Archive for Innovation

Autonomous Vehicles at Events

The relationship we have with our cars is the stuff of legend. In fact, Sir William Lyons, one of the founders of Jaguar Cars, said “The car is the closest thing we will ever create to something alive.”

While I can’t imagine how Sir Lyons would feel about today’s technology, I know many who are more emotionally attached to their cars than they are other humans.

Breaking that bond will be difficult.

But the opposite is true of work vehicles. You don’t often see Facebook post of friends with the folk lift they restored.

The disruption of autonomous vehicles will be felt in work vehicles before it become the norm in personal and leisure vehicles. And there are plenty of opportunities at events and convention centers.

At a recent event, there were 150 vendors whose job was to drive. A forklift, cart, truck, bus, garage collection – anything with an engine and wheels. Within the next few years, all these jobs will be gone – replaced by autonomous vehicles that can pick-up and delivery safely, effectively, and around the clock with pin-point accuracy.

For vehicles large and small, the logic of removing the weakest link (humans – who get lost, bored, sleepy, can only look in one direction, and are paid by the hour) makes the work vehicle of the future an entirely new type of tool.

For one, you don’t need a seat. The Gita is an example; a personal rolling robot that can follow you anywhere and transport your belongings. It’s easy to imagine a cart in a convention center with your stuff, or booth supplies, following you or just being pointed to your coordinates.

Or having the garbage cans come to one place for emptying when needed. Designed right, they won’t even need a human to empty them.

Or having the shipping cases for your booth motorized, driving themselves from the back of the (autonomous) truck to the exact location on the show floor. Just imagine a truck full of crates unloading Russian Doll style, with carts coming out of carts and heading off to their pre-determined destinations. Now were impacting any type of job related to moving things, not just driving.

Couple important condition for this transformation inside the venue. One, indoor GPS which, while technically doable for years, hasn’t quite caught on due to ROI is need to provide accurate directions to the army of work vehicles. And two, recharging stations for all these devices around the building.

Finally, autonomous vehicles are smarter than today’s drivers. They can process more information including types that a human driver can’t even see like accidents on the route, demand levels at a pick-up location, or how close another shuttle is to that stop with seats available. Bus assignments for routes of the future will be dynamic, not fixed like they are today.

As unimaginable as an elevator without an operator was in the 1950’s, attendees in the future will find it hard to believe so many people were needed to move and drive things and people around a show.


This post originally ran in the CEIR Blog and can be found hereThank you to Bob James for including. 

Marketing is… (a slight update)

Close to five years ago I wrote Marketing is… 

Recently I was part of a discussion on what makes a marketing department “the best”? Reminded of this piece I revisited it.

The discussion pointed out a missing factor in successful marketing – innovations. So we have gone from TRDOM to TRIDOM (Targeted, Relevant, Innovative, Differentiating, Orchestrated, and Measurable).

Many who took issue with the sound of turd-um will be pleased with this adjustment. I just think it’s a bit more reflective of modern marketing.



Marketing is…

…one half of an unfinished symphony.

Whether marketing communications, product/solution marketing, experience marketing, brand, advertising, demand generations, social media, or anything else, the balance of the melody is “sales”.

“Sales” is in quotes because this word is also incomplete when it stands on its own.

“Sales and marketing” is a “complete sentence” containing an objective and a verb (you decide which is which – it works either way). The complete story requires a need (organic and/or generated), a solution (functional and/or emotional and/or aspirational), and a method of connecting these two.

Are the Apple stores (drop a dollar in the “Apple is over used as a case study” jar) “sales” or “marketing”? Yes, they are. When you attend a tradeshow, are you being sold to or marketed to? Is the special offer via an email sales or marketing?

The classic sales continuum starts with “awareness” and journeys to “advocacy”. Each is touched by marketing and sales activities. Some of the steps have been considered more “marketing” (awareness, interest, consideration, loyalty, advocacy) and others more sales (preference, purchase). But this may not hold as true today as in the past (if it ever really did).

The distinction may best be considered as in the mind of the person being “marketed” or “sold” to. Some look to avoid the sales process, investing time researching and learning on their own, while some jump happily into the sales experience as soon as they decide (on their own or via external influence) they indeed have a need to fill.

