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  • Karen Hackett

Aveda Congress 2021: Experience Recap!


Muliticolored Human X text on black ground depicting theme of Aveda's 2021 Congress online event

Achievement unlocked! Thanks to Portfolio Salon’s leadership, I had the opportunity to attend Aveda Congress 2021 (Sept. 26 & 27) online - Aveda’s yearly event (usually in-person) that showcases the bright talent and creativity of the industry’s top artists. It was two full days - and I mean FULL - of high quality content and programming that featured:


29 workshops, including 9 hours of technical education and 5 hours of business education

40+ hours of live and on-demand content

12 guest artist presentations from around the world

34 days of access to content after Congress (for registrants)


This is A LOT to take in - especially when it’s so well produced and delivered. As you can imagine, I’ve been to plenty of online events since March 2020, and this by far was one of the best. It’s often difficult to get inspired with online presentations and events - this one did nothing but inspire and then some.


Spectacular is one way of putting it. I guess the only way I can describe it is that it’s the fusion of fashion, beauty, and lifestyle that IS Aveda - it’s an event that brings to life Aveda’s mission as well as captures the industry’s passion and innovation.


This year’s event, Plant Beauty in the World, was exclusively online, and centered around the theme of the Human experience - “Human X: Human first, driven by (y)our experiences.”


One’s experience - in every context - was a focal point for the event’s content and sessions, captured by Aveda’s stunning fashion video, which featured bright colors and bold patchwork patterns partnered with equally bright and bold hair colors (new Congress Full Spectrum Pure Tones) and styles, featuring braids.


Through the boldness, the video also captured the simplicity of connecting human to human just by being present and authentic - which embodies the services that we deliver. It’s not just about hair or beauty - it’s about connecting with our guests and demonstrating that we genuinely care.


This leads me to probably - well, definitely - my favorite workshop series of the event. While it was exciting to take in presentations that featured candid (and fun) conversations with global team rockstars and artists, as well as salon teams from around the globe, you might be wondering what my “a-ha” moment was and what gave me all the feels out of all the technical and business content…no more suspense…it was:


The four-part workshop series, Salon of the Future!


This series SPOKE MY LANGUAGE - and remember that human experience theme I just talked about? This series really captured this, as it focused on transforming guest services to guest experiences - something that is at the very forefront of what we do as Aveda professionals - and it really resonated with me as our salon’s Aveda Ambassador.


Here’s the quick breakdown of sessions:


Claudia Klug, Aveda Executive Director, Brand Growth Intelligence, Hair Care, hosted and presented at each session. Her research work helped to form the content, which included:


Session 1: Focused on current climate and shifts, and guest experience, with Barbara DeLaurie, Global Brand President, Aveda

Session 2: Focused on pre-appointment consultation; maximizing passion points and minimizing pain points, with Maggie Dame, Dame Salon, DePere, WI

Session 3: Focused on in the chair and out of the chair experiences based on guest archetypes, with Virginia Meyer, Co-owner/founder, Fourteenjay Salon / Co-creator, Aveda Business Academy

Session 4: Focused on post-appointment, out of the chair experiences, with Heath Smith, Ruiz Salon Group


As an Aveda salon, we’ve always been focused on guest experiences and how people should feel in the chair - but this workshop series took it next level and dug much deeper to capture taking one’s service experience to new heights through pre- and post-service connection. It’s not just about fulfilling a service, but it has far more to do with building and maintaining relationships and trust well beyond the chair. Given what we’ve collectively and individually experienced in nearly two years, “service” - now and moving forward - has a brand new definition, measured not just through the activity itself, but by the entire experience.


Yes, I have thousands of notes (I filled a good portion of a notebook!) but I’ve made every attempt to distill down my copious note-taking (LOL) into some key takeaways - a summary of what I learned from all four sessions:


  • Aveda’s Guest Service Wheel is evolving with the times to become the Guest Experience Wheel. It will be focused on the entire guest journey, and include pre- and post-visit actions/consultations to connect, discover needs, provide solutions, and confirm. The experience starts well before the service, and extends well beyond its conclusion.

  • This evolution stems from a customer-centered experience where people want a sense of belonging, and a place to learn and share.

  • Health and wellness is the new wealth - luxury is individually defined, inclusive, and diverse.

  • Personalization is EVERYTHING: “Show them you know them” is the cornerstone of the guest experience.

  • Through pre- and post-service consultations, we can minimize guests’ pain points and maximize passion points. People remember the most intense things that every happened to them - both good and bad. It’s all about that guest journey!

  • Speaking of the guest journey - it presents an opportunity for the guest to own their own moment of inspiration. Maybe said guest is coming in for the usual, but discovers through consultation that they are indeed willing to try something new! Which is why…

  • The consultation is ALWAYS important - for both new and existing guests.

  • Be a match maker! Book appointments based on needs and talent, not on the traditional benchmark of “who has an opening.” Place people with stylists for the right reasons - it sets up both the stylist and the guest for excitement (maximizes the passion point!)

  • Create plans with guests by having them send photos to the stylist in advance of their service so that a plan can be built prior to the service.

  • The consultation captures facts AND feelings. What words describe how your guest feels? What words describe how you feel as a stylist?

  • Guest archetypes (for example, a superhero is an archetype) help define an ultra-personalized consultation, elevating the service to level off any peaks and valleys of passion and pain points within the guest journey. I HAD to include a screen cap (below) because I find this all very fascinating - and a ton of research went into this, thanks to Claudia Klug’s work. Ask assessment questions based on archetype. A brand new class is coming in January 2022, created by Claudia and Virginia Meyer, on all of this - stay tuned, professionals!

  • Create positive memories and extend the joy a guest should feel with the service and after the service - the entire salon experience.

I should stop, otherwise I’ll go on and on! I am very much looking forward to implementing these elevated practices with my salon leadership and teammates. If you had a pass to Congress and didn’t watch this series yet, make sure that you do! Everyone can benefit from watching this series.


Have fun elevating your guest services - make it creative and rewarding. Your guests will thank you!



a table with pictures and text summarizing five hair archetypes

Both images in this article are screen captures from Aveda's presentations.





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