Melinda

S.3 Episode 19: Mantra’s of a Keynote Speaker

Keith Mercurio is one of these guests we wish we would have had more time with! Coming from a background of plumbing, leading him to working in events, to now being a key note speaker, Keith comes with so much knowledge. Listen as he shares some amazing principles you will want to adopt!

Tell us about your background and what brought you to where you are.

Well, my journey’s a pretty unorthodox one for sure. I’m a plumber. That was my background. I was a plumber by trade. I dropped out of college and went into the trades working for my next door neighbor and we joined this organization years ago, this group called Nexstar and they were a business development organization for the plumbing, heating, cooling, and electrical world. I’m sitting there, I’m a plumber, I’m a dropout, I don’t know where my life is necessarily headed. And I’m sitting in this event and this trainer comes on and he just, within five minutes of seeing it, I said I’m going to do that someday. That started my journey towards creating my own story, my own success within that industry, but ultimately with the goal that I wanted to be a trainer. I started going down that road and a few years after that I got hired by this group, became their first trainer and then eventually became their director of training. That’s how this whole thing, this whole journey you got underway.

You’re always pushing yourself to boundaries I’ve never even thought of. What is your method to all of that? 

This is one of my goals. My wife even included an in her vows for me. She said, I love that at the age of 36 I’m 37 now that one of your most serious goals is to land a back flip on skis. People don’t decide they’re going to do that usually in their late thirties but for me it’s something I’ve just always wanted to do and I have these things that I like just always want it to be great at. I like being good at stuff. I like being great itself. That’ll come out in the course of us talking about event planning and keynoting because I’m obsessive. So part of that though is to go on these little quests. So I took the month of August off. I haven’t done anything other than pursue three goals. One was to catch as many fish as I could. Went bass fishing for a week. Then I went and took horsemanship lessons for a week. So learning to to groundwork horses, get more comfortable with horses. Again, something I just want to be great at. And then the third was I went to Olympic park, Utah to learn how to do a back flip on skis at their park, which involved trampoline training and then launching off their jumps into the end of the pool.The humbling part was I’d posted a video of how many unsuccessful front and back flips occurred on that trampoline before.

You’re like, “I’m a human too, now I grow.”

That’s pure content by the way, because both of those have actual stories that are parts of previous keynotes that were involved with one, horseback riding incident when I fell off the horse, broke my arm. And then this whole thing with another injury that occurred from back flipping on my honeymoon off of a rope swing in Maui. So these are like, these that we’re building content here. And the thing I always like, nobody, nobody wants is going to relate to somebody who looks good all the time. As a keynote speaker, if your stories are always about your successes, it’s exhausting. Like the audiences doesn’t get an opportunity to get on board with you. Like that’s not real life. That’s not how humanity works. But we have such a desire to be this, you know, perfect, polished version on stage. My keynote speaking went to another level when I got, this was the phrase from a coach of mine said, you need to get authentic with how inauthentic you are. And, and I used to pretend my little bits of humility were little gestures to try to make it look like I was actually humble, but they weren’t really humble. So once I got clear with, Oh yeah, I am totally, you know, full of it. This is a very human characteristic. We know we’re not supposed to be arrogant. So then we try to be humble, but it’s not really humble. Now I have to force myself. I hate looking bad. I hate it. 

So in speaking, when, when we’re telling a story that involves ourselves, especially the one that has an ultimate success or some form of a triumph, even if it’s just a moral victory, there’s something called the dip. And the dip is the moment in the story that the audience all gets to relate to you. So the dip is the down cycle in the story’s trajectory where you’re at a bottom, you’re at a place where you know you’re struggling, you’re frustrated, you want to give up, whatever that is. And that’s where everybody gets to become part of that ride in the story. So therefore, whenever you do share that ultimate triumph, you haven’t left people behind.The point of it isn’t to walk out of there looking good, it’s for them to walk out of there seeing a future that that’s inspiring to them.

How do you make an incredible event experience?