The stereotype is that the car buying experience is to be avoided; yet many flock to the Apple store (another dollar) for training and workshops and “just looking around” that often result in the purchase of new software or accessories.

Some are more motivated by the functional differences of the product or the price; some want an account exec or sales associate to work with them through the process. They want to be “sold” to.

Others are more attracted to the story, the message, the meaning, they may be quick to advocate and/or associate themselves with the solution. (“I’m a Cadillac guy”)

So if the distinction is in the eye of the recipient, so is the definition.

At best, sales or marketing is the emotional, functional, and inspirational experience that offers solution to “my need where, when, and how I want it.”

At worst, it is an interruptive manipulation that upsets and annoys.

When are sales/marketing successful? When they are:

  • Targeted | Who are you trying to reach and with what message, call to action? What are you trying to do? This should include a targeted Audience and Objective.
  • Relevant | How are you being relevant to their needs, wants, desires. Is your Message and Medium appropriate and compelling?
  • Innovative | Are you standing out from the noise and offering sometime new and exciting?
  • Differentiating | How are you different from other solutions, alternatives?
  • Orchestrated | Are all the marketing, sales, and execution touch points aligned?
  • Measured | How do you know you are reaching your objective?

Just like music, a limited number of notes (8 in music, a few more in sales and marketing) can be combined into endless songs, both good and bad.





Industry 4.0 – Digitizing of Everything Else

In 2012 I wrote about the Digitizing of Everything. Since then, even more than I imagined has been reduced to 0 and 1, stored in the cloud or on drives, and changed the world forever.

Looking back, I realize that while I stuck a toe into the science fiction of the future as it was then (how do you refer to the future in past tense – the historic future?), the realities of just how much can and will be digitized is growing at an amazing pace.

Bill Gates and others are now raising concerns with the impact robotics and artificial intelligence will have in social, not technical, terms. This is a recognition that the realization of these technologies is now a foregone conclusion in the minds of forward thinkers, and the human impact is top of mind. Bill also sees some other technologies that we are on the verge of realizing.

Old MediaMuch of what we have digitized has been in the consumer and data worlds – music, video, text, shopping, documents, information, etc. While there are new formats that challenge the old – playing music on mobile devices rather than records; reading on screen rather than on paper; shopping online rather than in a retail store; filing a medical claim and getting paid online; completing HR process at the office – they do not destroy the old formats. Books, records, retail stores, paper medical claims all still exist and the Millennials seem to like these more tangible formats. (Everything old is new again).

Fringe concepts like face recognition for security, self-driving cars, 3D printed items, and unmanned aircraft – from the military to home delivery – are now all part of today’s world. They may not have had their Janus Moment and become the “norm”, but they are no longer the fringe.

We are however entering a period that I referenced to in the “historical future” of 2012 where computers are beginning to do new things, not just in new formats. I wrote:

In the book AFTER THOUGHT The Computer Challenge to Human Intelligence James Bailey proposes a completely new impact on humanity due to the computer’s ability to “think” differently than we do.

One example he uses to illustrate the impact of the speed of computing is weather predictions. Given the same data, humans could calculate the predictions just as machines, but in hundreds of “man-hours”. By then, the prediction would be useless.”

Today, we find Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Internet of Things, Augmented Reality, Bots, Predictive Analytics, Conversation as a Platform (where Bots talk to each other instead of humans). Quantum Computing, and more. These concepts were talked about in 2012, but today they are fully realized if not fully implemented.

The result? What the World Economic Forum refers to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

This may sound familiar as well. That’s because in 2012 the Economist wrote about the Third Industrial Revolution. Yup, the Third Industrial Revolution lasted a brief 4 years. (it was televised and is available for streaming via NetFlix.)

The Fourth Industrial Revolution connects systems and computers in ways humans can’t (fully digitally) and begins to form new processes and tools around how computers, not humans, think.

Imagine this: a sensor in a subscription oven (one where the restaurant pays based on usage rather than all up front) sends its report to an intelligent system that predicts failure within 2 weeks based on usage, model, location, and more. This triggers the calendar bot to schedule the appointment with the restaurant based on day/times it’s open and the service center’s availability. Confirmation of the appointment is sent to the chef and the oven which displays the information on its screen – if a technician is needed at all.

