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S.2 Episode 5 Special Edition: Growing your Business and Events to be Successful

This week’s episode Charles was asked to speak at an event for those in the wedding industry.  Listen this week as he shares strategies and ideas that will grow your business and events, guaranteed. 

S.2 Episode 4 Uncovering the Inc 5000 Event

We are joined by the VP of the Inc 5000 Event Breana Murphy. Tell us about you!

I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years. I started in Marketing, I’ve worked in Media my entire career. I’ve worked in the corporate marketing department, and I grew up there, we put on varying types of events. We did roadshows, tours, pop up stores.  I was there for 10 years. I worked for rolling stone and did stuff on the festival circuit. Then I ended up here as a freelancer. Was recruited by a friend of mine who worked in the industry and she needed someone to help produce the Inc 5000. This will be my 16th 5000 next year.

Tell us about the Inc 5000 event.

The Inc magazine is the premier magazine that services small business magazine.  Every year we publish the Inc 5000 list, the fastest growing small businesses in America. It’s a three day event that celebrates their achievement. It’s not easy to make the list. The folks there are people really excited to come and celebrate their achievement and be recognized for their hard work. Its rooted in content. Everything about our event starts with the content and how we can better empower our audience and readers.

1 day pre conference

2 day conference

1 day gala event.

Tell us about the conference.

The attendees are people who have made the list. Business owners. The speakers are generally other founders. We try to put on the stage notable founders, Mark Cuban to Ben Chestnut, people who have had remarkable success. Or we also do teachers, people who are inspirational. Our audience is across the industry so we don’t cater to any specific industry.

How many attendees?

Just shy of 2000

Where is it?

We move and try to keep it in resort areas. We are in San Antonio this year, coming up it will be in Scottsdale, then Palm Springs.

When it comes to the event, tell us about your process.

There’s two parts, multiple actually. We have the logistics side and the content side. Last week I sat down with my editorial team and my programming team and we brainstormed who will be the big names, who will be interesting, who will make impact, who is relevant, we made a laundry list of people we’d like to go after. That’s on the content side. On the logistic side, the floral plan, anticipating if we have enough rooms, our setup how we like it, keep our sponsors in line.

We have a lot of return sponsors because we deliver a lot. We give them a lot of ROI on their investment. If they keep coming back we are doing something right.

Tell me about the design.

We redesign. Every year we try to inject something new. What we did this year that was successful and unique was a session in the round. We do concurrent sessions and gave the options of really small pointed conversations with business leaders. 30 minute topics with a maximum of 10 people per table. Then they switched and moved tables. Or they could do a breakout session.

It wasn’t just providing them with keynote, it’s interactive.

And that is probably the note we get back most. How can we provide more networking opportunities and that is something we strive to do. We do a kick off networking before our opening session. We do purposeful networking. We do an in depth survey to drill down the content pieces. They are there to be inspired and they want to meet other people.

It’s lonely to be an entrepreneur. You get them in a room it’s amazing they start solving each others problems.

How much does a company need to grow to make your list?

There’s not a set number, you have to be in business for at least 4 years and you have to have over a million in revenue. The growth percentage ranges. Some grow 3000%.

Do you include the room and other things with the ticket?

The ticket is just itself. The marketing department handles that. We have a room block, almost 800 room nights reserved. We have a portal where they can book and get a discounted rate. We do not arrange for travel or pay for hotel.

Tell me about when you are doing the coordination and working with hotel, are you negotiating directly with them?

I work with an organization that I connected with a few years ago. Hotels for Hope. They help us negotiate the room block. I work with them because my contact there is amazing and because the process of managing that block is hard and I have a small team. That process is made turnkey with working with them.

What do they do?

Part of their commission goes to a charitable organization.

When it comes to pricing your ticket, have you had to move it around?

It has stayed, we have separate consumer marketing team that handles that. The price has been pretty consistent year after year. We have to keep in mind inflation. The industry average is 10% i do my best to negotiate that. But food goes up by 10%.

Tell me more about your programming.

