The 9 keys to event planning success

Advice from the experts for your next event

Whether planning a fundraiser, office Christmas party, networking event or wedding, there are some tried and true methods for ensuring your guests leave happy, and you leave having met your goals. We spoke with 5 event experts about their keys to event success—you may be surprised at what they had to say.

Define a clear call to action and measure your success. Do you want your guests to donate? Join the organization? Host an event themselves? Engage in some other way? Define what would make your event successful and come up with a way to measure it. Madisen Golden,  Resource Development Manager for United Way Larimer County, suggested comparing the number of attendees to the number of attendees that converted.

Know your audience. According to Mary Douglas, partner at Corinthian Events in Boston, understanding your ideal attendee influences all other planning. For instance, if you’re inviting world-traveling luxury foodies, skimping on the refreshments may not be a good idea. If you’re hosting a networking event, you don’t want the hired entertainment to be so loud or distracting that people can’t easily mingle. Know who’s coming and plan the event accordingly.

Do your event research. Mary said that understanding the history of the event can help you avoid previous pitfalls and/or prevent new ones. Talk to people who attended in previous years and find out what worked and what didn’t. Was the location too cramped? Did people leave early because it was just too long? Change what didn’t work and stick to what did.

Organize a killer team. Between your speakers, venue, food, marketing, etc., no single person can do it all (at least not well). According to Wild Apricot, the most successful events have a single event manager as well as a team of individual chairpersons to head up each subcommittee.

Just like mom’s house, everything revolves around the kitchen. Food and beverage have the power to make or break an event, according to Lindsey Dienstbach, owner of Bello and Blue Events. It doesn’t have to be elaborate but should be well thought out. Lindsey recommends having a variety and taking into consideration how people access it to avoid bottlenecking or long lines forming.

Don’t forget decor. You don’t have to break the bank to make a space look festive, match a theme or evoke a feeling. We’ve worked with hundreds of event planners on a range of budgets to come up with the perfect event display, event furniture, flower stands and bars to set the stage for event success.

Don’t be ready on time. Be ready early. Regardless of start time, there will be attendees that arrive early. It’s just a fact of life. With that in mind, Madisen recommends having everything ready 45 minutes ahead of time so you can be relaxed and poised for the publish when the early birds start to show.

The old adage is actually true this time: Communication is key. Every event planner we spoke with for this article agreed that this should be happening before, during and even after the event. The more engaged, directed and informed your audience feels, the more likely they are to have a positive experience which will translate to positive feelings towards your business or organization. Consider starting a Twitter feed, Facebook page or other social channel for disseminating all relevant information to guests.


Answer the question “What’s next?” Your audience may be moved, inspired, excited or energized after your event—make sure you put the momentum to good use by letting them know what they can expect next, whether that be a future event or a way to keep the conversation going online.

How the 14th Airlift Squadron Improved Culture With Sculpture

When Lt Col Adam Bingham took command of the 14th Airlift Squadron in Charleston, SC, the state of the building he inherited did not live up to the historically incredibly high standards of the squadron.


Besides the general maintenance and cleaning that needed to be dealt with, it was missing any representation of Pappy the Pelican, the squadron’s mascot since its activation in 1940.


Bingham had seen a story published in the Pensacola, FL newspaper about a city-wide art project to decorate pelican statues—statues that looked like the perfect representation of Pappy. He’d been trying to get his hands on one for the base for several years before finally deciding to call the city’s chamber of commerce to see if they had any idea where he could get one. Strangely enough, one of the pelicans had popped up on Craigslist just a few days earlier. It was meant to be.


Bingham purchased the sculpture and had it painted with the blue and gold of the 14th and a reference to their motto on the wings. It looked great—too great to live outside in Charleston’s predictably volatile weather.

So Bingham called us. He spoke to Steven Kroll, one of our customer care specialists  and pedestal design experts and was straightforward with what he wanted.

 

“I asked Steven if he liked Apple and he said he did. And then I explained to him that what I like about Apple is that I don’t even know what I need in one of their products until they give it to me. And I said Steven, make it like Apple.”

