The CSE Experience

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”
― Benjamin Franklin

Last week, I wrote about the importance of selecting the marketing mediums that are most effective for you and your business.  The overall message communicated that marketing a small business requires the proactive efforts of the advertiser along-side your chosen marketing partner(s) (publisher, blogger, producer, etc.).

At PARAS Events, the Canadian Special Events Expo (CSE) has been integral to the growth of our business and demonstrates the importance of collaborating with your marketing and advertising partners.  Inspired by the words of Benjamin Franklin above, being involved is the key to success in any strategy.

Today, I would like to share why the Canadian Special Events Expo has been beneficial to our business and why our firms proactive marketing efforts in tandem with the show producers fueled the growth of our company and my own personal growth as an event professional.

1) Platform to demonstrate your potential.  CSE is one of the first trade shows I ever exhibited in back when I was 23 years old.  I was the ‘newbie’ in a sea of seasoned professionals.  I was very intimidated by this as I felt it was important that I held my own amongst all of my peers.  I worked very hard on my design work but feared that I would not be able to ‘compete’ on the same level as the other participating designers.  Personally, I had a lot to prove.  I had just left school and this was my ’first’ opportunity to make my mark.  CSE allowed me to demonstrate my potential as a designer and introduce my design aesthetic to the industry.  It allowed me to develop my signature as a designer and figure out where I ‘fit in’ (or as I learned a few years later, how I would ‘stand out’).

2) Propelled my event business.  I originally participated in CSE with the intent to generate sales, but I quickly learned that CSE was going to be a marketing medium that would allow me to increase awareness of our business through strategic industry partnerships.  CSE is where I learned about ‘co-opetion’ from my colleague, Ken Kristoffersen of POP Kollaborative.  Part of my growth in this industry has come from the understanding that you cannot merely ‘compete’ with your peers -you must collaborate to collectively elevate our profession through increased value, depth of creative thought, and higher standards of production.  CSE allows you to learn from top wedding professionals and thought-leaders from around the world and forces you to evaluate your own business, its operations, and strategies.

3)  Friendship.  I have made so many of my long-standing friendships with those I met at CSE over the years.  Not only do I work with them on a continual basis, but they now represent my close inner circle of individuals that ‘lift me higher’ with their positivity, collaborative nature, and support.  We work on events together, support each other in the ‘ups and downs’ of being an event professional and navigating the work/life balance that so many of us strive for.  Many of us have ‘grown-up’ in the industry and it has been a privilege to be apart of so many amazing journey’s.

4) Networking.  This is perhaps the greatest benefit of being involved with the Canadian Special Events Expo.  CSE is an opportunity to learn from other event professionals and ignite a dialogue with many of your mentors.  There is no other Special Events conference in Canada that provides the same access to the diverse group of event professionals in attendance at CSE and all of its social events, educational seminars, and the trade show floor.  This is a great opportunity to learn from the best.  My business has been shaped by the many insights shared at CSE over the years.

5)  Star Awards.  Our firm was nominated for our first Star Award in 2004.  I was 23 years old and was beyond thrilled to hear of the great news.  The nomination gave me confidence, validated my swift career change, and positioned me as a serious design professional.  More importantly, the nomination gave me a sense of belonging to the industry I was growing into.  My parents came with me to my first gala and we sat with the ISES Toronto team.  That night, upon hearing we had won, I was overjoyed, but equally nervous.  I completely froze (and was somewhat star-struck by Jocelyn Flanagan of E=MC2 Events who presented the award to me) during my acceptance speech and don’t even remember what I said.  That night, I became one of the youngest recipients of a Star Award.  The Star Awards gala is an opportunity to celebrate with those who do the same, but also an night to celebrate the accomplishments of so many leading event professionals who are committed to their craft and elevating the profession.

The Canadian Special Events Expo continues to be a highlight for the Canadian Special Events Industry annually.  PARAS Events has been continually involved in different capacities throughout the years and the show has personally been an influential part of the event professional I have become today.  I am feeling a little nostalgic as I write this post today.  So many friendships made, so many lessons learned, numerous design challenges and exhibit designs, and lot’s of fun parties over the last eight years.  I cannot forget to send a big thank you to Mark and Stacy for their continued support and helping my inner light to shine.

