Sunday, March 20, 2011

How to Make Your Next Meeting or Event “Spectacular, Spectacular”

If you are a movie collector, do you own one or two special movies that you watch over and over?  One such movie, in my film arsenal, is Moulin Rouge.  This flick is perhaps my all-time favorite movie.

Nicole Kidman as "Satine"

Ewan McGregor as "Christian"

There are many words that could describe this movie, but at the very least it is ripe with creativity.  The storyline is centered on an unlikely romance, between a struggling English writer (Christian, played by Ewan McGregor) and his courtesan lover. (Satine, played by Nicole Kidman) In my mind the real intrigue to this movie was a subplot, which is the production of a theatrical event, under development, called “Spectacular, Spectacular.”

“It’s (Moulin Rouge) a musical. We sing a lot of the film. It’s very hard to describe in two sentences. Yet, the reaction that we are getting from almost everyone who sees it is that they have never seen anything like it, and they enjoy it.” — Nicole Kidman, interview with Paul Fischer, 2001

Here is a short clip of the movie, in which Spectacular, Spectacular is pitched to the event’s financial backer, The Duke. (played by Richard Roxburgh, who also lusts after Satine)

Make Your Next Meeting or Event “Spectacular, Spectacular”

I believe there are some solid learning lessons that can be applied to the meetings & events business, from Moulin Rouge.  If you are seeking to make your next meeting or event spectacular here are some thoughts:

Dare to Be Different – Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor are well established actors, but prior to this movie, neither were widely known for their musical talent.  In preparation for producing this movie both Nicole and Ewan took professional voice lessons.  They learned well as their singing in the movie is not just adequate, but brilliant.

This new dimension of their acting ability added magic to the experience because they did something unexpected.  The actors stepped out of their artistic comfort zone.  And… the risk paid off, because the audience loved it.

Use Element of Surprise to Dazzle Your Audience – While Moulin Rouge was set in the early 1900’s the music featured throughout the movie was completely out of context, yet full of metaphors and clichés offering poetic relevance to the story’s plot.  Baz Luhrman was brilliant in pulling this all together.  Over and over he mixes it up and uses the element of surprise to keep the audience engaged in the story.  The formula worked well.

Do you want your Conference attendees to rave about how spectacular, spectacular your event was?  Will they be so excited they will stomp and cheer?  Will they be dumb with wonderment?  Will your event be so delighting it will be remembered for 50 years?

At first glance those are some pretty hefty goals.  Yet, with some creativity and a little “outside the box” thinking you just might get there.  It’s up to you to make your event’s vision come alive.

Question:  If you have seen Moulin Rouge, what resonates, if anything, with you?  What other things can be learned from this amazing film that can be applied to event design?  Perhaps there is another film that bubbles to the top of your world, that we could learn from.  Please share your thoughts with us.


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeff Hurt March 21, 2011 at 7:12 am


What about Moulin Rouge resonates with me regarding events and conferences?

First and foremost, it has an engaging story line with a great back story and several subplots.

Without the story line, the movie would be nothing but a surrealistic swirl of images, colors and sounds. People would not connect as much with it. And it would not stir our emotions.

So many of our conferences and events are missing a story line. They provide the typical status quo story done to ad nauseum. It starts with a general session/keynote, followed by breakouts, followed by a lunch, followed by breakouts, followed by a reception. That story line is predictable, safe, average and doesn’t offer anything new.

How many of us would go to movies that had the same status quo story line that was so predictable and safe that we knew the dialogue before it was ever spoken?


Michael M McCurry CMP March 21, 2011 at 8:30 am


You and I are on the same page with this one for sure.

Moulin Rouge is not a movie that everyone is going to embrace. It is so outside the box and so full of stimulation that some people might be turned off by it. But… as you know that is not the point.

Conference organizers must think about ways to change their event formulas to add freshness and vitality to their meetings. The events business is full of mediocre and unexciting programs that offer nothing new and certainly no excitement.

I hope that will change.

Thanks for adding your comments and usual insight!



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