Bingham provided Steven with a few dimensions, and that was it.

 

With the help of Brad, our lead design engineer, Kroll put together  a custom cylinder pedestal finished in a shimmering black brushed aluminum with a motorized turntable and eight corner lights, giving the pelican an elegant glow visible from 360 degrees. The result was over and above Bingham’s expectations.


“I was instantly impressed,” Bingham said. “I really trusted Steven with it, and I wasn’t disappointed at all.”


The sculpture is now prominently displayed on their main floor, where every Airman, every visitor, every single person that walks through the building, can’t help but see it.


The pelican and inscribed pedestal most certainly elevated the look and ambiance of the building, but they did something else, too. For the squadron, the pelican represents its heritage, history, camaraderie, the brotherhood and sisterhood of people willing to go to war together. For Bingham, the squadron is an extended family, and Pappy the Pelican represents their unity.

 


This constant reminder of who they are is one of the ways Bingham has helped to build a winning culture.

“The changes we’ve made to the building, they really drive culture, and culture drives our performance,” he said. “Pappy the Pelican is now literally the centerpiece of the squadron, and it sets the tone—that we are the World’s Premier Airlift Squadron.”

Four steps for designing the perfect pedestal for your sculpture

You just got home from that amazing trip to [insert fancy European city here], where you finally found that perfect piece for your home or office place. Now the question is, how will you display it?

Ask any museum curator or gallery owner and they’ll tell you that how you display a work of art is absolutely crucial—it’s directly related to a viewer’s overall appreciation of the piece. Oftentimes the difference between a few inches to the left or a laminate vs. acrylic finish on the display structure can make the difference between a perfect and a second-rate presentation.

At Xylem Design/Pedestal Source, we ask our customers four questions to help them design the ideal display, and we’ve found that those who thoughtfully think through these steps are the happiest with the final product. While there are endless custom options, these are the four basic design components that need to be accounted for.

Step One: Shape

Most pedestals come in three basic shapes: circular, square, or rectangular. Wendy, one of our customer care representatives who walks through this process with art collectors multiple times a day, thinks the best way to compare options is to see them for yourself. Wendy’s pro tip: Cut out the different shapes from newspaper or cardboard to help visualize how each might look under your piece.

 

If you’re still not sure, try browsing through our photo gallery to see what you like/don’t like, and whether you can find a similar piece for comparison. If you decide to design your pedestal with us, we’re always happy to get on the gemba cam to help you visualize the options.

 

Step Two: Material

At Xylem, we offer a wide variety of materials to choose from, including laminate, acrylic, wood veneer and metal. Each one has its own look and feel. If you’ve got the time, we highly recommend ordering a sample of whatever material you’re considering to see how it looks with your piece and in the location where you plan to display it—wall color, furniture and decor all make a difference.

Image courtesy of Briana Arlene Photography.

Step Three: Size

There are two aspects of display size to consider: height and footprint. When considering height, we recommend experimenting with different measurements in the room by placing painting tape on the wall where your sculpture would hit with different display sizes. This can help you visualize how it will look in relation to other objects in the room and to the ceiling. Trinity Wilbourn, co-founder of the home staging firm Trove Collective, suggests varying heights in a room to add interest and depth. So making sure your sculpture isn’t on an even plane with a couch or table will help it stand out.

Step Four: Lighting

When it comes to lighting, it’s crucial to know where you plan to display the sculpture. Indoor vs. outdoor, ceiling height, the direction the windows face, etc. all have their unique implications. Lighting can also have a huge effect on the mood and feel of a piece. For example, one of Wendy’s customers was sure she wanted lower corner lighting on her Madonna statue, but when she tested it out, she realized it gave the piece an ominous feel. In contrast, the ambient lighting tends to have a warming, comforting effect.

We offer a variety of lighting and accessory options, and it can be overwhelming to choose. To help with analysis paralysis, one of Wendy’s pro tips is to use a flashlight to experiment with different directional light at different times of day to see which one you like best.

We’re always happy to walk our customers through this process over the phone or on the Gemba cam, but some of these decisions will come down to preference. The most important thing is that you take the time to “do your homework”—take the time to consider the options available to you. After all, you went through all the work of purchasing the piece and bringing it home—it’s important the display does it justice.