Instructions are sent to the 3D printer at the restaurant (crediting the monthly invoice for materials used) and the restaurant’s alarm system pairs with the bot in the service tech’s device to allow access when he arrives. Or, an interactive bot walks the restaurant owner through the process of replacing the part using a video recognizing app or augmented reality glasses.

So why should the event and conference industry care?

  • Fewer Workers means fewer attendees: The example above shows that there will be fewer service techs and training in the future. If service teams and training are your audience and content, they may be greatly reduced inside of 50 years. Add autonomous vehicles like trains, trucks, ships, tractors, taxis, buses, and more and there will be even fewer audiences for these types of events. (More on the impact of Autonomous Vehicles in a later post). At one time, every elevator in the world required an elevator operator, now almost none do. In the future, one or more drivers per vehicle or one service techs per service call will seem as strange as one operator per elevator does now.
  • New workers mean new attendees, content, and conferences: However, new skills, technologies, and industries means new events. All the technologies above will form into mature industries over the next 20 years. The concept that a chef will also do maintenance on their kitchen appliance via augmented reality glasses means new and different skills for many attendees at what do not appear to be “technology” events. Tech, IT, Robotics, and more will become more mainstream and therefore more necessary curriculum for attendees everywhere.
    Robot at Microsoft Ignite

    Robot at Microsoft Ignite

  • Changes in business process: Bots and connected systems will replace the order taking, warehouse, and quality control process by sending orders directly to robots and drones for assembly into self-driving truck, or a 3D printer on site. How does a warehouse change if there are no humans involved in the storing and gathering? How can you change the Event and Conference business as an event owner, agency, or service provider?
  • Online attendee experience will change: Richer media, attendees navigating physical space via robots and/drones (just piloted at Microsoft Ignite), sessions streamed globally by attendees, attendance fees based on content consumed not physical or online access. Skype Translator alone allows for global audiences for content consumption.
  • Interconnected data: Just as Facebook and Google profit handsomely from the broad sets of data related to their user and their preferences, event data will become more broadly used and valuable beyond the event itself. Publishers once were the channel to new audiences with mailing lists; today all sources of information have increasing value not only to marketers, but to the systems that provide the augmented reality, predictive analytics, conversations, and more.

Robot Attendees

The birth of SkyNet is coming.

While Terminator shows one fanaticized version of what self-aware machines learning and working together might be, the events industry needs to digest the realities of how the digitizing of everything will impact, well – everything.

Be assured, even if the machines do rise, they will need an annual conference for networking, planning, and training. And the Resistance will need a series of events as well!

Who will be first to introduce an event for them?



“Yes, And” – The Power to Ignite Groups and Leaders | Guest blog by Kelly Leonard from The Second City

Yes and Available Today

Rule number one in improvisation is that when you are tasked as a group to make something out of nothing, you can’t start with the word “no.” You also can’t simply say “yes.” To build something original as a team, you must begin with “Yes, And.”


Because great original work isn’t easy. In fact, it most often emanates from some discomfort. This can be a real physical discomfort that pushes us to innovate a better wine bottle opener or more comfortable mattress; or it can be a societal discomfort, how do we feed more people or how to we provide a better education for those without access to well equipped or well staffed schools.

These are all real world, tactical issues. But the fact is, most working human beings are part of teams and groups that are also tasked with some level of original thinking. New slogans, new software, new processes or new methods of employee engagement.

A “Yes, And” approach does a few things.

  • It speaks to an individual orientation of not only accepting someone else’s idea, but building on that idea – even if it might seem a bit crazy.
  • It also speaks to a group orientation, with broad participation and increased value on every contribution.
With those two orientations in place, it creates a greater abundance of ideas. With more ideas to choose from and positive reinforcement for all ideas – you can get to the best ideas more quickly and without shutting people out of the process.

In some ways, “Yes, And” makes “No” a whole lot easier.