I have an executive producer, I’ve worked with her for six years. We sit down and do a draft agenda. We do a lot of planning with our editorial team. We look at who is making waves or has something new coming out, something that will be relevant and topical. We start with key names we want to put in and we try to round out the content and make sure we hit all the notes. Talk about money, company culture, human resources, economically, we empower them to grow their businesses.

Meeting Minds by Eidecom

S.2 Episode 3 Live Auction Tricks that Actually Work

Tell us a little bit about you, how does someone get started?

Most people that become an auctioneer grow up in the business. All the auctioneers that work for us, most of them have a family member that was involved. My dad became an auctioneer in 1978 and I had no plans to go into the business. I went to Wilmer high school graduated, went to Hamline University and have a degree in communications. I was working for WCCO tv in college and out of college.

Then my dad had a heart attack and a stroke. He had a stroke the morning of my wedding. I left my job at WCCO and went back to our family business. My dad wanted my sisters and I to go to auction school, the World Wide College of Auctioneering in Mason City Iowa. We all went there, I went in 1994 and in college, I started doing these events when I was 19. I had no money I was living in St. Paul. People found out this kid in Drew Hall at Hamline University had his license. I was 20 years old and I was doing little events to raise money. By the time I graduated from college I was doing 30 of these a year in the early 2000’s. Then it went from 30 to 50 to 90 to 150 and today this year our company will do 300 all over the country.

You fell into it in a way?

I did fall into it. I will tell you a fair amount of growth and success we’ve had is a little bit of God given but also who we are. You have to have a heart for non profits to be successful in this. You have to care about why this is important to the community. You have to care about what it will do for people. It is hard to be successful at what I do if you stand on a stage in front of 1000 people and don’t have empathy for what your raising money for.

Yes you have to be excited about the vause or you can’t do your best job.

The business today is so different than what it was 5 years ago and 10 years ago. The audience can sense if your not authentic. They can sense if you’re there for a paycheck. They can sense if you haven’t done your homework. You can’t just be standing on the stage going through the motions. I tell the auctioneers that work for us all the time is the real key is can you build a bond with the audience. You are building a bond and they are saying I trust this person cares I know what the money is going for. Today, the two portions were involved with, the live auction being one and the fund to need giving moment being the second portion. The second portion is raising 80% of the revenue. I tell people, if I’m on an airplane and somebody asks what I do for a living, my lead answer is I own a company that consults and advises and facilitates giving moments for non profits. So much of the revenue is from people pledging financial support, not me auctioning items.

Maybe you can speak more to someone who doesn’t understand the difference between the live auction and fund to need?

I wouldn’t be here today if the fund to need hasn’t’ grown to what it is. About 20 years ago in the industry, people would do the events, raffles, silent auctions. They identified there are so many people in the room that don’t win or don’t care if they get the wine basket. You have to create an opportunity for guests to pledge financial support. That’s the moment where the MC or auctioneer stands up and makes a case why you should donate to the mission of the organization and people pledge financial support. For those of you listening, if you don’t remember anything I say remember this, do a fund to need and focus 90% of your energy on mission based giving where people can pledge financial support. I think years from now it is absolutely the future and direction of fundraising. It is the total key. The big thing now is a lot of people are not driven by buying something, they don’t care. They’d rather write a check to build wells than purchasing a night on the town.

We have been talking about the shift in millenials and how different the mindset is of giving.

Before the end of the show I will highlight there still are live auction items that are selling really well. There is one interesting that’s happened, last year congress made some tax changes on the deductions you can make. We have seen an uptick in people spending money in live auctions because now there’s a limit to how much you can donate to a non profit to have a tax consequence. Dinners are the best, in home dinner with a chef is the best item, and how we’ll sell those things for $7,000-$15,0000. Some people are wanting to give 15 thousand but in this case I’m giving and getting a dinner.

To your point about millenials, the big change that we’re seeing with younger people aging into the marketplace, this is probably the second most important piece I’m observing right now in the business. 15 years ago this business is about seen to be seen dress to the nines, what is the new hot ice raffle bar etc. What’s the new trick and gimmicka?  The new change is millenials want to think and feel this is important. It’s not what’s the hot new thing, people still like to be entertained, the biggest thing for younger donors is, is there there behind it.