Part of making sure that I am growing and this is to constantly attend events. So I put myself through a lot of training. I put myself through events and I go and watch. The thing that I see over and over again in events is that they are typically they’re incongruent. So you’ll have a bunch of speakers, you’ll have a theme, you’ll have whatever but they don’t hold together. So one speakers content doesn’t compliment another speakers content doesn’t get tied back by the MC doesn’t fit the slide show at the break. There’s a lack of congruency because oftentimes I think event teams are over here and then the talent is over here, and you know that whoever’s trying to be in charge of the event isn’t necessarily working on the ins and outs. For a great event to us in, in my career, what that meant was that it was thematic and it was congruent from start to finish, from the invitation to the way it looked online, the way we spoke about it to the theme and to each speaker having complimentary content to the event and an emcee who understood how to tie that content together and bridge from one speaker to the next. Those were all the keys that really make an event different. Now you can get into all the little details that I think are wonderful and I’m obsessive. I get super excited about that stuff. But that overall is what I see most events missing, that at least we tried to make a constant goal of ours, that the audience, whether they knew it or not, was going through an experience that was congruent from start to finish.

How do you approach creating an event and timeline?

A couple of different techniques, and I’m trying to think of your audience because in a lot of our events we had a captive group, we are a business development organization. We had 600 companies that were members of ours, so we were able to sort of farm information of what was needed. I think the key was we didn’t limit our event planning to our event team. We would reach out to our coaches, we’d reach out what do we need, what do we want to see, what’s been lacking, what’s been missing, what’s exciting? What are you struggling with? And ask important questions rather than just assuming that we knew what people would want in an event now.

We were lucky that we’d built enough credibility at that point that people just trusted yeah, we’ve got to go. Even if we didn’t have a big name, they knew it was going to be incredible because they don’t need to have heard of the people to know that if we picked them, there was a reason. So you do have to balance that to a degree. But if you’re going for the big name, how can you then compliment that big name? Like what specific content of theirs can you ask them to deliver? And then how can you tie that into the event?

So what we want is in an event, it’s going to be congruent, it’s going to be thematic, the speakers will compliment each other, but we also want things to become actionable for our audience members so that they don’t just leave their goal and that was a great event. They also leave there with actual steps to implement and create the changes that they presumably attended the event with the the ideal of achieving. 

If I want to talk to these speakers that I’m going to be booking, how do I make sure they are going to stay on our theme?

That was probably my favorite part. Over the years we have had the opportunity to speak to, you know, John Maxwell and Les Brown and Emmett Smith some huge names, icons in the industry, but we insisted on it. We always get one hour phone call set up as part of our contract with the speaker. The speaker themselves. We absolutely believe that was a non negotiable for us because, we found that they were so impressed with the level of excellence with which we were approaching the event that typically these people who had achieved what they’ve achieved, they respect that. We had to study their content, we had to know whether it’s their books, their previous talks, you know, we would study them so that we could bring a couple specific areas that we would ask them to maybe focus on. We would want to share a little background because what you’ll find, and again this is the keynote side of things. When I’m going to an audience, Not only am I going to interview the people that are hiring me, but I’m going to ask if I can get five to 10 potential audience member contacts and actually interview them before I go into the event. All it takes is a half a dozen, not even three to six subtle references that are unique and specific to the audience that’s there for them to feel like this guy, this event was made for me. We are members, we’re called members, and when John Maxwell remembered to call them members and not clients, it makes sense. He says clients and they go, this guy doesn’t know who we are. 

Do you have a mantra you live by?

Of course I have to develop mantras to as a speaker, right? One that really applies to what we’re up to here in this world is just say yes. Just say yes and then the caveat to that is and then do it with alacrity. Alacrity is a great word, I’m going to insist on using it because the definition is a joyful enthusiasm. 

So this came about in my personal life, my wife then my fiance, the Royal wedding was happening and she asked me, do you want to wake up tomorrow and watched the Royal wedding? Everything inside of me said, absolutely not. I mean, there was at no level, at no point in my life, no way can I comprehend why I would no. I mean, the answer like is a strong no. By living by this theme, as it was imparted upon me, I said yes. Absolutely. So the next day, I think it was like a four o’clock wake up. There’s no intrigue for me over there, but it was important to her. So I said yes. But then you don’t say yes and then do it and be like, Oh, do you really want to do this thing right? That’s gonna take all the joy out of the experience. So I woke up, I was painfully hung over, by the way, I was probably out with you Charlie. And we wake up and she’s not even up yet. I go outside, I put on a suit, I cook eggs, tea, pour champagne, and then go wake her up.

