Prominent event professional King Dahl was recently inducted into the 2016 Event Solutions Hall of Fame. Stemming from his passion for art, environmental aesthetics and music, King embarked on a flourishing career in event production, design and public speaking. Inspired by free-thinking visionaries, since 1982 he has produced event environments throughout the world for numerous celebrities, dozens of Fortune 500 clients and many meaningful charitable foundations.
King recently retired from the lead creative in charge of a stellar, 100+ person team at MGM Resorts Event Productions. He spent 12 years as Executive Director where he produced hundreds of special events. Now he is enjoying all that life has to offer among the conifers in the Pacific Northwest. King speckles his calendar with exclusive design projects, volunteer opportunities and speaking engagements in a purposeful manner being mindful of balance.
DesignDawgs recently caught up with King for a quick snapshot on how the event industry has evolved since he began his career.
DesignDawgs: What was the last event you produced before retiring and what was your number one takeaway?
King Dahl: “I retired from 33 years in the event industry with a bang on December 31st! At midnight, fireworks shot off throughout Las Vegas, and that was the moment that put a final stamp on my day-to-day involvement in the event industry. My last event was the Aria New Years Eve event titled “Wonderland”. It was an amazing experience for guests that infused a surreal atmosphere based loosely on the Alice in Wonderland motif. Guests entered a stylized garden filled with elaborately costumed performers of all types, as well as a 12 piece cello group playing otherworldly music as guests enjoyed absinthe and Dom Perignon, among other libations. Vignettes for photo opportunities were incorporated seamlessly into the decor scheme. After cocktails, the 1700 guests entered a tea-party that featured stunning floral arrangements, mis-matched chairs, a central stage, and non-stop entertainment until midnight. Take a look at this short video that tells the story of “Wonderland”…”
“After the event, I wound down with my creative team as we reflected on the many wonderful experiences we’ve shared. My thoughts swirled with pride and joy at how fortunate I have been to work with such a stellar array of talented individuals throughout my life. It was especially meaningful to have my brother, my kids, and my wife there at my last event, and to share the post-event hang with my team.”
DD: How has the industry changed since you started your career?
KD: “The special event industry has undergone dramatic changes over the past 3 decades, just as one might expect. Video and lighting technology, of course, has made it possible to create environments that were unthinkable in the 80’s. Plus designs, and the event experience itself, have become much more interactive and engaging. But what is truly exciting to me now is that there is finally interest in what we can do as an industry to make meetings and events much more environmentally friendly. Planners and designers are reacting to their customers desires to have well-produced, less wasteful events. I’m seeing this in the concert world, as well. I look forward to seeing how industry leaders create real solutions to far reduce the environmental impact of what can be a very wasteful business. And it’s starting to happen!”
DD:What advice do you have for event producers that would like to take their career to the next level?
KD: “In my educational sessions and speaking engagements with event industry colleagues throughout the world, I always stress three principles that I believe are necessary for a vibrant, long-lasting, and successful career in special events. My thought process is never focused on making the most money, but on making the happiest, creative, and fulfilling life in the event business …
1. Become a life-long learner. Study outside of your main discipline as an event professional so that you are better equipped to talk the talk and collaborate on a higher level with those you are working with. There’s a maxim I’ve lived by for years – “A good event designer studies the work of other good designers. A great event designer studies everything”.
2. As in all things, ethics and integrity are paramount. Super simple – super important…Do the right things, because they are right, and avoid doing the wrong things. A very simple concept, often overlooked for the sake of profits, getting ahead, or booking that “big client” over someone else. Your reputation takes a lifetime to build, but can be destroyed in an instant by not doing the right things. And your happiness in business and in life is greatly increased when one focuses on the right things.
3. And finally, understand that your employees and creative partners are not your greatest asset. That worn-out concept implies they are property to be analyzed on a spread sheet of assets and liabilities. Your employees and creative partners are living, breathing individuals that deserve to be treated the way they want to be treated, and not necessarily the way you want to be treated. All individuals have wonderful strengths. As creative business leaders, helping people expand on their strengths makes for better relationships and more productive outcomes. A very wise man (my brother-in-law) once told me “Don’t use your wrenches as hammers!” If the job requires a hammer, go get a hammer.”
DD:What do you enjoy most about the special events industry?
KD: “I’ve always loved activities that allow one the freedom to create with other like-minded artists. I went to school to study jazz. The beauty of jazz music is that it is built on the foundation of improvisation with others, usually within a certain framework or outline. And it involves action and reaction. To me, I derive the most enjoyment out of designing events because I have the freedom to create and improvise with other colleagues. I’ve always approached my work as a commissioned artist. An artist that creates temporary environments to meet specific objectives, or for the basis of just partying! I’m happiest in my event work, when I’m on a job site making things happen with other people striving for a collaborative end result!”
DD: What’s next for you?
KD: “After an amazing 33 year career in the event industry, I’ve decided to throttle back from the exciting, turbo-charged, day-to-day life of an event producer to live a modest, yet vibrant & purposeful life in northwest Washington state. My wife and I now live our dream. Here, we focus on wholesome, healthy, sustainable & creative living. I’ve worked very hard throughout my entire life, and I am extremely fortunate to be in the position of choosing exclusive projects from the many projects that are being presented to me. Along with considering speaking prospects to share my life of lessons and experiences, I’m currently working on a really fun project with my friend, Preston Bailey, that will be nothing short of phenomenal! My creative spirit is soaring to new heights, but it now has time to roost among the conifers and sparkling waters of my own little slice of heaven. I’m living a dream!”
“And speaking of dreams, here is another short film of one of my events, aptly entitled “Dreamscapes”…
King was recognized for his achievements during the opening session at Catersource Event Solutions (CSES2016) on March 14. He is now the newest member of the Event Solutions Hall of Fame. Here are more images of King’s 2016 NYE “Wonderland” and his 2015 “Dreamscape” event for some wonderful event design inspiration.
Photographer: Kelly McKeon Photography