Sometimes people show up to have a party and it’s hard to weave mission and fundraising in that.

Not only is it hard but sadly, the planners have miscalculated what they’ve created has put downward pressure on the fundraising environment. They’ve actually created an environment that is more difficult to raise money because they believe it should have been about a party or something unique or cool.  My wife, when we were dating, she’d come and sit down, I’m going night after night, she’d sit down and in the first 20 minutes she would say I totally get it, I get why this is important. She wouldn’t know about the organization but based off the opening the show, how they communicated she would know. There were other nights where she would sit for an hour and say, I don’t get why people care. The mindset of the donor changes throughout the night.

When people come to these events you can tell the ones that came because they wanted a party vs the ones that are there to have fun, but they are there for the cause. I want to get back to the statement about how the planners can make it more difficult to raise money. What are things they can do to make it easier?

We now know, on any given saturday night that we will raise more money at 8:20 than 9:05. You will raise a significant more money, they are more engaged there mindset is more clear, their buzz is a little bit better. It is significantly easier to raise money earlier. Timing is a really big thing, the time at night. One of the greatest mistakes you canmake is getting into your fundraising too late.

The second big thing is it has to be mission focused. Does it really make a personal connection about why this is important. Design your showflow so it leads in right before the fund to need, are they sitting in their seats and are they able to say I get it. There has to be clarity in messaging as well. A lot of event planners will set it up but do not connect the dots on what it means and what it will do.  Talk to people in advance see the momentum donors. When I am standing on stage and trying to raise money, 99 times out of 100 when I am asking for a large sum I know one or two people will give. They are called seeded or momentum gifts. If you don’t have that in place, people don’t want to be the first one to raise their cards, but after 2 or 3 people do it they’d be happy to do it. You have to alter the mindset, if 2 or 3 people give 25 thousand dollars there’s 600 people sitting in the room and they think more about there donation. Create the perception there is organic enthusiasm around what you are raising money for.

The program length is critical, tell me what’s the perfect program like?

Almost everyday we get a call from a new perspective client. I’m handling these calls and I’ll tell people now, we will roughly know how you will do three days before your event. After we look through the shoflo, we know who is in a more tricky spot and whos going to be in a great spot. The right length of the program, if you can make it about an hour and fifteen minutes I think that is helpful, that’s assuming a fifteen – twenty minute break for dinner. You have to build in time for the live auction, air on the side of caution.

How many items for a live auction?

It depends, it’s changed, the short answer is fewer today is better. There are nights now where we are doing two or three items because the fund to need has grown, it is rare in the midwest to see events with other 500 people with more than 9 live auction items. A general answer would be someplace 4-7 live auction items depending on the size and history of your event.

Often times we will raise more money with fewer items. You’re not creating competition within itself for the items, and the environment and energy around the live auction is usually higher. The other thing we are evaluating is if the fund to need giving moment is coming after the live auction, I’m looking at how much money and energy is there in the room, because those two items are contingent on eachother.

You’ll laugh when I say this, there are so many nights that I walk out and think, why did people ever hire me when I was 23 years old?  In the moment, the decision you are making and experience helps, you have to be intuitive and thoughtful, you have to be data driven. In the moment many clients don’t realize the choices and decisions the auctioneer makes makes a $7500 difference in the moment.

The other piece, if you ask me aside from mission based giving and fund to need, if I said where’s this business at five years from now, I would say it’s not based on just how much money we raise night after night. That’s a big mind shift. It’s a shift about how we are thinking about this. We also have to make decisions based on how to keep donors more active and involved and keep those relationships strong regardless of the financial gift they make that night. The big thing is the auctioneers I hire, they have to be mission focused, look at the big picture, and they have to make people feel valued and appreciated. It can not be driven by did we top last year’s financial goal. Now there are so many non profits, the real question is can you keep your donors longer than anybody else. It can’t be a revenue equation, it has to be a relationship equation that is built on trust, accountability, communication, and authenticity.