I am looking forward to another amazing week at Canadian Special Events Expo 2014!  See you there!

Paras

PS -I will be speaking at the conference this year on ‘Igniting the Creative Process’.

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Interactive Marketing

As entrepreneurs, it can be difficult to determine the marketing methods that will be most successful for our business.  I have taken the approach of ‘trial & error’ for most of my career and tried my best to remain as diverse as possible in the marketing mediums we choose.  Over the years, it has become very obvious which methods have been most successful AND more importantly, proven successful for our business.

Thousands of dollars are spent on marketing our event businesses each year. Like many of you, I have exhibited at bridal shows, advertised in magazines and blogs, accepted invitations to join exclusive communities, and participated in editorial shoots.  I have learned that it is not enough to rely solely on the marketing methods above to achieve substantial return.  It is essential when purchasing advertising for your business that you support and market your involvement in these publications, websites, blogs, and wedding shows.

As I reflect back on all of my experiences, I can begin to articulate the approach that has worked best for us and elaborate further on the importance of ‘interacting’ with your own marketing and promotions.

1) Distinguish the difference.  When purchasing a marketing opportunity, distinguish whether it will be for the purpose of generating awareness for your business and your brand or to generate sales.  Sometimes, we confuse that one singular marketing method will achieve both with the same strength.  Allot your marketing dollars to strategically maximize your presence in the industry and to potential clients by making this distinction and reviewing it on a yearly basis.

2) Support your own marketing initiatives.  Unfortunately, it is not enough to advertise in magazines and blogs or exhibit at wedding shows solely.  You must actively promote your participation in these marketing methods to maximize your return on investment.  This means using social media, monthly newsletters, and your company blog(s) to generate awareness of your involvement in a magazine editorial, blog style shoot, and/or wedding show (for example) to draw potential clients to your business and strengthen your brands effectiveness.

3) Take ownership of your own success when advertising.  It is easy for us to say that a particular marketing medium has ‘not worked’.  I will be the first to say that there are specific mediums that I will probably not entertain any further.  That is not because I don’t believe in their ability to work or have anything against them.  They simply just did not work for me and my business.  Taking ownership of your own success in marketing means having copies on hand of magazines you are featured in to review with clients or share with colleagues, sharing your blog features on social media (Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter at three strategic times during the week), and/or blogging about the design/planning process you are undertaking when designing your exhibit at a wedding show.  Create excitement around your brand and the marketing methods you choose.  All of the examples above, extend the life of your marketing.

4) Take advantage of the ‘free’ marketing mediums that are now available to all of us.  As we all know, social media has an immense effect on the success of a business today.  If you are not active on social media, you are missing out on huge opportunities to solicit leads and build awareness for your business and building a strong brand presence.  To this day, I continue to participate in webinars and attend workshops on how I can increase my footprint (as an event professional) in the social media-sphere.  I am currently working on developing my SEO as that is still something I must improve upon.

5) Establish how you will position your brand in all of your advertising mediums and be consistent!  Your business will feel the affects if your branding and presence do not remain consistent.  That means a streamlined graphic identity, consistent voice on social media, your newsletters, and blogs, office space that is aligned with your design aesthetic and corporate identity, dynamic marketing material, and finally an IMPACTFUL website that ties it all together.  One of the best decisions I ever made for my business was to work with a professional branding expert.

6) Attend networking events to build your businesses presence.  There is definitely an art to networking and depending upon the industry you come from, your approach will be different.  I don’t have any formal training in networking and for those of you who know me well, you are aware of how shy and introverted I can be.  What I have learned over the years is that networking events are not solely an opportunity to ‘sell’, but rather an opportunity to establish a human connection and build friendships of trust and support amongst your peers in the industry.  If you are personally not attending industry events and conferences, how are you communicating your brand message on a more human level?  It’s the human connection that makes the difference.  

