Editor’s Note: Following his trademarked “Michael Cerebelli’s: The Hot List” events presentation in June for the HGA Global Forum, we asked Michael, who is CEO and president of Cerbelli Creative, to share some of his favorite ideas with Corporate & Incentive Travel readers. For more than 39 years, Michael has done more than change the paradigm of prestigious happenings — he has become the paradigm. Though a fixture in the New York City events scene, Michael’s influence is worldwide, from the Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to a birthday party for the King of Morocco.
Sixteen years ago, I started Michael Cerbelli’s: The Hot List. I’ve spoken at various conferences and meetings throughout the year to reveal the hottest and most innovative trends in events and entertainment. When I first started this, people thought I was crazy. They thought to themselves, why would you share all this information? Why give away all your ideas? The truth is, it all started when I asked a colleague about an idea. In the late ’90s and early 2000s, I, along with many other meeting and event planners, were going to conferences to learn, to find ways to be a more effective event planner and to make our events more exciting.
In 2001, I saw a presentation by a great event designer and an incredible speaker. He took out a vase, put it on the table, and turned a switch and the vase lit up. He said, “This is an LED light.” The entire audience was awed; back then no one knew what an LED was! I went up to him and I asked for more information about this vase, this LED, what in the world was this and how can I get my hands on this? I wanted to bring this from California to New York, to use in my own events. This man (who today I actually have the honor of calling one of my dear friends) would not share the information, and this frustrated me. I thought to myself, why are people NOT sharing their ideas?
Thus, the Hot List was born. I had my own ideas, and I wanted to share the wealth. At the very first Hot List, they put me in a classroom with 300 seats, and 500 people showed up. The attendees knew I was going to open my black book of ideas. Today, Michael Cerbelli’s: The Hot List is now a staple to The Special Event conference, and for the first time ever, we did a second live show in the same year for MPI’s World Education Congress. The response was phenomenal. There are people who attend every year because they will be taking away tangible information, content that can be used immediately when they arrive back to their office and share with their teams. It is my way of giving back to the industry that has given me so much the past 40 years.
I have included a few of my personal favorites from this year’s Hot List in hopes of that this helps inspire you to think creatively and create memorable experiences, whether it be general session, sales meeting or closing celebration.
BUFFET TRAIN: Led by a trike, the Buffet Train is pulled through the event space creating a truly unforgettable mobile buffet and performance platform. The train is comprised of two 8-foot-long wagons for caterers, fashion or anything from desserts to cocktails and platforms to support an array of acrobatic talent. Make an impressive entrance for dessert by driving it to the center of the room with cirque performers!
Contact: Chris Lashua, Cirque Mechanics, email@example.com, 800-770-1694
GASTRO GARAGE: Los Angeles-based catering company Gastro Garage uses blowtorches to cook onsite, creating an interactive and entertaining option for food. These chefs, called “mechanics,” deconstruct classic dishes and reconstruct them into gastro “tanks”: brioche-style doughnuts that are torched and filled with nitrous foam in a variety of flavors. They are created in front of the guests by the mechanics, who complete the look in full uniform and goggles. The real star is the food — with sweet and savory options ranging from Philly cheese steaks and cubanos, to s’mores — they will have your guests raving. This team really get the crowds FIRED up and is a treat to both the eyes and tastebuds.
Contact: Adam Manacker, The Gastro Garage, firstname.lastname@example.org, 310-993-3979
BODY MARBLING: Body marbling puts a psychedelic twist on temporary tattoos. Pigments chosen by attendees are manipulated into patterns and designs that transfer directly upon dipping. These funky tattoos are best showcased in the dark under UV light. Best of all, they can be washed off easily with soap and water. BlackLight Visuals, the pioneers of Body Marbling, have become a huge hit at monster music festivals such as Coachella and Electric Daisy Carnival. Branding opportunities make it a great option for unique attendee engagement at corporate events.
