Melinda

S.3 Ep. 24: 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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S.3 Ep.23: 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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S.3 Ep. 22: 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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S.3 Ep. 21: 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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S.3 Ep. 20: 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. 

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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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