Cocktails with Connolly – Seattle: A Perfect Blend

Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum DConnolly ©2019

A proper Mojito starts with a bar spoon of sugar and 3 slices of lime in the bottom of a shaker. Top that with 14-16 fresh mint leaves, and muddle them gently into the padding to release the delicate oils. Be careful not to bruise the leaves or we will extract chlorophyll, and give us a bitter drink. Fill the glass with ice, 1.5 oz white rum, 1/2 cup club soda, and stir gently. Voila – this perfect blend of refreshment is for you. Now let’s settle, and I’ll share the story of our recent green event at the Washington State Convention Center (WSCC). Welcome to my twelfth blog about green events, cocktails and convention centers. This one takes us to Seattle, Washington.

Main Stage look and feel, created with rear-screen projection and gobo lighting

Speaking of perfect blends, there is almost nothing better than being on a team that plays together like a well-rehearsed orchestra. With the right team, it’s downright exciting when you tackle a live event as technically complex as a DrupalCon and it goes well. This open source community gathering of web developers has high social and environmental standards, as well as serious tech specs. Our event requires a robust WiFi network, an archive system capable of capturing 100’s of live sessions, and the typical full […]

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    Cocktails with Connolly – Detroit: Signed, Sealed, Delivered and Green

Cocktails with Connolly – Detroit: Signed, Sealed, Delivered and Green

What’s Going On? We have just helped produce Facing Race 2018, the largest national gathering of organizers, educators, creatives and other thought leaders in racial equity and justice, at Cobo Center, Detroit. In tribute to the music that Motor City is famous for, here is a playlist of what went right.

First, let’s Get Into the Groove, and head over to the velvety posh Candy Bar, in the Siren Hotel, in the gorgeously renovated Wurlitzer building. Now sit back and enjoy the most beautifully designed bar in Michigan, and I’ll order you a proper Daiquiri. Bartender Harry crafts his with Angostura Rum, Rhum JM from Martinique, fresh lime and simple syrup, served in a chilled crystal coupe glass. Divine!

This is my 5th Facing Race, but this one is different. With the perfect storm of expert content curation, marketing efforts, and an upwelling of activism since the 2016 election, our 2,100-person hotel-size conference caught a tsunami and delivered 3,700 people to Cobo Convention Center.

Mercy Mercy Me, when a conference scales like this, so does its environmental impact. Consider that our 3,700 attendees are here for 3.5 days. Our only hope for delivering a smooth and sustainable event was a venue that could support our growth and our green standards, and that’s just what Cobo Center did.

It’s a Shame. A shocking 77% of the 50 billion plastic bottles used by Americans each year don’t get recycled. They end up in landfill or contaminating our rivers and oceans. At Facing Race, we used Zero plastic water bottles! We kept attendees hydrated with 238 5-gallon reusable water jugs – the equivalent of 19,100 8 oz. plastic bottles. Although our motivations were social and environmental, we also saved close to $31,000, proving once again the business case for sustainability. A huge kudos to […]

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    Cocktails with Connolly – Nashville: Sippin’, Pickin’ & Green Event Plannin’

Cocktails with Connolly – Nashville: Sippin’, Pickin’ & Green Event Plannin’

“More Iced tea, darlin’?” His sincerity was disarming and his drawl belied a wit as fast as a hot knife through butter. We fell into an easy banter. He gave me confidential advice, “Hon’, you want to get the brisket, they do it right here.”  He really cared if I had enough iced tea. When he left the tab I saw a note attached and my heart fluttered. Then it sank: only a flyer for his upcoming gig, a singer-songwriter night at The Bluebird Cafe. Welcome to Nashville. And welcome to my 10th blog about three of my passions: sustainability, events, and fine food and beverages.

Bourbon won’t cure my achy heart, but it’s another thing they do right here. So let’s head to the Black Rabbit for a little sippin’ and drankin’. I recommend the aromatic Hoffa’s Inside Job: made from small batch, high rye Belle Meade Bourbon, Heering Cherry Liquor, orange bitters, and Absinthe. Ahhh. Now that we’re settled in, let me share a few highlights about our event at Nashville’s Music City Center, the beautiful, art-filled, guitar-shaped convention center.