The point is this was taught to me, okay this, I didn’t come up with this, I didn’t invent this. It was taught to me and I had to channel it to do something I didn’t want to do and do it well.If that is an event planning, I don’t know what is.In in the world of moving the tables, it’s having just gotten there, you look and you, you realize that the format that you had set up wasn’t gonna work and now you’ve got to change stuff and it’s like, just say yes with alacrity, with alacrity. You need to bring that joy because if you think your audience doesn’t feel the energy of the people producing the show, you’re out of your mind. I love people that are like, Oh, I’m good at hiding it. No, you’re not. Nobody’s ever been. So pretending like we can hide it is crazy. Actually taking actionable steps to shift your state into a positive state that’s a different story.

As far as mantras are concerned, our entire event team, our speakers, everybody on our staff every one of them was tasked with developing a pre event mantra. Mine, I’ve said it hundreds and hundreds of time, but it’s something in the realm of like, I am a vehicle for learning but not the source. I am kind patient and completely committed to seeing and holding these men and women to their absolute best. These men and women are brilliant, courageous, and in the perfect place in their lives for our paths to intersect. They’re awesome. I’m awesome. Today’s the day. Now’s the time. And this was my pre event mantra before every audience I met. If I see people that way and choose to see people that way, no matter how they walk in the room, I’ve already decided who they are. I’m not going to let their energy dictate my energy.

What about pet peeves? 

Well I would say, the number one pet peeve I have when working with people is the desire to be right rather than get it right. This is people’s desire to look good. Natural reaction is I’m going to defend myself to make sure that I look good here and that I wasn’t wrong, rather than just being like, okay, cool. What do we have to do to make this right? Our whole culture has been built around being right as much as we can be right. That’s a horrible trait to take into professional development cause professional development is about finding all the ways in which you’re wrong and growing from them. In event planning, when I’m met with that defense, that’s my number one pet peeve that I experience. 

What is your superpower?

My capacity to understand people like to really get people to really hear them. A cause I care to and B, because I’ve practiced a long time, I’ve studied the hell out of it. 

You do keynote speaking tell me about your approach and the type of stuff that you’re really gifted at. 

The keynote work that I do it’s all gonna be about if beliefs don’t shift, nothing changes. People are always sayingHey, come in, we want to know what to do. We want to know what to do. People go to training that they want actionable items. They want to know what to do.

I always ask people, if I were to ask you how you would go about getting healthy, you would tell me what? Your answers would be, Go to the gym and change your diet. Then I asked the audience to say, now how many of you knew that? And they all raised their hand. And I say, and how many of you knew that and still wish you were in better health? An entire audience raises their hand. Clearly people’s desire to find out what it is they need to do to make changes, that’s kind of a misguided effort in both speaking and in training. If we can actually explore underneath the surface at the belief shift that’s necessary to sustain a change and give you the technique of how we shift beliefs, not just actions, then we create new actions, then we create new results in our life.

So what I do in a keynote is I go beneath the surface in a way that I believe I have the capacity to relate to every single person in that audience. If one person does leave, not feeling like I related to them, then that sticks with, that’s a pet peeve. That’s my number one pet peeve is not connecting with anybody in an audience, let alone an audience. So in a keynote, whether it’s one hour or three days of training, whatever people desire and what they want, we’re going to capture every member of that audience and leave them in a wow experience for their future, whatever that looks like. It’s going to be realistic. It’s not going to be corny. 

keithmercurio.com.

kmerc24@gmail.com.

Insta: Charlesevaneide

EideComCreative

meetingmindspodcast

Twitter:The Meeting Minds

S.3 Episode 18: How to Win in the Expo World!

When you know there is a strong need for an event how do you go about building it? How do you stay true to yourself and your own brand? This week Ashley Hawks of Forever Bride joins us to talk all about how her and her small but mighty team created the Forever Bride Market.  You will be surprised by the amount of detail and perfection that goes into it!

Tell us about you.

Born and raised here in the twin cities, so total Minnesota girl. My start in the wedding industry, started when I was really young. My mother owned a bridal shop here in the twin cities for 25 years. She launched it when I was five. I remember she, worked high up in the JC penny world back in the 80s when JC Penney was like the thing. She was in the fashion world for years and that was her specialty. And then in 1990 she decided to open her own bridal shop, Mary Kay’s bridal. I mean it was a dream come true. I mean I was a total girly girl and we’d go there after school and she would give me these little Dixie cups and I’d crawl around on the floor and the carpet, this horrible mauve pink carpet. Everything was this mauve pink. And I would crawl around picking up these tiny little pearls and diamonds that I thought were real. Well when you have, you know, 800 gowns in this massive bridal store, you know, and she saves everything. And so, you know, I’d go around collecting all these little beads and stuff cause we did alterations and so it was nice being able to give these little Dixie cups of beads to the seamstresses and kept me busy after school. And then I upgraded to vacuuming and cleaning millions of mirrors on a daily basis.

