Shelby

Beachbody Events: 18,000 People Working Out

Beachbody’s events are pretty massive.  Leah Green sits down and walks through the details including a fitness portion that obstructs ten city blocks!

How did you end up at Beachbody? You’ve been there for 10 years?

Yes. I’ve been here for a long time. I actually got my start with beach body that summer right after I graduated from college and moved to New York. My degree is in broadcast journalism so wasn’t thinking about events at all. I was actually thinking about more in live production. So I had my resume out there just as a freelance PA and I got picked up by one of the production companies that we work with on our infomercials cause at the time we were all infomercial based and got there. It was actually for Brazil butt lift. If you remember that program. The first like day that we were on set and we were doing like before photos and everything, I just went up to one of the other guys who was in charge and I was like, I’m sorry, what are we doing right now? He was like, we’re going to do this fitness program. These people are getting amazing results and blah, blah blah. And long story short, it was supposed to be just freelance. I ended up sticking with it for another two programs. One of the producers of one of the programs said, Hey, if he ever moved to LA, give me a call. You know, you’re great. We’d love to keep working with you. All of a sudden I found myself moving to LA. That’s where my boyfriend was now husband at the time and called her up. I still transitioned to the Santa Monica office more in live production, working with success stories, the people who were using the programs at home and finding success. While that was happening, I was also getting to help out with the live events that we were hosting and really fell in love with that. We had sort of a changeover, a changing of the guards of how that department was being run. They knew they needed to beef it up and add more people and an opportunity for a coordinator on the team opened up and I threw my name in the hat and luckily I had one of my coworkers who was on the team at that time. I was really nervous. I was like, I don’t know anything about events, so what do I do? And she was like, don’t worry, don’t worry. We got this. Like, you can do this. It’s exactly what you’re already doing. Just a little bit different. I’ve been here ever since.

Tell us about the events.

The largest one we do is the coach summit. And that’s every summer. The most we’ve ever had We always like to say butts in seats. We always sell like a ton of tickets. But you know, you get attrition on that. So our biggest butts and seats was just over 18,000. I think that was the second year that we were in Nashville is when we had that many people. We’re used to it now, But the first time we ever experienced it, it’s completely overwhelming. We had several years where our event, we were doubling every year. The business itself and the coaches were, everything was catching on and we had our first summit together as an events team here in Los Angeles. So we had 2,500 people. The next year in Vegas we had 5,000. Then we had 9,000. And then it just kept growing and it was like every year it was like, how do we do this? So it’s like we learned together because we had all come from different places and it was the same thing, you know, everybody on the team was like, we’ve never done this before. We’ve never had this many people. How do we figure this out? And we just sort of learned as we went. I just am on the most incredible team. It’s like a well oiled machine. Everybody gets their marching orders and says, okay.

So how many people are your team?

I think it’s 10 people.

Year after year this thing’s growing. What goes into making it fresh?

Yeah, that is the challenge, how do you make it for those people? What we found is a lot of times it’s about 50, 50. When you’re talking about people coming to the event, about 50% are brand new, have never been before. And then there’s the other 50% that are the old guard, the coaches that we see every year that you recognize their faces, their names, that have been with us for forever. It’s that 50% who’ve been around for forever that you’ve got to figure out how do we make this so they want to keep coming back, you know, they keep coming back. What is it? Probably the biggest thing that we do is location change. So if you are in a position that you can do that, that’s one of the best things that you can do. One of the things that we do here at Beachbody is we typically do two years. We’ll do two events in that one city and then we move on. With every city like the, there’s pros and cons when you are planning for that. Obviously, when you are bringing 18,000 people into a city, the whole city has to be on board.

We take over the convention center, we take over the stadium, we take over all the hotels, we have room blocks, almost single hotel that’s within downtown area. We try to go to places where everything is within walking distance. If it’s not within walking distance, you have to set up a shuttle system. Ehere’s a ton of logistics, but essentially everyone in the city has to be on board. That’s typically the biggest hurdle to get over. When we come in, we find that most people are really excited to have us. We go to cities where we like the people and it’s typically, they’re excited to have us. So everybody gets on board. All the hotels say we’re in. All the local restaurants know that we’re coming, we’re prepping them in advance.

