June 17, 2019

Give your employees the opportunity to learn and grow!

What makes for a successful, healthy corporate culture?

At VDA we think a lot of it boils down to giving employees an opportunity to take time outside of the office to expand their skills and knowledge base. We maintain the belief in employees continually learning and growing, and find that this truly makes for better employees. As a result, management at VDA really pushes our people to attend a range of conferences and trainings, and while these sessions might not always be directly in the attendees scope, this continued education opportunity can provide a tangent and add-on to growth which challenges and encourages you to think differently.

For instance, at VDA, we tend to promote from within – we like to recognize talent and foster a loyal employee-base – and while that process helps with creating a cohesive work environment, it leaves a margin for error as the only way some team members are learning is through internal instruction and protocol. A few years ago, all our Project Managers were tasked with attending a management training course. While they are all experts in building a stage set, or show-calling a corporate meeting, we need our project managers to be well-rounded, excelling in interpersonal communications and relationships with proficiency in business management. These are all skills that help with navigating interactions from client facing moments to delegating tasks to a crew of teamsters!

Where have we sent our team?

Most recently our Associate Graphic Designer, Timesha Livingston, attended the Adobe 99U Conference – “a resource and event series to help creatives build incredible careers, supercharge their work, and make their ideas happen.” When Timesha was given the opportunity to look for a conference to attend, she wanted to find something focused in the graphic design field that aligns with what she does in-office and with her passions.

Adobe 99U Conference was held in New York City this year.

Timesha shared that her experience at 99U really helped her revisit the process of being more creative. How can you think beyond the usual? What are the different ways to express your creativity? One of the solutions for this “outside-the-box” thinking was to reimagine the way we integrate technology. One speaker talked about music and sounds, and the way they stimulate memory: people hear before they see something, so they are more likely to remember an experience when the senses are paired together!

While Timesha isn’t sure yet how she’ll use the tools and knowledge she learned at 99U in her every day work life, she thought that it was a great opportunity to make connections and hear new people within the graphic design field as they inspired her with new creative ideas and concepts to explore.

In addition to Timesha’s attendance at the Adobe 99U Conference, VDA’s Senior Lighting Designer, Anne Dresbach, annually attends LDI Show (Live Design International), which is regarded as “the leading conference and trade show for live design professional from all around the globe.” Designer & Graphics Lead, Amy Grigg, is also a regular attendee at TSE (The Special Event), which gives her an opportunity to network and connect with leaders and professionals in the events industry, while experiencing the latest trends and products and services offerings!

Amy got the chance to reconnect with old industry friends at The Special Event Conference in San Diego.

Learning is a never-ending journey.

And while it shouldn’t come as any surprise that those in “higher up positions” have the opportunity to attend events like this, VDA’s Executive Director of Creative and Strategy, Bob Russo, attends the annual IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions) Conference for the same purpose of being inspired by the different; while there’s no apples-to-apples comparison between the specials events and amusement industries, attending events like IAAPA gives exposure to new ideas and concepts that can be used at events in creative and unique ways! IAAPA is a niche conference with fun ideas that event designers can rework into our experiences and introduce specialty items and ways of doing things that people in the local industry are just not thinking about. As an example, IAAPA regularly hosts a huge section of inflatable activations, and while a lot of them are bouncy castles or life-size foosball games, a few years back Bob was able to strike up a conversation with a vendor that allowed VDA to partner on some custom pieces… and so was born a giant inflatable spaceship that’s helped VDA transform a number of event experiences we’ve created from space-themed to out of the world!

In summary, part of the corporate culture is to educate people. It’s not always about going to events and conferences to drum up business. If we want to grow and get better, we need to continuously learn, because that’s what makes us better salespeople, designers, and event professionals. If you’re an employer that fosters a supportive and creative environment, consider the benefits of opening up opportunities to your employees to attend educational conferences, trainings, and workshops within their area of focus – it will do wonders for staff morale and will provide your team with increased skills and competitive advantages that are necessary in the saturated experiential event marketplace!


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