 

How UGG’s Window Displays Tell a Story That Sells

If you’ve ever walked past an UGG window display, you may have noticed that it’s not their product that first causes you to stop and stare. It’s the feeling it evokes and the beginning of a story it’s telling that turns eyes and draws you into the store.

We’ve worked with UGG on seasonal window displays and never cease to be impressed by their vision, dedication to detail and innovative design—making them one of the most recognizable brands today.

UGG’s visual presentation coordinator, Ryan Larson, recently shared a little more with us about their display design process, why it’s so important to them, and how it builds their brand.

Start with a message, not a sale. Ryan said he and his team start by telling a story that embodies the UGG lifestyle, rather than pushing the product first. They’ll incorporate new and/or seasonal merchandise into the design, but focus on displaying the brand’s “life force.” Be it adventure or luxury, edgy or classic, comforting and familiar or sleek and modern, it pays to know who your brand is and what it’s about, and then build your displays around that story.

Keep it consistent. If you’re like UGG and have displays around the country, it may be tempting to adapt to the culture of each location, but that can actually hurt your brand recognition. UGG keeps their storefront displays consistent across the country, so if you see a pair of boots displayed while on vacation in Hawaii, you’ll see the same scene when you return home to NYC (and be more likely to buy them, according to the marketing rule of 7).

Explore new inspirations. Last year, Ryan and the team were launching their new glitter sneakers and wanted to expand on the glitter theme in their product launch window displays. So they went to Global Shop with a plan to look for all things glitter, and there they discovered a company that made fabulous glitter walls. They ended up hiring them to build their walls in custom dimensions and sizes for each store. The displays brilliantly reflected the new collection while staying true to the UGG brand.

Q3 and Q4 are where it’s at. Everyone in retail knows that the second half of the year holds the highest potential for sales. UGG plans their displays accordingly, allocating more time and resources when potential ROI is much higher.

Be choosy with your vendors. Despite planning displays up to a year in advance, designs can evolve, budgets change, and issues may arise that lead to tight turnaround times. So when Ryan finds a vendor like Xylem Design that can keep up with their pace, they hold onto them. It’s also important to UGG that vendors can stick to their quotes, even if there are minor adaptations to the design, as it helps keep the process moving without having to put things on hold for a new budget approval. And movement is life. 

Let us help you step up your game (and increase your sales) with your next store display. Call us today for a custom quote.

 

7 Tactics to Drive Traffic to Your Tradeshow Booth: The Best Advice From Industry Leaders

It can be tempting to get googly eyed over the number of attendees a trade show organizer boasts, but if none of them are coming to your booth, you might as well have set up shop at the county fair in Muleshoe, Texas.

Whether you’re out for leads, sales, or simply brand awareness, a nice sign or even a booth babe (this is a real thing) are no longer enough to attract your ideal customer. Your tradeshow booth marketing needs to start long before the show opens, as part of your larger marketing machine in order to get the most bang for your tradeshow buck.

We’ve consulted industry experts and come up with the top 7 ways to ensure the highest ROI possible at your events this fall.

Set your goals before the show.

Susan Friedman, a trade show marketing expert and industry consultant who goes by “The Tradeshow Coach,” said that before you spend a dime on marketing, you need to ask yourself why you’re going to the show and what you want to get out of it. Do you want leads? Are you trying to close sales? Building brand awareness? These will inform many of the decisions you need to make around marketing material, giveaways, booth design, etc.

Choose your booth staff wisely.

Quality booth staff is key. People are, first and foremost, interested and attracted to other people, and if your staff looks like they’d rather be somewhere else, so will your customers. Friedman said to staff your booth with people who are knowledgeable about your product or service, engaging, and interested. Remember, the most interesting people are always interested.

Find your audience online.

Most tradeshows have a featured #hashtag you can utilize to let attendees know who you are, where you’re at, and what great things they can find at your booth. Colleen Canty, trade show coordinator for Bulb, saw a huge increase in booth traffic when they decided to stay active on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram while exhibiting. This is also a great way to engage your current followers and fans who may be attending the show.