We received top shelf service from the MCC’s Technology Department. DrupalCon, a web developer conference, has a reputation for stressing a building’s IT network. Our Technology Manager, Chris Jolly, understood our complex technical needs and was committed to handling the challenges with grace – whether it involved re-configuring the firewall, tweaking NAT states or emptying PAT tables as fast as we could fill them. Chris was also our go-to for digital media throughout the venue and assisted us with testing and fine-tuning. The equipment and tools for managing the network and the media system were state-of-the-art, and Chris was on top of his game.

Tony Jones helped with print […]

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    Coffee with Connolly – Vienna: Old World Charm, Mit Screaming Fast Wifi

Coffee with Connolly – Vienna: Old World Charm, Mit Screaming Fast Wifi

Let’s start today’s chat at Café Central, where we can take in an expresso, a lemon torte, a warm apple strudel, and the pleasant din of fashionistas, artists, intelligencia, and piano music swirling aloft in the vaulted art nouveau ceiling.  While the fine china and pastries arrive on our marble table, I’ll confide a shocking production tale with you: our show went as smooth as a Viennese Cream Slice. Welcome to my 9th blog about three of my passions: event production, sustainability and fine food and beverages. This adventure takes us to Vienna, Austria and our conference at the Messe Wien Exhibition & Congress Center.

 A successful show is not an accident. With a gratuitous nod to our Austrian friend Sigmund Freud, let us analyze what went right…

• Dedicated Venue Staff. The Messe Wien demonstrated their commitment to excellence by dispatching catering, IT, and management staff to spend a day with us during our 2016 event. They continued to prove how much they cared about our conference throughout the year – kudos to Martina Candillo and Christine Schlagbauer for answering over 1,000 e-mails, always with patience and grace. 

• One Master Floor plan. There is almost nothing better than a blend of voices singing from the same page! From the beginning, all departments and external vendors had access to one master plan that captured room set-ups, AV, staging details, catering set-ups, and exhibit hall stands. When I am archduchess, every venue will offer a single cross-departmental plan.  Thank you CAD man Martin Kreidl, for helping us all work in harmony.

• Outstanding IT. DrupalCon, a tech conference attended by hard-core web developers, historically strains the limits of venue WiFi. Wolfgang Lehner at Kapsch, in partnership with our IT consultant Will Jones […]

  • Permalink  Star-Spangled Banner from the War of 1812. Baltimore Harbor is the site where Francis Scott Key penned the Star-Spangled Banner after Americans won the Battle of Baltimore and raised the flag over Fort McHenryGallery

    Cocktails with Connolly – Baltimore: Talking Trash in Charm City

Cocktails with Connolly – Baltimore: Talking Trash in Charm City

A frosty local IPA, a fully laden ballpark dog, the anguishing torque of the pitcher’s arm…and when I whisper Camden Yard’s sustainability stats in your ear, I hope I’ve taken you to The Zone. Welcome to my 8th blog about 3 of my passions: event planning, sustainability, and fine food and beverages.

We are in Baltimore to produce DrupalCon, taking place at the Baltimore Convention Center. My team and I manage production logistics for catering, AV, IT, signage, registration and the exhibit hall, and touch many decisions that affect whether the conference is executed in a socially and environmentally responsible way.

Sustainability is war. It’s messy. There are compromises. It’s a daily fight against convenience, habit and the status quo.  There are days when we feel hope and days we feel hopeless. We might lose some battles but we must persist.

I am often war-weary when I encounter facility staff who live in a mythical world where clean air, water, land, and fossil fuels are infinite resources. You know, that ideal world, where the Free Hand of the Market might actually work. Alas, we live in a world where our economic system needs to be redefined, based on the real world of finite natural resources and imperfect transparency of information.  Fortunately, I was heartened to learn that the Baltimore Convention Center follows ASTM/APEX sustainable event standards, and is an ally in this battle.

Today let’s talk trash. DrupalCon, like any conference of approximately 3500 people, has quite a bit of environmental impact. Consider the scale of our catering needs: we serve over 9,200 lunches, 750 gallons of coffee, and 1,500 beers over the course of 5 days.  What happens to all that catering waste? I was eager to dumpster dive to learn more, and requested a sustainability tour. I was pleasantly surprised when Mac Campbell and Chris Simmons at […]

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    Cocktails with Connolly – Amsterdam: Sea Level Rise and Stroopwafels

Cocktails with Connolly – Amsterdam: Sea Level Rise and Stroopwafels

An aged salty Gouda and a peppery Zinfandel pair well together, like Sea Level Rise and Dutch Hydrological Engineering, or Dutch Skunk and Stroopwafels.  Welcome to my seventh blog about three of my passions, event planning, sustainability, and fine food and beverages. 

