Event Production

S.2 Episode 1: Maximizing Creativity for your Event

Hal Lovemelt, an Event Technologist, talks about the creative side of events. Ever wanted to know how to use new technology to captivate your event?  Hal brings a perspective we haven’t yet seen on the Meeting Minds podcast! 

Tell us about you. What is an event technologist?

To illustrate where it comes from for me is, I would tell you a little bit about my background. I got sucked way into TV, public access TV. We did live public access TV in Minneapolis, every Sunday night live on air with a phone number on it. I considered it my education. We had to come up with content for an hour every sunday night. We had to free for all it, it was an improvise show. People could call in and interact with us. It was called Freaky Deeky. Everyone that came on was a freak. It was the freakiest show you could do and very experimental. We had a lot of costumes, basically a mountain of costumes and a huge green screen studio. Everyone improvised we came up with a skit in a matter of seconds. Did weird things, the callers would interact with us and help us to do weird things. I was behind the scenes doing the technology and mixing the feeds and doing video art with lots of different camera angles. We had 4 different camera kpeople and they are all dedicated, and we would make this show every week on Sunday without fail and that kind of forced us to come up with a streamline process for the creative thinking around video experiences.

I realized it’s less fun to watch the show, it’s more fun to be on the show. When we would be done with the show the guests would come and watch it and they would be having a blast seeing themselves. I said that’s it, I have to put people on camera, give them their moment of fun on camera. I built a really crazy ghetto video booth out of wood and I would bring it to clubs. I was still a kid at the time and we would do these dance nights but I would have this crazy green screen and little tv studio you would walk in. It was a hit so one thing led to another and we kept upgrading and upgrading and we are basically on version 10 now.

You’re kind of inventing a whole new interactive experience when it comes to this photo booth type thing. How does that work and what does it do?

In the beginning what happened a lot was people would come up to it and see it and see people getting all weird and stretching their face and they thought it was fun and cool. They thought it was just playback and they’d look and see people in their and realize it was live and then they would get really excited and want to jump in. Then they’d realize when you were in there you could see yourself on a makeshift teleprompter. I get all those bumps everytime i see someone get that moment of magic in their eye. I keep getting motivation to upgrade and keep developing.

You’re writing software, code, and meshing things together.

I basically got so dedicated to this kind of medium that I learned how to code just to do this.

How does this all tie in to larger events and stages?

My craft is actually a more visual artist and a VJ. I’ve done a lot of stage shows for bands. I’ve projection mapped for orchestra hall and festivals and stuff. I will do lighting and video installations for experimental bands here in town. The way it ties in is kind of a deeper understanding for taste and how to mix this different kind of visual art with sound and lighting and a mood. I’ve had a few opportunities to whole event moods and design a whole event where things got a lot crazier.

You were telling me about kinetic lighting, talk about that.

I think it’s the next big thing. I’d like to see it for an audience. It’s definitely seen on the stage and around a fashion show or something. I’d love to see it used in an audience fashion where the audience is interacting with it in a more cohesive way. Waves of people are controlling different moments of it. I’ve seen different approaches to the challenge of large interactions, customized apps with video wall software. You hold your phone up and you’re 1 pixel of an image. There may be apps now that do that, but a couple of artists have done that in the past where they’ve done it with a touch designer system. What that does is it opens what I get excited about in the industry as a whole is companies and small studios developing really unique solutions to interesting event problems and having a market for it.

When you say software what do you mean?

I’m more talking about the service product. For years event producers will come up with a crazy idea and say this is nuts but can you do it, to a big house. A solution house and they will say yeah we can do it and they work tirelessly and make it happen. Whether or not the execution is good, that was a one off because it has to be a one off right? You have to do the next big thing that hasn’t been done before. However what I’m getting excited about is people are realizing that is a very inefficient model for the industry. You can come up with ideas and make products and flush them out over time. Everytime you deploy it keep flushing it out and have that product be a single product you can sale.

If you put on an event and spend all the time and effort to build something cool that’s used once it feels wasteful. Is there technology that will track somebody?

Yeah BlaxTrack. If you buy one I will help you set it up.

Will it integrate with all of our Martin Lighting and can hook it up to our DMX board?

Yeah but it’s not that simple. This system is really quick, you can move you can run and it will track you. It’s tough and it’s just so expensive.

Is that something they use for concerts like following a performer?

Circ de sole, maybe big concerts?

Could you projection map lighting on a human figure and cut them out real time?

So it’s just hitting them? So the fallout doesn’t happen? (yes) