Welcome to part 2 of my interview with Paige Mullis of Glen Raven. if you missed part 1, you can find it here. .
Just to recap, 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.
Heather: Let’s talk about collaboration and integration. What advice do you have about involving others in the event planning process - identifying the right stakeholders and getting their buy-in?
Paige: As the leader of any group, it is up to you to get the other team members, whether they report to you or not, to see and understand your vision. It helps to paint a visual of what that looks like. Explain why you are passionate about your vision and why it’s important to move it forward. Remember that other people are focused on other things, so we can’t presume they know or understand what we are talking about.
We are big on creating visual concepts to bring those visions to life, including story boards, style boards, CAD renderings, quick sketches, etc.
It’s also important to create engagement, by asking others for their ideas, and making them feel like they are a valued part of that conversation.
Heather: What about the executive team specifically? How did you get buy-in and support from them to create the Innovation Summit? And what advice do you have for event planners?
Paige: When it comes to my group, I like to think of us a startup and our executive team as our investors. I need to understand what is important to each one of them so I can tie my goals and strategy into that. Ultimately, I want them to invest in my business.
You also have to speak their language. For example, if I am going to talk about investing in a new webcasting tool, I don’t just talk about how awesome it will be. I need to talk about how it will add value to Glen Raven through customer interaction, loyalty, etc.
Heather: You have come up with a lot of creative ideas, and have taken risks with the Innovation Summit, such as unusual venues including a construction site and jet hangar. How would you encourage our customers to think more creatively and to take more risks?
Paige: First, you need to have people on your team who just know how to get stuff done or are willing to figure it out. That is a big part of any successful project.
But you also have to set expectations. For example, I once had to explain that we were going to have this event in a jet hanger, but that we had never done anything like this before. I had to convince them it was going to be really awesome, but explain that it was not going to be like walking into a conference room.
I also approach things by affirming that innovation is about trying something new and involves risk taking. “We are going to try this, but we are not married to it and can always change direction next time if we don’t like it but we will never know if we don’t give it a try.
In my opinion, innovation is all about taking risks. You will never grow if you are not willing to step outside your comfort zone. I know our organization, and I think any organization wants to feel like they are a leader. People who set the trends have to be willing to step outside the norm, and be willing to take risks.
Heather: Let’s talk about setting goals and measuring success of events. What advice would you have on that front?
Paige: When it comes to goal setting, I recommend always pushing it to the limits – i.e. make it the biggest and best it could possibly be in your proposal. You can always rein it back in. But if you start with mediocre – they will think you are mediocre. I am also a fan of laying out Good, Better, Best scenarios so they have options to consider.
As for measurement, it’s important to realize and set expectations around the fact that not all things we do can be measured. With the Innovation Summit, we measure things like RSVP’s, website visits, playback views where we share recordings of the presentations and other highlights from the event, and also send out an event survey.
It’s also helpful to look at where we started, where we are today, and the changes we have made.
We also know there are a lot of great aspects that can’t really be measured, but are still contributing to Glen Raven’s value. We are sure to educate the executive team on that, and to set expectations around intangible or soft values such as the wow factor, loyalty, credibility, continued business, etc.
Heather: Let’s talk about what our readers can do post-event to help them be more strategic going forward.
Paige: We are big fans of post-event surveys. We actually do two different types – online (via Typeform) and old school hard copies in the room.
As I mentioned earlier, we also build a website around the event. Our targets for this event include C-level executives, principals and owners. After we close the live event, we give them a cliff notes version of the event content, with key takeaways to help them elevate the innovation conversation back at their own organization.
Heather: Paige, thank you so much for taking the time to share such great insights and advice with our readers.
I hope after reading this, that 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.