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Whether you like your paper lined, plain, dotted or embellished with some creative design, there is such allure about a blank page. What will take form on that page will be crafted by you; whether it is a shopping list, a guest list, your bucket list or a rough drawing of your next event set. And yet, a blank page can be terrifying if you are stuck with a deadline to hit. I will be honest, this is how I felt when trying to write this post … I wanted to write one in early September and yet the blank page seemed to halt all creativity, I could think of literally nothing to say (and those who know me well will know that is VERY unusual!). I had to think differently to make the words come …

So I thought about all the blank pages that were exciting to me; the diary pages waiting to be filled (yes I am still a paper based diary person), the agenda of a conference, the pages of my travel journals and the business plan for Potting Shed Events. The last one is the most exciting for me right now as we set off on this journey. Being part of the Potting Shed early on means that we can frame how we want to work, who we want to work with and what we want to stand for. The scope feels enormous and full of possibilities and everything is up for discussion. That said, there are a couple of things that we already know to be true. Firstly, our partnerships are at the heart of the business. Whether with clients, suppliers or members of the team, these relationships will always be our main focus. Secondly, we want to behave with integrity, kindness and, quite simply, do the right thing. This has always been important but the last year has really highlighted that these behaviours are critical to our industry and everyone’s mental health. Thirdly, we choose to enjoy what we do. This will not always be a smooth journey (it rarely is) but we will take the time to enjoy the highs and learn from the lows. These are just the starting points but what a base to build from. I can’t wait to fill these blank pages and watch the story unfold.

This week I attended the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show. It was a great event (despite the best efforts of the turbulent July weather!) and I came away with lots of photos, inspiration for my own small garden and having spent two days with my Mum. What I also came away with was a reminder of how deeply entrenched the events industry is in my mind and heart. In fact, last week I met a client who said she knew that event work ‘ran in my blood’ and it was this phrase that kept coming back to me as I encountered various moments in the show.

Firstly I noticed the car park signage – not very good on Day 1 but by Day 2 it was much clearer, almost as if the team are out of practice of this well worn route. Then the car park attendants: some, understandably grumpy from the mud and rain; some overly officious in their high viz jackets as they barked into their radios; and some (the ones I want on my events) who, despite it all greeted every car with a smile and enthusiasm. They knew that they were the first people we saw at the event and the last we saw as we left. Their enthusiasm was infectious and they certainly got a wide smile and thank you from me.

Once inside the stall holders were battling the weather while the guests stubbornly sat under their umbrellas with their fish and chip wrappers surrounding Laurent Perrier bottles. The current climate meant that the sit down eating locations were run in a different way this year and staff never seemed to tire of patiently explaining to guests that there was a need to pre-book and no they could not fit another table in. In one of the toilet marquees were leaking water and a wonderfully comic pair of ladies were sweeping out the pooling water as guests came and went from each cubicle. I was there as a guest, not working at all but I could feel the adrenalin starting to pump around my body and the buzz of that ‘onsite’ feeling.

On Day 2 we sat down to lunch and it became clear that the guests at the next table were unhappy with the speed of service. They complained to each other in loud voices but it took them at least 30 minutes to let any member of staff know. The manageress dealt with it at once, found their order, expediated their food and gave a complimentary glass of champagne to apologise. They were calmed but continued to be very abrupt with all staff. We had a completely different experience and chatted to the staff and pointed out that we had not been charged for our meal. As we left I felt it was important to go to the manageress and let her know how impressed we were with the staff we had met. She thanked us profusely and explained that none of the staff had worked in this environment before, the new COVID rules had made training difficult and that we were the first to stop and give positive feedback.

… do you know what? All I wanted to do was roll up my sleeves and help. Perhaps events are in my blood after all.

For some people their most creative moments are when walking, for some it is sitting under an apple tree and for others there is definitely a bathroom theme going on! However and wherever you get creative, very few people cite ‘sitting at their desk’ as being their most inspirational space. It has been suggested that being creative happens best when our parasympathetic nervous system is switched on – the state that puts body and mind into relaxation. However, I would argue that some of my most creative moments have been under stress and time pressure on an event – when I most definitely was not in a state of relaxation! So perhaps we can surmise that creativity is constantly there, bubbling under the surface and we just need to find a way to access it.

A quick google search gives me multiple definitions of creativity – most involve the use of imagination or original thought. The truth is that creativity has never been restricted to the artist or musician, we all use our creative thinking to solve everyday problems (just ask my Mum how to use leftover roast lamb and you will see creativity on a whole new scale!). In the world of events, creativity is used a lot. Companies want new and innovative ways to engage with their customers and their staff and this quest for ‘new’ sometimes leads us so far away from the original objective that we get lost in a jumble of weird and wonderful experiences. We can all remember adverts on the TV that were brilliantly funny or clever … but the name of the product eludes us.

Aside from being under pressure on site, for me my most creative times are the 9 minutes I have in half sleep when I have pressed the snooze button. My mind is half conscious but free to wander until it hits upon an idea or a thread of a theme. On these mornings I finally rise with a smile and a nugget of an idea that I am confident will work. So far, my imagination has not let me down and, while some think my mind is a terrifying machine that never slows down, I believe that it is in the calm moments the best ideas just float to the surface.

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