Wednesday, January 14, 2015

It is time to plan THE Bar Mitzvah

Even though it should all be about the journey into manhood and the spiritual introduction to religion, the reality is that for most of the parents - it is a celebration -  having friends and family enjoy this special occasion.

In truth most families, and moms really look forward to it, especially the planning - and in many cases dads just pay the bill - which in many cases can go overboard. In all fairness to moms, this is the most important event that is their own; no other family involved and no in-laws to deal with.

Looking at it from a spiritual and religious point of view, coming into the age of 13 and being Bar Mitzvah is more than just a reading from the Torah, it is really a journey into a way of life, a Jewish way of life.

The journey begins with the date, as with every event, we need THE date and in this case it deals not only with the secular date but it is based on the Jewish calendar on the day you are born. We follow our Rabbi's teachings and we take his advice on how we should approach this, whether it is a path through orthodox, reform, conservative or any path in between, it is about learning and understanding the week's parasha known as the weeks teaching from the holy book, or Torah.

Tefilim is introduced to the boy at this point, and it is taught that its meaning is much more than just some leather straps that they put on. It is about becoming not only a man, but becoming part of a very special group called a Minyan, where you not only become part of your community, but also are counted as one to complete this special group in any prayer according to the Jewish faith. A Miyan (group of 10 adults)  is needed in order to begin the prayers not only the day of your Bar Mitzvah, but to celebrate any of the Jewish events as well as the being part of the morning prayer. 

The leather straps are the spiritual connection that the boy has to G..d where he can create his special bond, especially if he continues with the law that says you have to put them on every morning.

Moving forward and into the "celebration" part, the planning begins. The venue, the list, the theme, the details, the entertainment, and off course the budget. Weather we choose to get help from a professional or decide to venture alone, all this has to be done in order to create the experience and the memories we desire.  

After everything has been decided, negotiated, and signed, we come across “Jacob's story". A very excited, yet shy young man that has no clue how to dance or even socialize with girls. 13, is an extremely difficult age that comes with anxiety; facing manhood according to the religion and its leaders, and on the other hand a social affair to celebrate the journey. Social = girls. That is another subject to consider. According to the Jewish tradition girls go through the same face of becoming a woman, even though in many communities - orthodox especially - it is not celebrated in the same way, they "enter" this journey a year earlier at 12. 

So now we are at 13, a year older and being invited to THE Bar Mitzvah, is where we continue with Jacob's story. The common denominator is going to a party to have fun. Even though the other "Jacob's" are as nervous about the social interaction.

In Jacob's case, the mom was very well aware of his shyness and asked that we concentrate our planning and budget on making this a very special occasion and into making him feel good himself and here is where we made the difference…

His hobby is skateboarding, so we created a special skateboard, glow in the dark to complement the theme and the entertainment.

To break the ice of getting there, a team of professional skate boarders were at the entrance to greet them and guide them to the party.

Once inside, an interesting character was welcoming them at the door plus all the waiters with an array of appetizers. Instead of the normal, DJ music and dancing time, the skate boarders changed into a more urban outfit, and while the guests were entering the room and just having some appetizers, they started a break-dance show. No kids involved, just a show. Soon after they started teaching the kids how to do it, and one by one everyone was dancing and learning the steps. The ICE was broken and the confidence skyrocketed. So now the DJ is in full blast and with he help of the dancers everyone was dancing and having a great time. 

Not done, buffet opened and kids start getting "tired" and looking for food, but we can't let the high come down, so after a short period of food and drink, lights turned out and a very interesting character came out with glow sticks and glow glasses, getting the kids and adults a little more energized and ready to go again. A very cool show inspired by the famous "Black Theater" in Prague, goes full force and ending with everyone on the dance floor just "glowing". 
After all this, the kids started winding down and the dancers brought out a lighted cake and dessert buffet opened giving everyone time to relax and slow down.

For Jacob who was dreading the "social" scene, his words were: "the best, best time ever, and the best best Bar Mitzvah anyone has ever had. “

This was the "best" for all of us: we juggled with budget, avoided expensive centerpieces, chose a different menu to cut costs and made this THE BEST Bar Mitzvah ever... 

