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Summer Reading List: 19 Things Event Pros Should Read on Vacation

These books, articles, and blog posts can help you get inspired, catch up on trends you might have missed, and prep for fall.

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Photo: Nadia Chaudhury/BizBash

Chad Kaydo (@ChadKaydo) is BizBash’s former editor in chief and the founder and editor of The X Letter, a website and newsletter about experiences, brands, and culture. Chad’s column appears biweekly.

Are you like me? (I hope not, for your sake.) Do you travel with more books and magazines than you can possibly hope to get through on the trip?

Next week I’ll drive from Brooklyn to northeast Ohio to spend nine days at my family’s cottage on Lake Erie. In the car, with the dog, will inevitably be a large Boat and Tote with six months’ worth of unread magazines and another bag of books.

For some people, summer is for light, frothy novels or celebrity tabloids. For others, it’s a time to catch up or prep for the fall, student-style.

That’s if you find time to read anything at all beyond emails, texts, and tweets on your phone.

Which is part of my point here: Summer vacations and beach weekends should be a break from work, but they can also give you the chance to focus on things you don’t find the time for in the rush of the rest of the year. 

In that spirit, here’s a recommended reading list for event professionals—books, articles, and blog posts that might show you some new ideas, inspire your fall projects, or bring you up to speed on an important topic that you’ve been avoiding.

So bookmark this page for later, save the articles to Pocket or Instapaper or Evernote, and check out these books. (I’ve included Amazon links for those, but these days wouldn’t you rather buy them from your local indie bookstore? Or mine?) And share what you’re reading on Twitter with the hashtag #summereventreads. Here goes:

Speaking of Amazon
Lately everyone is talking about the online retailer, between the negotiations with book publishers and the Fire phone launch. What’s goes on behind the scenes? The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone was the business book of last year. While the company isn’t known for its events, Bezos is relentlessly focused on customer experience.

I haven’t cracked it yet, but my friend Irma Zandl, a consumer trends expert, is a fan. “What I loved about it was the portrait it paints of a truly visionary business leader who is ruthless in disrupting his own business with constant innovation,” she says. “You realize how many things you do by rote that would really benefit from being shaken up.”

She’s reading Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration next.

If You’re Obsessed With Google Glass/If You Think It’s Nonsense
Wired’s January cover took a strong stand: “Why Wearable Tech Will Be as Big as the Smartphone.” Inside, senior editor Bill Wasik declared, “A new device revolution is at hand: Just as mobile phones and tablets displaced the once-dominant PC, so wearable devices are poised to push smartphones aside.”

If the only thing you know about the wearable technology trend is how silly people look wearing Google Glass, you might want to consider how watches, armbands, rings, goggles, and bracelets are taking the power of a smartphone and putting it in more accessible places. These may help event hosts gather powerful information from their guests. Imagine being able to send messages based on attendees’ locations, or measuring guests’ heart rates and body temperatures while they’re, say, dancing or watching a performance.

If You Are (or Want to Be) Excited About Virtual Reality
Another Wired cover story: The June issue has a fascinating narrative behind Facebook’s $2 billion purchase of Oculus, and how 21-year-old founder Palmer Luckey’s innovations could make this long-gestating idea a mass-market reality.

Here’s Andreessen Horowitz partner Chris Dixon on how big this could be: “I think I’ve seen five or six computer demos in my life that made me think the world was about to change. Apple II, Netscape, Google, iPhone … then Oculus. It was that kind of amazing.”

And here’s Luckey on the difference between Oculus and Facebook: “This isn’t about sharing pictures. This is about being able to share experiences.”

If You’re Going to Disney World
Here’s a New York Times article about Walt Disney World’s $1 billion investment in the intersection of several technology trends. Guests at the park now wear wristbands called MagicBands that use R.F.I.D. chips to function as room keys and park tickets, and can be used to pay for food and merchandise and get prebooked, line-free ride access. The bands have decreased the time parkgoers wait in line—giving them more time to spend money. And Disney is collecting lots of data about how guests behave.

Disney can also use the data to personalize the experience. Mailchimp chief data scientist John Foreman recently spoke to Gigaom about his MagicBand experiences, noting that after his kids rode the Pirates of the Caribbean several times, when they went to see an animatronic Mickey Mouse, he immediately started talking about pirates.

The project is an interesting glimpse at how things like wearables, N.F.C. and R.F.I.D. technology, and big data will change live experiences.

If You Want to Know What’s Next Online
Legendary Internet analyst Mary Meeker recently gave her annual Internet trends presentation at the first Code conference. Her firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufiled & Byers, posted the full slide show.

