King Dahl to offer a unique view of MGM Resorts Events
Editor’s note: King Dahl is executive director of event design of MGM Resorts Events, Las Vegas, and is a 29-year veteran of the event industry. Dahl began his career with “It’s The Main Event” in Los Angeles. He says the company evolved into an influential design company of the time, setting in motion some event design techniques still used today. In the early 1990s, he joined forces with the Malibu Conference Center and began King Dahl Event Design. He later sold the company to take advantage of the opportunity at MGM Resorts Events. Dahl is the featured speaker at the opening breakfast for Events & Tents on Sunday, Feb. 27. Dahl recently discussed his work at MGM Resorts Events and his view of the equipment rental industry with Rental Management. An edited version of the conversation follows.
RM: How does MGM Resorts Events differ from a “traditional” event rental operation? How is it similar?
King Dahl: There are parallels and striking differences. One difference is that MGM Resorts Events is owned by MGM Resorts International, so we are a part of a large, global corporation. A significant percentage of the events we produce are experiential marketing events created for the Las Vegas properties owned by our corporation. We call these “in-house” events. The balance of our work is for corporate or social events, termed “cash” events, which are managed by our sales team. We are similar in that, as a facility that rents product, we warehouse a vast array of amazing inventory that Events & Tents attendees will be able to experience on the tour. We have the same challenges with space, storage, transportation and proper inventory control as do many in the equipment rental business. We look forward to sharing some of the solutions we have developed to overcome the problems.
RM: What does your typical day/week/month entail? What is something you do every day without fail?
|Events & Tents helps kick off The Rental Show 2011|
|The Events & Tents educational workshop for those in the party and event segment of the rental industry will help kick off The Rental Show 2011 in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.|
This year, the workshop starts at 1:45 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 26, with an optional 90-minute tour of MGM Resorts Events led by King Dahl, executive director of event design, and his staff members. Tickets for the industry tour are $25.
The day will continue with an official welcome session at 3:30 p.m. followed by three educational seminars at 4 p.m. with topics including “It’s Time to Get Savvy About Social Media” by Lara McCulloch-Carter, Ready2Spark, Burlington, Ontario, Canada; “Table Talk: Sharing Core Business Concepts” with a variety of rental industry professionals; and “Razzle Dazzle Your Clients with Spectacular Table Designs” by Robin Brocklesby, Creative Coverings, Sparks, Nev.
The “Time to Network Reception” starts at 6 p.m. at Tabù Ultra Lounge at MGM Grand with drinks and appetizers. Guests must be 21 and have proper identification to attend. International guests must have a passport to present. The cost is $25 per Events & Tents attendee and $40 per guest.
On Sunday, Dahl of MGM Resorts Events will return to present “Through the Looking Glass: A Peek at a High-Performing Event Team.” Dahl says he plans to talk about the leadership principles he and his management staff have established as well as the steps needed to make a business a leader in the event industry. In addition, his presentation will include several event photos to help stir up inspiration among attendees.
A full lineup of educational sessions complete the morning schedule, starting at 9 a.m. with “Personality Marketing to Today’s Bride” by Susan Southerland, Perfect Wedding Guide, Lake Mary, Fla.; “Catering Connections: Partners helping Partners,” a panel of experts; and “Time to Shine with LED Lighting.”
A second round of sessions begins at 10:30 a.m., including “Seal the Deal with Five-Star Customer Service” by Jan Franke, iQ Edge, Euless, Texas; “Is Party a Large Enough Slice of Your Rental Business,” a panel of rental experts; and “Table Talk: Tenting Tips and Techniques” with a variety of tent professionals.
Those attending Events & Tents are invited to attend Lunch with ARA on Sunday, Feb. 27, which will include recognition of Certified Event Rental Professional (CERP) graduates and the presentation of the American Rental Association’s (ARA) annual volunteer awards. Advance registration is required and tickets are $15.
An Events & Tents Inspiration Gallery also will be on display throughout the show, giving attendees time to view event work of their ARA peers. Additional photos from the gallery submissions will be shown during Events & Tents with copies distributed to attendees.
Advance registration for Events & Tents is available for $225 by Feb. 18 or attendees may register on-site after Feb. 18 for $250. More information about Events & Tents is available online at www.TheRentalShow.com. Click on “Events & Tents” in the drop-down menu under the “Education and Events” tab.