As you may have guessed, this blog takes us to Amsterdam. But before we dive into some heady conversation, let’s hop on our Yellow Bikes, and ride over to The Get Down To It cafe near the Leidseplein, so you can steep in a little Amsterdam coffeeshop culture.

If you have a high degree of anxiety about the state of world events, you may prefer a high CBD strain such as Lavender Kush CBD, or Somari CBD. If you want a more buzzy or energetic experience, try the high THC 24K Gold or Kosher Kush, both 50/50 sativa/indica blends. I’ll refrain. Sadly, it’s always been a one-sided romance. I’m entranced by the aroma and oily, crunchy texture. I’m delighted by the crafty art of rolling. I’ve been moved by the ritual of sharing and tacit communion with others who question the status quo…
But the effect is wasted on me. Today I’ll hang with a friend I can be myself with, a rich and thirst-quenching dark blonde IPA from Brouwerij ‘t IJ, one of the many outstanding microbreweries inundating this town in recent years.
Settled in? Here’s a question – have you ever really thought about the The Commons?  Quite a construct if you think about. The commons are things we have a fundamental right to share, like clean air, water, and land.  We all have a responsibility to protect them, so we all may enjoy them. We, the users, are all in this together.

The Dutch have been into sustaining the commons for hundreds of years. Well before the electric motor, […]

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    Cocktails with Connolly – Los Angeles: Getting noticed in DTLA

Cocktails with Connolly – Los Angeles: Getting noticed in DTLA

Welcome to my sixth blog about three of my passions: event planning, sustainability and fine food and beverages.  This one takes us on location to Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA), and the L.A. Convention Center (LACC). This is the big time, a tier one city, and a world-class venue. And with that comes world-class competition. In this blog we’ll talk about how to get (your brand) noticed in this town.

Cue lights, camera, action, and…
Scene One: Set against the backdrop of a breathtaking L.A. sunset, a party ensues on the rooftop of The Standard Hotel, an excellent special event location. As the sun descends, it creates glorious effects through the prismatic L.A. haze.  Zoom in on the gallery of beautiful people, each one a stylized work of art. Hair is fabulously colored, artfully sculpted. Clothing is all about the reveal of toned muscles, ink, and god-given beauty: the average person in L.A. is a 12!  It’s hard to get attention here, but I have a ready icebreaker. I hire for corporate. It’s all about positioning baby, and I’m optimistic I’ll get a call back…

For now, why don’t you settle into one of these Iconic Red Waterbeds and I’ll order you a locally crafted Beverly Hills 90H20 mineral water. Because here, nothing tastes better than thin feels, and tomorrow we have an early crew call.

DTLA has made a successful comeback since 2007, and the L.A. convention center (LACC) is now located in a hip, vibrant, walkable district that includes the L.A. LIVE complex, GRAMMY Museum, STAPLES Center, Nokia Theater, art galleries, world class museums, upscale hotels, hundreds of restaurants, and totally awesome rooftop bars.

However, the LACC is not just a pretty facade. In 2015 it received the prestigious Sustainable Innovation Award from the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), the organization behind the LEED green building standards. To be LEED certified, a […]

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    Cocktails with Connolly: Dublin – an ode to Irish Hospitality

  • The CCD bakes their bread and pastries in house. The homemade crusty bread and herbed butter made the staff so happy

Cocktails with Connolly: Dublin – an ode to Irish Hospitality

One hundred thousand welcomes to my fifth blog about three of my passions — sustainability, event planning, and fine food and beverages.

Céad mile fáilte – one hundred thousand welcomes – are the words engraved in the atrium of the Convention Center Dublin. During our week working there, we came to realize that this was not just a tag line. The staff and the catering department of the center made our delegates and staff feel welcome, satiated and well taken care of.  While Irish Hospitality harkens back to the Celtic law of welcoming strangers, the CCD is ahead of its time. The CCD operations go above and beyond the environmental guidelines of the ISO 14,000. For a green event planner like me, that was the most welcoming part of the experience.