It pays to be specific.

The experts agree, when you try to attract everyone, you attract no one. By now, you know your customer, their habits, likes and dislikes. Build your booth and marketing strategy around your ideal customer. The Tradeshow Network Marketing Group recommends building your exhibit and all your collateral materials around the niche you’ve identified to be the most important at each particular trade show (this may be different depending on what show you’re attending). Whether you want your booth to be loud and exciting with lighted displays and brilliant colors or peaceful and calming with comfy seating and an organic ambiance completely depends on what your ideal customer wants. Build it for them.

Don’t be afraid of technology.

In an analysis of the latest tradeshow trends, Competitive Edge—an exhibitor education, training and consulting firm—found that the biggest players are using interactive technologies like tablets, touchscreens and digital signing to provide more personalized in-booth experiences. For example, last year we built a display for Bulb that featured framed screens where the exhibitors could showcase their digital product live.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Lighting is everything.
Typically, tradeshow hall lighting is a lot like movie-theater bathroom lighting: everyone and everything looks bad. Luckily, there are ways to fix that. Sean Roberts, a global strategist in the event and tradeshow industry (and good friend of ours) says that in order to create an inviting booth, consider what you’d like to illuminate, and find the right kind of lighting to do the job. Lighted display cases can add accent or drama to your product, and lamps or floor lighting can create an inviting effect.

Walk the floor before you set up shop.
Most trade show and event organizers give you some say in your booth location. There are competing wisdoms out there, as some would recommend vying for a spot by a big vendor likely to draw a crowd, while others swear by a booth near the food court or facilities. Roberts suggests attending the show the year before to scope out the event set up, and take notes on where people are migrating to, what doors they’re entering, and what locations are drawing the most attention. According to Roberts, in large spaces like trade show halls or malls, people typically start by moving right, or towards something big and bold up front.

Conclusion.
The experts all agree: Except in the rarest of cases, booth traffic doesn’t happen by accident. As you prepare for your fall trade shows and events, consider which of these booth traffic-boosters will bring up your ROI and help you meet your marketing and sales goals for the year and beyond.

Need help designing or building your tradeshow booth or display? Contact us for a free consultation.

Top six design secrets for small living spaces

Small spaces pose a unique set of challenges when it comes to interior design and decoration, especially for those with collections of art, furniture and heirlooms they want to incorporate into their home.

With home sizes trending smaller, it’s becoming more important for every interior designer, decorator, home staging company and new homeowner to learn how to dream big in smaller living areas.

We spoke with Trinity Wilbourn of Trove Collectivea Fort Collins-based home staging and design company awarded Best of Houzz 2016 and 2017—to find out how they work their magic in spaces without much wiggle room. The following are some of Trinity’s best tips and tricks for transforming your small space.

Start with the lighting. Bring in as much light as possible and find ways to bounce it around the room. White treatments hung 4-6 inches above and extended 10-12 inches beyond the width of the actual window will create the illusion that the window is larger and make the space feel more expansive. Hang a mirror across from your window to help reflect and emphasize the natural lighting, and have two to three lamps set up on side tables—like our modern cube tablesor accent pedestals to further dispel the shadows.

Get creative with shapes and textures. Incorporating different textures and materials—like acrylic, wood, metal, etc.—into your design can help differentiate various objects and surfaces, transform light, and add complexity to a space. For example, if you have a lot of rectangular shapes in your space, consider a cylinder pedestal to break up the hard angles.


Utilize the Rule of Three. Bring three objects of varying shapes, heights and colors into a grouping. The brain loves odd numbers and unusual pairings and tries to resolve it, keeping you engaged with the space. Try putting three objects of various heights together—like a book, a bowl and a vase of flowers—on a white display pedestal. These can easily be rotated out with changes in the season or personal taste.

Christa Tippmann Photography

“Put a plant on it.” Plants offer a shape and texture that you simply don’t get with any other object, and they bring life to a room. They’re proven to be a powerful presence in any home and look stunning displayed on a wood or white plant stand pedestal.