7) Collaborate with those whom you advertise with.  I have had the pleasure of working with some amazing publishers, bloggers, and show producers throughout the years and their support has been immeasurable.  One of the most important things I have learned from them is that so often we see advertising as a ‘transaction’.  In the case of magazines, we receive a contract, arrange payment, and submit artwork -and it ends there (or so it seems).  Instead, take the time to communicate with those you are advertising with and ask how you can be more involved or increase your visibility within their medium.  Most advertisers are willing to customize a solution that best fits your marketing objectives and sales goals.  Remember that advertising is not a ‘one-way-street’.  As mentioned before, you must actively promote your involvement within each marketing medium you choose in tandem with the publisher/blogger/producer, etc.  It is then easier to make an informed assessment on whether or not a particular marketing medium works (or will work) for you and your business.

8) Marketing your products and/or services is about building your business, your brand, your presence, and to increase sales.  Unfortunately, I used to participate in marketing mediums that were based on healing my insecurities and what I thought ‘everyone was doing’.  I was afraid of ‘missing out’, so I spent marketing dollars on mediums that I knew for a few years had not been successful or proven successful for me, but continually participated because I thought I would be ‘left out’.  Looking back, I know better now.

Ultimately, over time, you will be able to measure the success each of the advertising mediums you partake in. Some will be very successful, others may not. Fortunately, you will be able to determine the best method for you and fuel it as much as possible to optimize your results and its return.  Often a few, very strong, impactful marketing mediums will allow your business and brand to soar.

Happy Spring!

Paras

Connecting The Dots

As a child, I loved connecting the dots and then colouring in the completed image.  I tried my best to stay within the lines, going from one dot to the other with relative ease.  Each dot was numbered, so as long as I could count far enough, there was an intended and definitive path to the final dot and thus to the completed image.  However, if I took one wrong turn, the completed image became distorted or gave light to a new interpretation of the image.  I remember spending hours on weekends working on these connect the dot books my mother would purchase from me, but as an adult, I realize they have a different significance today.

In business, sometimes it can feel like we are continually connecting the dots.  The difference is we don’t have any numbers (going from dot to dot) guiding us or a full understanding of the intended path to the completed ’image’.  The most difficult can be when you don’t know where the dots are supposed to lead you or even worse, when it can be difficult going from dot to dot.  It seems that experience, education, and clarity in your craft can make connecting the dots much simpler.  We all connect the dots differently, but most of us share a similar ‘intended image or outcome’: we want to lead lives of fulfillment and personal success.

I have come to appreciate the 20/20 in my journey thus far as a creative entrepreneur.  Earlier in my career, it was difficult to understand or appreciate the ‘necessity’ of the journey and all the experience and knowledge it would bring.  It was never my aim to see ‘success’ overnight, but I definitely had trouble being patient.  Sometimes, it felt like things were not moving fast enough, the recognition was not there, or perhaps the growth of the business seemed stagnant.  It was frustrating at times because I wanted to show my clients what I could do and demonstrate my real potential as a designer.  This meant I would occasionally go the extra mile at the cost of being financially irresponsible.

Connecting the dots is also about understanding who you are as a business owner and designer.  This perhaps, is where I see the greatest imbalance personally.  I have learned some very hard lessons on why this equilibrium is essential and how easy it is to lose your way even though the ‘next dot’ is often right in front of you.  I connect the dots differently today then I did eleven years ago.  The business seems much more complex, there are more moving parts, I have increased responsibilities and am accountable to many more people.  Suddenly, I find myself ‘managing’ and ‘operating’ more than ‘designing’.  I have come to appreciate the simplicity and innocence of my business in the early years as something to cherish and take insight from.

A part of connecting the dots is also about understanding the role your business plays in your life and managing that holy grail of work/life balance.  It’s easy to love what you do when everything is going right, but the true test of your resilience is your ability to overcome when things are not looking bright.  The next dot doesn’t seem so obvious then.  I keep reminding myself that quitting or accepting defeat turns back the clock on success.  I thank some of my closest friends (one in particular) and family for reminding me of how grateful and appreciative I should be of my journey thus far.  To keep on looking ahead in search of the ’next dot’ remembering along the way all the lessons learned, challenges overcome, and triumphs celebrated.

So, here we are, in search of our next ‘dot’.  Where will it take us?  How will life ‘connect the dots’ for us?  When will the dots be complete?  What is the intended ‘image’?  Time will only tell, but in the meantime, it’s important that we take command of our own journey so that the dots connect just the way we like.