What other criteria do you go by to pick a city?

We’re very unique in that we have the live workout aspect. So for us, we can’t just go to a city with small meeting rooms. We need a convention center and we need those spaces to open up. We bring almost all of our super trainers with us and that’s the big thing when people, when coaches are coming to a live team beach body event, they’re coming, one, they want training, but two, they want to work out with their favorite trainers. We can’t just have one space that holds 3000 people. We have to have six. We need a lot of space. And then in addition to that, the coolest thing that we do at the summit every year is the super workout. We literally all 18,000 people work out all together. So that’s a huge undertaking working with the city, with all the police officers, with security of, because you have to shut down, you know, a dozen blocks of city traffic so that you can host this.

How do you deal with weather contingencies?

We have been so, so, so lucky that we have never had to move it inside, but we always have the rain plan. And the rain plan typically is, if that were to happen, you basically have to move everybody inside to the indoor workout spaces. It would never be as fun because everybody would need to be in the separate rooms and we’d be trying to live stream the trainers onto the screens that are existing in those rooms. If we needed to do it, we always know how, but it’s always preferred because you get that shot of standing on the stage and seeing 18,000 people in front of you.

Are you live streaming this out?

Some of the pieces do get streamed. I believe the last several years we have live-streamed our opening and our closing sessions. The opening is always on Thursday night. That’s where we do all the really exciting product announcements and the stuff that everybody’s been eagerly all year long.And then the Saturday night closing show is where we do most of our recognition.

People are torn between streaming and not streaming their event…

Yeah. The scariest thing is trying to make that decision because you don’t want somebody at the last minute to go, ah, forget it. I’m not going to go. I’ll just watch it at home. We’ve tried to appease the people that can’t be there by doing some pieces of it the meat and potatoes is really the training, the opening show and the closing show are fantastic and everybody loves them but the training is happening in general sessions and in workshops. That’s what we try to get people to actually be on site for. I’m trying to walk a fine line of, of letting people who are at home be engaged in the event because we know some people truly can’t be there, but then really pushing them of you have to be here to get the real gems.

Super Power:

So my superpower is my brain works widely. I have this ability that I’m the person that people usually come to when they say this is my idea, where and when could I do something like this. It’s usually like within a live an event that we’re currently in the middle of planning and my brain does this beautiful mind board of bubbles in lines, I see past what it is they’re asking to do, and I can map out depending on how many people it is or where it would make the most sense, see how if I were to drop that in all the things that it would moving forward, like where did the dominoes fall and where does it end up?

Pet peeves:

My biggest pet peeve is there’s so much communication that happens from us to the other people both attendees and the people internally here at headquarters who come with us to work the events and to, you know, be the speakers and be the faces. And we’ll send out so much communication ahead of time, like so much communication and we’re hitting them over the head in live meetings. And you got it, you got it. Great. And then you land at the airport and they look at you and go, Oh, so what’s next? It’s like, Oh my gosh, you gotta be kidding me.

Cause: Hope of the Valley.

Do you have any good advice for the newbies?

We sort of have a team motto here one of my bosses came up with a couple of years ago and we just say surrender and that’s sort of our go-to, is knowing that learning to anticipate obviously as much as possible. I mean I think that’s number one, but being able to anticipate that something’s going to go wrong, something is not going to happen the way that you intend it to and you have to learn instead of getting frustrated or you know, stomping it out. Just surrender to that moment and fix it. Just accept this is what’s happening right now. Here are the next steps to ensure that we get back on track.

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Breaking into the Event Industry’s “Micro-Communities”

This week we have a crossover podcast with Will Curran of EventIcons and Endless Events. He shares his journey in the events world and how he used the different event communities to grow his career.  Listen for advice on connecting with those in the tight knit communities that exist in our industry!

Tell us your story.