You were a model in the fashion world. Tell us a little bit about that.

I was a very ginormously tall young girl. But when you’re in fifth grade and you’re almost 5 10, that’s a lot. It’s very aggressive. So my sweet mother got me into modeling and I loved it. I’m surrounded with these other giant tall women and I was making money and I got to travel. I started traveling actually when I was 14, all by myself. Got in an airplane and flying around.

I learned a lot about, both about the wedding industry cause I got started modeling wedding dresses and going to bridal fashion week and things like that. So I was still within the wedding industry. When you’re young, a lot of these designers would let me stay at their house, you know, with their families and I’d get to know, a lot about the business and the behind the scenes. I just became completely obsessed with the industry and then of course as years went by I’m going to date myself a little bit, but the internet started to become a little bit more powerful and social media came out. I really became obsessed with how businesses made it through that transition. I remember being one of the very first Facebook users.

So what are you doing? Where did that lead you and what are you doing now?

About seven years ago, I partnered up with these two incredible entrepreneurs. One is present. We’re business partners. I met Charles and Mike years ago through my mom’s bridal shop again. We sat down and they started sharing this vision that they had for the wedding industry. It revolved around the community and telling people’s stories and really just creating a different experience for businesses to get their name out there and to really connect with people and build quality relationships while still using social media. It was a perfect fit for me. I mean, growing up in a bridal shop and knowing how hard it was to run ads and magazines and we would do the bridal shows and the industry was evolving quickly and I wanted nothing more to be a part of this and to be on the cusp of something really big and different. That was in 2012 when, when I left everything. I was modeling full time.I think I had like four other jobs, you know, Jack of all trades, master of none. That’s gotta be, I think the best piece of advice that we can give people listening right now is even if you are absolutely good at like three or four things, just pick one. It took me what, almost two years to fully quit modeling when I was building Forever Bride. I couldn’t let go of that chapter of my life. And it wasn’t until I retired. I remember going into the agency and we’d joke that you’re hanging up the strapless bra cause that’s like a whole part of the modeling world. It wasn’t until that point that I started taking myself a little bit more serious that my customers started taking me more serious and it just, it kind of put that fire on my butt. This is it. This is my one thing. I just dove deeper and it’s been the best decision I’ve ever made.

You were doing this digital thing for long time with Forever Bride. How did you come up with this event? 

When we started building Forever Bride it was digital,It’s social media, it’s smaller networking events, really community focused. When we were putting together the early vision of the company, wedding fairs or wedding expos were not a part of it. And in fact, at one point I vowed that we would never do wedding shows ever.

Why?

Well, I grew up going to these things. They were, they were at the convention center in the middle of winter. I’m the daughter of the owner, so I’m in charge of schlepping all these dresses at 4:00 AM through the snow and these parking garages. It was a ton of work. And then we’d set up, we’d be there, talked to hundreds of people, not really much traction would come from it and then you pack everything back. It was exhausting. It was a ton of money. It was a ton of work. Think of collecting emails. I mean back in the 90s you don’t collect emails. Right. You know, it’s more handing out brochures and business cards and hoping that they come back or giving your phone number saying, would you like to schedule an appointment? They are walking around that day, they’re getting ideas. They’re talking to people. They don’t have time to open their date book. They don’t have iPhones to open their date book and schedule an appointment or Oh yeah, we’ll totally come in maybe sometime. 

Years into building this and we did smaller networking events for our clients and it started out just as these little happy hours and they turn into these beautiful events with some food and some cocktails and you know, photo booths, things like that. And our vendors, my clients started coming to me saying, Hey, when are you guys going to do an expo? I said, Oh, that’s so sweet, but we’re not, that’s not my style. It’s, I don’t really think it’s your style. No, no, no, no, no. Not like, not like one of those, but like a Forever Bride expo. I’m going. Okay. So then if the seed was planted and through social media, our brides, we have this, this loyal following, we had brides messaging us through social media saying, Hey, do you guys ever do a wedding expo? No, that’s so sweet. We have a website you can sign up and when you have two different groups of clients asking you the same thing, you have to step back and go, okay, well there’s gotta be something to this. And I knew that if we were going to do a show of this size there’s a couple other shows here in the twin cities that are very big and they do a great job. Very well established, great reputation at the time we didn’t know if there’s room for another show. 