The other thing that surprises you over the years, there’s nights where somebodies giving $100 and maybe that’s all they can give or used to giving. Then six months later they will gift a farm to them. Sometimes these relationships that are based on a $100 gift, the long term upside to sincerity and thankfulness is a big deal.  

I’ve seen some of your tricks, what tricks do you have?

When you have a double item you can sell twice, it’s super helpful. A lot of committees don’t understand how complex and in the moment that is for the auctioneer. A lot of times when I am doing that I can’t sell that second dinner unless I’m at x amount for an example. Then I have to get both of these people and keep them both with me. As they are bidding you have to gauge their interest. You have to stop before you lose the second person. It’s a lot of dynamics and in the moment.

A really helpful trick or experience is, so much of the value of these items has nothing to do with the item, it’s the relationship around the item.

How should an auctioneer be charging for their services?

Some charge a flat rate or a commission fee. A flat fee is better in the nonprofit world. I don’t want people to think we are giving different advice based on our compensation. The fees across the country vary, and they’ll change. A lot of auctioneers will prorate their fee based on their revenue. I also tell folks whether they hire us or somebody else, I encourage them to grill the auctioneer before they hire. If you spend a half hour asking the tough questions you’ll figure out who the right fit for you are. You should interview a couple two or three. The challenge depending on the size of your event, we schedule a year or two out so you have to be really on top of that.

Meeting Minds by EideCom

S.2 Episode 2: Generosity in Events

You’re using events to create awareness, welcome to the show! Tell us about Matter and what you do.

It’s an organization that was started here in our community by some people in the commercial real estate space. I love the way it started. It started by asking what can we do with our own two hands to serve the world. As successful business people there were people coming to them all the time saying can you support our cause and they said well what do we have that we could use to help others. In their case their answer was unique they had real estate space. They had all these warehouses. At times they were empty at times they were full with tenants. They said how can we leverage that to serve others? They started to adopt this concept they called repurposing corporate surplus.

They took in different items from the community. It started with food, sometimes office equipments, it got quickly into medical equipment. Over the course of the last 18 years the organization has matured and grown into this movement really of people that believe there are a lot of great people that don’t have access to a great life. But we can provide that access to have a great life. We are working primarily in the food space. Of course asking the same questions our founders asked, what does Minnesota have in our community we can export to the world? We have incredible food companies, we also work in the agriculture space, lastly we’re often known in Minneapolis as medical ally. Access to all this medical equipment. We take in millions of dollars of medical equipment that we repurpose all over the world. The last 15 years we’ve worked in over 70 countries around the world. It’s fantastic! Our community is such a generous one. We really become a beneficiary of the equipment and food that we can then repurpose so everybody in the world can have a shot at having a better life.

Everything is new in our hospitals, the equipment is being constantly turned over and I was thinking where does it go?  There are places in the world that would love to have gently used equipment. You guys do that!

Exactly, we live in a competitive hospital environment. Especially in Minnesota. It’s very competitive and we become the beneficiary of that.  This year I was in Congo and walked into a large hospital. Inside the maternity ward there were about 40 women giving birth and there wasn’t one bed in the room. They were all giving birth on the floor, there was blood and fluids all over.  It’s one of those moments where you think to yourself this is not right this is not ok. Here we have a warehouse full of gently used hospital beds. That really becomes our urgency and mission. It’s the right thing to do to give these women beds to give birth on. It’s just the beginning of it. It’s something we have great access to here in Minneapolis. Thankfully we can serve others around the world. I have the best job in the world.  I get to serve people.

How do you choose where you are serving?

It’s a good question. The line is long this list is long of people who would like to partner with us to get this medical equipment.  Really for us it comes down to partnerships. It’s about the relationships you can build with people. Find those shared values, visions, outcomes that meet and align. We look for those partners around the world where we can go hands on face to face. What is the vision you have? Are we the right group to help?  It starts there, once we establish that then it becomes detail work. Figure out what needs to be done.

Getting your hands on stuff is a task on its own, then deploying them is another, it takes time and money.  Something you do a great job with is engaging people in your mission. How are you using events to grow your engagement?

