Monday, July 31, 2017

Event Music: DJ Lee Dyson's Summer HOT PLAY LIST

Is summer getting to you?

Still working while it seems everyone else is on the beach?

We got the anti-dote for the summer blues.

Get up and DANCE!

DJ Lee Dyson: "Normally I don't like pop music.
That being far in 2017...I'm loving pop music!
Some really catchy and listenable stuff being released that is perfect for a long Sunday drive or relaxing by the pool.


Monday, July 24, 2017

Event Trend: Games, Games, Games

'Play is not just essential for kids; it can be an important source of relaxation and stimulation for adults as well. Playing with your romantic partner, friends, co-workers, pets, and children is a sure (and fun) way to fuel your imagination, creativity, problem-solving abilities, and emotional well-being.'
Source: in collaboration with Harvard Health Publications.

No wonder 'Play' is such a trend in corporate events this year!

Giant jenga, LED foosball tables, life-size Battleship.... it's games, games, games everywhere we look these days. We checked in with our experts, Justin Hapeman, Gary Bordman and Jeff Anderson to explore whether it is just our inner child's dream or an event trend reality. Happy to share our findings.

The Premise: Play is a serious science. The preeminent expert is American physician, psychiatrist and TED speaker, Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play. Following the horrific Texas Tower mass murder case committed by Charles Whitman in 1966, Brown was commissioned to start his groundbreaking decades-long study of eventually over 6000 participants' play histories.
“The committee investigating Charles Whitman’s life and motives unanimously identified his lifelong lack of play as a key factor in his homicidal actions.”– Dr. Stuart Brown.
Dr. Brown’s subsequent research of other violent individuals concludes that play can act as a powerful deterrent, even an antidote to prevent violence.
Play is a powerful catalyst for positive socialization.
(Source: National Institute for Play)

Ever more reason for our corporate clients to encourage Play at their incentive and reward events.

Gary Bordman, CSEP, Chief Interactive Designer at Amusement, Exhibit & Event Services. AE&ES and @JustCallGary

Justin Hapeman, Regional Manager - Southern California at Plan-It Interactive

Jeff Anderson, Partner/ Director of Revenue Kinetics, at Party Pals

EW: What trends have you noticed?

Jeff: "There have been a few but, more specifically to our observation, there has been a rather pronounced trend towards Lawn Games and Giant Games at corporate events but especially weddings. For corporate events, that’s not to the exclusion of other games but rather the inclusion of Lawn and Giant Games has been pronounced lately. So, what we’re seeing at corporate events is the addition of games like Corn Hole, Ladder Ball (or Ladder Golf), Ping Pong, Giant Jenga, Giant Connect 4, Giant Checkers, Giant Chess, etc.
We, relatively recently, also purchased another throw back, Giant Big Wheels…so, like the Big Wheels many Baby Boomers rode as kids now come in Giant, or Adult versions

Gary: What we have seen more and more people asking for are giant versions of games from the 70s and 80s. Retro arcade games but also Battleship, Connect 4, Light Bright, Tetris, all of these things we are doing life size. Our battleship is 6'x6' each player position. Connect 4 is mega-sized, 7' wide by 6' tall. We recently built a Live Tetris game. So rather than just playing a video game pieces slide down on the playfield and two people are competing to build complete lines without holes. We are seeing this for all age groups. Not just millennials are playing. We see 50-somethings playing at corporate events.

Justin: "Trends come and go. In 2016 it was LED. Now it's Retro Games and Giant Games, like Giant Jenga. We just bought a Giant Battleship, that we just showed at BizBash last week. Giant Pac Man is a big hit, too. The reason for the trend is probably the social aspect. Everyone is always on their phones and looking down these days; playing on their phones, doing social media and so forth. Games take you out of that and I think people really appreciate that. When you are playing Giant Jenga you are not on your phone. You are paying attention. You are having a conversation. It's about interaction, about people being involved. You can have a giant party but if people are not interacting with each other it is not going to be a success.

EW: Are all things old new again? Are Retro Games back?

Gary: "About two years ago we had a few clients call and ask for Giant Jenga or something like that. So we started building other games that were not off-the-shelf, that you could just buy online or something. So we started pitching a Big Party. During CVent we worked with MGM Productions for the CVent Connect Event this last month. For that beach party we did everything Giant sized. We even built a human size Pin Press. So you can put your whole body instead of just your face and hands. Some of these things are fully brandable.
The interest is within the corporate market for events like a cocktail reception. You see these as the Opening Night Party of Closing Night Party. I see the trend more in the corporate market than the social market."