There’s a lot going on in the whole expo world. If I did it, I wanted to make sure that this is going to be really profitable for my clients because not only am I putting in a lot of time and money, but I’m going to expect them to put in their money as well. So I started doing some research and we started surveying our customers. Hey, if you were to go to a wedding fair, what kind of things would you want to do? What are some things that you like about the shows in town? What are some things you don’t like? There’s no limit to the amount of information that you should be gathering when doing something new and different. Then sometimes you have to step back and put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Like if I was to get married again and I’m going to get my butt off the couch on a Sunday afternoon and drive somewhere and get all my girls, what are my expectations? It wasn’t I’m going downtown and it wasn’t being surrounded with thousands of people in a very like state fair like atmosphere. I love popups like local popups where you’re meeting these local artists and you’re talking to small businesses and you’re shopping and maybe trying some great food. 

The idea of the farmer’s market is how we explain it to new people that we’re working with. It came from, I went to the farmer’s market with my husband and my kids. A couple weeks before the idea came and we were at the Minneapolis farmer’s market walking around and my little girl is just the cutest tiniest thing you’ve ever seen. And she was looking at these flowers and you know, we look but don’t touch. And we had walked away the florist, came running back and had this giant sunflowers big as her head on this huge long STEM and didn’t speak English but handed it to her like, you know, you keep it, keep it, her face just lit up and I’m like, are you sure? She goes, yes, yes, yes.Well now guess who we go back to buy our flowers every time. It was such a simple gesture and it meant so much and she actually grew those sunflowers. It was, it was just such a personal thing.

Tell us more about how do you design an event from the ground up that that is inspired by these ideas you had. How do you design a show like that?

The very first thing is numbers the entire show has to be about numbers. I don’t care how beautiful the dream and the vision is in my head, it comes down to figuring out all the small details, financially figuring out, the venues, a huge part, but, but literally it comes down to numbers. If we’re going to do this many booths, how much revenue do we need to produce? You know, your first couple of shows probably aren’t going to be hugely profitable at first, but what is the longterm goal? It literally was just a ton of math and numbers. Run the numbers and then basically you have to sell like hell There’s no substitute for selling. You have to sell the idea and the vision and you’ve got to get a lot of people on your side. 

And what was your strategy for doing that different than the other people that you talk about having in town and how you wanted to be able to differentiate yourself and then hitting the ground running, selling. , how did that work for you?

So we were lucky enough to already have really great businesses that we have built a relationship with. So for me to be able to come to them and say, Hey, I’ve got this vision. I know it’s a little crazy, but here’s our plan, and I wanted to make sure that they felt very secure in my plan. I wanted to make sure I had everything all presented where it wasn’t me going, well I’ve got this idea and we’ll try it and we’ll see. No. This is how we’re going to execute it. This is the results you are going to see. And I’m going to hold your hand every step of the way. Cause a lot of these businesses maybe haven’t done a fair in the past. Over-communicating, making sure that they felt comfortable of what was expected out of them. It just came down to trust finding people that really trusted in me. Over promise, over deliver. I mean I went above and beyond to make sure that every single vendor that was there felt taken care of. Of course you got to promote the thing. What’s the point of having a beautiful event and all your clients, they’re ready to show off their stuff if nobody shows up. 

I think it’d be interesting to get more in your head about like how do you find partners that are willing to help you pull this off from the venue to the different sponsors who kind of do different activities and things. So how do you, how do you figure that all out? 

A lot of the people that we work with, relationships and their reputation and just having a brand in the community is really important to them. So businesses that only care about awards or we did so and so celebrities wedding and those types of recognition, they might not be a great fit for something like this. I really wanted to work with businesses that truly care about the customer, that really love what they do and get excited about it because that type of energy and passion is going to translate into a really great expo because when you’ve got brides walking around, they want to talk to people that are excited about their brand. They don’t want to talk to someone who was hired to hand out brochures all day long. Really sitting down and meeting with people and finding the right customers that want that personal connection. I will give you one piece of advice for our marketing strategy. I think this applies to any industry. When you’re having an event of this size, there’s a lot going on and it’s really easy to go down the rabbit hole with your advertising we’re going to have this and this and this and this is going to be there. And it can be very overwhelming to the person who’s deciding if they want to come or not. 