Be consistent with color. Choose a palette or a few main accent colors coupled with neutrals and repeat throughout the room. Trove Collective currently stages using a cooler palette of greys and blues.

Add height-differentiation to your furniture. This adds depth and interest to the room. A pedestal or display stand can help break up sofa/coffee table lines, divide the room or fill an awkward-sized empty space.

Have a small space solution we missed? Let us know and we’ll share them with our followers!

Xylem + Corso Agency: Building Heineken’s Custom Bar

The people lucky enough to attend the BottleRock music festival two weeks past were able to enjoy an ice-cold Heineken from a custom-built bar surround that looks so naturally Napa, they’d never guess it was built in Fort Collins, Colorado the week before.

We fell into this project by way of Corso Agency, a lifestyle and cultural marketing agency whose work you may have seen at Coachella, The Pegasus World Cup Invitational and the US Open, among others. They work with some of the world’s largest brands to create unforgettable experiences.

We love working with Corso, so when they came to us needing six bar surrounds in two weeks for their customer Heineken, we said “Absolutely” and got to work.

Corso sent us a rendering which we used to build a 3D model. The model was approved within hours and the project hit the floor. We used polyurethane paint to get that perfect Heineken green. Just seeing it makes you thirsty. It’s collapsible for easy shipping and storage, made to withstand the outdoor fun, and can be set up in no time.

The taller back pieces you see in the rendering are used to hide the pallets of beer and water for restocking the coolers and keeping the thirsty masses going.

This ultra-portable, uber-flexible solution will allow Corso to extend Heineken’s branding throughout the U.S. this festival season. And we’re excited to premier another design soon for Corso, making appearances around the NYC area this Summer. Stay tuned!

Working on a custom project for an event, festival or trade show? Let’s talk. 

Other Corso Projects by Xylem

 

UGG x Xylem

Most days, we get calls from dozens of people needing a single pedestal.

A few weeks ago, we got a call from one person who needed hundreds.

We’ve had the pleasure and joy of working with Ugg (you know, the footwear company famous for these boots) on retail displays over the last few years, but this order of theirs was a little different.

They needed 360 clear acrylic pedestals and risers for their big spring sales event—the launch of their upcoming seasonal line—to which they invite all of their distributors, customers and friends.

Acrylic pedestals—made out of the same material as plexiglass—are one of our top sellers. Elegant, modern, and a lot more durable than they look, our acrylic pedestals are fully customizable, available in several colors with various lighting options. The clear option Ugg ordered has an airy, open look that gives your product or art piece a feel of floating.

On the production side, making 360 pedestals is almost the same as making a single unit, though with an order this size the name of the game is: Logistics. As a lean manufacturing company, we make everything to order, so the first step was confirming we could source the materials in time to meet a tight timeline. With so many customers in the trade show or event space, we don’t mess around when it comes to deadlines—we meet them, or we go extinct… so we always meet them.

One of our disciplines to keep on track is The Pre-mortem: a group huddle to anticipate potential issues with a project before we start cutting and to establish daily production benchmarks, ensuring there are no surprises. We also work on a one-piece flow, building one piece from start to finish instead of working in large batches. If there’s a defect somewhere along the line, we catch it on the first pedestal, stop production, and fix the problem in real time on Pedestal No. 1 rather than on No. 360.

We had four guys on this project for 10 days and we’re happy to say we got every last one shipped out with time to spare. And as our mentor Toyota says, “Quality, or nothing at all.”

Have a custom job for your retail space, event or trade show? Let’s talk!

Contact us to discuss your next project.

Order your own acrylic pedestal 

Our acrylic pedestals (like the ones that Ugg ordered) are elegant, modern and fully customizable. Order yours today. 

Getting It Done For Get It Right: A Tradeshow Romance

Samantha Rose, founder/CEO of Get It Right, wanted a Home and Housewares tradeshow display that reflected their brand: intelligently designed, aesthetically appealing, functionally perfect.

