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Wrapping up 2019: Our Favorite Moments

This week Charles and Lisa sit down to talk through segments of the podcast that have stuck with them! We highlight some of our favorites, listen to hear what has changed our team!

Charles:I was listening to the one with Justin Jones he’s on the road a lot doing emceeing and promo work and he was talking about these different tricks he has to stay healthy on the road. I thought that was really cool. He was talking about how he brings this like hand tool to Julianne noodles, off of carrots in his hotel room. He makes his own salads while he’s on the road.

Lisa: I need to take some notes like seriously. 

Charles: Then he was talking about, he would rather have good food and good sleep over exercise. Because an hour of exercise has nothing on a full night of good sleep. If you haven’t heard that episode, it is so fun.

Charles: I also think about the episode with Keith Mercurio. 

Lisa: Oh, that was Epic. He’s got so many nuggets of wisdom. I could have listened to him for hours.

Charles:There was a point on social media where I was watching Keith and he went to a school to learn how to ski jump. When I saw it I was like, Keith, you’re like the craziest person I know.

Lisa: It’s gotta be like tough to get over your ego when you’re surrounded by children.

Charles: Oh my gosh. He said that the hardest thing was humbling his ego and of course for days afterwards he was in pain. That’s what happens when you get old. If Keith’s listening right now, I’m not saying you’re old, but you know like yeah and a nine year old. Something I found interesting about Keith, Keith is one of those guys that you learn something really valuable from every time you talk to him. 

Lisa: Oh yeah. The great thing is he has met so many high level speakers that he’s got like this wealth of knowledge from all these other people. Then he shares it and then he’s got his own wealth of knowledge. So it’s crazy.

Charles:My biggest thing I learned from him was learning to actually listen to what somebody saying without trying to have an inner dialogue of my own. Obviously as the host of a podcast, that’s 100% the opposite because you’re constantly being like, all right, what are we talking about next?

Lisa: Our culture is just so quick to do everything that I think he reminded me it is okay to slow down and think a little bit before you respond.

Charles:You know, what I thought was really fun was the gal from VNTANA. What they do is they do holographic technology and they can beam people other places. If you want the CEO to address the audience, but he’s in a different country, you can either live beam him in or prerecord him or her and have them on stage doing their keynote and that looks three-dimensional.

Lisa: I think it’s going to be great for events and for many other applications. 

Charles: I’m really stoked to have an opportunity at some point to bring in some of that holographic tech to one of our shows. What about Michael Cerbelli? 

Lisa:Oh, he was great. He’s just like the guy, that he knows everyone and everyone knows him. He’s one of the best event producers. 

Charles: I thought it was crazy cause we dialed this guy up. I’ve never met him before and Mel, our producer, was like, I think you’re going to like this guy. He seems to be doing some cool stuff and he comes on the call and he’s dressed like 10 million. From New York. A brilliant mind in the event space. He’s got this thing called the hot list. Michael, if you’re listening to this. Okay. We want to be on your hot list somehow. He is not only a really nice guy, like super calm, but extremely, uh, well connected. His approach to everything just seems so creative and interesting. Loved having him on, which brings me to someone who knows him. The Bronx zoo people. He was talking about how people will ask for the most ridiculous things from the zoo. The Bronx zoo does events and he said that at one point there was a guy who wanted to ride in on an elephant into his event and he was legitimately believing that that could happen. And when he was informed that riding an elephant into his event was not going to happen, he was not happy about it. He was also talking about how people will try and go into the animal’s spaces and he’s like, look, there’s barriers so you don’t get eaten by that tiger. 

Charles: So there’s this group in Minneapolis called Secondhand Hounds. They do puppy parties. 

Lisa:Yes. They even bring them to corporate events. Had them at one of our client events in, an area that was for their health pavilion.

Charles: Yeah. Like for a donation to the organization they will bring a volunteer and a bunch of puppies out. 

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Creating a Spectacular Event

What goes into creating a spectacular event? Erich of Spare Key joins us to share how they have transformed their event to be something amazing!

Tell us about Spare Key.

It was founded in 1997 by a south Saint Paul family. They had a little boy, shortly after he was born he was rushed into the ER for emergency surgery to repair a heart condition he was born with. Subsequently what happened, over the course of the next couple of years their son had numerous hospitalizations and surgeries where the recoveries were a couple  of weeks or months at a time. Like a lot of families, the most significant financial commitment was their mortgage. Mom and dad had to spend time at the hospital, they were not at work. It got to the point where they were concerned about losing their home. They reached out to their family, friends, and church, they made sure they had a house to go back to. The sad part of the story, the son lost his life to the disease. A year after his passing they started SK and it’s goal was: provide families the gift of time. If SK does a mortgage payment for a family, they can focus on the kid. 

