Andy King is known as the ultimate team player, but it goes beyond what happened at Fyre Festival. Listen as we sit down with him to discuss what actually happened as well as the state of the industry amidst the pandemic. We say this a lot but you really really don’t want to miss this episode!
What goes into creating a spectacular event? Erich of Spare Key joins us to share how they have transformed their event to be something amazing!
Tell us about Spare Key.
It was founded in 1997 by a south Saint Paul family. They had a little boy, shortly after he was born he was rushed into the ER for emergency surgery to repair a heart condition he was born with. Subsequently what happened, over the course of the next couple of years their son had numerous hospitalizations and surgeries where the recoveries were a couple of weeks or months at a time. Like a lot of families, the most significant financial commitment was their mortgage. Mom and dad had to spend time at the hospital, they were not at work. It got to the point where they were concerned about losing their home. They reached out to their family, friends, and church, they made sure they had a house to go back to. The sad part of the story, the son lost his life to the disease. A year after his passing they started SK and it’s goal was: provide families the gift of time. If SK does a mortgage payment for a family, they can focus on the kid.
The program has evolved dramatically, that’s how we started out. SK today is a much different organization.
You use the event to mobilize the mission, tell us about that.
Events are only as good as what you can connect in terms of your mission and engaging with people to support what you are trying to do. We have a small staff, 5 people, running an organization that supports families in 5 states. We have to find other people who are third party validators. Events aren’t just about the money, although it’s always about the money, events are really about branding your organization, about creating credibility with people who do not know who you are or what your purpose is.
Every time we get involved with an event, each and every time the goal and focus is to tie it back to the mission and our purpose, but also to energize and empower people to be our strongest advocates once they leave that event.
You entertain people at your events.
Yes let’s talk about this, the reality is consumers have choices. Minnesota has 35,000 non profits. There’s a lot of competition out there. It says a lot about who we are as Minnesotans but people have choices. Galas and events are all about choices, if given a choice between going to a gala you’ve been going to and know what it’s going to be… on a cold February night, it’s as easy for me to stay in. Our goal has been to make it tougher for people to want to stay home. We’ve focused on this idea that gala’s are obviously about raising money, but if you don’t entertain your guests, if you don’t keep them guessing and make it feel like a surprise each time while delivering the highest level of customer service you can, they’re not going to come back.
Twitter: The Meeting Minds
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.
Twitter: The Meeting Minds
You can have someone present without being at your event: Holograms. Ashley C talks all about holograms and how they are changing the events industry. Listen to the expert in the market who has created the patents for this engaging experience!
Ashley Crowder, Co-Founder and CEO of VNTANA
Tell us holographs?
We are all about putting the digital into the real world. If any of you have kids or have played Pokemon Go that is one version of mixed reality. Your phone can act as a third eye. You also have headsets you can wear that put the digital in the real world. With these only the person with the device can see. At VNTANA we built hardware to do holographic projections. Everyone in the room can the see and interact with the digital together. We do keynote presentations, true live. I can beam myself next time, I’ll be in LA and my hologram will be here.
You are doing movie magic but for real. She told us before, we patented all of this ourselves. How did you develop this?
We are a tech company, a team of engineers. My background is engineering, we have about 15 patents on hardware and software to do this. In the beginning we were using projectors but we switched to LED because it’s brighter. Now we can do things in bright environments.
What is the use for this?
About 7 years ago we found a key use cases people love.
1.Someone can’t be there we can beam them in live, or pre record their hologram. We just did a hologram of Kobe Bryant.
2.Lots of leveraging endorsement deals. For Adidas we did holograms of Stella McCartney.
3.Other interactive experiences to show off products and understand product preferences.
How do you beam in live?
We need dedicated fiber, really good dedicated internet on both sides.5G is coming and we are working with a few different telecom providers to show it off on the 5G network.
What about stages? Are you beaming in keynotes?
Yes we do a number of keynote presentations. That is a lot of our life-size holograms.
You use holograms to show off dead celebrities?
We provide the hardware but we let other people do the “digital resurrection”. We can help people, we have partners who specialize in digital recreation, it get’s expensive. You can’t use old footage it’s CGI. You need to create a photo realistic model of that person and you animate it. We prefer to stick with the living and products!
Have you met and worked with famous people?
Yes leveraging endorsement deals. These brands pay so much money to use their likeness.
Where do you see the technology going?
It’s super exciting, using it as a new medium. Even if the person is there, if they are launching a product the hologram can show up on stage next to them. We are excited about being able to push he boundaries with the creative and content side.
You are a speaker tomorrow what are you talking about?
How you can use mixed reality to influence the attendee journey at an event. Why do you want to do it? What is the purpose of the tech? Then figure out what you want to do. Rob Thomas, we did a great hologram karaoke for his tour it was really successful because it was a holistic approach. He talked about it on his radio show. They published it and you got to sing karaoke with the hologram. I always say don’t put technology in the corner.
With these experiences people are willing to give their information freely because it’s a fun experience.
How much does this cost?
The cost depends on the size of the hologram. Is if life-size or a small kiosk display and content. Does the content need to be created for it? We have done a lot with our software to automate the process. In general you can start between 10 – 20,000 range and go up. Realistically people say, this is doable.
Superpower: Super focused on things I want to do.
Cause you Love: Girls Who Code
Twitter:The Meeting Minds