There are two areas I’d like to touch on. I started reading the book the Power of Moments. It’s a very intriguing book. They are making the case that when you reflect on your life there are these moments that stand out. It’s the power of those moments that shape your life moving forward. It forces you to make certain decisions of what you are going to do. It’ impacts where your family will be involved. He has so many cases in the book that he draws to prove this point. I found it helpful and interesting especially for events.

That’s what events become, a powerful moment. At least at Matter that’s what we are hoping to do. We want to create a powerful moment where people consider what’s important to them what do they need to invest in. The two areas for us, in the food area we have a Matter Box. It’s a box of healthy shelf stable food. It’s really a healthy eating starter kit. We collaborate with hospitals in the community and different organizations. The design is to help kids primarily understand what healthy eating looks like. It’s not that confusing or difficult but sometimes if you don’t have a tangible example you don’t know. ‘

We assemble these boxes and our strategy is called companies that matter. We engage corporations in town, and ask them to consider coming with their team and packing these boxes. We create an event. One of the things we’ve said is we want it to be the Disney experience. In that context it’s not oftentimes a big event sometimes it is though. It can be a work team of 10-20 people sometimes up to 100 people. It really becomes a moment for them to consider, I’m getting my hands dirty helping the community and we try to bring beside that what is the meaning you can bring to your community and whole life. Those are opportunities to create an experience for people to have that powerful moment. That’s the one space to grow engagement.

It creates an experience that is memorable and that’s what a lot of non profits or people conducting events struggle with.  You want a take away people can have that is memorable. We are trying to create that. One of the interesting things we came across, we did a large event with General Mills. It became a nation wide experience. Ellen Degeneres got involved with her million acts of good campaign.  What we developed was a movement around this you matter idea. We created these little you matter notes. Every volunteer writes a note of encouragement. It could be as simple as you’re special, keep going. Every volunteer that packs a matter box writes a you matter note. A kid gets that and read that. That became almost more so than the food the inspiration, really that was the moving piece for them. That was a powerful thing that we incorporated into a event, a simple idea that I thought it was a silly idea, but it’s amazing. Sometimes it’s the simple ideas that can be the spark.

One of the events I’d like to mention is an event we created with Cargill called Matterbox Madness.  It’s an opportunity especially this year with us hosting the final four event. We bring companies together, last year we had 30, and they each form a team and get really competitive and compete against each other bracket style to find a champ that is a Matter Box packing champion. It’s a fun opportunity, another principal we employ, people like to have fun. To come together and create something fun.

Another thing we’ve tapped into is the corporate groups are type A personalities and they like to compete. That’s an event that is coming up this spring around the final four tournament. We are going to try to incorporate as many companies as we can.

A lot of people ask the question, when you approach these companies with these ideas, you have to have them flushed out, but at the end of the day, how do I go approach them?

I wish there was a silver bullet for this one or a magical answer. Our development team is always looking for what’s that sneaky magic, I hate to break it to our team and myself, it really is a lot of hard work. Classic networking, getting out, knocking on doors. I would say there are some strategies we use. We work with our board of directors, we have this group of influencers we’ve brought together and ask them who do you know. We ask our board members every quarter that they would make one connection to an influencer in the community for our development team.

People want to have fun and want to feel like they are enjoying themselves, how do you design an event that is fun and entertaining?

That’s the second category I want to reference, it’s the gala events, we have a handful events we do that are more what you’d call traditional gala events. One of the things we looked as is trying to really push on the status quo or how things have always been done. We get in the room and do what we call the fight unite strategy. Let’s get in a room and fight about ideas and then unite on something in the end. We push for outcomes through that strategy. It’s helped us to challenge some things. A lot of galas we go to we see stereotypical things. What happens is it becomes a little mundane. We are always looking for things we can do that are different.

Two years ago we decided to do our gala event at the sun country airline hanger. The owner is a friend and supporter of ours. There were a few things that happened. It allowed us to reduce cost on venue space, it gave a lot of flexibility on what we could do in that space, it allowed us to put the financial resources into a creative outlet. We were able to pull off our most successful event raising over 1 million dollars and everyone that was there was blown away. I don’t think it was that we were magical in our execution or set up, I think it was so many different elements that people were taken back by that.

