Kate Patay, CPCE is the Executive Director of Sales and Marketing for Creative Coverings, a national linen rental and sales company. Patay helps represent Creative Coverings as the NACE National Secretary/Treasurer, a NACE National Business Partner and Social Media & Trend Expert. She is an active member of ISES, ICA, ACCP, ARA, EPA, and is on the advisory board of The Solace Tree. She also is a faculty member at The International School of Hospitality in Las Vegas. Patay has been a guest speaker at numerous conventions and organizational meetings around the country. She was recently awarded the 2015 Pacesetter Award from the Convention Industry Council.
As meeting and event planners, it is our responsibility to stay current with trends, whether it’s colors, themes, décor elements, culinary creations or technology. Right now, it’s the constantly evolving technology that is most rapidly changing how we design events. We still consider designing for a physical space and location, but now we also design for unique spaces that social media provides, which aims toward a more personalized event experience — incorporating physical and virtual environments.
Clients are choosing spaces that relate to their brand or identity. Why not hold a fundraiser for the local university on the school’s football field or basketball court? Perhaps hold a gala for the local public library at the library. Clients are choosing places such as historical and cultural sites, camps and retreats, stadiums, arenas, showrooms in hotels on their “dark nights,” to showcase their personal tastes. Authenticating or personalizing these spaces helps noninvasively brand the event and provides a social media-worthy experience. At The International School of Hospitality in Las Vegas, we constantly experiment to see what design elements work for such personalized experiences, using the school’s new Special Events Design Lab, where we try new things with the latest in lighting and décor, and social media and other technology tools.
Technology is the future of events. With increased demand for technology, there is a corresponding decrease in cost. Expensive projectors can be replaced by digital projection mapping to create holograms. Remote performances by artists can be projected onto a screen without having the costs associated with bringing talent to the actual venue. Guests can choose their menu options with a “virtual waiter” at the touch of a button. Sensory projections lead to a more satisfying event experience.
Interactive décor will play a key role for event-space design moving forward. Events are moving from “cocktail hour/sit-down, dinner/entertainment” to interactive, networking-focused environments. Floral centerpieces are being replaced with extravagant floral walls that serve as design elements, while creating space within a space. Lounge spaces include throw pillows that coordinate with table linens. Ambience is enhanced by the unexpected, such as suspending desserts from the ceiling or hanging appetizers on a wall, doubling as décor components. With guests having so many diet restrictions and food allergies, food stations become interactive with do-it-yourself menus. Guests can pick and choose their own ingredients to customize food pairings to their personal palates.
Moving forward, how do we as event professionals keep up with trends, forecast what is coming and provide our clients unique experiences? It is our role to refresh annual events, and the key is to continually educate ourselves so we can provide our clients with innovative and successful parties. One way is to seek opportunities to collaborate and share ideas with others in the field. So, in that spirit of collaboration, I went to my friend, the incredibly talented, Lenny Talarico, CSEP, director of events for MGM Resorts Events Productions, who also oversees the seasonal design of The International School of Hospitality’s Special Events Design Lab. Lenny is renowned for producing the most cutting-edge event experiences from year-to-year for his clients. Here’s what I got from our conversation:
With the demanding schedules many of us face, and the unwelcomed trend of shorter planning windows, we might have a tendency to repeat what we just did. However, Lenny cautions that when we do the same old thing, the event experience for attendees suffers and we lose because we now lack innovation.
“What I like to stress upon planners and partners is to constantly review their event objectives and say, how do we still achieve those by going a different route?” he said. “Perhaps that traditional plated awards dinner can still achieve its goal by being on a flow, or in a nightclub or a venue that offers something totally unexpected.”
According to Lenny, reviewing, refreshing and changing direction serves us in multiple ways. We aren’t resting on our laurels by doing the same event in another color. We are creating excitement and a buzz for attendees with a sense of anticipation, pushing them (and ourselves) out of the comfort zone. As Lenny would say, “If it isn’t broke, break it. You may be surprised by what evolves.”
As we evolve, so do our customers, the environments in which we work and the industries we rely on for support. The goal is to be at the forefront of what is emerging now to provide clients the best available. If you are not seeking out what’s happening at events everywhere you are missing out. If you are not attending trade shows and conventions, even those outside of your core business, you are missing out. According to Lenny, clients want to create event experiences that communicate their business mission, or replicate their lifestyle.
”If you are not seeking out what’s happening at events everywhere you are missing out.”
“To know what that experience is, you need to immerse yourself in their world, understand their goals and objectives and offer the most current solutions…or face failure,” he said. “You can’t do that unless you are out and engaged in the industry at all times. Make a habit of functioning with your antennas up at all times to catch the latest trends as they come.” C&IT