Started in high school dj-ing backyard parties. Had an obsession for buying cooler speakers and lights, eventually got burnt out when I got to college. I saw these massive high school dances that looked live raves or concerts. By the time I graduated college I had about 75% of the dances. Got burnt out again competition entered and couldn’t beat us on quality so they beat us on price. Started to lose business, we pivoted into corporate A/V and production. Everything we learned from setting up sound systems for big high school dances could be applied to what we do inside of a ball room. Before I knew it, we took the corporate world by storm. Took a lot of what we learned on the marketing side and applied it to content and built a name for ourselves in the content world as well.

You’re tied to the industry associations, talk about the value of being involved in associations and organizations.

I am on the younger side of the industry, when I got involved, I went to my first ILEA meeting and feeling completely outsider-ish, there was a lot of clicks, I was the youngest there and no one felt like there was value there. When we started the company we weren’t involved in any associations. I remember talking about joining and being like no it’s not a value, instead we will take the money and make a blog post. For the longest time I wasn’t involved in any association at all. I didn’t know there was any value in them. It took, out of the blue, when my ILEA chapter reached out for me to be on the board. I wasn’t even a member. I knew the value was being in the board, so I was like I guess I’ll do this. My name is in all the emails sent, that was the value, getting my name in front of every person we were emailing. When I joined I realized there was a lot of value in the deep relationships you built with the board, but also in the ability for you to short cut meeting people as well. You end up getting some perceived authority inside the association as well. I did that for about a year and then I got personally asked to be the president of our ILEA chapter. My first answer was no, I don’t have time. They convinced me. I decided to do it, reshaped my chapter to the thought process that was more focused on tight relationships. We were small we had 10 members, so tiny. I basically became president and reshaped things how I thought it should be and I learned about associations as well. If you look at it as a sales opportunity you are not going to get the full true potential. Instead the opportunities you get are what you put into it. Volunteer on the board, it really helps you a ton. 

Now we got involved with IMEX and partnered with them to do content with them. That’s more of an event than an association. If you put value into something you’re always going to get value back. There’s always these micro communities in these associations that you don’t realize exist. There are always these micro communities you can be attached to and get involved. 

What are lessons you’ve learned along the way?

If you just go in trying to get a sales opportunity it’s not going to go anywhere. Associations are different than they were. It’s where you are going to enhance relationships you have. You need to continue to do the marketing and traditional sales, use associations to build a deep relationship. 

Never let someone say that this is the association to join. Far to often people want to say which one is the best one to join. I do think there are stronger chapters in different areas. Even the small ones also can drive just as much value. 

Don’t be afraid to blur the personal and the professional side of things as well. All the super deep relationships that have benefited me the most were people I was like yeah I guess I’ll let you see me drunk!

What are things you’ve learned along the way to grow a team and lead.

I definitely have a different management approach now, and probably different than most people will have. Our team is fully remote. They where whenever wherever they want to work. I have a huge amount of autonomy I give to my team. We don’t ever get to work over the shoulder of our employees. That is a small tip people can get. Give the autonomy to your team. If you hire responsible people and give them autonomy they flourish. 

Embracing and understanding technology and how you can use it to lead better is also important. I saw this issue when I was in an association. Everyone was using email and we were doing in person monthly meetings. I said no, we’re using slack and were doing weekly video calls instead of these long three hour monthly meetings. I noticed a lot of old school managers pushed back. When it came to the management side, I noticed younger generations of people, or tech savvy peopled thrived to use more efficient tools and more efficient ways to be managed. 

Utilize the internet to learn about more leadership styles. Don’t rely on just traditional seminars and even reading books. Sometimes books can be really delayed. They take years to be published, where if you read a blog post that’s going to be a lot more time sensitive and time appropriate. 

Don’t be afraid to look for people in unconventional locations and roles. A lot of time we get stuck.

What advice do you have for newbies?

Avoid sinking yourself in just the events industry. Don’t always focus on reading publications in the events industry and limiting yourself to what everyone else is looking at. One of the number one tips I hear at the end of our podcast, the most common one is: get inspiration outside of the events industry. Go for a walk, go to museums, and I hear that all the time and see it very true as well. When I look at the trends in the industry and publications we are all talking to ourselves so much. 