The emotional connection: Some initial ideas.

As a planner,  we start a new year with many challenges, and many visions on how we can make this year a better one and a one with new things, trendy approaches and new incentives. Our imagination goes wild as we approach new clients and we face new beginnings. It is like our new year's resolutions are already way beyond our creative minds.

However, our key challenge is the always connected audience. Our speakers compete with social media and pouring emails to get our guests' attention.

Years ago, the challenge as an event planner was to make sure no one fell asleep during your event. Today, we need to wow our audience and get them so hooked that it makes our audience  forget about the machines that keep beeping in their pocket or hand bag.

The skill require to get our audience attention is immense, from asking for shorter presentation to provide additional wi fi so everyone stays connected. We must create the ambience to immerse your audience in our event. So the email and other distraction become less urgent, less important. Or they can hold off on replying to a tweet that requires their response.

If we do that then as event planners, we have truly created a successful event. 

So how do we achieve that?

The answer is the EMOTIONAL CONNECTION, and how we enchant with our audience in order to get its fully and undivided attention. 

We need to go back to basics and start from the beginning when we really look at the human capital as one of our biggest assets. 

Now we count likes, numbers and just emails that add up in our data base.

From the first communication to the last thank you, we need to create that connection. We need to build confidence and create an ambiance of familiarity within all our guests. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Some cultures collide, others identify with each other, and others unite

From an event point of view, this speaker was perfect, he completely connected with the audience and succeeded by providing the most important ingredient for the event to be a success:  "Emotional Connection"
This is the story of an amazing man whose journey and lessons need to be heard and learned from. A man who lived in a country where the hatred between two cultures caused political turmoil; a man whose identity changed due to the hatred among the races.  
Surrounded by young adults, where I couldn't help but feel 100 yrs old, just based on the fact that I was on one side and the "kids" all together on another. That in fact was the idea of the event. Kspace, where the event was held, has brought together over 12,000 young adults  with one thing in common, meet each other and respect your values and your tradition, while being in a safe environment. With a very spiritual leader, Rabbi Yossi, treats these kids as his friends; for them, he is their best friend, forget for a second he is an orthodox Rabbi, he is one of them, they hug him and love him and have come to appreciate and trust him.
After an array of food, that totally identifies with our culture, more food than people, we met Dr. Bern.  Born in Germany to a father that was very proud of his country, very proud of serving for his country, and proud to have been under Hitler's regime. Dr Bern's  story went from simple curiosity, to questioning his spirituality, his value,  and his beliefs. A story that took him from learning  a hard truth  to actually finding his place.
In his own words, and what stayed with me the most was that throughout  his life he came to the conclusion that it is not about good people and bad people, it is about people who create HATE and how through education they spread hate. People like to follow others, identify with their peers, and also be a part of something. The problem happens when that is based on hate.
Growing up as German, he was raised by his father with the concept that them the war were the glory days. According to his mother, this was the dark period and, his neighbor, who he was not supposed to talk to because they were the traitors, it was a shameful and sad period.
Upon finding the truth about his father and how he was proud to have given the Cross for his bravery in the war from Hitler himself, he became obsessed with the Jewish people and their culture. His turning point was when Germany hosted the Olympic games  and he saw how the Israeli athletes were killed just because they were Jewish. At this point his knowledge of the Jewish people was none, he thought they were bad or something was really wrong with them. To his astonishment, he was surprised to find that they were normal people like any other and began to wonder why.
A few years later, he met some students coming from Israel for a cultural visit to Germany. He could not understand why his people and his country, with a civilized and intelligent population would like to abolish other human beings. This curiosity led him to Israel, where he was fascinated by its people, its culture, and how they build a whole country after going through the Holocaust, something he was taught was only Jewish propaganda.
Spirituality was something he had never thought about or even was connected to, and after praying at the Western Wall he felt a connection that he had never thought existed, a connection that led him years later back to Israel as a Jew, having converted under all the restrictions of the rabbinical court, to serve in the Israeli army in a country he learned to love.
The emotional connection is more than just words, it can move mountains and give you the strength to reach any goal you set your mind to.