What do most people think of when they hear “Minnesota”?
Well, according to this mostly accurate guide (everyone knows the home of the Juicy Lucy is The 5-8 Club, not Matt’s Bar—sheesh) from Movato, the answers include:
- Cold weather. (Yes, but only for seven months out of the year. Sometimes eight. It’s pretty much never snowed in July.).
- “The Land of 10,000 Lakes” (Per our license plates yes, but actually it’s closer to 12,000.)
- The Mall of America
- “Minnesota Nice”
- Mosquitoes (They breed in water, we have 12,000 lakes…you get the picture.)
- The movie “Fargo”
- Prince (RIP)
Surly Brewing helpfully adds skyways and black ice, along with hotdishes and pop (not casseroles and soda).
But Minnesota is increasing being recognized for something more: events.
EDITOR’S NOTES: A version of this post was originally published on The Minneapolis Egotist. The post was republished here in April 2018. Obviously, the pandemic had a huge impact on the live events industry. This version of the article has been completely revised to reflect the post-COVID events ecosystem in Minnesota.
A Busy Event Calendar
First off, the state has recently hosted several famous ones, including the 2018 Super Bowl, the 2017 American Choir Directors Conference, the 2016 Ryder Cup, and the 2019 NCAA Final Four in Minneapolis.
In March 2020, the NCAA wrestling championships were scheduled to be held at U.S. Bank Stadium—before COVID forced the cancellation of all national events that spring.
On an annual basis, Minnesota hosts the country’s largest state fair. Cities across the state hold summer festivals, from the Askov Rutabaga Festival to the Zumbrota Covered Bridge Music & Arts Festival. The Taste of Minnesota event returned this year for the first time since 2019.
And there’s a busy calendar of business-related events year round, including one of the country’s largest Internet of Things (IoT) conferences, the longest-running Social Media Breakfast chapter, and the continually growing Twin Cities Startup Week, hosted by BETA.
An Expanding Event Ecosystem
The state’s affinity for conferences, trade shows, forums, festivals, meetings, and events of all types has spawned an active and expanding ecosystem of event-related vendors. Interestingly, their offerings are more complementary than competitive, addressing different needs and market segments. Here are some of the noteworthy providers.
Event Technology and Infrastructure
SocialPoint produces trade show booth games (trivia, digital fish bowl, virtual prize wheel), social media walls, and audience response (for conducting live polls, interactive Q&A sessions, voting, and surveys) applications that promote user-generated content, increase attendee engagement, and provide detailed audience interaction analytics.
From finding and implementing the latest event-related technology to managing the audiovisual RFP process, content creation and distribution, and management of on-site audiovisual crews, Brandt Krueger, owner of Event Technology Consulting, provides production support and expert consulting to help event planners and organizers optimize their use of event technology.
G2Planet offers three data-driven event management software platforms for enterprise corporate event planners: EventMAX for managing all aspects of large customer or sales conferences (like Citrix Synergy or McAfee’s MPOWER Cybersecurity Summit); EventCENTRAL for managing a busy schedule or portfolio of events; and EventAUTO specifically for the automotive industry.
Skyline Exhibits is one of the world’s largest makers of pop-up portable trade show booth displays, from small 10×10 booths to large, custom modular displays and island exhibits. More than 80 percent of the Fortune 500 companies have done business with Skyline, purchasing or renting displays and exhibits for events from conference room meetings to corporate events to industry trade shows.
Festivities is Minnesota’s premier event rental, decor, and floral provider. For gatherings of almost any size, from weddings to corporate events, the company provides everything from furnishings, tents, and staging, to games, draping, and lighting. Their team also offers design and decor design consulting to help planners create fun, functional, fashionable events.
What Instagram is for photos and Twitter is for breaking news, Dojour is seeking to be for events: the one place to keep up with all the live happenings you may be interested in attending, from bars, bands, breweries and businesses, as well as theaters, sports teams, associations, and other organizations that sponsor a busy, ongoing calendar of events.
Event Production Agencies
metroConnections (Large, Complex Events)
metroConnections offers conference services, event planning, production services (including stage design, content development, and A/V services), and transportation options. It’s hard to talk about “big events in Minnesota” with mentioning this company, which staged many of the happenings surrounding the 2018 Super Bowl as well as the 1991 World Series, 1992 Super Bowl, 1992 & 2001 NCAA Final Four and regional tournaments, the US Open, and the 2014 All-Star Game.