When you do something like that, tell me the benefits with not dealing with a hotel or traditional hotel.

It’s a great thing to comment on because we took a different approach to it this year. There are cons as well. It’s a lot of work, you are trying to figure things out every time. There are benefits to going to the Rivercentre. It creates a lot of work for our team and the folks we work with. But there are real upsides, for example, we did our Gala at our own warehouse. The venue was free, and then we were able to work with food vendor’s in town. We had 7 different restaurants that agreed to donate. When we went to each of those, they donated an item or a couple of items so it wasn’t a huge burden to each group.  We took our food budget from $55,000 to $0.

So what does that money go to?

It’s a combination, some of that goes to the bottom line then we are able to leverage that for other things. What’s really cool is during the event we announce that! There is a round of applause. There’s an element of stewardship, we have the flexibility to do that, but you can’t do that for every event.

You brought up a really good point. A couple of principles we employ is we are always looking for those win-win situations. Where a company comes, donates, we acknowledge them, they gain business. We win from the financial side and they win as well and feel good about it. We are continuing to look at what are those win-wins. Two of the words we use when starting the planning process are fun and meaningful.

Tell me more about the fun element.

I’ve become a believer in data driven decisions. Data can help. We try to do as comprehensive of a survey as we can to find out what the elements are that people like. It’s nice to get the data and have data to prove people like these elements. That’s one place we start. We do a team debrief and look at those elements. People here in the midwest like other interesting people that come to town outside of Minnesota, celebrities, artists, comedians, whatever that might be. Most people won’t say they do, but the reality is, from our research and surveying, people actually do like it.

How do you tie the meaningful part in while keeping it fun?

One of the constant critiques we get is that the event is too long. I don’t think anybody complained about a short event. I think that’s a challenge for organizations, you have so many things going on and you want to tell them it all in one night. It’s a difficult thing to widdle that message down. That’s an area of growth and opportunity for us. You can kill the fun if you try to get too much information across. Other things get hurt along the way.

When it comes to using these events to get the message across, how much of the program is helping the audience to understand the mission?

We survey the audience to see what works. It’s something we can continue to improve. For us the power of the story is really one of the things we put at the top to drive the meaning. The most effective story is video, you can limit and control what’s being presented and how long. This year was a little bit unusual, we had a gal, a new partner is in Zimbabwe and had all our friends from there come over. One of them, when we got to know her, could tell she had a gift for sharing stories and captivating your interest so we had her before the appeal get up and share a story.  There’s a little risk in that, but she has a true gift to be able to understand the audience and she hit a home run.

Check out Matter

q@matter.ngo

Meeting Minds by EideCom

S.2 Episode 1: Maximizing Creativity for your Event

Hal Lovemelt, an Event Technologist, talks about the creative side of events. Ever wanted to know how to use new technology to captivate your event?  Hal brings a perspective we haven’t yet seen on the Meeting Minds podcast! 

Tell us about you. What is an event technologist?

To illustrate where it comes from for me is, I would tell you a little bit about my background. I got sucked way into TV, public access TV. We did live public access TV in Minneapolis, every Sunday night live on air with a phone number on it. I considered it my education. We had to come up with content for an hour every sunday night. We had to free for all it, it was an improvise show. People could call in and interact with us. It was called Freaky Deeky. Everyone that came on was a freak. It was the freakiest show you could do and very experimental. We had a lot of costumes, basically a mountain of costumes and a huge green screen studio. Everyone improvised we came up with a skit in a matter of seconds. Did weird things, the callers would interact with us and help us to do weird things. I was behind the scenes doing the technology and mixing the feeds and doing video art with lots of different camera angles. We had 4 different camera kpeople and they are all dedicated, and we would make this show every week on Sunday without fail and that kind of forced us to come up with a streamline process for the creative thinking around video experiences.