My friend Melanie Altarescu, executive director of integrated marketing at The New Yorker, calls it “an annual must-read”: “It's like looking into a digital-world crystal ball to see what's coming our way next. It came out in late May, and while I've had a chance to skim it, I can't wait to take a really deep dive.”

Related: BusinessWeek asked a designer to rework Meeker’s visually dull PowerPoint slides. Unfortunately, he didn’t do the whole thing, but his work is worth a look.

Another recommendation from Melanie: “General Assembly just put out a great whitepaper that's a valuable resource for those leading teams in this digital age of ours.”

If You’re Rethinking Luxury, or Obsessed With Uber
Atlantic contributing editor Ian Bogost looks at services that automate the customer experience and help customers avoid interacting with people. His thesis: The future of luxury is avoiding people.

The new car rental service Silvercar lets travelers use an app to book an Audi A4. Then staffers pick them up and drop them off near airport terminals. Delta and other airlines have started offering special services where representatives whisk passengers to and from ticketing, security, club rooms, and the gate—all to avoid interacting with fellow travelers.

A great insight: “People don’t like Uber because they like technology; they like Uber because they like car services but hate making telephone calls.”

If You’re Into the Art Scene
W’s June/July issue has a focus on Los Angeles. “The New Art and Style Capital?” the cover asks. From Stefano Tonchi’s editor’s letter: “Los Angeles today is no longer just about the film crowd and the expats—although there are plenty of them, and the community continues to grow. It’s about local talent: a new generation of artists, designers, chefs, and curators who were born and raised there and have a very modern sensibility that combines Calfornia’s laid-back attitude with global savvy.”

The issue arrived with a supplement called W Art with stories about artists, dealers, and collectors, and their cultural and style obsessions. As contemporary artists influence so many events, and so many events pop up around art fairs like Art Basel, I expect to spend some time on the beach with both issues.

If This Is Getting Too Deep
How about a cocktail? T magazine recommends these four books on drinks: Alchemy in a Glass by Le Bernardin bar consultant Greg Seider has recipes using low-glucose, vegan-friendly agave syrup. The focus is on skills in The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique, by Jeffrey Morgenthaler, a co-founder of Clyde Common in Portland, Oregon (which is terrific). You can guess the focus of Dave Broom’s Whisky: The Manual. And Adam Rogers’s Proof: The Science of Booze goes deep into the chemistry of drinking.

If You Want to Make Sense of the Present Moment
Back to the deep stuff. I started reading Douglas Rushkoff’s book Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now a few months back, but got caught up in—well, I guess the title helps to explain what distracted me? “If the end of the twentieth century can be characterized by futurism, the twenty-first can be defined by presentism,” Rushkoff writes. He’s talking about time spent on texting and Twitter, of course, but also money spent in the present without consideration of later ramifications.

As programmers of human interaction, event planners must consider how to help guests be in the now of their physical locations, not just the now of their digital devices. And Rushkoff’s take on the collapse of linear narrative can apply to live experiences as well. That’s why I’m planning to get back to it this summer.

If You Want Major Inspiration
This might seem self-promotional, but it isn’t—I had nothing to do with it. Last week BizBash published its fourth annual lists of the most innovative people and brands in events, and the magazine issue and online package are packed with examples of timely uses of events as marketing tools. The editors explore about how Samsung is using events to help its aggressive market share gains and how Under Armour uses events to build its credibility with athletes. They also show how journalists Tina Brown, Walt Mossberg, and Kara Swisher are showcasing the power of live events as storytelling platforms, while a host of technology players are finding new ways to connect and communicate with attendees.

Get yourself a hard copy and I dare you not to rip out pages with your favorite ideas.

If You Want One Simple Source for Technology Trend Info
This one is self-promotional: Earlier this week I published a trend report on the next tech trends for live events and experiences. It’s meant to be a primer on big tech trends (wearable technology, beacons, R.F.I.D./N.F.C. devices, and big data) for people who don’t find time in their day-to-day lives to keep up with these trends, and a source of deeper insights for those who do. The research is based on a survey of event planners and technology vendors.

If You Want an Excuse to Forget This Whole Thing
A New Republic post—“Taking a Vacation May Actually Save Your Career”—contrasts the standard number of paid vacation days given to workers in the United States versus European countries, and cites several studies showing how work for professional Americans has become nonstop, which is ruining our sleep but not producing better results.

Something to keep in mind: “A study from Ernst & Young found that every 10 hours of vacation time taken by an employee boosted her year-end performance rating by eight percent and lowered turnover.”

So put down the iPad/Kindle/whatever and relax this summer, too. You’ve earned it.

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