Contact: Brad Lawrence, BlackLight Visuals, booking@BLVisuals.com, 248-762-9983
CHOCOLATE GENIUS: Paul Joachim, also known as The Chocolate Genius, can speed-sculpt anything out of chocolate. I have personally had him in the past sculpt skylines, logos, busts of honorees and even myself — the best-looking piece of them all. He has sculpted everything from a life-size Lebron James to a giant elephant. He can speed-sculpt a masterpiece in as little as one hour, doubling as both entertainment and dessert!
Contact: Barbara Parham, Artistic Talent Group, email@example.com, 407-876-3729
GENTRI: GENTRI (short for the Gentlemen Trio) combines rich, dynamic vocals with powerful three-part tenor harmony. They bring a spine-tingling sound that’s sure to bring clients to their feet, move them to tears or motivate them to open their pocketbooks. From legendary covers, iconic Broadway show tunes to epic originals, their show is sure to leave your audiences shouting “encore.”
Contact: Stuart Ambrose, About Entertainment, firstname.lastname@example.org, 424-201-5428
WELL-STRUNG: These guys are the best of both worlds, fusing classical music with today’s pop in amazing, four-part harmony. Imagine walking into a room with a dashing string quarter playing classical pieces at a reception, blending into the background and setting the mood. Then, surprisingly, they become the main act and catch everyone’s attention with a surprising classical mashup of Mozart and Kelly Clarkson. It is a unique and memorable experience that will certainly have your guests talking (and gawking).
Contact: Danny Bergold, About Entertainment, email@example.com, 424-201-5428
AERIAL DRONES: On January 12 at The Special Event, I unveiled aerial drones as being the next big thing in event entertainment. Drones are creating visual spectacles with choreographed movements that create shapes and patterns mid-air. On February 5, Superbowl Sunday, 300 drones flew in formation at the opening of Lady Gaga’s amazing halftime performance in front of 160 million people! What started out as a sea of bright stars came together by the end to form an American flag. Combining drone technology with Lady Gaga’s artistry created a truly memorable experience. I was very impressed, and this was all made possible by the ever-growing interest in drones. Drones hovering above and around performers are creating spectacular new images and camera views that were never possible before. Drones are now even being used to show messages and point guests to event locations, like flying robot valets! Furthermore, aerial drones can be “dressed up” with themed elements and can be coordinated with live performers or other live special effects.
Contact: Jeff Ward, TLC Air & Xylobands USA, firstname.lastname@example.org, 310-822-6790
VIDEO SPHERE: The KM Custom Video Sphere is a cutting-edge product that gives your guests a true 360-degree view of your message. The video sphere works great as a centerpiece to any type of event and can be programmed to display any image, video or media on its LED surface. Imagine: Visuals at a party, logos for a corporate gala, messages to patrons at a convention are just some of the possibilities!
Contact: Kevin Mignone, KM Productions, email@example.com, 516-531-3015
These are just a few ideas from this year’s Hot List. I encourage you to take these ideas and your own ideas, and find how to make your own wow. Think outside the box — what have people not seen before? How can I take a classic and put a unique spin on it? Don’t shy away from big ideas, even for small events or with small budgets. I always say, “An event doesn’t have to be large to be ‘big.’ It doesn’t have to be extravagant to be ‘rich’ and it doesn’t have to be over the top to ‘raise the roof.’ ”
Lastly, I will leave you with this: Many people ask me, “What is the next big thing? What will we be seeing a lot on next year’s Hot List?” I predict it is going to be HEAVY on technology, particularly with drones, virtual reality and augmented reality. It will allow us to see things we previously could not see before (think of doing a venue walkthrough with VR in the comfort of your office), and it’s going to take our event industry by storm in a very strange way. There are things we only could have dreamed of that are now within reach, have become very affordable, and are allowing us to take events to a different level.
For speaker inquiries for Michael Cerbelli’s: The Hot List, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. C&IT