I think the most powerful thing that we have done is focused on a couple of specifics and leave the rest of the imagination. For example, we do a make your own floral crowns station. It sounds so silly and so simple and yet this, this little idea that we had from the very first show is now one of the main reasons, according to our surveys that we send our brides, is one of the main reasons people come to this. Do you come to meet vendors or to make a floral crown? Oh, I come to make the floral crown. And then they just happened to book their photographer, their venue, their caterer. We’re incorporating a couple of new pieces into the show just to keep the experience there. You have to create experiences for your customers to keep them engaged, to keep them excited, to differentiate your show from something else. And then you have the ability to use social media. Cause if they’re taking pictures and they’re posting things about your brand and they’re using your hashtag, they’re doing the advertising for you. And that’s usually why we do two shows back to back because then there’s all this hype, there’s all this excitement. We ride that wave of social media that the brides created for us into our next show.

One of the things that I’ve learned that’s really important is it’s not about me. It’s not about my brand. It’s not about, you know, what I can do or how great I am or what awards I’ve won. I want to make sure that it’s all about my vendors and that it’s all about the bride. I want to make sure that, that the person who bought the ticket and drove out on a Sunday afternoon is feeling like a celebrity. I want her to feel special. I want her to know that all of this is for her. And if she feels special and she feels like this is just a beautiful experience that’s not only there to help her plan her wedding, but I want to create an experience that’s really fun and memorable for the people that she brought with.

How do you help consult your clients on what’s going to help them stand out to the bride? 

We send out so many emails here’s great articles about this and here’s ideas for this we try to hold their hand as much as possible and there’s always one person that shows up with a table and a chair. Do you know that I actually don’t allow chairs at my event? People go to rent their all ala cart items like linens and tables and things like that, I don’t allow chairs. If you want to bring your own, that’s fine. There’s so much psychology that goes into these things. Standing with your arms crossed and then you wonder why nobody came to you and people should not have to come to your booth. I send articles even about the psychology of like what to dress, you know, how to dress and what to expect, you know, and telling people too, you should make sure that your booth speaks for itself because no one is going to come up to you and go with, so what do you do? You should make sure that the bride goes, Oh, that’s a florist. 

What tips do you have for people that have booths at expos? 

Besides wearing comfortable shoes and having a pocket full of breath mints? I’d say one of the best pieces of advice, get there as early as possible because the networking opportunities are huge. Plus you don’t want to look like that business that’s not prepared because you’re running in last minute. Even though your customers aren’t seeing you scrambling, all the other businesses are. And it makes you look bad. So A, get there early. B, use that opportunity to network because when the show is over, everyone’s too tired. They want to go home, they want to go home. They don’t want you to coming over and going, so what do you do? No, get there early and look amazing. I don’t know what is wrong with some people, go get your nails done. Whether you like it or not, people judge and they judge instantly, not only about you but about your brand. 

Any final thoughts for people in the events industry that you want to leave with?

You are what you eat. You are a 100% representation of the books that you listened to, the people that you surround yourself with. The people that you spend time with, are you spending time with a bunch of complainer’s? You know, be aware of what you’re listening to. Be aware of you know the places that you’re going to, people that you’re associating with, even the businesses that you’re associating with. You know, and if you want to get somewhere in life, if you want to put yourself in your business in a certain arena, put your butt in that arena.

Cause: weliftup.org

Superpower: Making people feel special

Pet Peeves: The term girl boss, calling yourself an entrepreneur without being able to spell it.

www.foreverbride.com

Insta: ForeverBride

Twitter: ForeverBride

Insta: Charlesevaneide

EideComCreative

meetingmindspodcast

Twitter:The Meeting Minds

S.3 Ep. 17: Sweeten Your Event with this Suite Idea

What can you do to benefit your clients?  Are suites at events out of your reach? Todd Lindenbaum has created an “Uber” for suites and luxury boxes making it easier than ever to book suites!

So tell us about Suite Hop and how you guys got started?

Definitely. So Suite Hop is a two sided marketplace. We are aggregating available luxury suite inventory at stadiums and arenas across North America and we’re making them available to customers in a way that they’d never been available before. Which is through a flexible and easy booking process. I got started in the sports business by working for a team. I spent five years working for the San Francisco giants. I was in ticket sales and suite sales, and always had an entrepreneurial bug and so left the giants and started this company 14 years ago. SH is only four years old. We pivoted about 10 years into our journey to the marketplace model, but have been helping companies and meeting planners and fans attend the games and concerts in luxury boxes for almost 20 years now.