Mind Map Team - IllustrationThe fact is, people are not practiced at working well in groups. Except for the occasional team building workshop, there is no group “warm up,” no group “practice” before we set off on our collective working day. This would seem unfathomable in sports. No team practice? You won’t win.

At Second City, we call our teams “ensembles.” And there’s a reason for this. The ensemble is an orientation, a guiding practice, a methodology that various individuals move in and out of all the time. Indeed, that means the ensemble changes – sometimes dramatically so – with each addition and subtraction. But the same “Yes, And” principles apply.

Here’s another thing about ensembles. We’ve all heard the adage that “we’re only as good as our weakest member.” We don’t buy that. We offer, instead, that “an ensemble is only as good as it’s ability to compensate for its weakest member.” In our world, the onus isn’t put back on the individual, it’s put back on the group. Because at any given time one of us will be the weakest member. And it’s at those crucial moments that great ensembles reveal themselves.

And what about leaders?

We have some thoughts on that as well. We were leading a workshop for The Spertus Institute in Chicago, covering some basic improv exercises. We began playing the game “Follow the Follower,” which is a silent game in which an individual is picked to be leader, and the rest of the group has to imitate their movements until the individual – in silence – successfully hands off leadership to another. The rest of the players need to keep keenly aware to recognize the new leader and begin following their lead.

Dr. Hal Lewis, who runs the center, pulled me aside and said, “You know you’re teaching Peter Drucker’s theories on management. This is all about a flat organizational structure.” I nodded in agreement and then went home and looked-up Peter Drucker. Hal was right.

There’s a great improv phrase, “All of us are better than one of us.” Great leaders know how to lead and how to follow. In Sydney Finkelstein’s terrific book, “SuperBosses,” he calls this kind of leadership, “hands on delegation.” Leadership operates in a dynamic that is decidedly non hierarchical in nature. Leadership is a practice, not a position. We’ve all seen amazing leaders who are nowhere near the top of the corporate food chain. Just as we have seen singularly terrible leaders who are running the show.

Our lab for understanding this work is about 60 years old. We’ve been actively beta-testing these theories in our classrooms and on our stages for decades. Just recently, we made the initiative to move from anecdote to actual. We are teaming with the Center for Decision Research (CDR) at the Booth School to test out our improvisational theories and practices with a broad swath of scientists and researchers.

I really like the language that we put in our proposal with the CDR: “This research initiative examines improvisation in a more expansive sense: as an elemental feature of human experience in an inescapably dynamic and social world…In essence, we can make it possible for people to practice being unpracticed, and thus to encounter life’s many such moments with greater courage, resilience, and success.”

Yes, And.



Editor’s note: Kelly Leonard has served in executive creative roles at The Second City in Chicago for nearly three decades. He has developed productions with such talent as Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Keegan Michael Key, Amy Poehler, Seth Meyers, Steve Carell and more.

His book, “Yes, And: Lessons from The Second City” – about the seven elements used in improvisation and how these elements can be used in business to improve creativity and collaboration – was released by Harpercollins in 2015.

Kelly has presented at The Aspen Ideas Festival, TEDxBroadway, Chicago Ideas Week and The Wharton School of Business. He currently hosts the podcast, “Getting to Yes, And” which has featured conversations with Dan Pink, Christie Hefner, Mike Birbiglia and more.

He agreed to write a guest blog for Janus Dialogs for which he has our enduring gratitude.





Seeing Around Corners – ECEF 2015 Keynote

Social norms, technology and the economy are under constant pressure.

Small but meaningful changes that have the potential to disrupt our plans are advancing every day. Like pressure on a fault line, they can release small tremors or become major earthquakes. From the decline of intermediaries to the growth in protests, the shocks will affect your event, your attendees, and your business.

How can you be ready for the inevitable and the unknown? At the Exhibit and Conference Executives Forum I shared my thoughts on a strategy I have used to help you anticipate the worst, while preparing for the best.