I realized it’s less fun to watch the show, it’s more fun to be on the show. When we would be done with the show the guests would come and watch it and they would be having a blast seeing themselves. I said that’s it, I have to put people on camera, give them their moment of fun on camera. I built a really crazy ghetto video booth out of wood and I would bring it to clubs. I was still a kid at the time and we would do these dance nights but I would have this crazy green screen and little tv studio you would walk in. It was a hit so one thing led to another and we kept upgrading and upgrading and we are basically on version 10 now.

You’re kind of inventing a whole new interactive experience when it comes to this photo booth type thing. How does that work and what does it do?

In the beginning what happened a lot was people would come up to it and see it and see people getting all weird and stretching their face and they thought it was fun and cool. They thought it was just playback and they’d look and see people in their and realize it was live and then they would get really excited and want to jump in. Then they’d realize when you were in there you could see yourself on a makeshift teleprompter. I get all those bumps everytime i see someone get that moment of magic in their eye. I keep getting motivation to upgrade and keep developing.

You’re writing software, code, and meshing things together.

I basically got so dedicated to this kind of medium that I learned how to code just to do this.

How does this all tie in to larger events and stages?

My craft is actually a more visual artist and a VJ. I’ve done a lot of stage shows for bands. I’ve projection mapped for orchestra hall and festivals and stuff. I will do lighting and video installations for experimental bands here in town. The way it ties in is kind of a deeper understanding for taste and how to mix this different kind of visual art with sound and lighting and a mood. I’ve had a few opportunities to whole event moods and design a whole event where things got a lot crazier.

You were telling me about kinetic lighting, talk about that.

I think it’s the next big thing. I’d like to see it for an audience. It’s definitely seen on the stage and around a fashion show or something. I’d love to see it used in an audience fashion where the audience is interacting with it in a more cohesive way. Waves of people are controlling different moments of it. I’ve seen different approaches to the challenge of large interactions, customized apps with video wall software. You hold your phone up and you’re 1 pixel of an image. There may be apps now that do that, but a couple of artists have done that in the past where they’ve done it with a touch designer system. What that does is it opens what I get excited about in the industry as a whole is companies and small studios developing really unique solutions to interesting event problems and having a market for it.

When you say software what do you mean?

I’m more talking about the service product. For years event producers will come up with a crazy idea and say this is nuts but can you do it, to a big house. A solution house and they will say yeah we can do it and they work tirelessly and make it happen. Whether or not the execution is good, that was a one off because it has to be a one off right? You have to do the next big thing that hasn’t been done before. However what I’m getting excited about is people are realizing that is a very inefficient model for the industry. You can come up with ideas and make products and flush them out over time. Everytime you deploy it keep flushing it out and have that product be a single product you can sale.

If you put on an event and spend all the time and effort to build something cool that’s used once it feels wasteful. Is there technology that will track somebody?

Yeah BlaxTrack. If you buy one I will help you set it up.

Will it integrate with all of our Martin Lighting and can hook it up to our DMX board?

Yeah but it’s not that simple. This system is really quick, you can move you can run and it will track you. It’s tough and it’s just so expensive.

Is that something they use for concerts like following a performer?

Circ de sole, maybe big concerts?

Could you projection map lighting on a human figure and cut them out real time?

So it’s just hitting them? So the fallout doesn’t happen? (yes) Typically what happens, the projector itself the framerate wouldn’t keep up. It wouldn’t feel real, you’d see the edges and see the cross bleed. Most of the time people do that with depth sensors which are low res, that will change and things will get crazy when that changes. Depth sensor now, you can cut people out you can make really simple background subtraction but it’s choppy and low res. You make a blob.

What I do with background subtraction where I can cut people out in total darkness without a green screen, that technology can;t be applied to any scenario, but with depth cameras it could be applied to any scenario once the resolution is there. You can imagine walking past a wildont and a camera being in the window and looking at it and it completely cuts you out from the scene you are in.

It’s like live rotoscoping.

Yes exactly.

For those of you listening rotoscoping is a film term. In post production, let’s say you have a video of somebody standing in a family room and there is a chair in the background. Rotoscoping is frame by frame they cut the person out or a particular item and manipulate it. You don’t have to have them stand in front of a green screen to have a background behind them.  Another use would be when somebody is using a bald cap makeup so it looks like there is bald. There is always wrinkles and edges so you will edit out the wrinkles frame by frame and blend them.

