Staging The Event

(Opening credits and titles crawl here)

Have you ever been to an event, special session or even a conference that had great hype yet failed to come through? Sure you have,we all have. The question to be asked is why do they lose their impact?

The initial answer is the planning. The whole of the event is not considered only the main activity. All the emphasis is focused on the activities during and some focused on the pre-show, yet not much about the post-event. Failure to understand that an event, be it a conference, a single special event or even a meeting is a collection of three main phases. The “Before”, “During” and “After”. There is also the transitional space/time between these main phases.

Start with “Before”. In Dana Wrights book and on her site “Start A Meeting Like This” she identifies key aspects of the attendees experience beginning well before the arrive to the event. Marketing departs understand this concept very clearly since an event would never attended if not for the pre-show marketing, teasers, information and special campaigns. “Before” is everything leading up to stepping into the event space.

Stop, don’t go in there yet, you almost missed a great moment!

Before you step inside, be aware that you are in a unique place and time. As you might hear a Rod Serling voice-over say, “You have just entered the Liminal Zone”. The liminal zone can be much like the Twilight Zone, because it is the space in-between here and there and now and then. It is the space and time between “Before” and “During”. It is this environment that can make or break the energy you have created during the “Before” efforts.

The term liminal is a latin term that means “threshold.” It is the space/time between. This is a critical element that most providers sometimes ignore or may not acknowledge. This is the environment of transition which is critical to offer attendees a method to move from the world outside into the world of your event or experience. Providers should avoid having guests/visitors take the plunge into your event cold. This may cause untold shock, confusion, anxiety or even hesitation. Make their transition smooth and meaningful. Transport them through the Liminal Zone carefully.

imageOkay, now your guests have may the transition into your experience. Everything is going well and the guests are all happy and excited with your experience. They have interacted, shared and acquired trinkets for their scrapbooks and work shelves. Your job is done, congratulate yourself. Not quite.

Just as the liminal zone is critical to the immersion into your experience, so too is it to the exiting of your experience. If you want to keep that excitement going and have your guest become ambassadors of your experience, you need to gentle bring them back to the real world. Using the liminal zone to transition your guest back out is key to reinforcing a positive memory of the experience and helping to create ambassadors.

To put this into perspective, take a look at Disney’s Parks. The excitement builds as you approach the park. All the visual and audio signals are there to communicate you’re about to experience something different and wonderful. Lucky for you as the guest to this magical world, Disney does not just throw you into the park after taking your money. Where’s the magic in that. No, Disney creates portals or transition or liminal zones to bring you into this magical world of Disney. Passing through the gates, your view of the park expands wide, you hear the music, smell the foods and walk into the experience.

This is not the only liminal zone used, each micro experience such as the shows, shops, rides and even the interaction of the icons is introduced via transitional space/time portals via visual cues, audio and even physical framing. The experience shifts to a more personal experience. The same idea of the liminal zone that brought you in closer also is utilized to allow you to re-emerge back into the park and then again back into the real world.

These liminal zones help set up when and where the experience begins, lives and ends as well help in the transition of the experience into memory. By having a well planned and initiated transition, both in and out of the experience no matter what the experience maybe, is critical to establishing minimal transition shock that could generate negative feelings and undo some of the experience. So when you create and plan your next event or experience make sure you identify and use each of those liminal zones to your advantage to create a positive memory and ambassadors of the experience.

(Roll end credits here…) (Exiting Liminal Zone)

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Seeking Outside Help

Imagine yourself sitting in a small meeting. Everyone appears to be engaged and responsive to the subject. Enough coffee has flowed that the group is awake and alert. Then that point in the meeting happens. Issues are raised about problems and obstacles facing the team, departments or the company. Suddenly the conversation shifts to group insights and inspiration.

The auto reply kicks in from the team. Old ideas with new names are thrown out onto the proverbial strategy table. Buzzwords fly like swarms of pesky bugs on a Summer’s evening. Unfortunately, there is no great solution generated, why? What is so challenging for such intelligent business folks that a single strong solution can not be developed or worse yet, acted upon?

Let me try to sum up the condition at hand. I heard this quote once upon a time and it has stuck with me throughout all my conversations with teams, no matter the organization, business or stage of development.


“You can’t read the label from inside the jar.” Old southern saying.

This is the simple fact. You’re too close to the problem or you are the problem and the only way to see a clear path is to bring in someone from the outside who can see your situation for what it is and what it could be. Utilize others who do not have any equity in the situation to help guide you through the forest of familiarity. Hire a guide to ask the questions you don’t know to ask yourself or are afraid to ask. Seek outside help to better see inside.

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Midwest Businesses and GraphicRecording

In the past few months I have seen a dramatic rise in the request in information for graphic recording and visual translations. Is it because of some super clever marketing campaign or some incredibly smart social media gorilla stunt that has gone viral?  Not really. The increase appears to be sourced through the an increase in activities of both sketchnoters and graphic recorders pushing their work into main stream culture through social media channels and gaining local and national press.