So would you say you’re kind of like the Uber for like suites and boxes? 

Definitely. The reason we pivoted our business model is we did see these collaborative consumption models starting to really get traction across all aspects of the economy. And what is not necessarily known widely is that suites and stadiums and arenas are actually widely available and somewhat distressed. There are a lot of suites that are sitting empty for games and concerts every single night. And so we’re trying to modernize the approach to bring those available boxes to market. We’ve hit on something good. We’re growing fast and connecting people with suites.

How do I use your services and how does that benefit me or my audience?

Before we started doing what we’re doing the methodology of booking a suite for an event. So I’ll use some of our meeting planners that we work with as anecdotal examples. We just did an event with a meeting planner out of Chicago. It was for a large tech company. They were wanting to do an event during a bears game in November. In the old model, you would go to the bears website, you would fill out a form on their website and sometime in the next 48 to two weeks, somebody would email you back and we might have something available. We don’t have something available. But you should really talk to you about buying a full season lease. That is where we come in is we’ve got aggregated supply. So we’re getting the available suites directly from teams and venues that are listing on our platform or getting them from those companies that are on the longterm leases that can’t use every single game. So the uber model, right, it would sit empty. So they’re looking to recoup some of their investment and that actually has suites have gotten more distressed over the past five, 10 years they’re starting to actually sell suites to ticket brokers. So there’s this supply that’s really fragmented. And so we’re aggregating all that together and making it really easy for a meeting planner to have one throat to choke, to book a suite at any of the 150 venues across across North America that we’ve got on our platform. We’re really saving them a lot of time. We’re making the proposal process much easier.

If I wanted to use it I can get ahold of you and then you’ll help me with the logistics of getting it booked with a lot less of a hassle?

So even better than that, you could actually go to suitehop.com You could see live transparent availability. So you can already have an idea of what it’s going to cost, how many people it holds, what’s the suite gonna look like. Um, and then we absolutely can support the like heavy lifting on the event planning side on the back end of that meaning facilitating the catering if you need to get swag bags into the suite before the event happens. All the logistics that go into really activating an event the way meeting planners do. There’s a lot of ways you can treat the suite as a black box and still do a lot of those execution elements that you might do in a hotel or a restaurant. You can still do those in your own private space in these venues. And so that’s what excites us when we work with the meeting planners is we can be really creative.

What are you seeing as a trend in using suites for concerts and sporting events?

Where I’ve seen, especially in the past three or four years, is meeting planners that are representing large tech companies that sell through a channel. So channel partner events, field marketing events, channel sales events. It’s like a partner enablement field sales enablement tool to get stakeholders in the same room for three hours in a relaxed atmosphere where it’s not salesy. It’s really relationship building.An important thing that has come up with that is a lot of times there does need to be an educational component to these events. And so most of these venues in North Americans today also do have onsite meeting space. So you can do a two hour meeting in a conference room and do your educational component and then you go and you drink beers and have a good time. And build relationships during the game. So I think that’s what we’re really seeing the strongest demand with is in those channel and field marketing organizations.

Am I getting any sort of savings by bypassing going directly to the stadium?

So sometimes is the answer? Most of the teams and the venues that are listing their own inventory directly on our platform are doing it at price parity. So if you look at our business from, the venues perspective, we’re a distribution channel for them. We’re a way for them to advertise and reach new customers. So our fee is coming directly from the venue. So like at Madison square garden for example, if you went to the Madison square garden page on suite hop and prices that you would see those suite listed for would be the same exact prices if you called Madison square garden and they’re paying us a commission for delivering new customer. It’s an efficiency and customer service opportunity. The way we’re working with meeting planners too is, is you know, we are baking in commissions. We’re paying meeting planners for our suite bookings. It’s not like a blanket thing cause we need to understand each situation uniquely. 

So what do you see as the future of this as you look like say five, 10 years down the road?

The reality of the suite market is that it’s becoming more and more difficult for these stadiums and venues to sell the suite on a longterm multiyear agreement. So what that means is there’s going to be more supply that needs to be marketed on an event by event basis. That’s growing and it’s growing fast. We play a really important part of finding customers and connecting customers, quickly and easily with transparency of what’s available. 