As a product designer, Samantha knows a thing or two about sourcing and knew she was looking for the original source for pedestals—not a third or fourth party reselling from China. Her search brought her to Xylem (thanks Google!), and we were able to build GIR the custom pedestals needed to show off their gorgeous kitchenwares. And if you don’t think the word gorgeous can apply to kitchenwares, you haven’t seen these.

She was so pleased with the results that she got back in touch with Xylem for their 2017 tradeshow booth. Samantha and team initially planned to order a few custom light boxes, but after talking quotes and turnaround time with Seth, they handed us the entire wall and counter-build as well.

“They did a wonderful job of taking our vision and actually improving on it,” she said. “Everything they did was super tight, easy to assemble and dissemble, came fully labeled and with an instructional video. We really wouldn’t have been able to do it without them.”

Samantha was especially thrilled to discover our intentional approach to I&D and logistics made the booth reusable for years to come—saving GIR future time and resources.

It was a joy to work with GIR, a company that shares our desire to fix what bugs them, continuously improve and value people above all else. Bonus: they make the best damn spatula on the planet.

Contact us to discuss your next project.

What we do: A walk through our wheelhouse

 

Xylem Design (the parent company of Pedestal Source) does two things, and having worked hard at them for 30 years, we can confidently say we do those two things very well.

We design and we build.

Specializing in displays and custom components for branded environments—including exhibits, events and retail spaces—we take your ideas and make them into real things. Really good looking things.

Design

Our in-house design team can take your concept or vision, vague as it may be, and translate it into a branded environment, retail fixture, piece of furniture or display.

Some of our customers will call us with a solid idea of what they’re looking for, including sketches and dimensions. Others know they have a product to show off and a deadline and that’s about it. We work with both types of customers and everyone in between.

As exhibit and display builders, we’re very visual. We invite our customers into the process using our Gemba Cam—a live video feed into our workspace—where together we review the material, size, shape and lighting until we land on a design that we both understand and love.

Value engineering is one of our specialties—which is to say, we know how to design around your budget to meet your needs, so you’ll never be surprised by the bottom line.

Build

If you visit our shop—which we hope you do (for real)—you might notice we don’t have any storage. That’s because we have nothing to store. All of our products are built to order, meeting the specific needs of our diverse clientele.

We do bulk and one-offs. We work with acrylics, laminates, real wood veneers, and basically anything that begins its life as a 4’x8’ sheet. We can use any skin, any substrate, anything you can dream up (well, almost anything).

We built sixty white pedestals for Maison 10. If you’ve been there, you probably haven’t noticed them—precisely our goal—as they were designed to showcase their wares, not ours. As pedestal and display builders, that’s just part of the deal.

On the other end of the spectrum is the acrylic light box we built for Smart Wool (designed by this rad team of creatives). At 10’ tall, it took one hundred 3” x 3” colored acrylic squares of varying thicknesses to form a giant rendition of their Little Guy logo, complete with beating heart. There was no missing their trade show booth, and that was the point.

We look to Toyota as our sensei when it comes to production: We aim to deliver the highest quality at the lowest cost with the best delivery.

This means we have our systems dialed in, allowing us to turn around projects incredibly quickly— sometimes even same day. Building for events and trade shows, our customers need to trust that when we say we can meet a deadline, we will—come hell or high water. Think that’s an exaggeration? Just ask us about the pallet of custom white pedestals: destroyed in transit when the 18-wheeler caught fire, rebuilt that afternoon, and overnighted in time for the event. It’s a fun story, but we really champion systems over heroes.

 

Call us old fashioned, but we love face-to-face time. Our customers are all over the map, and it’s our goal to make them feel like we’re just down the street. Being Colorado folk, that’s just how we do. You’re always welcome to visit but even if you can’t, we’ll hop on the Gemba Cam, send you a video of your project in process, and let you know via Facetime/Skype/your-technology-of-choice exactly what you’re getting before it ships. Everything is built-to-order, so we make sure we get it right the first time, every time.

Diehard believers in continuous improvement, both individually and as a company, you’ll find we never get comfortable with where we’re at. Every time we enter into the design + build process, expect it to be better than the last. As our skills and processes continually improve, so does your experience.

Contact us to start your next project. We can’t wait.