Freeman (Midsized to Enterprise Events)
Freeman is the world’s leading brand experience company, assisting midsize to large organizations with a broad range of event technology, logistics, strategy, digital marketing and signage, and creative services at conferences and exhibitions. The company maintains offices in major cities around the globe, including St. Paul, Minnesota.
One10 (Corporate Events)
One10 leverages the latest technology, proven event management tools, and partners in travel, hospitality, and production to craft memorable experiences at events from small strategy retreats to large customer conferences. The company counts among its clientele three of the 10 largest Fortune 500 firms, the six largest global automakers, plus firms in retail, tech, finance, pharmaceuticals, ag, entertainment, and transportation.
EideCom (Corporate Events)
EideCom is an event production company with a focus on state-of-the-art AV production for renowned global brands. Offering a range of services including AV production, hybrid/virtual events and creative services, EideCom employs the latest technology to help event planners produce extraordinary events for their audience. Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, EideCom has managed to weather the storm by doubling in both size and revenue—a testament to their commitment to delivering unparalleled event production solutions.
Cenaiko Productions (Specialty Events)
Cenaiko Productions produces several of the largest consumer expositions in the upper Midwest, across Minnesota and the Dakotas, including Sportsmen’s Shows in St. Paul and St. Cloud, and the Minnesota Home & Patio Show. The company is one of the largest exposition producers in the region and has been family-owned since it’s founding more than 50 years ago.
Do Good Events (Corporate / Nonprofit / Social Events)
The team at Do Good Events offers a range of services from vendor, registration, and project management to budget development, planning, and on-site staffing. The agency’s portfolio of success events spans an impressive range of corporate events (e.g., the Midwest Management Summit), non-profit happenings (Fraser Walk for Autism), and sports-related live gatherings (Ryder Cup, Super Bowl).
Sadly, Get Social Events, organizer of the now-defunct Minnesota Blogger Conference, was a casualty of COVID. The company formerly helped clients produce conferences, corporate events, training workshops, and webinars.
Experiential Marketing Agencies
Led by Jim Audette and Matt Kelly, Street Factory Media specializes in non-traditional media, brand activation, fabrication, and production for experiential marketing. Clients include Hilton Hotels, the Minnesota Twins, Coke, Old Spice McDonalds, Walgreens, Caribou Coffee, Ford Motor Company, and Burt’s Bees.
SixSpeed offers social media, branding, digital, and experiential marketing services primarily though not exclusively to action-oriented lifestyle brands. Among the agency’s current and past clients are Polaris, Moomba Boats, Crestliner, Clif Bar, Trek, Target, Muscle Milk, and Lifetime Fitness.
A Minneapolis-based agency that delivers branding, traditional marketing communications (advertising, graphic design, direct response, packaging), and experiential marketing services to midsized and large clients such as Best Buy, Target, Verizon, Charter, and Minute Clinic.
With offices in New York and Los Angeles plus Minneapolis, Space150 develops campaigns, video storytelling, brand strategy, social media, content and PR strategy, and experiential events for clients like Nike, Activision, American Express, Disney, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Red Bull.
A Thriving Corporate Community
Finally, Minnesota is home to 15 Fortune 500 companies (down from 18 six years ago). It ranks 10th in total number of Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the state, and third in terms of Fortune 500 firms per capita. Several of these firms host large annual customer events, as do thousands of midsized and smaller companies in the state.
Among the larger annual corporate gatherings hosted by Minnesota firms are the:
- US Bank Annual Client Conference
- Deluxe Exchange
- 3M Client Experience Summit
- Mayo Clinic Transform Conference
- CHS Annual Meeting
- Thomson Reuters SYNERGY
With a hub airport for Delta, the twin cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul) are easy to get to, and almost all of the state’s larger population centers are within a two-hour drive of the metro area.
While the state’s climate may not make it everyone’s idea of an ideal event destination (at least during the winter months), its amenities and other qualities do. And an expanding ecosystem of event-related vendors is meeting the needs of event planners well beyond the Upper Midwest.