How will you connect the dots in 2014?

Have a wonderful week everyone!

Paras

Photography by WebNeel.com

Design Trends 2014

For those of you who know me well, it’s no surprise when I mention that my passion for design is also what I like to call my ‘sixth sense’.  Design is a part of who I am.  I look at objects and environments beyond their conventional use.  To me, design is a universal language that has a profound effect on our lifestyle.  Good design should be accessible to all and remain ever evolving.

I am pleased to share my ’2014 Design Trends’ report with all of you today.  It is my forecast of the many design trends emerging in the weddings of this year.  Design trends in weddings are greatly influenced by the worlds of fashion, interior design, and architecture.  Event designers across the globe keep their pulse on all design industries to remain at the forefront of their craft, but more importantly, to continually fuel inspiration and creative ideation.

The following are my favourite design trends of 2014:

1) Colour.  I am particularly excited about the shift in colour palettes for 2014.  Referred to as the ‘new neutrals’, the muted, smoky tones of pastels evoke energy and lightheartedness.  Blush pink, soft yellow, mint green, and cornflower blue remind us of sunny meadows, spring blooms, and summer entertaining.  Fresh, airy colour palettes will continue to dominate the weddings of 2014.  In great contrast to this, the nostalgia of the 1990′s is evoked through the vibrant tones of green, purple, and deep blue.  Primary colours will begin to re-surface during the course of 2014 re-enforcing the dramatic art of colour blocking.

Pantone Colour of the Year: Radiant Orchid 18-3224.

2) Metallics.  Burnished brass and antique/distressed metals with weathered patina’s will emerge as the metallic of choice for weddings in 2014.  Rooted in tradition, the classical styling of metals lend themselves to an old world charm that brings warmth to a wedding design scheme.  An object that evokes history, adds character to an event environment and offers much room for personalization.

3) Pattern.  Pattern is a dynamic and impactful way to add depth, texture, and overall visual interest to a wedding design scheme.  The leading patterns in 2014 take inspiration from the outdoors and style icons from many of the leading design houses across the world.  I am particularly drawn to the beautiful pattens found in blue and white Chinese pottery, the French patterns of chinoiserie, the beauty of Mediterranean floral motifs, and the high contrast schemes of geometrics.  The foremost trend in pattern for weddings in 2014 leans towards whimsical botanicals/foliage prints; evoking memories of casual garden parties, sleepy summer afternoons, and our love for easy, outdoor entertaining.  The use of botanical/foliage prints will be most prevalent in linen and stationery design.  Updated trellis patterns, contemporary floral and foliage silhouettes, and topiaries (yes, topiaries!) encompass this trend in natural patterning.

4) Decor.  Although several design aesthetics will emerge and evolve over the course of the year, there are four that stand out for their versatility and ability to add character and personality to a wedding design.  These include:

a) The use of distressed furnishings.  Weather woods and distressed metals evoke a handmade, homespun quality to a wedding design.

b) The use of contemporary design and decor elements that are classically styled.  There is an inherent beauty to the contrast and visual tension created by combining contemporary and tradition decor elements, ultimately creating ‘transitional’ event spaces that appeal to all the senses.

c) The return and popularization of antique furnishings in decorating.

d) The re-interpretation of traditional wedding design schemes and spatial planning.  The weddings of 2014 (and moving forward) are viewed as elegant dinner parties and a natural extension to entertaining at home.  Head tables are replaced with beautiful harvest tables celebrating family and friends.  A central axis floor plan encourages inclusivity of all guests and places great emphasis on elegant entertaining.  The ‘cocktail’ style reception becomes more prevalent.

Customization continues to be the defining design tool in creating a distinctive wedding design scheme that is truly personal to the couple.

5) Floral Design.  Floral design continues to centre around floral artistry and floral installations.  The theory and principles of floral design are applied to built structures; creating ‘form’ in an event environment by defining space and establishing focal points.  Suspended floral design and floral ceiling treatments create dramatic floral statements.  Floral design moves beyond dining table design.