Twitter ToddLindenbaum

Insta Suite Hop

Suitehop.com

Insta: Charlesevaneide

EideComCreative

meetingmindspodcast

Twitter:The Meeting Minds

S3. Ep.16: Decor, Design, and Entrepreneurship

Halfway through season 3, done with the ILEA Live episodes, and new music: we drop an episode on a Wednesday and bring in a special guest.  Elizabeth Partyka is no newbie in the events space. She owned a business for many many years before joining the quest team. Listen to hear her story!

What is Quest events?

A decor and scenic company based out of Dallas Texas. We have 26 locations nationwide. We have a lot of stuff. We have one in Canada as well. 

What do you do?

We started out as a pipe and drape company, in the last several years we’ve moved into offering a wide variety of scenic options. 

You have a unique story, why don’t you tell us that?

I had my own decor company for 15 years, we did ceiling draping, chandeliers, lighting. A year ago quest approached me they needed a sales manager because they opened here recently. They acquired my business and now I’m moving more into the A/V world outside of weddings. I have been able to move into more large scale events. 

How did you build your company into what it was?

It grew organically, in my early 20’s. I worked at a local rental company since I was 15 went to college.  My friends were getting married, I did their weddings, a few proms asked if I could help and it grew organically. 

What do you guys do now?

We are the premiere provider in scenic stuff. If people aren’t familiar, when you look at a stage set, the back drops, we have different tiles, fabrics. Basically anything you need for a gala, conference. 

What trends are you seeing?

A lot more customization. All of our products you can brand and put pictures on them.  You can have branding everywhere. 

What conversations should people be having for their event?

Start with a realistic budget or planners looking to say I have xyz dollars, or this is the look I’m trying to achieve what can you offer me and what will it cost. How do you engage the audience? How much branding do you want?  A lot of our clients request renderings, we can go in and plug in our products, lighting, seating. It’s a great way to help new planners or sell it to the client. 

Pet Peeves: Touching and Moving stuff around

Super Power: Always listening. In one conversation and can listen to another

Elizabeth@questevents.com

Insta: Charlesevaneide

Insta: EideComCreative

Insta: meetingmindspodcast

Twitter:The Meeting Minds

S.3 Episode 15: Own Your Event For The Owners In The Room

Caitlin, the VP of Global Marketing joins us to talk about creating an event for those who own part of the business.

How did you start your career and end up here?

Middle of the career, I grew an agency from 6 to 50 people that was a lot of fun. I learned that I really love marketing for industries I care about and personally invested in. When the time was right I transitioned to the corporate side of things, enter snap fitness. I am a personal fitness fanatic so it is a perfect fit. When I entered the corporate side of things it was a bit different. On the agency side you are looking at more singular tasks, now we are looking at an entire global brand and making sure our franchise’s are having a great experience. It’s been a lot of fun and one of the fastest brand turn arounds.  Snap is in 27 countries and hopefully a couple more as of September!

How do you put on an event like yours and what are you considering when you are bringing the owners into one event?

It’s a big thing to wrap your mind around. The first thing we consider is what will bring value to them?  What will help them grow their business’? The business and fitness industry are changing!

How do you decide what will bring value to them?

A lot of it is based on industry trend, we start looking ahead and making predictions on what will be relevant this year. A lot is also analyzing numbers, and looking at where in trends can we identify areas of the business side of things that needs to be elevated a bit?

When filling the main stage, how do you decide what will bring value?

A lot is revenue based. We look at the structure of Snap Fitness club and how they bring in revenue on a daily basis. For us it’s a lot of personal training. How can we do more of that and how can we do that better?

What are they coming expecting?

They want to leave the event two days later with their brains busting at the seam with actionable items they can bring back to the club and implement the next week. 

For the networking portion how do you encourage them to start talking?

We are all turning into mini wedding planners and plotting the tables and strategically placing people with different business strengths. During these breakout sessions and workshops we have times planned where you collaborate together. 

When you started you really had to start with a drawing board, how did you do that, what inspired you?

Part of it was my own knowledge of the fitness industry, a little bit of it was data, more recently we did a big research project with corroborated the data points we had. We hired a firm recently but prior it was internal. 

Superpower: No sleep, I operate on 4 hours a day

Advice: Do your research and ask for feedback, don’t make assumptions

Find her on social: Caitlin Natasha

Insta: Charlesevaneide

EideComCreative

meetingmindspodcast

Twitter:The Meeting Minds