Engage!10 Insights and Reflections

Friday, June 11, 2010

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I've been in Grand Cayman this week for Engage!10, a wedding business intensive for professionals working in the luxury wedding market. This is the fifth Engage! event Rebecca Grinnals and Kathryn Arce have produced, and I am fortunate to have been to all five, three as a speaker and two as an attendee.

This week I've been reflecting on the past Engage conferences and why I find them so valuable and I wanted to share some of my experiences with you. Here are some of my takeaways from this week's event:

*It's important to create with velocity, not just volume. This idea wasn't one from any one speaker, but an unspoken lesson I took away that seemed to be threaded throughout the presentations and conversations I had with other people there.

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*From Rebecca Grinnals's session on the state of the wedding industry: Other than a car or a house, weddings are one of the most expensive purchases a couple will ever make. Do your processes respect that investment? (This second insight is from conversations with Colin Cowie and Todd Fiscus during the non-presentation time.)

*From Carley Roney's presentation on insights into how the high-end bride buys: 98% of luxury brides use professional vendors (rather than a "friend who loves to plan" or an "uncle with a great camera") yet they still spend ten hours per week online planning their wedding (with the non-luxury bride spending 8 hours) and 72% of luxury brides research vendors online. High-end companies need to engage online in a strategic fashion more so than their lower-priced colleagues.

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*Winners ignore negativity, losers wallow in it. - Cindy Novotny

I know it's not politically correct to talk about money, but I feel it's necessary since there are many workshops and seminars competing for our time and education budgets. When choosing where to allocate your resources, the return on investment is a huge factor. At the very first Engage conference I took home an idea that generated about $90,000 in revenue for my company over the course of the following ten months. It wasn't an idea that was specifically articulated by a speaker, but a lesson I learned in one of the sessions by keeping an open mind and letting my brain connect dots. The idea also wouldn't have worked (I thought it was too scary at first) had it not been for a conversation with some of the attendees in the lobby afterward that boosted my confidence to run with it.

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The other financial elephant often in the room about this conference is the cost. Engage is expensive by design: the price tag helps ensure that the people attending are often beyond the aspirational stage in their business growth. They are people who work in the high-end market and have solid businesses. Because of this, I have always found that the conversations and lessons learned from the people in the room over dinner are just as valuable as the keynote content. You can pay less for seminars with the same speakers, but the results will be different because the people in the room are a huge part in making an event what it is. I have always come away from Engage with a handful of ideas that have changed the way I approach things and have made some of my best friends in the industry that started with conversations shared in the lobby bar late in the evening.

There are no silver bullets in business, and Engage is certainly not one of them, however, for me, this week marks the fifth successful case study in how strongly effective it can be for a business. The next Engage is in October at the Breakers resort in Palm Beach. If you feel it is something that can help you, you can sign up here.



Photos courtesy of Donna Von Bruening Photographers

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