Dahl: Since we will produce 900-plus events this year, planning and communication are key components that keep us operationally efficient. Every week we have certain set meetings that occur without fail. We have a staff-wide meeting called “Talk Tuesday” that addresses successes, challenges, team building exercises, event recaps and more items that are pertinent to all employees. There is a design meeting that focuses on brainstorming upcoming events. In addition, we have a management meeting for department heads, a sales meeting specifically geared towards sales personnel, a logistics meeting that focuses on the scheduling of install and strike crews, plus individual half-hour biweekly meetings with department heads to address concerns specifically for their departments. These meetings are, of course, in addition to the many sales calls, client meetings, pre-planning meetings and site inspections that all industry professionals are involved in. While this may seem excessive, each meeting is crucial to the overall efficiency of our operation. I am personally at every one of them. Most are held at the beginning of the day prior to everyone diving into their daily workload. As far as something that I do each and every day, I come in prior to the arrival of most of the staff members to manage and file my e-mail, as I receive more than 300 e-mails a day.
RM: Choose a recent event you worked on — what made it unique? What went well? What challenges did you have to solve? What did you learn?
Dahl: Certainly the largest challenge we face as an event production company is our annual onslaught of New Year’s Eve events in Las Vegas. A typical New Year’s Eve will include seven or eight large-scale events with 1,500 to 2,000 guests, plus several smaller events located in restaurants and nightclubs. Each event has a unique theme or ambience, each stunning in its own right, with many custom-designed décor elements produced specifically for that particular event. Meticulous attention to detail during the multi-day installation process is essential in order to layer in the huge array of décor components in synergy with every aspect of technical, trussing, lighting, sound, staging, tables, chairs, linens and florals. Special attention is paid to entertainers, catering and waitstaff needs, as they become the real heroes once the doors are opened. We have learned that advanced preparation and clear communication across the board is the only way to ensure a successful collection of New Year’s Eve events. We begin the planning process in late summer. There are so many variables that can create problems. Anticipating and solving the issues that we have control of leaves us enough leeway to handle those problems that are out of our control. Our logistics team always does an outstanding job with the delivery and installation of the events, and they are always ready for the Las Vegas road closures that occur a few hours before doors open that prohibit any last minute deliveries.
RM: Recently you had members of your team post on your blog about the eight values of a successful team. What did you think of the responses from your co-workers? What did you learn?
Dahl: We have received overwhelmingly positive responses from our readers to the “8 Values of a Successful Event Team.” In fact, I am often asked to include the values in my seminars and educational sessions, and I plan on discussing these principles during my session with the Event & Tents attendees on Sunday morning. I’ve engaged members of my event management team to contribute their thoughts on a particular value. I have been very impressed and surprised at the results. Bear in mind, these are values that we have developed together, try to live by and infuse into our daily work life. The interpretations of various values have been quite revealing into the personalities, work ethic and dedication of each person that has participated. I’m happy to say, I couldn’t be more pleased with the posts. If any of your readers have not had the opportunity to read the blog, the address is www.mgmresortsevents.blogspot.com.
RM: You also blogged about the pressures of the economy and resulting effects on the event industry — the necessity to be a professional. What do those in event rental, from smaller stores to large operations, have to do to stay competitive?
Dahl: The economy has affected every one of us in the industry. What I have noticed in the companies that have managed to weather the storm is that they have confronted the brutal realities and successfully transformed themselves to some degree or another. I don’t believe whether your company is a boutique or a larger operation is relevant. What is important is that it is the appropriate size for the amount of business you are looking to do. I’ve seen companies “right-size” in order to handle the change in business environment. Frankly, there were companies carrying extra employees, assets, inventory and overhead that simply no longer made financial sense. I speak a lot about professionalism as well. I truly believe that customers deserve, demand and expect the very best value for their dollar. We owe it to our customers and our industry to operate ethically and professionally, so that we earn our profitability. I state in the blog that, “Street smarts coupled with academia; a broad range of analytical, financial and management skills; an understanding of all disciplines of the industry; sales and marketing acumen; and exceptional creativity are now the bare minimum needed to share the field with so many exceptional event pros.”
RM: What do you plan to tell those that attend the tour and your session? What will they come away with?
Dahl: The tour and session are designed to share information by giving attendees the opportunity to peer “through the looking glass” at MGM Resorts Events. Our operational efficiencies, warehouse and inventory systems, and our production techniques will be shared on the tour of the studio and warehouse. As a follow up, my presentation the following morning will explain in detail the leadership principles that we have instilled in our management staff and employees that have increased our sales and our efficiencies. I will outline the steps to create your own strategic plan to make your business an exceptional leader in the event and rental industry. I also always include a healthy amount of stimulating event photos that help stir the creative juices in every attendee.