King Dahl: A Great Event Designer Studies Everything
King Dahl is one of those event industry professionals who seems to spread sunshine wherever he goes. His event designs have certainly garnered their share of the spotlight and his name always draws smiles and kudos from colleagues. But none of that prepares you for his wit, his laughter and his genuine warmth and accessibility.
I've had the pleasure of getting to know King both on Twitter and in person at industry events. He is always one of those who is nominated for (and usually winning) this or that award yet he is unfailingly out there helping others and introducing people.
His relaxed & friendly persona might belie the fact that as the Executive Director of Event Design for MGM Resorts Events, he oversees a 50+ person team that produces more than 700 events per year.
I recently asked King a few questions about his experiences in the world of Event Design and Production.
JENISE: How did you get into the event business?
KING: I entered the event industry directly after school, studying music at Berklee. It seemed like an excellent, creative day-job while I pursued my jazz interests in LA in the early 80’s.
I joined a company called It’s The Main Event as an artist & prop designer making $4 an hour. As I grew, I got involved with every aspect of the company, running the installation & strike operations, selling, designing, & producing. It was a wonderful entry into the industry, and became a creative passion equaling my music.
Those early experiences taught me what to do and what not to do as I continued evolving as an event professional.
In the early 90’s, I began King Dahl Event Design at the Malibu Conference Center as an in-house event producer. After a few years my company evolved beyond the conference center and became quite busy in the upscale social market in Southern California. In 2003, I sold KDED to take advantage of an offer with MGM Resorts Events in Las Vegas. Producing events in the city of entertainment is nothing short of an amazing experience each and every day.
JENISE: What types of events do you do most often at MGM Resorts Events?
KING: Our revenue is split between corporate events and in-house marketing events produced for our properties in varying capacities. I’m proud to say that through a lot of hard work and diligence, our meetings and events business has increased significantly even in during the current economic downturn.
I am honored to work with a team of professionals dedicated to bringing their “A-Game” to work every day. They care about their customers’ objectives, the atmosphere they create as designers, and the bottom line – in that order. It’s been a proven model for success and creates shareholder value for our company.
JENISE: As both an event designer and producer where do you find your inspiration?
KING: Years ago I found a quote that I live by…”A good event designer studies the work of other event designers, a great event designer, studies everything.” Music, art, architecture, interior design, nature, the energy of the city – they all inspire me to reach beyond the confines of standard event design. But most of all, I find inspiration collaborating openly with some of the best professionals in the industry.
JENISE: What's the most challenging event you've ever produced?
KING: MGM Resorts Events rose to the extreme challenge of multiple resorts opening in December 2009 as the multi-billion dollar Project CityCenter was unveiled in Las Vegas. We produced a series of major grand opening celebrations for Aria Resort, Vdara, Mandarin Oriental, & The Crystals, all while planning, designing, and producing 9 major NYE events.
Much of the pre-production was designed based solely on blueprints of the buildings, as they were being completed right up until days before opening.
In one instance, a certificate of occupancy wasn’t granted until the day of the event. That month was the epitome of excitement, chaos, tension, pride, stamina, and creative satisfaction all rolled into one.
What tips do you have for people starting out in event production?
KING: I have the opportunity to speak with a lot of students in event management programs and my advice is always the same…do the right things, and avoid doing the wrong things.
The right things include a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn from mentors – both creatively and from a leadership standpoint. As I mentioned, I’m a firm believer in collaboration, and surrounding yourself with talented people - with right-brained and left-brained strengths. Commitment, personal accountability, aptitude and attitude are keys to success.
The wrong things include compromising your integrity and losing your focus. Once your integrity is lost, it’s very difficult to get back.
What trends to you see in the future for event production?
KING: The future holds exciting possibilities for event professionals, in fact, I’m quite jealous of those in the early stages of their careers!
We’re in the midst of a strong growth spurt in professionalism as more and more people are connected, openly sharing ideas, and building upon a foundation that only recently has become a huge global industry. Those that focus on the future and not the past are positioned for continued success in the industry.
The future will be molded by the incredibly driven talent I’ve seen as I travel & speak throughout the world. Our industry is the perfect recipient of emerging technologies, and an emphasis on the content of the message as well as the delivery of the message leave the door open for endless possibilities.
(Photos courtesy of King Dahl)If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to the RSS feed for Sound n' Sight.