No Respect, No Service

The famous ad – “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” – is successful both in it catchiness and truism: in Las Vegas you can let your hair down and behave in ways you may want to forget. Given Vegas’ place as a center for conferences and trade shows, the reference is certainly not just to personal visits, but to event attendees as well.

num5_mThe events environment – not just in Las Vegas – has for some people offered an opportunity to act in ways different from how they might at their grandparent’s dinner table. At one product launch, not only did organizers need to ensure the audience didn’t “overly interact” with the band members (and vise-verse), a crew member was locked out of his room while dressed in women’s clothing, and two marriages resulted from the 4 days on site.

Mostly innocent, antics such as these were referred to as “road rules”, even before the popular MTV show of the same name.

Now a new trend is emerging that attempts to put restraints and context to the more extreme and disruptive of this behavior. With an increased awareness, and declining social acceptance, of any behavior that is harassing or disrespectful, event hosts and organizers are publishing Codes of Conduct and Anti-Harassment statements.

Not totally new – codes of conduct have been common at internal events and as reminders of employee everyday codes of conduct – these policies and statements are becoming more common at external and 3rd party programs. Also new is they are now more prominent including as posted reminders at the venue and in the show guide, not just as part of the registration and confirmation micro type.

comicon code_editAt their core, the Codes of Conduct and Anti-Harassment Statements outline the consequences (mostly being asked to stop, or being removed from the event) for engaging in unacceptable and/or harassing behavior. Many are short, sweet, and to the point appearing to have been written by legal. Others are page long documents (seemingly written by PR) in a more casual voice that address the need more directly, and contain long lists of (interesting) reasons people harass each other.

For instance, the DreamForce Code of Conduct contains over 700 words, and a list of 13 specific “unacceptable behavior”, while “Conduct” in Apple’s WWDC online details, contained a total of 77 words.

Google’s Anti-Harassment Policy starts: Why do we have an official anti-harassment policy for Google events? First, it is necessary (unfortunately). Harassment at events is incredibly common.”

And the Conference Code of Conduct includes a list containing:gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, or religion (or lack thereof).”

A discussion around the need for such policies, much less their increased prominence, quickly becomes heated and passionate. Some argue (correctly) that the vast majority of events already manage such incidents quickly, privately, and in much the way the Code of Conduct states, so what’s changed? Others ask if there is truly a need for the event to play such a “parental” role or if the parties involved should be left to manage the issue as if it occurred on the public street instead of at the event.

The conclusion, by a growing number of events, is that they do have a responsibility, and an active role, in creating and ensuring a harassment free experience at their events.




Note: Microsoft’s Code of Conduct states:

Microsoft mission is to empower every person and every business on the planet to achieve more. This includes at [EVENT] where we seek to create a respectful, friendly, and inclusive experience for all participants.

As such, we do not tolerate harassing or disrespectful behavior, messages, images, or interactions by any event participant, in any form, at any aspect of the program including business and social activities, regardless of location.

We encourage everyone to assist in creating a welcoming and safe environment. Please report any concerns, harassing behavior, suspicious or disruptive activity to the nearest security guard or show staff.

Microsoft reserves the right to refuse admittance to, or remove any person from [event name] at any time in its sole discretion.




MPI World Education Congress 2014 | Closing General Session

The Closing General Session at MPI World Education Congress 2014 featured Scott Schenker, the General Manager, Events and Production Studio at Microsoft and Founder of Janus Dialogs.

Scott believes there is magic in discovery and innovation. However the process of innovating is not magical – it comes from observing what others are doing, tapping the collective imaginations of empowered and engaged individuals, and embracing the fringe for new norms.

Developing a habit of appreciating, understanding, and being energized by these new norms – rather than fearing or dismissing them – has been one of Scott’s key to success in the Events industry.

Scott will share insights on how he approaches innovation, searches for new ideas, and “borrows” them from completely different industries to introduce them into the events he and his team organize. He will explore the four reasons for, and the four types of, innovation as well as the importance of looking at social, political, and economic realms, and the bright and shiny technical innovations.


Demystifying the Big Buzzwords In Events | BizBash LA

Posted August 4, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT by BizBash

At the Event Innovation Forum in Los Angeles, Scott Schenker examined some of the latest buzzwords the event and meeting industry is obsessed with.

