On this episode we sat down with Natasha Miller, entrepreneur, speaker, author, and more. She shared all that has changed for her as well as where the industry may be headed.
In this earth shattering episode, best selling author, speaker and world class leader, Patrick Lencioni teaches us that this is not business as usual, but a completely different world. With COVID-19 in the midst of all of us, this global pandemic is reshaping how business is done, and how we treat each other. The worlds leaders are in the spotlight during crisis and its time to shine.
It’s a time for us to look at how we are leading and how we can grow for the future.
One of the things I like to say is that people are going to emerge from this and this will pass. It’s so difficult and we pray for the people who are affected physically. Organizations are going to emerge from this either stronger, because of the way they dealt with this, or weaker. It really is about figuring out how to use this time to improve ourselves. Sometimes we can do this with our customers, sometimes we need to do it internally. There are going to be some people who are going to try to survive and there are others that are going to thrive through this, grow and improve. You can improve during times like this. Find whatever ways you can do to get better. Work on the health of your organization.
A lot of what you talk about is organizational health. Help us to understand what organizational health is.
The health of the organization, we like to explain it as, there’s the smarts of an organization, the health of the organization is how functional it is. Does it avoid and mitigate politics, disfunction, do they lose people because it’s toxic? Are they productive and is moral high? None of this is touchy feely, it’s very tangible and real. We are convinced it is the greatest competitive advantage. The world today, people are pretty smart. None of the organizations I go to, do I find are too dumb to be successful. Are they able to tap into that intelligence by creating a culture, and environment where it’s used, or do they waste their time. It’s why Southwest Airlines has always been better, not because they know more, they created a culture that is their biggest competitive advantage.
There are assessments for health. It’s a qualitative process but can be informed by quantitative items. Here are 4 things a healthy organization does well.
1. Make the leadership team behaviorally cohesive.
2. You have to create clarity.
3. Over communicate
4. Put in place just enough structure.
The most important system is meetings, it holds everything together. There are different kinds of meetings for different purposes.
1. Daily/Regular checkin 10 or 15 meeting (what are you working on, how are you doing?)
2. Happy Hour socialize
3. Disciplined tactical meeting – Let’s go through our goals (60-90 min) twice a week during this time
4. Hangout meeting – you might have a strategic topic and just talk about it (60-90 min)
3 + 4 are very important right now.
The rally cry, explain that.
In the midst of a crisis you need to create a new clarity. People in organizations when things are uncertain they want their leaders to create for them and with them a new sense of temporary clarity for this time. We talk about this thing called the Rallying Cry. Its that one thing that rallies everybody. What’s the one thing that will be different when we emerge from this time?
There’s so many different leadership styles. How should a leader navigate informing a team without causing panic or swinging back and forth?
We are seeing the best in a lot of people. If leaders do the right thing: being vulnerable, human, persistent, and creative: we are pulling out the best in people.
This is a critical time, tell me more about that.
People are going to remember what we do during this time for years. People are going to remember that for years. During the pre crisis time, what you said in a meeting and did it was important but it gets lost in the wash. How we handle this, people will look back ten years from now and remember. It will be a badge of honor and a source of good pride and a good memory, or it’s going to be bad.
How do we stay optimistic?
Isolation makes people fearful. When we isolate it’s hard to be optimistic. Be around other positive people, reach out to them, let them reach out to you. For me personally, I am a follower of Jesus, I know theres a reason for everything. I cannot be afraid, my faith says that.
Pet Peeve: A speaker with a boring talk or a serious conference and nightclub music
Super Power: Stopping the 2 on 1 defense in basketball
Twitter: The Meeting Minds
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.
Twitter: The Meeting Minds
Halfway through season 3, done with the ILEA Live episodes, and new music: we drop an episode on a Wednesday and bring in a special guest. Elizabeth Partyka is no newbie in the events space. She owned a business for many many years before joining the quest team. Listen to hear her story!
What is Quest events?
A decor and scenic company based out of Dallas Texas. We have 26 locations nationwide. We have a lot of stuff. We have one in Canada as well.
What do you do?
We started out as a pipe and drape company, in the last several years we’ve moved into offering a wide variety of scenic options.
You have a unique story, why don’t you tell us that?
I had my own decor company for 15 years, we did ceiling draping, chandeliers, lighting. A year ago quest approached me they needed a sales manager because they opened here recently. They acquired my business and now I’m moving more into the A/V world outside of weddings. I have been able to move into more large scale events.