The program has evolved dramatically, that’s how we started out. SK today is a much different organization. 

You use the event to mobilize the mission, tell us about that.

Events are only as good as what you can connect in terms of your mission and engaging with people to support what you are trying to do. We have a small staff, 5 people, running an organization that supports families in 5 states. We have to find other people who are third party validators. Events aren’t just about the money, although it’s always about the money, events are really about branding your organization, about creating credibility with people who do not know who you are or what your purpose is.

Every time we get involved with an event, each and every time the goal and focus is to tie it back to the mission and our purpose, but also to energize and empower people to be our strongest advocates once they leave that event.

You entertain people at your events.

Yes let’s talk about this, the reality is consumers have choices. Minnesota has 35,000 non profits. There’s a lot of competition out there. It says a lot about who we are as Minnesotans but people have choices. Galas and events are all about choices, if given a choice between going to a gala you’ve been going to and know what it’s going to be… on a cold February night, it’s as easy for me to stay in. Our goal has been to make it tougher for people to want to stay home. We’ve focused on this idea that gala’s are obviously about raising money, but if you don’t entertain your guests, if you don’t keep them guessing and make it feel like a surprise each time while delivering the highest level of customer service you can, they’re not going to come back. 

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Be a Boss at Bossing Ft. Dustin Westling

Dustin Westling is a team leading guru! Listen to how he hires, inspires, and leads a team.

Tell us about yourself.

I am a life long hospitality professional. My background is in hotels, convention centers, public attractions. I found my place in this industry and over time transformed into the business I have now. We have a full service production design company in Calgary. We have an amazing team of project managers and designers that work on events of all shapes and sizes. Things are always moving and shaking. I also am a partner I a photography business. It is a 15 year old event photography company across Canada. 

How do you move into starting your own company and managing a team?

One of the things that I think you gain from the industry, you’re trained for service. I believe to truly be successful in this business you need to understand the elements of service. There’s no better way to understand guest experiences than literally serving them. So much of what I learned in the hospitality world, I’ve brought to my business. 

What are key practices on ways listeners can succeed in inspiring a team?

Hire the right people. I have a unique process when it comes to how I find my future team members. I use our industry association a lot to hunt. I’m not a big fan of sitting behind a desk, I will meet the candidate at a coffee shop downtown and we will go for a walk. 

I am a big fan of education. I think our industry has come a long way when it comes to formal education, We have a long way to go still. Education varies from university, trade school, college, it’s too varied and theres some work that needs to be done there. 

Pet Peeves: Division between teams

Cause: Search Foundation

Superpower: Calm during a crisis

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Getting the Most out of Your Donors

This week we welcome back Jim Leighton and he shares some of his secrets that has led to success in the fundraising business!

Tell us a little bit of your story.

The last 14 years I was at Children’s Cancer Research Fund. We produced large events in the twin cities. I’ve raised all my money with great teams in the twin cities, but what we are doing in the twin cities, doesn’t have to stay in the twin cities. 

Don’t be afraid of events because events can be a sustainable revenue model. In the development offices across the country people are scared of the word, but let’s not be scared of that word. You can do it effectively. I’ve built programs with sustainable growth.

You can be hired.

Make it RAIN. That’s our goal. There are so many non profits and people ask if there is a mission I’m focused on. My mission is non profits. I’m excited about when people are excited about their mission. I’ve taken one step back and are more of an advocate of the whole industry. 

How much money have you raised over the years?

Ten’s of Millions. Great teams’ I’ve led have raised about 52 million dollars. Impact. The more impact we can have for non profits the better our communities are. Individual giving is what’s going to make the difference in what’s going on in our country and in the world. That’s where we need to focus.

How do you use events to make money?

People need to decide what it is they are raising money for and let’s not be afraid to dream a little bit. My first thing is: how much money do we want to raise. Just because you raised 50,000 last year, that’s not the answer to the question of how much money do you want to raise. If a group can raise their budget what can they do with that? What impact can they have? That’s exciting. An event can bring a community together. One of my catch phrases is be bold. Be bold in our goals and not afraid to go get them. The work to get that money doesn’t scare me and it shouldn’t scare you. I’ll hold your hand and help you get not scared. We will set your goal to attainable and inspirational.

88% of an organizations funding comes from 12% of their donors. 

This is interesting, at the end of the day it’s a very small group of people providing most of the money.

It’s a very small group of people driving most of the money. Now, are those small things important? Those are important, as they become more successful they can give more. You’re at 88% you still need that 12%. When you talk about the 12%, those are event attendees, a lot of them are people that you will get to know through events. Events and major gifts should be holding hands. 