Justin: "Yes, definitely. Old things are new again. It's a comfort thing. For instance, we got a Giant Light Brite, a very popular game in the 80s. It really came back. Everyone can play with it. It's social. It brings out creativity. It creates a conversation. And competition is definitely a factor. Everybody gets into it. It's friendly competition. At the same time, these games aren't scary. Everyone knows them. You don't have to force people to play. Everyone gets comfortable with it. The games are relatable.
These games are also low maintenance. Once it's set up, it's ready to play. Most of the games aren't staffed. One less thing for the event planner to worry about."

Jeff: "Yes and it’s probably because the Baby Boomers and Gen X have the money, run the companies and like the throwback stuff at their events.  In addition to the above games, Classic Arcade Uprights like Ms. Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Frogger, Asteroids, Space Invaders, etc. are all really popular right now and have been for the past several years.  Again, I think a lot has to do with Baby Boomers and Gen X.  However, Gen Y and Millennials have also been attracted to the “low tech” games of the 80’s…when games, and technology, were a little more simple!!!"

EW: What games are really popular? Where is this trend going?

Justin: "Our straight-forward Retro Games are all very popular. They are so laid back and easy. People do what they are comfortable with. A lot of our games are customizable. The client's branding can be applied to them. It's a game and a prop at the same time."

Jeff: "What has become super popular are LED games.  We have LED Ping Pong, Shuffleboard, Foosball, Air Hockey, Corn Hole, Mini Golf, Bocce Ball, Ladder Ball, Skee Ball, Basketball, Frisbee Golf, and more…even LED Volleyball.  And, BY FAR, our (Party Pals) most popular game is Giant LED Foosball (13’ L…12 players at a time, 6 per side). We built 2 of these out of hardwood, acrylic, etc.  They are super high quality which, I think, is another reason they are so popular.  There are a lot of Giant Foosball Tables out there but I haven’t seen any that match ours. Gary Bordman at AE&ES made our Giant Operation Game as well as Giant Battleship and Giant Etch-a-Sketch."

Gary: "Interactive play stimulates the brain so people are more involved. It brings you back to being a kid. It brings memories of when there was no pressure other than to win the game with your friends. What I see coming out of this is getting people more involved as a group. You get your cheering group going. When we do Lite Brite you get more people involved to design the piece of art that you are building. It's a true networking experience. By doing these types of things people come together. I don't think games have replaced other activities. It is just a new avenue. From my standpoint, when we do a Retro Big Party in a ballroom we normally put video games with it. It's not just life-sized board games. We add in the video games. We still get calls for Casino Nights and Photo Ops. I think it's a new avenue more than a replacement."

At the risk of sounding old-school - and knowing full well that we are very guilty of having our smart phones in our hands at all times - we love to have people drop their mobiles. There are so many positives. Games mean less maintenance. They are brandable, customizable and effective for the corporate event - and good for everyone's heart and soul from a scientific point of view.
Let's play!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Working for a Good Cause: Alisa Walsh Reports from The 4th Annual SITE SoCal Poker Tournament

Alisa Walsh, pictured here with Liz Smith from Destination Concepts, Inc.  her "partner in crime" in planning logistics for the tournament, was very honored when our friends at JNR invited her to expand her role with the tournament and come on board as a co-organizer.

The Event: ALL IN Charity Poker Tournament,
                  hosted by SITE SoCal Young Leaders and SITE Southern California
Event Date: June 25, 2017, 11AM to 6PM
Event Location: Hotel Irvine, Irvine, CA.

The concept of the Annual SITE SoCal Poker Tournament: turn a meetings & events industry mingler into a very worthwhile fundraising opportunity for the San Diego Brain Tumor Foundation, founded in 2002 by our colleague Connie Reeves Campbell in memory of her late husband Dennis who lost his battle against a brain tumor in 2000.
Hotels and suppliers come together enthusiastically to support the event by sponsoring tables and much more.
SITE SoCal Chapter members love this fun occasion to mingle and test their poker skills.
Alisa explains: "Everyone can play. Buying poker chips is one of the fundraising methods. We are here for fun and a good cause but the game is quite competitive. It is a real tournament. Winners are established by elimination of weaker players until the best end up playing at the winner's table. Losers can buy back in by purchasing more chips. The final winner won a trip." 
Last year Alisa did make it all the way to the winner's table. This year she was too busy with her organizing duties to concentrate on the game.
"As time went on, more and more "losers" gathered in our Loser's Lounge hosted by ACCOR Hotels and enjoyed playing social games provided by Party Pals."
Alisa reports: "Last year the tournament took place on a Friday evening. We were worried about having it on a Sunday in daytime. However, we are happy with the successful fundraising effort. The 4th Annual SITE SoCal Poker Tournament has raised $32,541.75 for the San Diego Brain Tumor Foundation!
Thank you to all who attended and all the sponsors who supported our efforts. Congratulations to the winner: Cindy Shtur."

