On this episode of Meeting Minds we sit down with Lori Pugh Marcum, the Events Content Director at EnsembleIQ and former Head of Meeting Innovation for MPI. Lori asks the question: If we can gather such great consumer analytics, why don’t our events have that capability yet? From there, we dive into the best ways to build events that give people what they need, and discover ways to build a customized event experience from start to finish. Listen now to this great episode!
On this week’s special episode of Meeting Minds we welcome the wonderful Kathryn Frankson, Director of Event Marketing at Informa, for an IN-PERSON recording! We talk about making your attendees feel welcome as events return, why attention to detail really does matter, and using empathy to build outstanding event culture. You don’t want to miss this episode of Meeting Minds!
William Warren, founder and CEO of The Sketch Effect, joins the podcast this week. He talks about the power of visual learning, creating memorable experiences, and how drawings can take your virtual or hybrid event to the next level. You won’t want to miss this one!
Scott Mirkin has been in production HIS WHOLE LIFE. He now leads a team producing some of the largest events with even bigger names!
Tell us about your story.
I was really lucky that I was a hyperactive kid. On order for me to get out of mom’s hair for a little bit, she would say to my dad and me, go to work with your father today. If it was a Saturday or something like that. My dad is a retired broadcast engineer. At the age of six or seven years old, I’m in the studio watching news from behind the scenes watching live shots. The first thing that I realized, what you see is not really what happens. Everybody on the news would always be like suit and tie, you know, neck, neck, up or whatever. And then, but from the waist down of the Hawaiian shorts, it was summertime or whatever. I got an opportunity to get some experience at a very very young age. By the time I was 18 or 19 years old, I had about that 10 years of experience already. I’m not a big book reader but Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book called. Outliers a number of years ago about the 10,000 hour rule, I’m at about 50,000 hours now.
I was lucky early in my career to be able to do some things with president Clinton and vice president Gore, travel the world with them and do some really neat things. I say this to folks all the time, I gained five years of experience at that one event. I really felt like I did. And I say it to every one, if you can do those, very high profile, no room for error, redundant plans, highly communicated, highly orchestrated events, you learn how to do that at a young age, then everything just becomes an addition to that experience.
My dad is a retired engineer. My brother Craig, who is our VP of production here is not a retired engineer, both of those guys, super technical, component level engineering type stuff. I understand a lot of that. I know how to turn around and leverage another skill that I learned early on. I worked all through school at restaurants. What I learned, probably by the time I was 16 or 17, being a producer is kind of like being a server. You got to go back and motivate the crew, the kitchen. You gotta go out and sell to the client, and if there’s a mistake made, if a ball is dropped, you have to decide if you’re going to blame the kitchen, or take the hit. You take all those skills, and your at the same skill as a producer and an executive producers really make it all happen. And my other favorite definition of producer is the person who, without them, it didn’t happen. You’re actually the one continuously pushing for what everyone wants to have happen, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. So you have to continue to push ,move the ball forward, and make sure that, things don’t collide and that it all kind of lines up on the runway.
Before we got on air here, you told us that you’ve produced some of the most historic events and the largest events in the United States. Tell us about one of your favorite memories or something really cool you’ve done.
My most historic and memorable event, just a few years ago in 2015, I served as the executive producer for the world meeting of families, which was Pope Francis’ visit to the East coast. We did some very large outdoor events where there were hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people on one day and nearly a million on the first day and over a million on the second day. That was the largest NSSE in us history still, and that what that means for folks who might not know it’s national special security event that’s designated by the department of Homeland security. That puts their designated agency, which happened to be the secret service, responsible for the security of the event. The secret service is there to protect the president, like something goes down, they’re going to make sure they get the president, and any other protectees to safety. So their entire mission normally is to protect the protectee. When it said NSSE, that shifts the dynamic. And now that agency is responsible for the security of the entire event, including the audience. There was about 18 months worth of planning, we called it the Wednesday breakfast club right here in our offices in Philadelphia. The planning around that event, and it was a pleasure.
What advice do you have?
We’re very lucky in the event industry that it is and always has been an equal opportunity success path for every single person, all walks of life, regardless of their background. It’s based on reliability, dependability, and ability. So folks that are starting in the industry, in our world, they often start as production assistant. Even if, and I’m not a fan of it, but sometimes it happens where the runner goes out and has to get 15 different lattes for everybody. The young person, if they’re able to deal with that in an accurate way, that gets recognized pretty quickly. This is a business of opportunities that are based on better based on immediate needs. So you’re often sitting around, you’re looking for the most reliable person with a pen and a pad. If a person starts off and they’re just available and whatever the task is they complete it is as simple as it is, then the tasks, they just get more and more.
I think also the other advice that I would give is I’m not the person who’s seeking and acquiring PAs. I’m not doing that. I’ve colleagues that do that. So get to meet those colleagues, but also the ones that are probably be the first ones to recognize the accuracy, the puncuality. If I recognize it’s usually the lack of accuracy or the lack of punctuality. People think they should go right to the CEO all the time. It’s not a bad idea to have a relationship obviously, but sometimes you’ll find if you’re trying to get into the industry and find some opportunity, you might find yourself a little bit deeper in the organization. I’m doing podcasts.
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When should you start the planning process?
You have to figure out how big your audience is, if it’s small you don’t need as much lead time. We are talking to someone who is 30-40 thousand people and they plan three years in advance.
Usually it’s date and location that are the biggest frustration and you need to figures those out first. We had a guest who talked about selling yourself to the venue. Do not think because you have a budget and audience that you will be attractive to the city, you may be competing with some really big names. Some events have ten year contracts because they are so big and need to lock in a venue.
When do you loop in your partners?
It depends on size and scale of your event. When your organization works with a third party to work with vendors it adds a layer of complexity, but loop that person in immediately. As soon as possible loop in production and decor. You might get a higher rate if you wait too long, or not get the a-squad! The earlier you book the better everything you get. You should book your production as you choose a venue, they can help you save money through site visits. The production partner can see things that you may not notice.