How did you build your company into what it was?
It grew organically, in my early 20’s. I worked at a local rental company since I was 15 went to college. My friends were getting married, I did their weddings, a few proms asked if I could help and it grew organically.
What do you guys do now?
We are the premiere provider in scenic stuff. If people aren’t familiar, when you look at a stage set, the back drops, we have different tiles, fabrics. Basically anything you need for a gala, conference.
What trends are you seeing?
A lot more customization. All of our products you can brand and put pictures on them. You can have branding everywhere.
What conversations should people be having for their event?
Start with a realistic budget or planners looking to say I have xyz dollars, or this is the look I’m trying to achieve what can you offer me and what will it cost. How do you engage the audience? How much branding do you want? A lot of our clients request renderings, we can go in and plug in our products, lighting, seating. It’s a great way to help new planners or sell it to the client.
Pet Peeves: Touching and Moving stuff around
Super Power: Always listening. In one conversation and can listen to another
Twitter:The Meeting Minds
Sarah Shewey is a pioneer woman of the experience economy. She is the Founder & CEO of Happily, a platform that rapidly assembles experiences for the fastest growing brands in the world with the largest network of freelance event producers. She is also the co-founder of TEDActive, the founder of EXP, a co-founder of The Margin, and the board president of dublab. An environmentalist, Sarah has spoken about the importance of sustainable event practices on NPR and publications around the world. She also co-invented the world’s first underwater projector.
Stay connected with Sarah Shewey on Linkedin.
Tell us about you.
I got into events because I was the super fan of Weezer. They dropped off the face of the earth and there was rumors Weezer was coming back. I organized online in the Weezer fan forum, a Weezer after party for their first concert. I’m an over achiever so I got yahoo to sponsor and we brought in fans and randomly Sofia Coppola showed up. I rented a venue, it was a legit thing. They got word and apologized they couldn’t make it. After I graduated college I went across the country and I moved to Boston. I fell into a job as a freelance event coordinator. That became Boston’s best party of the year. I knew I was an entrepreneur but I didn’t know what industry or product I would build. After those two experiences I started to take the events industry seriously.
Your main thing is Happily, what is it?
It is a lot of things, it is really a place where anyone can find freelance event experts. We specialize in producers, coordinators, assistants. There are over 50,000 in our network. It’s like air b n b for events. It’s my full time job.
How does your process work?
You create an event and then you create multiple gigs or jobs. Then we calculate the cost. Then we surface all of the people that are local in the area. You can see all the profiles and you can request an interview and hire them through there. You can pay them through there and invoice them.
Who is on this?
Right now our focus is planners, we are starting first with production managers and people that are organizing. We get a lot of requests for example of do you know people that know VR? Technical teams and freelancers is on our roadmap to bring to the platform.
What was the fact that you dropped before we started recording?
Sustainability, it’s really important, if not the most important area of innovation in the events space. It’s important because events are the 2nd most wasteful industry on the planet, after construction. When you add sporting events and concerts, you’re building all this stuff and throwing it out. We know how much plastic and crap is out there. I think that for me, once I found that out, it was really important for me to take a look at the entire supply chain and process, and how can we reduce waste and get ourselves off this horrible list of offenders?
How do we do it?
It’s crazy how small things can make a huge impact. For instance, take meat off your menu or reducing it by half, it can save millions of gallons of water on a 100 person event. Beef in particular. Create opportunities for people to jump in on a live stream instead of jumping on a plane to get to an event. Obviously an in person interaction has it’s own special brand of magic, but live stream allows people to hear information and create accessibility around the world. It also reduces carbon foot print.
You are co – founder of the margin, tell us about that.
It makes space for people of color at gatherings. I started it with a friend of mine and we met at a women’s conference in the Bay Area and we were the only people of color there. We started to talk about behind the gender conversation there still are not safe spaces for people of color when you are feeling like the other. It’s hard to say hello and make friends.
What are other things you want people to know?
Just know about happily and the platform. I really am an event nerd and rat. The last few years I’ve been on a technology kick and it’s been a wild journey that keeps improving and getting better. We’d like people to beta test and give us feedback. We are so offline so it’s been cool to share those things with people in our space.
Superpower: Communicating to people nonverbally
Twitter:The Meeting Minds