These days it seems the event and meeting industry is obsessed with a constant stream of new buzzwords. But are they really as original as they seem? Do bright and shiny ideas blind us to the lessons—and the smart practices—of the past? At the Event Innovation Forum—Los Angeles on June 19, Scott Schenker, Microsoft’s general manager of worldwide events and Microsoft Production Studios, discussed concepts like selfies and gamification, exploring their origins to discover the core lessons they offer planners and marketers now—and how the industry should really look at innovation.


Maximizing Space

spaceNew ways of thinking about conference flow and design are disrupting old formulas about how to locate and lay out large events. That disruption begins with the first question, which evolves from “how much space do we need?” to “how little space could we do this in?” It’s a question that carries a surprising amount of upside for the audience experience.

Making better use of space can open a broader choice of venues in more desirable locations. It minimizes sprawling, confusing layouts and sprints between far-flung breakout sessions. Efficient space design in more compelling and convenient locations spells opportunity for event marketers. We can create higher-value experiences for target audiences, and to reach them in places they want to be. Space-constrained (but otherwise desirable) venues can more than make up for their limitations with efficiency and savings downstream.

Creative event organizers can take a page from the microhousing trends in large cities around the globe, where demand outstrips capacity and the price per square foot is skyrocketing. Microhousing often showcases ingenious architectural design with convertible spaces that result in a liveable 250-square foot apartment with many of the amenities expected in larger units.

MicrohouseIf the same dollar buys 10,000 square feet in Las Vegas, or 5,000 square feet in Seattle or New York, conventional wisdom sends many large-scale events to Las Vegas by default. This has, over time, been a recipe for wasted space. Registration areas get used once and then sit empty, or a keynote room remains dark from after opening session until the closing party.

Every live gathering encounters a set of fixed assets: money, space, and time. A lot of creativity and strategic thinking goes into how monies are allocated across an event, to get the biggest return on dollars invested. Time is also carefully spent: a tremendous amount of attention goes into building an agenda that will be attractive and relevant to attendees. But room configurations and function spaces tend to play out along the same old inefficient patterns. New ideas often run into legacy, resistance, and budget challenges right out the gate.

Space maximization is an objective that needs to be established at the outset of the event plan, and everyone—technical directors, set designers, producers, logistics team, etc.—must be committed to designing a versatile, multi-purpose space.

A classic example of reusable (and often wasted) space is the keynote hall. With proper planning in advance for rigging and a/v design, it’s feasible to turn the hall, immediately after a keynote, into three or four large breakout rooms. Another example is the lunch area, often a large, generic banquet room. An alternative is to create ad hoc gathering spots throughout the venue to allow more flexible, configurable dining areas.

Registration is another chronically underutilized area, after the critical mass has moved through badge pickup.

Partner showcases often end up being dead zones at certain times outside a welcome reception or the lunch hour. These can be turned into higher-value centers of interest and activity by locating social and online media broadcast studios or a series of satellite stages in the space. With proper acoustical considerations and screen placement, content can be piped onto the showcase floor, and generated there, to encourage traffic and discovery. At the most recent Microsoft Build conference, the expo was located throughout the venue in high-volume hallways, eliminating the need for a dedicated space and ensuring good exposure throughout the event.

SN smaller

A high-impact example of bringing interest to the exhibitor floor helped SAP event organizers address space challenges for the growing SAPPHIRE NOW conference. They combined the keynote and exhibit spaces, eliminating the conventional keynote hall altogether. They created a theater space open to the show floor with seating for six thousand and an 80-foot stage. Not only did they recapture most of the square footage normally consumed by a keynote hall; they also created a more inclusive environment for partners and exhibitors. And the conference was able to accommodate meaningful growth without changing venues.

Reinventing the approach to venue layout—room configurations, keynote capacity, and functional areas (registration, meals)—can open new options for event organizers and audiences. A smarter approach to space utilization saves time, dollars and shoe leather, and is another way to build value into the conference experience overall.


Note: This topic is a derivative of a recent Trends and Innovations article released by Microsoft’s Marketing Events and Production Studios.

Presentation at CEMA Summit 2013 | “Be a Fool – Innovate”

In July of 2013 I had the honor to present “Be a Fool – Innovate” at the CEMA Summit 2013. That presentation is below.