Take a look at this news piece on CBS News about Sunni Brown and the business of doodling or this article in a local Business Journal which introduces the idea of graphic recording as a tool to improve daily work and general thinking. (Yes, it’s about me and graphic recording. A selfish plug, but then again, you’re already here.)

Yes, graphic recording is on the rise. Be it personal sketchnotes posted on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, or more graphic recorders sharing on LinkedIn and Twitter, the business world is taking notice and responding accordingly by Following, Liking, Pinning and Adding to professional networks. Graphic recording is becoming a business acceptable practice.

Even for myself, my various applications have become a point of conversation with prospects and clients within the financial community, healthcare and business consultants. Corporate strategic planning sessions are incorporating more visual recorders to meetings to add greater value and deeper retention of plans, conversations and general gatherings.


I can’t answer for the general population, but from my personal experience and conversations with those inquiring what it is that I do, a realization of the power of graphic recordings and conversation maps is becoming clearer. And with this clarity comes greater curiosity. Businesses are looking for stronger advantages in the market place and graphic recorders are helping them to see opportunities that once were unseen and intangible. They are beginning to see!

So, if you’re a business, organization or a start-up, connect with a graphic recorder and get your ideas, plans and thoughts drawn out and seen so you can move forward with a clear plan and a map to your future.


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If you ever had been around a small child, the word “Why” can become the most frustrating word you’ll ever encounter right after “No”. Every answer you give is quickly challenge with another “Why” until you have no more answers and you snap with the default answer of “Because!” But before you snap, remember to keep telling yourself that this is a critical process in the development of that child. Being inquisitive is how we all learn and grow intellectually.

So what happened to us later in life? Why do we stop asking? What is it that made us avoid challenging the status quo? Maybe it’s because we still hear the echo of ‘why’ or maybe we are afraid to remind ourselves of three words that would spark our quest for answers; “I Don’t Know”. The technique of asking why five times to get to the root of an issue was originally developed by Sakichi Toyoda and was used within the Toyota Motor Corporation during the evolution of its manufacturing methodologies. It is a critical component of problem-solving training, delivered as part of the induction into the Toyota Production System. The 5 Whys method, as expressed by Sakichi Toyoda, was “the basis of Toyota’s scientific approach . . . by repeating why five times, the nature of the problem as well as its solution becomes clear.”

Problem solving may have been the original application, yet this same technique can also be adapted to an earlier stage of development of an idea or perceived innovation. Asking the 5 Whys at the beginning of a project can reveal many aspects that may be overlooked. Like a small child asking why, it is important to understand the idea’s purpose. Finding its purpose, will help determine the viability and adaptability of the idea. Below, is a graphic I use to help determine my continuation of an idea. 5 whys webStart with  “Why do it?” Walk around the circle and ask yourself each question as it relates to your idea or situation. If at any time, you do not have a strong and clear answer to any one of the 5 whys around the circle, then, as you get back to the beginning, ask yourself the first one again. There are two steps you can take from here; the first is to uncover the answers to each question or move away from the idea (for now). Record the idea and store it until all the answers can be found.

I have come to believe and trust this method when developing an idea before investing time and resources. Too many times I committed to a project that either served no greater value to the existing condition or would never be accepted as a new solution. I dedicated many hours and resources keeping a project moving simply because I was blind to the answers I would have discover had I only simply asked these five whys.

So, before you act on an idea and follow the credo of “Fail Fast” on the deliverable, ask yourself why, why, why, why, why and never just answer “Because.”

Remember this… “To Determine Success one must Measure against one’s Purpose.”

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#InnovateSTL Discussion

Today, St. Louis was graced by four powerful innovation leaders.

What’s next for those wanting to be innovative in their companies? First visualize your purpose and then plan your action.


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Thoughts on Innovation – The Box

Achieving innovation or new ideas requires a different path of thinking. I have written about this in an earlier post; “The Path to Innovate.” Some of the fastest and most direct methods I prefer is to influence the traditional thinking with fresh insights. These insights come from outside the box. It is very rare that innovation develops from the thinking found within the walls of the box, so getting fresh ideas needs external input.

IN Out of the Box

The first of two suggestions is to bring in fresh thinking or guidance from outside your box, a.k.a. your organization or office. As the an old saying goes “You can’t read the label from inside the jar.” Too many companies and individuals are unable to see the clues and insights due to the being to close to the situation. Obtaining new ideas requires something new or different from that of the embedded thinking. Bring in outside help.

The second method I find works well is getting out of the physical box. Climb out, see the sky and then interview people from the outside such as customers, prospects or the public. Ask questions that are open-ended and have no single answer. The more conversation you can drive, the richer the ideas can be. When you ask others who are not close to the situation, they have a different point of view. This different POV is gold to new ideas.

Finally, as a parting gift, a third method if you can’t do either of the two and you are shackled to your desk, is a method that is promoted by William Donius, author of “Though Revolution.” Use your non-dominant hand to get a second opinion or idea about your situation. Follow the link to get more information. He explains it better than I.

So, the thINKing to get new ideas is to change the direction or the source of your inspiration and to jump out of the thinking rut we all create for ourselves.

Until next time, don’t be afraid to ask someone else to help you create something new.

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