Document your work. We are in this day and age where we do so many awesome things but don’t have much to show for it. I should tell myself this tip. We don’t take a lot of photos of our events, but we all do so much awesome work. Invest in learning photography/videographer or partner with one. Early on in your career you’re going to live and die by your work. That was one thing that helped us early on. We had so many professional photos taken. We always took them to our sales meeting the next week and always those pictures alone would sell the show.  As much as you think, I’m not good at marketing, when you’re starting off you have nothing to lose. It’s all on youtube. If you’ve never done something before, people criticize it but they have nothing to criticize because it’s your first work. 

Cause: Search Foundation

Pet Peeves: Ignorance and lack of desire to remove the ignorance

Super Power: Speed, presenting ideas fast.  

Willcurran.com

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Using Event Design to Make a Difference

David Stark is an event veteran who uses design to make guests feel moved. How does he find inspiration? How does he give back?

Tell us your story.

When I went to college, I had no idea that there was an events world. I had no idea that this kind of career existed and that people do this. I studied to be a painter. I had every intention of being an artist and making paintings and sculptures and having shows in galleries and museums. That was always my goal from the very early age. I graduated from school and I went to graduate school and about 30 seconds after I got out of graduate school, I realized that I actually hated being in a studio by myself. The act of being alone painting was something that kind of made me a little bit crazy. I would get on the phone and I would call anybody that would possibly talk to me. I’d have a paint brush in one hand and I’d have the telephone in the other hand. I would talk my way through. What I realized in that process was that I actually like to collaborate with people. Transitioned from being a fine artist, working by myself to working with a group of people. More brain power created better stuff or more stuff or bigger stuff. I originally got involved working with flowers as a way to support my painting. That was really the way that I inched in. Working with flowers was a creative solution to waiting on tables to support my artwork. It felt akin to painting and it felt artistic. Somewhere along the way I realized that flowers were just one of the tools in the toolbox it wasn’t really right for every single occasion, but we’d work on these little events and that would lead to a slightly bigger event, which led to a slightly bigger event. Along the way I realized I’m really doing this, so let’s just do it. I approached what we do, like making a painting. So my approach has not changed. I’m still the fine artist deep down, but I do that for people. I do that for milestone occasions for individuals or corporate events or non-for-profit events where we’re looking to raise money for really incredible causes. I apply that same kind of art training and art making to those experiences.

Where do you get your inspiration? 

Everywhere. I don’t look at a lot of other people’s events for inspiration. Not that I’m not interested or not that I’m not curious, but I actually find that my ideas come from culture. My ideas come fromseeing art, going to the theater, going to movies, hearing music, being part of fashion experiences. Seeing the world of culture that’s around me, that is much more gratifying than adapting somebody else’s idea that they did for an event. I really stay focused on exposing myself to what’s going on in the world and having an ear and really truly being interested in what’s going on out there. It’s not always very immediate where the idea comes from.Sometimes I see an exhibition and I’m moved by it and I put it into the back of my brain. Then three years from now the right event comes up and all of a sudden that thing that was in that pigeonhole in my mind comes out. Sometimes it’s an immediate response to something. For me traveling, going to see stuff, being out and about, that’s where it all happens. Inspiration hits when you least expect it.

What’s the craziest or most unique thing that you’ve ever designed? 

Things that I’m really proud of as an organization is we’ve done a lot of work in the non for profit space and for non for profit galas and we make a big distinction between the difference between decorating and telling a story. I think that our job when we create these installations and the decor is of course to make a room look a certain way and make people feel a certain way within that room. Ultimately I feel like my job is to create a safe set that tells the story of the organization. We do that in a lot of different ways.