With its many curving streets, bridges, historic buildings and stunning views along the River Liffey, Dublin is a city is best travelled by foot.  After a long work day, and a bracing walk against the whipping wind and darkening sky, we are quite happy to enter the warm, wood-paneled Kehoe’s, an unpretentious and lively local pub.  And when the creamy-topped, ruby-red pint of Guinness arrives, and (in the words of James Joyce) the light music of fine Irish Whisky falls into a glass, we’ve arrived at the best part of the day. Pull up another stool, and I’ll order you a…

Nitrogen tapped Guinness Draught and 12-year Redbreast Single Pot Irish Whiskey. Kehoe’s Pub, Dublin.

The spicy fire of George Bernard Shaw’s liquid sunshine cuts through the cold and warms you from the inside out. The velvety texture of the Guinness soothes the burn; the pleasantly bitter, subtly citrusy, hoppy beer is filling and comforting. Taken together, it’s almost as good as…umm…another thing mother didn’t tell me about. Bartender Luke is a […]

Cocktails with Connolly: Atlanta – Vodka, Venues, and finding your Voice in the city too busy to hate.

Two venues worth considering for your special event in downtown Atlanta sit across from each other in the beautiful Centennial Olympic Park: the World Of Coca-Cola and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Before we dive into these two venues, let’s grab a bar stool at the nearby Legal Seafood, and let me order you a….

A photo posted by Diana Connolly (@dianaconnolly007)

Anjou Pear Martini – Grey Goose Pear Vodka, St. Germain, Pierre Ferrand 1st Cru de Cognac, simple syrup & lemon juice. 

This refreshing cocktail cuts through the humidity and soothes the throat after logging 27,000 steps scouting venues for the upcoming Facing Race Conference held in Atlanta this November.

The Face Forward team who produce this conference are experts in fostering thought leadership in racial and social justice, and I’m grateful to be able to support their work. As technical production lead, it’s my role to make sure the revolution is well amplified, in HD, and Live-Streamed.

So, what do Atlanta, Coca-Cola, Human and Civil Rights, and green event planning all have to do with each other? Marketing.

Coca-Cola, Inc. is the perhaps the world’s best marketing company. It’s ingenious how they have imprinted their brand deep into our lifestyle and culture. From Norman Rockwell to the present, product placement experts have made sure a coke is always in the picture. They have created demand on every continent, and to quench this worldwide thirst, their scale of their operations is massive. In 2014 alone, Coca-Cola used 304.8 billion liters of water to produce and bottle their products. You can find this fact in their annual sustainability report, which covers Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) key performance indicators such as ethics, environmental impact, human rights, labor practices, and product responsibility.

Why does Coke report […]

  • Prague Convention Center at sunset
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    Cocktails With Connolly: Prague – molecular mixology & the science of green printing

Cocktails With Connolly: Prague – molecular mixology & the science of green printing

Deconstructing cocktails and green printing for an eco-friendly event, over the city of 1,000 spires.

This blog is the third in a series about sustainability, green event planning, and fine food and beverages. You can find the entire series here.

Most people know Prague as a gorgeous, romantic place to visit. I was quite fortunate to be there on event planning business, which afforded me a view of how modern day Prague is addressing sustainability issues. Today, I’d like to share a few stories with you, but before I start, let’s head to Tower Park, and take the elevator up to The Oblaca Bar. While we enjoy the breath-taking views, let me order you a …

Three Sisters Molecular Cocktail – The Oblaca Bar specializes in molecular mixology. In this drink, 3 different deconstructivist cocktails are served in a set of test tubes. Let’s start with the reimagined Lemon Drop, with its spherified drops of lemon-vodka juice that slip around on your tongue before they burst in your mouth. Delightful!

This is just the bar, and just the drink to recharge and inspire us, after a long week of producing a conference at the world-class Prague Convention Center.

The Prague Convention Center is beautiful, set atop a hill a few tram stops away from Old Town. The building was designed so that many of the meeting rooms have outstanding views. But the jewel of the building is Congress Hall, ranked among the best concert venues in the world, and host to the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.

The convention center’s in-house catering company is the world class Zátiší Group, who deliver hot, delicious conference meals at a fraction of the cost of most other western European cities.  Zátiší is committed to “happiness on all fronts”: not only do they donate leftover meals to those in need, they are deeply committed to […]