Event Innovators 2011: How We Chose the Brands and People, and What Traits They Share

May 11, 2011, 7:30 AM EDT

Photos: Dan Hallman for BizBash

What makes someone innovative?

Let’s not ponder the philosophical part of that question here—we’ll skip the analysis of what makes people tick, and sidestep a nature-vs.-nurture debate.

Instead, let’s review some of the traits shared by the brands and the event professionals that we’re showcasing in our first Innovation Issue. (The digital edition of is here.)

But we’ll start with a word about how we selected them.

We began with two goals: First, to identify the 10 most innovative brands using events as marketing tools right now. We wanted to focus on companies that use experiential marketing in new ways, that see events as a critical part of their marketing mix, and that get actual results from these efforts. Style was a factor here, of course, but in our discussions—with each other and with industry experts we consulted—we focused on performance. Which companies are using their face-to-face marketing efforts to increase sales, media impressions, customer retention, and buzz?

The second project was to identify the most innovative people in the event world. We concentrated largely in the nine markets we serve, but looked beyond them as well. Style was a big factor here, too, of course—you’ll see plenty of designers and caterers. But we also looked for people who are affecting the way events work today, people who are creating new event models and ways to engage meeting attendees, and people who are at the forefront of how this industry is changing.

As we made our selections, some patterns started to emerge—these are a few of the ideas that characterized the people and the brands on our lists.

They explore and exploit new technology.
From auction bidding devices to interactive projections and event management software programs, our innovators are incorporating the latest gadgets and tools into their events and their planning processes. And some are even creating them.

They see new possibilities. Who would put a chic event venue in a parking garage? Who would think a grocery store opening could be one of the local social events of the year?

They try things first. Like launching an organic farm before the rest of the food business catches on to the sustainability movement. Or using Twitter to foster a discussion with peers and create a community that later meets in person.

They work with other innovators. Several of the people on our list have worked for the brand we named as the most innovative—of course. Forward-thinking companies need rule-breaking vendors to push them even farther. And many of our innovators have collaborated on recent and long-ago projects.

They think big. They put 600 dancers in Times Square to promote a video game. They cover entire buildings with projections. They build cutting-edge architectural structures—and then tear them down a few weeks later.

But they focus on the small details. Like making fashion-forward table linens, following up with sponsors after an event, or choosing the
perfect chair.

They bring ideas from the rest of the world to the event business. They retool molecular gastronomy for the masses. They travel the globe looking for inspiration and for new products and materials to bring back to their work.

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