There are whole production houses that just make actors look tinier bit skinnier or fix them.

Tell me about the theatrical element of an event. I think a lot of meeting planners are always seeking new ideas to engage the audience.

In my opinion it’s all about attention. Most event producers know that too, it’s all about getting the attention: creative voices of god. It can be really upgraded and really creative ideas. I want to encourage event producers to not limit their crazy ideas just because they don’t think it’s possible. If you have a crazy idea for something and the answer that you say to yourself is but one one will be paying attention that problem can easily be solved. If you have something really unique like an elephant walking in and out of the room – something crazy for a gala or something I say go for it. Just really nail the attention part. Corralling people is always a challenge for event people. If the cocktail hour is going long and everyone is still gabbing and you need them to get into the venue, you can flash the lights or strobe the lights and make a crazy scene where a car crashed into the building you can go nuts you can go crazy.

A lot of the non profit events that raise money for years before they worked with us they struggled to get the attention of the audience to stay on stage. Or getting them into the ballroom in a given period of time.  You are right, using directed attention and cues to pull people in, it’s age old stuff.

The age old stuff is the stuff that works the best.

When you can control the sound and the visual you can really control the audience and what they are looking at.

Don’t be afraid to make a couple guests mad. When I would bring that up early in my career, why don’t we go dark. Somebody has to put their glasses on, but they have a family that can help them.

If you are going to cater to everyone you’re not going to cater to anyone.

Tell us more about the onstage theatrics.

I’ve see a lot of cool things. I saw this show in Berlin that blew my mind. This goes back to kinetic lighting. They made and now sells the DMX motors. This was one of their first projects they built these one meter mirror disks and had LED edging on the disc, and both sides were mirrored. They had three points of being hung and three motors per disc.  They had 100 discs and they were hung in a very interesting pattern and all of them could move up and down and they lined the room with the grid of the movers. Very nice precision movers. I talked to the guy later and he told me he had to calibrate them every day because the room ambience of the heat and stuff changes. This act was very precise. They would have the show that was synced to music and sounds where they make these crazy patterns and shoot pointed lights at these mirror. You would be underneath and they would get really close then go up.

You will see a lot of these motors coming into the A/V houses because it’s a cool easy thing to wow someone.

Even if you move anything during a show people are so excited. What other cool things can you technologists do?

Anything you can dream of!

Tell me about projection mapping vs LED.

It depends on the application. Although i’ve seen an LED video booth and I’m very intrigued, it’s that there’s a cost difference that is so hard to get beyond. I’m a resolution kind of guy, I’m really into it especially with what kind of art I do. I don’t want a low res LED wall. It’s about the pitch of the LEDs. If it’s a huge stage it doesn’t matter because people are far away from it. All my ideas with LEDs have people being close. Small pitch LED walls are really expensive.

I don’t understand why a 4k 70 inch tv is $1000 and the pixel density is microscopic and you can walk up to the TV and be an inch from it and still not see the pixels. Why can’t we use that to make LED walls.

It’s never bright enough. We put TVs on the side for my video booths they are awesome but if you look at the whole thing we put Robis up top and we have pixel strips going down the side and those always make the TVs look dark. They make really bright tvs and we’ve purchased them. THe problem is you can’t get the $1000 tv. They make display tvs that are made to run 24/7 and made to look good in broad daylight those are still Tvs, still LCD and they are way more expensive than your average TV.  The brighter you get the lower, crappier black and color levels.

Give us things you’d like planners to think about when using technology.

I always like to say don’t take the human out of technology. I’m kind of anti automation to a certain degree when it comes to technology. I don’t like kiosks at all. I like humans being involved and that comes back to the theatrical part and that will make things memorable.

One think I’d really like planners to think about is bringing your vendors together to the creative table. As a video booth designer, all I want to do is work with bigger and greater decor companies to make crazy sets and come up with cool ideas. That way we are not splitting the budgets. Bring everybody together.

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