Ember's Blog: A Guide to Gathering

Yes. We like to write.

We never give away our secret sauce, but we love sharing our experiences with others. Here's a look into the world of Ember: What we do, why we do and the stories behind it. 

 
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Meet Less

Our fearless leader, Chris, gives some advice that you wouldn't think would come from an owner of a meeting and event company: Meet less. 

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The Difference Between a Vendor and a Partner

Do you know the difference? Kathy, our owner and gathering VP, explains how one can really help. 

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Here's a Secret...

Want to know a secret? Meghan Thompson, our design director, has one to tell.

Meet Less

By: Chris Gasbarro

Did the owner of a meeting & event business just encourage you to have less meetings?

Yes, I did.  

In social conversations, about the fourth question in after sharing my name, where I live, what I do for living...is "How's business?" I have a very simple, well-rehearsed answer, "Good or bad economy, people always meet, and in fact, when thing's aren't great, organizations meet more".

That's just not small talk. Having experienced a couple downturns in 2001 and 2008, when the economy was sluggish, organization's and leaders gathered more frequently to communicate the "Everythingis going to be all right" mantra. Don't get me wrong: I support cascading communication and transparency. However, I advise most leaders to be consistent in their meeting portfolio, have a "long road" view of their strategy of communicating to employee's and customers, and check the brakes on short-term zags for the sake of getting people together.

So here's the part of the story that our procurement colleagues and CFO's love - meeting less can result in reducing costs, time, resources and planning - all of which is awesome.  Another significant outcome (and I would position as more impactful for organizations) is that when you review your portfolio of meetings and pull back on 1 or 2 - when you do gather , it can be much more powerful.  There's some great parallel's in the economics of supply vs. demand that can be applied to company meetings, customer events, and product launches.  I would offer a "curate" approach that intentionally crafts the limited gatherings to achieve the goals and outcomes your organization prioritizes - from employee retention to sales goals, thoughtful and well planned meetings work in good and bad economic conditions.

So, go ahead, trying meeting less........just make sure you collaborate with us, first. 
 

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The Difference Between a Vendor and a Partner

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By: Kathy Del Medico

When I was a teenager, I asked my Dad if I could go to an event with a bunch of my high school friends.  His response without hesitation was, “Sure, have fun!” The next day I asked him why he was so quick to let me go and not ask any questions.  He simply said, “You’ve always surrounded yourself with good people.  People who share the same values, respect you and look out for each other.  Why wouldn’t I let you go.”

I have carried that sentiment with me throughout my life - my business partner, my friends, my employees and especially the partners who support us in making every event a success.  It’s not always easy, when your events span the globe, to find those vendors who are willing to truly be your partner.  It takes time to build that trust and master the communication required to truly build a relationship.  Without the relationship, your vendors are just order takers.  You call them, they do what you tell them, spit out a quote, and you’re off to the finish line.  With a true partnership, your vendors evolve into another one of your team members and an extension of your brand.    You want your partners to listen up front to the needs of both yourself and the client, then collaborate with you sparking ideas and creating the best path to fulfill the objectives in a super cool way. 

Let's back up a bit - this doesn’t happen immediately. It takes time, but with the right steps in place, you can foster a truly impactful relationship. 

First, start with referrals - take the time to reach out to your local event industry chapters, your colleagues in the event location and even your venue.  Talk to them about what you are looking for and see if they have any recommendations. 

Next, call the new vendor and evaluate response – method of communication, response time, their knowledge of their inventory, the venue and the city in which you are entering.  If satisfied, start to talk about your event specifically and what your needs are – always follow up with an email to state what you agreed upon in the conversation and manage expectations. 

Then, when a proposal comes in, get some face time and set up a call or virtual meeting for them to review and explain it.  Too much these days is communicated through short bursts of information and never a full thorough conversation.  These touch bases will also help you build a relationship and dive deeper into how each other works.  You also get to know their level of pride in their work. 

Finally, when the time comes (and it will, I promise) have the courageous conversations that require you both to be vulnerable.  Most of all, respect each other and the hard work that everyone does.  Not only will you have a successful event, you may make a few lifetime friends along the way.

 
 
 
 

Here's a Secret...

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By: Meghan Thompson

The design process is more important than the outcome. Why? Because all of the work lies in the process; if done correctly the outcome is better, the audience feels more connected to the design, the client feels invested, and the results have room for growth in the future. As a designer I can tell you remaining process-oriented in the fast paced event world can be the most challenging thing about the job, but it’s essential. It can be easier to jump to the end and what the most obvious and simple outcome might be. Maybe this is based on past experiences or the information you have but you’re usually forcing old solutions into new challenges. That approach is often pieced together and not holistic.

So, imagine for me the perfect process of creating an event:

  • It would start with an initial meeting in which we, the creative agency, receive a download of information from the client, ask probing questions to better understand the design challenge together before seeking solutions.
  • Then the real work begins…the designers would investigate multiple solutions to the design challenge with the goal of solving several aspects at once in a grand puzzle. We don’t usually share all of this investigation, and believe me, it would be boring to view the 20 versions that failed. The exercise is in allowing yourself to fail, getting the easy solutions out of the way to allow for the better ideas to surface!
  • After presenting initial ideas to the client the design challenge often evolves with updates. The key is allowing the team to ask “What If…” in order to let the project be fluid and evolve. If the design challenge itself changes, you have to be able to change course and not stick to old decisions because they’ve already been made.

In the end, the process would allow for evolution and client input so the entire team feels involved and invested in the design. The outcome would be a design that addresses every aspect of the design challenge seamlessly and the on-site experience would be unique for attendees. The best part is the process has uncovered room for growth in the future! You have several iterations, detailed attendee insights and ideas that may give your next event a head start.