Be a Fool – Innovate


It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.

Niccolò Machiavelli

Everything changes and nothing remains still… you cannot step twice into the same stream.



These two perspectives on change paint a very accurate picture of the challenges faced daily by experience marketers and event producers. Change is difficult, and yet it is constant.

We see it all the time in the simplest of things. The final version of a deck, an idea, or a business plan is released after weeks of work, only to be revised the next day. This is not the result of the plan being incomplete or the developer incompetent, but of the constant state of change we live in.

For annual events and repeating experiences, the constant state of change is a challenging force on both maintaining legacy expectations and determining when to introduce new concepts and experiences.

For instance, “bright shiny objects” come and go. They either incorporate themselves into the “norm” of events, or burn out and fade away. Sustainability, for example, has become a normal and included part of most programs. Audience Response Systems (once the technology that would change the world) not so much.

Surviving or not, rarely is an emerging trend so unique that over time it continues to require the same separation and specialty that it enjoyed in its early days.

Currently “virtual” events and social media are such items – connecting to, but not fully integrating with, the in-person experience and living for the moment of the event rather than always on in full support of the core objectives.

Often target audiences are audiences all the time while they are attendees for only a short time. They visit the company web site regularly, so why have a separate site just for the event? They come to your primary social media channels, so why additional channels to monitor just for the event?

The degree to which measurement is effected by change is in direct correlation to the amount of time that has passed. This is one reason comparing results of a program to the prior year is far less accurate than comparing them to a pre-event base line. It is hard (at best) to isolate the impact of other influences and changes on the audience over the past year. It is much easier to understand the impact over the few days of the experience.


It is change, continuing change, inevitable change that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is but the world as it will be. This, in turn, means that our statesmen, our business people, our every man must take on a science fictional way of thinking.

Isaac Asimov


So the weight of planning should be more firmly on the front foot than the back. History and legacy, while important and at times more comfortable, can set boundaries and barriers that at best prevent full response to a current reality, and at worst anchor the experience in the past.

No, this is not easy.

There is a delicate balance and finesse required to introduce new ideas while maintaining and learning from history.

Placing priority on

  • clear objectives rather than lessons learned,
  • experience design rather than improving tactics,
  • the audience’s needs rather than the hosts,

will all point in the right direction.

By placing the objective, experience, and audience first, the question moves from “what to do” to “how to get it done”. Answer the question “what relevant problem am I solving?” This is where the magic occurs and obstacles become opportunities.This is the job of the experience “janitor” or event caretaker.


Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably will not themselves be realized.

Daniel Burnham


In May of 1893 – a short 22 years after the great Chicago fire destroyed much of the city, the Chicago World’s Fair opened and ran for 6 months. It was anything but a small plan.

CWFAmong its amazing accomplishments was its 25 million visitors, at a time when the population of the US was only 100 million. Mr. Burnham had envisioned a city of all white buildings lit with – at the time – an uncommon sight, outdoor lighting.

To complete in time what was to become known as the White City, he needed to remove the obstacle that painting the roughly 100 buildings presented. The traditional method of brushes and buckets weren’t fast enough, so rather than change the experience and the design, he challenged his crews to develop something new.

And they did. The result was spray painting. This new technology directly allowed the vision to be realized and changed the world at the same time.


82 years later survival drove another world changing innovation.

kissThe rock band KISS, whose live performances drew thousands of avid fans, was unable to replicate their magic in the studio. Yet albums were needed to reach more fans. They just weren’t as exciting in the studio as on stage.

So on May 16, 1975 12,000 fans gathered at Cobo Hall in Detroit to see KISS in concert. The performance was recorded live for an album called “Alive!”

At that time, live recordings were considered an “illegitimate” method of producing an album and usually only done to fulfill record contracts. “Alive!” went on to sell 9,000,000 copies making it KISS’s number one album of all times, and rocketing the band to worldwide fame and fortune.

To many, the album’s ability to capture the concert and live performance experience, as well as the music and words, was what made it so magical.


The best way to predict your future is to create it!

Abraham Lincoln

The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

Alan Kay


Even when the solution appears as obvious as spray painting was for Daniel Burnham, or a live album was for KISS, it can still be hard to introduce something new, much less get it accepted.

