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The Redken Symposium arrives in Las Vegas

HJ’s news editor Matthew Batham gives a day-by-day account of his recent trip to the States with Redken for its international Symposium in Las Vegas and its UK Business Forum in the stunning Scottsdale, Arizona


Redken symposium 001.jpgYou can see Vegas from the airport runway – how often can you say that? Normally there’s a drive of at least half an hour through non-descript suburbia before you reach any major city. But Vegas is right there, rising from the desert like a Toy Town version of an American metropolis.

There’s a palpable buzz amongst the hairdressers arriving in the famous city for the Redken Symposium – an event that sees hairdressers from across the world descend on the entertainment capital for three days of seminars designed to motivate even the most cynical.

But before the education kicks in, there’s the Grand Opening. Thousands pack into the massive auditorium at the Mandalay Bay hotel, and the buzz that started on the plane has now grown to a controlled roar. The night brings an all-singing-and-dancing spectacular – and the feel is definitely American. The key messages – “be the best you can be” and “find your professional edge.” The audience is lapping it up with much whooping.

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Rumour has it that the air conditioning in Vegas hotels contains an excessive amount of oxygen to keep punters up and in the casinos gambling. It’s probably an urban myth, but, despite being up for 27 hours, I spend most of Sunday night wide awake, humming the tunes from the Grand Opening.

Luckily there’s plenty of interest amongst the multitude of seminars on offer.

I start the day with a session called Design Stimuli, which involves top US stylists Omar Spina and Tim Cowan giving their take on converting inspiration into commercial looks – or as Omar puts it: “It’s the connection between the inspiration and the end result – the meat in the middle.”

Redken Symposium Trend Shifting offers a fascinating insight into how hairdressers can translate inspiring editorial looks into commercial styles clients will clamour for. There are dozens of other seminars to choose from, covering the creative and business sides of the industry – and the hairdressing throng take it all in with gusto. Their commitment is rewarded in the evening with the Symposium Bash - basically a massive party, with free drinks, food and a stonking set by Natasha Bedingfield.


Another oxygen-rich night (allegedly) finds me in need of motivation, and it comes in the form of UK boys Chris Moody and Keith Owen and their entertaining and informative seminar – Men: The UK Way. Chris heaps praise on traditional British barbers and tells delegates: “learn the principles and then master the art”.

Brand It! Sees the team from US icon Cutler pass on its extensive knowledge of how to make every element of what you do part of your brand – from the service you give to the calibre of magazine you offer clients to read.

Savvy Salon Solutions offers delegates tips on ensuring their businesses thrive during 2009 courtesy of former hairdresser and business guru Kristi Valenzuela of Crystal Solutions.


It’s off to Scottsdale, Arizona for the British and Ireland Business Forum. At the Mondrian Hotel, there is time to unwind in the very white and black hotel rooms before heading out for a very traditional US night out at Pinnacle Point Patio - think checked shirts, rattle snakes in tanks, fabulous steaks lots of line dancing. And should you ever decide to visit, don’t, whatever you do wear a tie – one of the waitresses will cut it off and pin it to the ceiling!


There is a strong American flavour to the day’s presentations and group activities. Redken general manager Kathleen Gillin kicks off proceedings, promising that the day will offer delegates extra tools for them to take back to their salons and help ensure a successful 2009.

Peter LunnNext the ever-enthusiastic Peter Lunn gives a characteristically motivational presentation on steering a business through the recession. “Make a decision to be aggressive,” he tells delegates. “There are plenty of clients who are not happy where they are – we have to draw them in”.

Group activities, I have to confess, always fill me with trepidation, but there’s little time to contemplate nerves, as the team from Odyssey launch into an afternoon of team bonding session, that include steering team members through a make-shift maze and building a bike.

The big surprise of the day comes when a group of children from a local school enter the room to collect their presents – the bikes we have just built! I try and surreptitiously tighten a few bolts and check the brakes before our designated child – a charming girl called Maddison – comes forward to collect it. It comes as a massive relief when we’re told the bikes will be checked by professionals before any unsuspecting child tries to ride them.

Our evening entertainment consists of a delicious meal and stunning views across Arizona from the Different Point of View restaurant. Then – sleep deprivation now a thing of the past – it’s off clubbing till the early hours.


It’s the last day and delegates take advantage of the free time before our flight back to London.

There’s a choice of jeep tours, horse riding in the desert, a day-trip to local beauty spot, Sedona – or shopping. Being the adventurous soul I am, I choose to shop. But while I’m shopping, I take time to consider “am I being the best I can be?” and to contemplate just how I can sharpen my own professional edge once I get home.


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