Last week, I attended Engage!10, a luxury wedding business summit, in the Cayman Islands. Run by Rebecca Grinnals and her Director of Amazing, Kathryn Arce, it is far and away the best conference for those in the wedding business. If you would like to read more about the conference, just take a look at the wonderful recaps and insights posted by Liene Stevens, Jasmine Star, Harmony Walton, Ami Elizabeth and Tom McCallum with many many more to follow, I am sure.
My biggest takeaway, applicable to all creative businesses is, to paraphrase Rebecca, Cindy Novotny, Carley Roney and Colin Cowie: change, be changed or be rendered obsolete (and broke). You could literally see each of the speaker’s minds at work on what the next version of their business is going to look like. Whether it is Cindy talking about how she constantly innovates at her restaurant (i.e., offering her golf crazed clientele an opportunity to go to the Masters), Carley talking about The Knot’s new initiatives in China, or Colin talking about his new date-specific wedding newsletter. The audience too was a reflection of the innovation on stage. Rosalind Bordo and Siri Eklund of Two Bright Lights presented some of their findings from a fantastic industry survey they recently conducted. Among the most powerful statistics was the overwhelming success of those businesses using inspiration board technology to market their businesses relative to those that do not. Hard for me to imagine any creative business NOT using inspiration boards after seeing the numbers. The days of impersonal, unrelated communication with potential (and actual) clients are behind us. Personal, related dialogue is here, thankfully, to stay.
What was also apparent is that we are all on uncertain ground. Truly, no one knows where we will be a year from now, let alone five. However, what is equally apparent is that trends are forming that I believe will only get stronger. Among the biggest is the idea that design and production are diverging, leaving very little room for those that are trying to straddle both. If you are a producer without the vertical integration and analytical capability of Todd Fiscus of Todd Events, Byron Boone of Heffernan Morgan Design, or Warren Dietel of Puff n’ Stuff Catering, you are going to get run over unless you can get to their scale quickly and effectively. But trying to reach that scale might prevent you from acquiring the true design capabilities necessary to communicate with Todd, Byron or Warren. Talk with Todd Avery Lenahan for five minutes and hear about his staff of fifteen who work all day long to provide developers the information they need to complete one of his designs and you will know just how much there is to be done behind the scenes if you are to be a designer. In this divergence though, there exists enormous opportunity on both sides. Producers will be able to extend their reach into new territories and markets. Designers will be able to go global on a scale we have not ever seen before.
It does not stretch the imagination to believe that Todd Avery Lenahan could be the next great event designer (on a global par with Colin and Preston) if he chose to be. Nor would it shock me if Todd Events became the producer of all events (not just weddings) for The Ritz Carlton at every one of their hotels in the United States. Less obvious are the opportunities that will exist when either of these ideas (or something like them) becomes a reality. J.R. Simplot’s story is largely dependent on McDonald’s but no less important.
The beauty of a conference like Engage!10 is that it is simultaneously the catalyst and the facilitator. Rebecca is singularly genius at putting before the audience a vision of what can be in the wedding business and making sure that the room is filled with those in a position and with a desire to do something about it. The Breakers cannot come soon enough.