I think the biggest example of our work is for the Robin hood foundation.It’s a New York based organization that looks to eradicate poverty in New York city and they’re taking the rich and they give to the poor. It’s not about giving, it’s about empowering and it’s about creating access. The thing that’s important to establish is it’s very large. So it’s a seated dinner for 4,500 to 5,000 people. They come to dinner, they have cocktails, there’s the big presentation, there are films and then there’s a big giant concert after with the likes of the Beyonce’s of the world. It’s at the convention center in New York, which you know is a vast, vast, not incredibly attractive space that we need to turn into something, and you have lots of choices, right? Like one choice is, you make it something that’s really beautiful. That could be a choice. But I always feel like my job here is to actually tell the story of Robin Hood. Several years back we created an idea where in partnership with Robin hood, we sought out $1 million worth of donated items that people in the programs needed. Some of that was pretty self explanatory, it’s food, it’s clothing. Other things were really surprising and moving: alarm clocks, you and I take it for granted. We have an alarm clock and what does that do for us? That gets us to work on time. It gets us to a job interview, but if you don’t have an alarm clock, it’s a little harder to do those things that we take for granted. We made a giant installation out of thousands of alarm clocks that went to people that needed the alarm clock. So all of these items were donated and then they went directly to the programs after. From a design standpoint, what’s tricky about that is you can’t nail into it. You can’t screw into it. You can’t mess up the item because it needs to have a sure life after. So we’d have to come up with all kinds of ways to make these 30 foot tall set pieces where we preserve the integrity of the item in the first place. Very proud of the fact that it was.

A. Very great way of telling the story of all of the different programs that Robin hood is involved with. 

B. We were able to rally the community to donating these things. 

C. They went to the hands and the hearts of the people that needed the most after. That’s the kind of stuff that makes me really excited about being in the events world. I throw a great wedding. I love that too, the milestones of one’s life are really important to celebrate. Things like the Robin hood foundation where we can really be making a difference is something that I think always remains dear to me and my goals when I wake up in the morning. 

You’ve made a great point here in that it’s very easy to get distracted with the mechanics of things when first we need to determine what is the purpose of it, why are we doing it? Right?

Yeah, I think so. I think the why is the key and then the how of course is a big part of that. We extend that to everything that we do. You guys are in Minneapolis and one of my longtime great, great friends are my pals at target. I realized last week that I’ve now been working with Target for 20 years and we also had the occasion last week to create a big event with target in partnership to honor their 20 years of design for all, it’s been 20 years of their designer partnerships. It’s designed for all. That was a great honor to be part of that and having such a journey with them for so many years and then having to really apply the beautiful thinking that really happens behind the doors of Target to what the intentions are and then illustrate that by what we do with the material. It’s both a challenge and it’s great fun. It’s really satisfying to be able to be thinking so conceptually about this stuff. 

Target invented the pop up store. Target invented these designer partnerships. There’s a tremendous amount of trailblazing and visionary thinking that have gone into the history of style and many of those things have now been copied by others and everybody brings their own spin to it. The original impetus was really about providing access to great design for everybody. Target is rereleasing product from 20 of the designer partnerships over the last 20 years. Aat the event that we did, we had the occasion to look at that history and see all those products together. One of the things that was mind blowing to me is how fresh it all looks today. Something that was created 20 years ago looks like it was just created last week. 

Tell me about, do you have any mantra you live by? 

One is one that my parents taught me from an early age, which is that I could do anything that I set my mind to do and I do really believe that to the core. The other one is that it’s just quite all right to break the rules as long as you do it really, really fabulously.

Any advice for newbies starting out?

Work really, really, really hard and no matter what the scale of the event, approach it as if it’s the biggest, most important thing in the world. The special events business is very, very difficult, right? People see the photographs and they see the celebrities and they see the glamour of it all. But at the end of the day, it’s a very, very difficult business. Part of the thing that’s important is to recognize that the hard work that you put in is an investment. You can work really quite tirelessly and you can not necessarily see where it’s going to get to but I promise you if you invest the time and the energy and the love and what you’re doing, it does eventually pay off. Give it your all be present, meet people, follow up with them, continuously create new relationships, and when you do give those relationships, they’re all, honor them with the same kind of devotion you would give to a friendship. Ultimately that pays off on the business landscape front as well. 

davidstarkdesign.com.

Insta: David_stark_design 

Pet Peeves: Not being nice to everybody 

Pet Peeves: Floor plans not to scale

Super Power: Very very calm

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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

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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

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Twitter:The Meeting Minds