Eight people who work behind the scenes to make Engage! happen: Don and Barb Miller, Cindy and Ron Folak, Rochelle LaMontagne (the very first person I ever met at Engage back in 2008), Bruce Livingstone, Shawn Leech and Trisha Hay
One of the people who has worked quietly behind the Engage! scenes since the very beginning is Trisha Hay. Trisha came on board when Rebecca and Kathryn were planning the very first Engage! for June 2008. A graphic designer, Trisha created the visual identity that the Engage! brand has become known for and that has been its foundation over the years. She is a true trendsetter in that countless people have knocked off her designs over the years.
Engage! was created to be an event that fostered collaboration rather than competition and it does, both for attendees and the people who work behind the scenes to make it all happen. While others have been added to the design team over the years -- Kristy Rice, Vanessa Kreckel, Gifts for the Good Life, Deborah Nadel -- Trisha is the one who makes sure that everything stays on brand. Every design element of Engage! is an example of collaboration at its finest.
In addition to all of the signage, programs and little details that Trisha has designed over the past ten Engage conferences, my favorite is the attendee book. The Engage! attendee book was first introduced at Engage!09 at the Ritz Carlton in Grand Cayman and has become a staple at every event since.
The attendee book takes care of several things: first, it includes everyone's headshot, company name, job title, location, website and Twitter handle. Everyone is listed in alphabetical order by first name and speakers and attendees are intermixed. Rebecca and Kathryn are very specific about Engage being a place where everyone is VIP and the attendee booklet does not endorse any hierarchy of importance.
Second, introducing each speaker can take a while and eats up quality Engage time. However, it is still helpful to know who is speaking and why they are qualified to be up on stage. To remedy this, the speaker bios are now included in the back of the attendee book (in order of appearance -- again, no hierarchy) for people to read through if they aren't familiar with a particular speaker's experience.
Third, it allows you to network more organically and effectively. Rather than rushing around trying to make sure that everyone gets your business card, you can relax and have real conversations with people you actually connect with. Everyone has everyone else's contact info.
I know several people who study these books the first evening in order to better know who their colleagues are, and I know that I frequently reference these books long after a particular Engage! has ended. Rebecca and Kathryn identified some key pain points that are familiar to conference organizers worldwide and Trisha created a solution that is both practical and pretty. Her willingness to collaborate has helped Engage! set the new standard for what conferences can be.
All photos courtesy Donna Von Bruening, except collage, clockwise from top left: Stacey Kane, Garrett Nudd, Averyhouse, Donna Von Bruening