New technologies are a bit easier, as they tend to bring their own “magic” with them. The first moving pictures show and the first Ferris Wheel both débuted at the Chicago World’s Fair and were the bright shiny objects of their time, quickly drawing audiences and interest.

It’s important to remember that in both cases there was an objective, experience, or audience at the core of the innovation.

muybridgehorseThe first moving pictures taken by Eadweard Muybridge in 1872 were to resolve a popular debate of the day – Leland Stanford (governor of CA and founder of Stanford University) wanted to determine whether all four feet of a horse were ever off the ground at the same time while trotting. Muybridge’s moving images proved they were.

ferrisGeorge Ferris built the original Ferris Wheel, as the centerpiece of the Chicago World’s Fair to rival the experience and attraction of the 1889 Paris Exposition’s Eiffel Tower; the Ferris Wheel was the Fair’s largest attraction and lives to this day.


New ideas are much harder to introduce.

Machiavelli goes on to say:


Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new.

Niccolò Machiavelli


The vested interests of “those who have done well under the old conditions” will run deep and strong. They can appear overwhelming and impossible and will take familiar forms.


The first is the Laws of Science. The “it can’t be done.”

This may appear related more to technology than ideas, but it is really an attempt to reject an idea using an often unfounded scientific argument. Yet when coming from the mouth of authority, it can be difficult to challenge.

Thomas Huxley, known as “Darwin’s Bulldog” for his advocacy of Charles Darwin’theory of evolution, and the person to coin the term agnostic, said “Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority.”

Ask Darwin, da Vinci, Galileo, Kiss, and others who brought new ideas to bear. Even Machiavelli’s book The Prince was banned by the Catholic Church and placed on the list of prohibited books.


The second way “those who have done well under the old conditions” will resist is the Laws of Legacy. The “it has never been done before.” This is often the most dangerous law, as legacy is the greatest weight on innovation.

As deciding not to decide is a decision, given that the world is constantly changing, legacy equates to “going backwards” while standing still.

John Locke said, “New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common.”


The final way “those who have done well under the old conditions” will resist is the Laws of Society. The “it isn’t allowed.” These often appear as an attempt to stop an idea when other barriers have failed. They can be “laws”, or mandates, policies, etc.

For example, recently The New York State Automobile Dealers Association pressed for the New York legislature to pass a law preventing the sale of automobiles directly from the manufacture. All cars would have to be sold via a dealership.

As Tesla is the only direct to consumer car company of significance at this time, this was labelled the “Anti-Tesla” Bill. This was really less about Tesla and the idea of electric cars, and more about the idea of direct sales. The bill failed and Tesla continues to move forward with this new and disruptive idea.

Resistance will not always come easy to recognize, or in this order. Nor is answering each a requirement to innovation.


Nothing will ever be attempted if all possible objections must be first overcome.

Samuel Johnson



What was true for Daniel Burnham in 1893 and KISS in 1975 is still true today – the best innovations meet a need.

Their value comes not from itself, but from the objectives it serves, experiences it improves, resolves, or addresses and the audience needs it fulfills.

These were not solutions looking for a challenge (pushing a string), they were solutions to specific challenges (pulling a string).

They are easier to accept because they were not mandated and they served to inspire others.

A detailed planning review (Audience, Objectives, Message, Environment, Media, Measurement), and an effective marketing/communications plan (TRDOM) should enjoy the respect of being applied to each experience no matter how often we hear “we know our audience”, “we have always done that”, or “we don’t have the time.”


What challenges does your experience marketing face?

  • Budget predictability: consider trigger budgets and capacity events
  • Attracting audiences: again, consider capacity events, custom pricing packages, and online content
  • Proving business value: conduct pre and post event surveys focused on objectives and change and develop closer links to core business online assets including web sites and social channels
  • Measuring business impact: implement on site, actionable diagnostics instead of relying on post survey questions.


The vast majority of human beings dislike and even dread all notions with which they are not familiar. Hence it comes about that at their first appearance innovators have always been derided as fools and madmen.

Aldous Huxley – Author Brave New World