Engage!12 Wedding Conference Recap

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Tuesday morning's program, letterpressed by Two Paperdolls

This past week I spoke at Engage!12, the semi-annual business summit for people working in the luxury segment of the wedding industry. It is the ninth Engage! event and is truly the only one of its kind.

I often get asked to explain Engage! and the honest answer is that it is pretty hard to explain. For me, even with the awesome line up of speakers that Kathryn and Rebecca put together twice a year, the true magic of Engage! is always the people in the room. And that is why even though there are less expensive conferences that try to mimic Rebecca and Kath's model, decor, speaker line-up, etc, they will never be able to capture what these ladies have created.

engage wedding conference
The dynamic team behind Engage! -- Trisha Hay, Rebecca Grinnals, and Kathryn Arce

At one of the breaks sponsored by Jimmy Choo.

The room is full of people who do things the "wrong" way and who have business models that would make any Harvard MBAer cringe. It is a room full of people who are not waiting around for the next big thing, but who are busy being the next big thing. It is a room full of people willing to connect the dots. It is a room full of people who aren't necessarily fearless, but who move forward despite their fears. To paraphrase Seth Godin, if you wait around for a case study in your industry of how something would work, it is too late, you are no longer the innovator. The people who attend Engage are typically the ones who say, "I have no idea how that would work, but we're going to figure it out along the way." Engage! is a room full of doers.

The lunch group my fellow speaker Maria of Ritzy Bee and I co-hosted -- a table full of smart people at the top of their game.

And so for my recap, I want to share some of the insights and dot connections I personally made, the unspoken themes that found themselves popping up in so many of the presentations and private conversations. Except where specifically noted, these aren't direct quotes, but things that stood out to me from Engage!12.

engage!12 wedding conference
Peter Shallard talking about the psychology of raising your prices.

No matter who you may think is at the top of their game, no one has it all together.

Ed Libby, Jes Gordon, Angela Desveaux, Tara Guerard, Cindy Novotny and several others all echoed this sentiment. Ed and Jes talked about the need to work together and essentially that you need to be able to forgive and move on if you want to be successful. When you have any type of relationship with people, things won't always be a bed of roses. It was a great reminder to not be so quick to write people off. I personally believe that nothing is irreparable or unredeemable, and several of the speakers and personal conversations this week echoed that sentiment. As Jes Gordon said, "Special people live difficult lives." It's okay to admit we all have issues, but it's not okay to ignore them. Psychologist Peter Shallard mentioned the need to deal with your baggage and my favorite insight of his was not to ignore the part of your brain that says maybe sometimes you are not so great at something. My favorite line of his: "You should never fight doubt with positive thinking, you should only fight it with being more awesome."

engage!12 mandarin oriental
Andrea Liss of Hannah Handmade, Kym Bichon of The Breakers, and Cassandre Snyder of Cassandre Snyder Events.

Be genuinely generous and helpful, and you'll be surprised at the opportunities that open up to you when you least expect.

Carley Roney, co-founder of The Knot, shared how they bent over backwards for Oprah's team for years doing whatever they wanted and often with no acknowledgement, no credit, etc. Then one day out of the blue Oprah's team called and said they wanted to give Carley and The Knot not just a segment but an entire show. Harmony Walton from The Bridal Bar and Jet Fete also shared some opportunities that come when you recognize that "what's in it for me?" isn't always the best question to ask. Moral of the story? Be willing to do thankless work. This doesn't mean being a doormat, and you still need to be smart and discerning about what you say yes to, but don't expect an automatic return on every single little (or big) thing you do for other people. Relationships, even in business, take time and aren't always a one-for-one exchange in an even trajectory.

celebrity wedding planner marcy blum
Marcy Blum discussing predictions based on current events and her 28 years as a celebrity wedding planner.

Be married to your art and vision, but not necessarily to how it's always been done.

With the speed of technology, the generational client changes (and the generational employee changes), increased competition, the way you have always done things will not bring you the same level of success that it has in the past. As Sean Low said, "Create, innovate, or fade away." Cindy Novotny mentioned that her company is moving into new areas where her name will not be the one that is known in order to keep the dozens of people who work for her employed long after she's gone. Tara Guerard talked about starting new projects that stay true to her core of design, but that free up her Saturdays to spend with her three young kids. Angela Desveaux of WedLuxe (whose talk, by the way, is the only one in the history of the nine Engages that made me cry) shared about starting their own bridal show because the context of a previous collaboration changed. All of these women put aside their egos, stepped out of their comfort zones and said, "what got us here won't get us there" and then shifted. Be married to your art, but adapt your process to the times.

engage!12 las vegas
Aimee Moynihan of Tropical Occasions, Hope Wasserman Weis of Hope Weis Consulting, Kevin Weinstein of Kevin Weinstein Photography

These three areas are only the tip of the iceberg from what I took out of this past week. I am still processing a lot of it. The next Engage!12 is at The Breakers in December. It was halfway sold out in the first four days after Rebecca and Kathryn announced it, so if you would like to attend, I'd recommend registering sooner rather than later. 

All photos by Ready Luck and Scott Clark Photo for Elan Artists

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