Welcome to the first post in our new Next Level blog series, dedicated to sharing even more great insights, advice and experiences from a wide variety of experts to help you grow and succeed.
As I mentioned in my earlier post, when I think of elevating corporate events to the next level, Paige Mullis immediately comes to mind. Paige and I worked together at Glen Raven, where I spent nearly a decade managing trade shows and events. She leads Glen Raven’s Innovation and Advanced Projects and is the brainchild behind the company’s amazing Innovation Summit.
I thought an interview with Paige would be the perfect way to kick off our Next Level blog series, as we share insights and advice from leading industry experts, to help you elevate your events to the Next Level. This is part one of a two-part interview. Be sure to look for part two soon.
Heather: Paige, please tell our readers more about Glen Raven and your role there.
Paige: Glen Raven is a 104-year old textiles company, once best known for the invention of panty hose in the 1950s. Obviously, things have changed. Today, we want to be recognized as the leading provider of innovative fabric-based, market-driven solutions (like our flagship brand Sunbrella). With that in mind, we are always on the lookout for new opportunities for growth. That is where our team comes in.
We are responsible for leading and developing innovation initiatives in pursuit of growth and development for Glen Raven globally. At its core, my team is responsible for developing a creative culture within Glen Raven. We are also charged with looking outside our core markets for innovative new products, technologies and trends that could impact our business in some way.
Heather: Please tell us about the vision behind Innovation Summit.
Paige: We launched Innovation Summit in 2012, as an offshoot of the research our group was already doing around innovation. We created the summit as a way to share that knowledge with not only our team members, but with our customers – to inspire innovation and position Glen Raven as innovative.
It gave us a great reason to reach out to other innovators from outside our industry, to learn more about what they were doing and ask them if they would be willing to share their innovation story with our customers.
It also created opportunities for our leadership to intimately connect with customers they may not see on a regular basis. We intentionally designed this as a boutique event and try to limit attendance to 75-115 people. This gives customers opportunities to not only connect with our company leaders, but also provides a chance to visit with our speakers during cocktail and social portions of the summit.
We have hosted six summits so far, have moved to doing them every other year and are currently in the planning process for 2020.
Heather: I have been fortunate enough to attend several of the summits and see firsthand the exciting innovations you have showcased. What are a couple of your favorites?
Paige: At the last event, we featured Local Motors, creators of 3D printed autonomous vehicles powered by IBM Watson. We even had one of their vehicles shipped here for the event. We always try to tie the speakers or subject matter back to our customers, so we talked about how this technology might be used for the printing of replacement parts and conceptualizing shade concepts, modeling or rapid prototyping in the furniture industry, boating industry, etc.
We also featured a member of our own team who has a PhD in Materials Science from MIT. She demonstrated a wearable sensor technology she had invented. The sensor provides real-time neuromuscular feedback, intended to help trainers and physical therapists make micro-adjustments and small corrections in movement of athletes, dancers and others. We had a New York City Ballet dancer wear the sensors during a ballet performance to track her movement, and we tied it back to how our customers can improve operational safety in their business.
We have even featured a world-renowned origami artist, who had designed collapsible cups for NASA, and talked about how large surfaces can be folded down to minimize size and space. A car’s airbag is a great example of this. It’s folded to fit in a small compartment then expands exponentially on impact.
Heather: I know from personal experience that it can be hard to step away from the day-to-day details of event planning long enough to be more innovative, creative and strategic. Our customers have shared that they struggle with that as well. What advice do you have to offer?
Paige: It does take time, but I think it is important to take that time to look outside your company and even your industry for new opportunities and inspiration. We have found that going to conferences, especially innovation-themed conferences such as CES, Fast Company Innovation Festival, Google Start Up Grind, Google’s Sprint Conference, etc. helps us learn more about that topic and find new ideas. It can also be a great way to find potential speakers. Vendor-sponsored events, online events like Google’s I/O conference and even TED talks can also provide inspiration.
Heather: While our customers thrive in their roles because of their “people pleasing” and “get it done” personalities, they also acknowledge that those traits can be a hindrance at times. Do you have any advice that might help them set boundaries and expectations, or step into more of a leadership role?
Paige: I believe you are actually doing yourself and your customers a disservice if you focus on just being service oriented. You have to be a leader in order to truly be of service to your customers.
Whether it’s event planning or any other role, as a leader you need to be knowledgeable about what you are expected to do, and what you are capable of doing. Your team is counting on you to say no if that is the right answer. Remember that the person making that request also expects quality. Know your limitations and set realistic expectations. You never want to overpromise and under deliver.
Look for part two of my interview with Paige coming soon to hear her thoughts on collaboration and integration, measuring success and more.
I hope after reading this interview and future Next Level blog posts, you feel inspired and empowered to be more innovative, creative and strategic. WorkTrip was created to lessen the pains associated with planning, executing and traveling to tradeshows, meetings and events; and very importantly, to free you up to focus on what really matters. Let us know what else we can do to help.