Event consultants and niche party gurus are moving mountains in terms of presentations and expectations, sending past trends downstream in excitement for catching what’s flowing upstream. Entertainment is live and engaging, food stations are becoming even more interactive, and technology is a primary player for almost every nuance of a production.
How is the industry being transformed and who are these movers and shakers? Let's take a look.
Technology is at the forefront of today’s everything. With constant check-ins on Facebook, Instagram, email and news, it’s hard to escape the screen. From the moment clients arrive at Denver International Airport, Kevin Hedican, brand ambassador for Hermes Worldwide Chauffeured Services, and his team know that people need to plug in.
“Our clients want to book through the internet or a mobile app and track where their en-route vehicle is … [in] real time, and they want to have Wi-Fi service at all times, making this seamless for their groups,” says Hedican.
Hermes Worldwide took customer needs to the shop and installed enhanced Wi-Fi on all of its larger vehicles and coaches and made USB ports available for every seat so any individual can immediately power up. “We make sure that they can get their personal device to speed, and just like all the ride-share companies, we do it in our sedans as well.”
THE NEW LODGING EXPERIENCE
Once groups are transported to their destination, it’s time to unpack and refresh. And, nothing screams modern Colorado more than multipurpose hotels such as The Crawford Hotel in Denver Union Station, The Maven Hotel at Dairy Block or The Source Hotel + Market Hall. Each of these downtown Denver hotels is located in a building housing eateries, bars, coffee shops, retail space, and public and event spaces.
When Alterra Mountain Company held a company PR summit, they brought in public relations representatives from each of the company’s 12 locations. Kristin Rust, Alterra’s director of public relations, booked her group at The Maven. “I wanted to showcase Denver, be close to our new office space, and let my guests mingle in the burgeoning area,” she says.
Rust also held one-on-one meetings with clients at Huckleberry Roasters at Dairy Block, which made it uber-convenient for both her clients and visitors. “It’s a win-win; you’re meeting, but also showcasing some of the coolest and latest offerings from Denver.”
Visit California had to go over-the-top to impress a locals-only group of journalists during IPW, a five-day, 6,000-person conference held downtown in May 2018 (see page 20). The tourism office organized a luncheon for 25 journalists highlighting everything from California but served in Colorado. Event organizers worked with famed Colorado-based, but California-born, chef Jennifer Jasinski to prepare the perfect pairings from their coastal wine regions for a five-course presentation intended to inspire Denver media to explore all that California has to offer.
Stoic & Genuine, a known seafood spot, was an obvious choice for its Golden State ties, and some California destination representatives stayed at The Crawford Hotel in Union Station making it easy to refresh between meetings.
LIVE, ENGAGING & ENTERTAINING
Fresh and interactive experiences are changing the standard. Where once people were placed in front of the entertainment to observe, people are now part of the entertainment. “Clients are going back to more live music,” notes Terri Fisher, president of 5 Star Talent and Entertainment, Inc.
“We are seeing more clubs open and more venues booking live music, which makes for an exciting time to be in the entertainment industry. Clients are always asking for new types of entertainment; sometimes it’s a challenge,” explains Fisher, noting that the Denver market needs to have more bands and unique talent. “However, look for more choreographed bands, cultural acts and electric violin groups (classical music with an edge), a trend already popularized on both coasts.”
Carol Porter, CMP, owner/event planner of Denver-based Aero Events, is buzzing about technology and entertainment. “One of the hottest requests is a virtual experience. From putting on a headset and touring a company’s headquarters to a 3D experience of a new backpack design, this was certainly not available in the past and is very new age and popular.”
Audio-visual companies are changing it up as well to match the desires of millennials—everything has to be a video. Josh Moen, project manager for Fastlane Productions in Denver, confirms there are more and more video requests. “We are booking tons of events with webcasting, livestreaming and pushing directly to the web for download. It’s becoming essential for so many events.”
The Colorado Society of CPAs has the very same request for livestreaming as did Fastlane Productions. “We are planning to link a speaker from another conference to our conference via livestreaming. This will give us the opportunity to offer a great speaker with very limited availability to our members and help our members become associated with other associations,” says Tiffany Carson, CPE, operations manager for Colorado Society of CPAs and president of Meeting Professionals International Rocky Mountain Chapter.
Moen also thinks the tide is changing in regard to lighting. “The enhancement of lighting packages is far outweighing the price. If someone would give us $10,000 for a budget, we might take $8,000 of that for lighting to optimize glamour, looks, etc.” Maybe it’s to capture that Instagramable moment?
Bryanne Busato, manager of sales and special events for Max/Livie, helps clients maximize their space with furniture and vignettes with rentals and customization of spaces. “We create the setting and set the mood for an event including throws, sofas, chandeliers, etc. Everyone is looking for the Coloradolook with their own twist: inspired by natural, organic elements, earthy surfaces and mixed metals.”
She adds, “Included in this quintessential Colorado look are layers of leather and even branded-items, which were once controversial and shunned away from and now are much more acceptable.”
Mother Nature is on trend, but shaking it up means placing a laptop table in a staged vignette or lounge so that everyone can power up and check in. “We can set up a technology stations on communal tables and in lounges; clients love the comfortable yet functional options we can create for them.”
While there are certainly standards that continue to be followed in the meetings and events industry, technology is popping up everywhere and is being juxtaposed with what is Colorado classic. Plus, there are new and exciting approaches to lodging, entertainment, A/V and décor that are sure to keep attendees coming back for more and wondering, “What’s next?”
New Norms: Additional Insights in the Areas of Schwag, Mindfulness and Catering
Promotional Items: Subtly is now reality, emphasizes Kris Wittenberg, owner of SayNoMore! Promotions based in Eagle. “We’ve created everything from kickboards with menus on the back for a Ritz-Carlton pool launch to Yeti coolers and mugs for golf tournaments to custom-embroidered backpacks on brands such as Patagonia, Marmot and so much more.”
Dollars are now being invested in “schwag” that will be used and promote the client extensively throughout the product’s life. “New things that are being ordered are personalized insulated mobile tech, journals and packable totes.” Wittenberg also suggests companies look at boxed wine carriers for picnics and outdoor venues and that ski straps (Velcro wrap that keeps ski tips together) with company logos and belts that employees can cut-to-size are part of the new normal.
Me Time: Mindfulness and taking personal time was never on past agendas. Look for it to be scheduled into daily activities in 2018 and beyond. “Mediation rooms, a time-out space next to a conference and anywhere that allows participants 10 minutes to decompress and process are becoming popular,” remarks Carol Porter of Aero Events. Gone are the days where practicing anti-anxiety breathing strategies and yoga postures happened in private as these activities are being brought to the forefront to help event attendees feel at peace and encourage healthy living.
Social Media-Inspired: David Rubin, president of A Spice of Life Catering + Events in Boulder, believes nothing has rocked the boat more than technology, which allows his team the ability to prepare and present food techniques that weren’t historically available. Also, social media outlets such as Pinterest, Etsy and Craftsy now provide thousands of images and ideas and have expanded requests by clients.
A bacon bar with different flavors and smokes of bacon and a do-ityourself apple cider bar are a few examples and “out with the doughnut wall and in with the pretzel wall with assorted cheese dips,” says Rubin. “Don’t forget to add calligraphy to everything. People love this element and the old style is certainly a big splash right now. It’s easy to produce and print with some great websites that can deliver in 24 hours or less.”