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Get Unconventional with Haute Dokimazo

By Emma Franke

You won’t start at the registration desk at a Haute Dokimazo “un-conference,” and no one is going to hand you a schedule broken down into five-minute intervals. Guests at last summer’s Haute Dokimazo Signature Event in Minneapolis were greeted with what Nicole Osibodu, director of special events and partnerships, calls a “welcome attack.” 

“We seat you like a host at a restaurant, and we start the conversation with just first names,” she says. Haute Dokimazo events are all about connections and sharing ideas with your peers. The recent event in Minneapolis was at Can Can Wonderland in June. 

After a very social beginning, Haute Dokimazo events get down to business in a thoroughly unconventional way. Guests take time to write down topics they’d like to discuss or present. Color-coded sticky notes designate the difference in offers to lead a topic or requests to participate in a topic. This is an exciting time, says Osibodu. “People are running and putting up sticky notes, and there is a microphone and it’s chaotic and fun.” No session topics have been prearranged, and no speakers have presentations waiting on the first day. After this brainstorming time, people break off into the groups they are interested in and attend very open and conversational sessions. There is freedom to change the direction of a session or let an entirely new person get up and start presenting if they have something to share. 

“These events are less about traditional networking and more about finding a connection that can help you solve a problem.” Geared at planners, the looser structure and problemsolving focus is ideal for professionals who are open-minded and comfortable sharing their experiences with a group. Planners are used to collaboration, so Osibodu and Liz Lathan, executive vice president of global events for Haute Dokimazo, have found success with the format. The two debuted the first Haute Dokimazo event in May 2017 in their hometown of Austin, Texas.

“As planners get into the senior level, they really just want to share best practices with their peers,” said Osibodu. “You get breakouts and keynotes, but really the only time you get that connection is during the coffee breaks. So, we created a conference that is all coffee break.”

While the first day of the event is centered around a plan that participants make for themselves, the second day of the conference does have prepared speakers. “The second day goes into predetermined workshops,” says Osibodu. “We do have content that we make ahead. Those are three-hour intensive sessions. They are active and extremely relevant.”

Monique Rochard-Marine, senior manager of strategic meetings management and events operations at Cardiovascular Systems, Inc., attended the Minneapolis event and liked the concept of “voting with your feet” during the spontaneous sessions on the first day. “They give you the freedom to leave sessions that don’t turn out to be applicable to you,” says Rochard-Marine. “The facilitators have that expectation as well.”

For Lathan, these new types of conferences are all about doing something different to achieve a better type of connection between professional peers. “One of my original ideas for a name was ‘Youniversities,’ but [co-founders] Tom and Nicole said that was stupid,” laughs Lathan. “Dokimazo is actually Greek for trying to prove something is genuine.” The conferences focus deeply on genuine connections and genuine learning. 

“We know that these are only supplemental—they aren’t providing formal education,” says Osibodu. However, the focus on connecting like-minded professionals leads to solving problems, and that’s what Rochard-Marine says she appreciated most. “I met vendors and suppliers who I had never heard of. It helps that it is not in a forced setting. It was more informative and practical, and we focused on talking about solutions and how they applied to problems we had faced.”

“We don’t want people from associations and corporations,” says Osibodu of the invitation-only conferences. “Our guarantee is that 50 percent of the group is planners. The other 50 percent are suppliers. It’s all about the human-to-human connection. We tried to focus on how to connect with somebody. A connection isn’t a sale, it’s a feeling. A no-sale zone is absolutely key. That way it’s less about who you work for and more about what you can share.”

Haute Dokimazo signature series events, like the Minneapolis event, are $200 for all attendees. This makes the event approachable for planners who may want to attend but won’t have financial backing from their employers. Scholarships are offered as well for event professionals with limited professional development resources. In addition to the signatures series events, Haute Dokimazo has their CEO Dokimazo multiple times a year, where event industry CEOs get together and share their experiences with one another. Haute Dokimazo can also take over parts of existing conferences or trainings and work their teambuilding magic. For those who have attended Haute Dokimazo events in the past, the family reunion conferences bring old attendees back together in an undisclosed location. 

In 2019, the signature series starts off in New York from Jan. 27-29. The spring event will be in Chicago, and the top-secret family reunion meets at an undisclosed airport before taking off together in October. 


Does Haute Dokimazo sound like something you could use? Snap a selfie of yourself and this issue of Minnesota Meetings + Events and tag @hautedokimazo and @meetingseventsmags for a chance to win a spot at a 2019 Haute Dokimazo event!