time in our industry!
"The Impact of the New Administration on Our Industry" will have everyone talking and sharing for quite some time to come!

However, it was not all hard work! We had time to play! Thanks to MGM Resort's sponsorship we experienced a SoulCycle class.

Saturday morning at 7am sharp we enjoyed an organized fitness class that was a part of the program led by Joe Martin of BDI Events. Joe is also VP of Education for MPISCC." 
 "Thank heaven for all the workout activities! We splurged on a delicious dinner and drinks at a Lego-themed party with a CSR component on Friday night."

"(WE)CON was also  great way to reconnect with friends!"

Alisa with Suzanne Alsnauer.

Here at EventWorks, we are all grateful for Alisa's endless energy! 7am workouts after a late night - now that is true dedication to her work!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Valentine Floral Design - From EventWorks with LOVE ❤

We have seven days left to turn Valentine's Day into a personal success!
We asked our Floral Artist, Rebecca Fernandez Motus, to  share easy-to-do, romantic and very personal design ideas that will amaze every Valentine!
Instructions included!

Question: What materials and flowers can our readers use that are
1) easy to find and
2) not outrageously expensive and
3) on trend and fresh ideas?

"Roses are extremely expensive as early as a few weeks before Valentine's Day.  The wholesale vendors at the flower market in downtown L.A. usually triple the pricing for the roses to all the flower shops/ florists, so, as you can imagine, the consumers buy them for four times the normal price if they get them from the flower market (which is usually a very inconvenient trip because of traffic, parking and just walking around the flower market itself) and more if they buy roses at a flower shop.

A very good substitute for roses are ranunculus. These are becoming a very popular choice of flowers, not only because of pricing, but because they look very similar to the roses when they are open. Because of the many varieties that have evolved with ranunculus, they are becoming the florists' favorite and the customers as well.  They come in all colors and sizes too… yes, the local ones are the small variety, the medium-to-large ones are from Holland and the giant, big-as-palm-of-your-hand ones are from Japan or Italy. They are a fraction of the price of a rose and they are easy to work with since they don't have thorns. An insider wholesaler trick: during the summer when the ranunculus is out of season,  cut a rose head in half and you get a ranunculus!!! That’s exactly how it looks.

Combine the ranunculus with lisianthus which is also commonly called paper roses, and you will have the perfect Valentine bouquet.

Other flowers that are a good rose substitutes would be hyacinths and sweet peas (my absolute favorite ). They have the sweet fragrance at the fraction of the price of a garden rose.

For vases and containers, be creative. There are mason jars that are cheap and available on Amazon or at your local store. But if you want to use what’s readily available at home, my first recommendation is your ceramic coffee mugs. They come in different sizes, colors and some have those witty quotes and prints. If she loves those big 3-wick scented candles in a glass container, then she must have a lot of the used ones, this can also be used as a vase.

Question: can you share any tips on how to put them together into an easy, beautiful bouquet?

1) Get organized first. Line up about 3 to 5 different coffee mugs.

2) Clean up the stems of your ranunculus and lisianthus, stripping it off greenery by hand.

3) Put together the flowers like a bridal bouquet by alternating the ranunculus and the lisianthus stems and arrange the flower heads all at the same level.

4) When you have a handful that will fit the coffee mug, measure the length of the stems to the height of the coffee mug, and with sharp scissors cut the flower stems, drop in the coffee mug and repeat.

This will make an impressive grouping of arrangements that looks like so much effort has been put into it, but it’s really a very easy and economical process for all the guys out there.

This may also be done with mason jars, pitchers, or those decorative glass candle containers.

A few bunches of hyacinth or sweet peas in a variety of colors can be cut and dropped in one of those used decorative glass candle holders and placed on her bedside table.

What is your personal favorite in Valentine floral?
This is my favorite bouquet because it contains all my favorite flowers: white sweet peas (top on my list of favorites), double pink tulips and Sarah Bernhardt peonies. These are usually very expensive flowers and a bouquet like this easily costs about $500 retail.