The use of foliage is my favourite design trend of 2014.  The natural textures of foliage add interest to a wedding design scheme and allow the form of a composition to stand out creating a sculptural quality that is quite dynamic.  The beautiful tints, tones, and shades of foliage enhance the overall design.

6) Design Themes.  Design themes continue to be a point of inspiration during the initial stages of the design process.  The prevalent design themes of 2014 take inspiration from nautical influences, botanical gardens around the world, resort lifestyle, and modern architecture including the many beautiful hotels around the world.

7) Hot or Not?  Hot: Beading, foliage, blue and white pottery, botanical patterns, colour blocking, natural fibres and distressed finishes, pastel colour stories, and laser cutting.  Not:  Crystals, pearls, stripes and chevron, mason jars, striped straws, and mirrored surfaces.

Hope you enjoyed my ’2014 Design Trends’ report!  Please comment below, what are your favourite design trends of 2014?  Do you agree with my forecast?  What do you see in wedding design for 2014?

Remember to join us for our twitter party on January 13, 2014 at 7:30pm EST!  Follow along with the hashtag #2014DesignTrends.  Co-hosts Christopher Confero (@conferotweets) and Cory Christopher (@artdesignliving) will be joining me as we discuss the most prevalent wedding design trends of 2014.

Have a wonderful week!

Paras (@paraskmehta)

Back To Basics

2013 has been a roller coaster of a year.  Like every year, a 12-month journey of continuing personal discovery and growth, both in business and in life.  2013 was a year of increased awareness of who I was, my resilience, my perceived limitations, my boundaries, my insecurities, my challenges, and my ability to persevere.  Most importantly, it was a year of evolution as I began to lay the foundation to self-transformation and truly understanding what I want.  Beyond all, 2013 was the year I vowed to ‘get real’.

2013 marked the tenth anniversary of PARAS Events.  I started when I was twenty years old, had just left school, and like many my age, had a vision for my future.

The business was started from scratch.  Our living room, basement, and garage became our inventory storage facility and the dining room was our consultation space.  I presented some of my very first weddings from this space and didn’t have a portfolio of work yet, so I rendered all of my concepts and used design boards to communicate my ideas.  I learned the fundamentals of managing and operating an event services business, the art of the presentation, and honed my design ability and aesthetic.  There was an innocence and air of simplicity to our small business that was truly ‘grass-roots’.

As I reflect upon those first few years, I begin to distinguish the key differences between my business today and how it was then, but more importantly my approach to the business and my role within it.  I am able to develop some key points, including: a) rediscovering the roots of why I am passionate about weddings and design, b) recapturing the innocence of my business and my true purpose as a creative person, c) rekindling the integrity with which I design for my clients and the self fulfillment it provides, and d) balancing the scale of ‘designer’ and ‘business owner’.

I used to operate my business thinking that the ‘big breaks’ in business were based solely on winning awards, being published in magazines, landing the ‘luxury’ clients, and fitting in.  Turns out, the greatest successes in business are fundamental: a) understanding your business, b) having your pulse on its health, c) establishing your unique signature and a recognizable brand, d) exercising your craft daily, e) nurturing your relationships and partnerships, and f) giving back.

In 2013, I gained some perspective on the next stages of my career.  These include education, sharing my experiences, and exploring international opportunities with my business.  I wrote about this in great detail in a post entitled ‘Lessons Learned’ highlighting my ‘Strategy for Change’ in 2014.

Part of going ‘back to basics’ is re-investing in yourself.  In 2013, I began to focus on my personal health (physical and mental).  I returned to the gym, managed a diet of healthy foods, and finally began a journal (all things that I didn’t make time for in the past).  I enjoyed a renewed sense of clarity, purpose, and fulfillment.  I slowly began to identify and differentiate the sources of happiness in my life.  By no means had I mastered the art of ‘living well’, but I tried my best and continued to strive to be the best version of myself that I could be.

I created a vision board to further communicate my personal and business goals for the year.

My new years resolution?  Go back to basics, learn from the past, and move ahead into 2014 with a renewed sense of direction for my business, where I want it to be, and understanding my universal role along the way.

Happy New Year everyone!  Wishing you immense success in 2014 and beyond.

Paras

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