Let’s talk the general strategy.

You have to have a strategy and the strategy has to be there before we get into the ballroom or brewery. It has to be able to tell a story. I think production is important. The real work is after the event. That’s when we start to build those relationships. I am going to introduce you to something:

  1. Produce: Produce a quality event. It doesn’t need to be a high end gala. Make it comfortable, inviting, and fun. Able to tell a story and convey why there is a need in the organization. 
  2. Prospect: Before the event. Get your guests names. You don’t know who your donors are going to be. At least an email, get that information. You want that information in advance, at least before the show. The earlier we get it the more work we can do. 
  3. Prepare: Once we have the event and I have more information. We now strategize. Who were the top ten percent or top five percent. 
  4. Pursue: Now we are going out and getting coffee and meet these people. Find out what is their motivation. Don’t ask for money for a while were going to get them more engaged. Let’s get them quickly in the next couple of months to the organization to experience the impact. Immerse yourself in the mission. 
  5. Prosper: This is where those words turn not just into a single donation but a life long partnership. A lot of these donors will become partners. 

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Add a Comedic Twist to Your Events

Have you ever thought to add a comedic flair to your event? After listening, you may consider adding someone like Scott Bloom who can contextualize jokes for your audience!

How did you get into the events world?

Well, I remember specific story when I was in second grade it was at camp, I remember a kid, actually turning to me going, you know, you’re really funny. I have kids now and they went through the ages, and you can tell when someone’s funny, even at a young age. Most comedians use it as some way when they’re growing up to sort of defuse things or select things. So I started off early. Always been a fan of comedy. I started improv group in college. I didn’t know what I was doing. I saw Second city tour and I’m like,  I’d like to do that.  I started hosting cabaret nights and I got an improv group together that we founded, and then went to New York City. My trajectory, I was supposed to work for my dad and be a businessman and do sales and was doing that during the summers in college, then I had to at some point, say to him, I think I want to become a comedian and actor.I did the open mikes. I started stand up when it was really booming in the late eighties early nineties, developed a standup career, started touring as a headliner. I started doing a little TV, and at one point they needed a comedian to host an actual game show at an event, and they thought, Oh, a comedian would be good on his feet and be able to ad lib. After that 1st one, the event world kind of works like that. Everyone started building me as the expert in hosting game shows, I had only done one, but I built my own press and so I started writing and developing producing these game shows and hosting him.  I moved into just hosting full on meetings and because my business background it was sort of natural fit. My my humor was always sort of clean, and I realized the key to doing humor at these meetings was to make the the material about them and make it  business oriented. So most my comedy sort of parodies stuff that in their world,

Let’s talk about the use of comedy in the corporate theater environment and, how do you go about crafting that? 

For the first probably 20 years of doing this, I don’t think I ever used the word comedian. I rarely do now I refer to myself as a comedic keynote speaker. Humor seems to flow better in that world than the word comedy, because people have impressions that it’s gonna be like a standup club. The humor that  developed for this sort of relates to things they deal with every day.  I might do a bit on the excessive use of acronyms, where they use all these different acronyms. I have a funny piece about that where I go into a litany and part of my work and something that separates me from others is that people talk about customizing their their stuff, and that usually means just dropping in a phrase. But I’ll memorize 25 or 30 of their acronyms, and it works. At one point I’ll say something, once I found out this gig was ago, I knew I’d have to brush up on my Let’s say IBM ABC’s ASAP and FYI and this is no BS, these acronyms really tested my IQ, the whole process almost sent me to AA and I go through this sort of litany but before I set that up I’ve just gone through 30 of their acronyms. It lets them know that I took the time to learn about their acronyms. A lot of them can’t believe that I’ve actually either put the time or that I was able to memorize it. It’s really about letting them know that I’m here to take care of you,and I tell my clients that they’ll see in the process to the point of where I’m getting as much information, over the years I’ve learned how to absorb things pretty quickly. A lot of comedy is about about relationships. It’s almost sometimes at an unconscious level. When they feel relaxed that’s when people are able to laugh, I think it’s so important to have that element at a meeting just to diffuse all that stress.

How do  you go about understanding the fit and tailoring the content?

Yeah, I know specific questions to ask. I’ll ask questions that directly give me that information so I can sort of fill it in. With comedy, you do have to try it out every so often, and I don’t you know, it’s funny as a comedian. Eventually, sort of get a sense of what’s gonna work, what’s not. But you want it you want to kill every time you wanted to be 100% effective. So you know, 80% of what I might be doing might already been written. I’m able to customize another 25% with their material. I’ll know it’s gonna work, and it appears from the audience point of view. I just came up with this, just, you know, just for them. 

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