See you next year at ALL IN!

All Photos courtesy of John Wolfsohn Photography and Video. All rights reserved.                         

Monday, July 10, 2017

Event Report: Honoring the First Recipient of the Icons of LA Award, Stan Lee.

The Event: UCLA Extension presents "Icons of LA" Award

Event Date: June 29, 2017

Event Location: W Hotel Westwood

It was such a pleasure to provide the event support to our friends at UCLA Extension for the inaugural "Icons of LA" Award reception.

Meeting a personal super hero, the first Icon of LA recipient,
Marvel's Stan Lee,
was the cherry on top of our pie!

Event producer Brynne Peña: "We have a long standing relationship with UCLA's event team and were very pleased to be invited to support the inaugural Icon of LA Award. Our design team went to work to create the graphics for the award program as well as all event decor, in UCLA blue and yellow, of course."

Seeing the response to the event on social media is always an extra reward for us.

Brynne shares: "Watching 'Spider-Man: Homecoming' will be an even more meaningful experience, now that I had the chance to meet the creator. I also like Stan Lee's advice to students as he shared with them how his publisher originally turned down Spider-Man as a character."

Stan Lee told the graduates:
“If you’ve got an idea that you genuinely think is good, don’t let some idiot talk you out of it. You can only do your best work if you’re doing what you want to do, and if you’re doing it in the way that you think it should be done.”

Our heartfelt condolences go to Stan Lee, and his family, for the loss of his wife of almost 70 years, Joan B. Lee, who just passed Thursday, July 6.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Event Report: The U.S. Air Force Academy Ring Dance – Toasting to Nostalgia, History & Tradition

We recently had the opportunity and honor to again produce the United States Air Force Academy’s Annual Ring Dance for the Class of 2018, a celebration for some of the finest young people in the USA. 

Executive Producer Kristen Rensch enjoyed the May snowstorm in Colorado.
Kristen is no stranger to military aviation. Her father is a nearly 30-year decorated retired veteran and pilot of the U.S. Marine Corp. She spent part of her childhood on military bases, in flight simulators, and watching her father command flight squadrons. With other family members in various branches of the armed forces, and with a personal and professional aviation background herself (just ask her to quickly recite the phonetic alphabet!), there was something nostalgic and downright breathtaking about the Academy campus and this event.

“The Academy grounds are dramatically beautiful, tucked into thousands of acres of western landscape. The scale of the large buildings and structures on campus is deceptive against a backdrop of stunning mountains. I learned while there that the cadet area is one of the largest intact assemblages of modern architecture in the world – and as an event producer, the architecture and design couldn’t help but catch my eye.

The modernist style makes use of glass and aluminum, suggesting the outer skin of an aircraft or spacecraft. And the Chapel – the most recognized landmark – actually houses many chapels of different denominations under one roof so that cadets of all faiths can freely exercise their religion and respect the beliefs of fellow cadets. So historically impressive, the cadet area itself has been designated a National Historic Landmark District.
This year’s Ring Dance theme was “A Blast from the Past”, and retro décor with a nod to military tradition was emphasized. The stage featured a large American Flag backdrop for the DJ, and drape with patriotic bunting and red, white and blue lighting completed the look. A custom 12’ cake was designed for the event."
Kristen reports that in addition to being the tallest cake we’d ever seen, it was delicious too - and as you can imagine, there was a lot of leftover cake!
The Ring Dance is considered the seminal milestone, second only to graduation, in a cadet’s rigorous Academy career, as it marks the passage to their final year on campus and towards their military service careers.
The dance is always held during graduation week – the week before juniors become first-class cadets and seniors.  A seated dinner always precedes the dance, where traditionally the rings are placed in a glass of champagne and caught in the teeth following a toast. The United States Air Force Academy is the only service academy to have had class rings for every class since its founding in 1954, and each class designs its own ring.
Kristen reports: “In addition to being surrounded by the natural beauty and impressive history of the Academy – covered in a mid-May SNOW nonetheless - one of the most spectacular moments for me was the sight of all these vibrant, academically and physically stellar, young men and women celebrating their successes and futures in the prime of their lives with such energy and enthusiasm. Without waxing too philosophical, it was a great reminder to carpe diem.
One of the reasons I love events is helping shape people’s experiential memories of key moments in their lives, and in a very, very small way it was great to have that opportunity to do so with our work on the Ring Dance.”
It was an honor and privilege to again be a part this special event!
A big thanks to Doug Lane, Owner/President - Fastlane Productions.

Happy Independence Day!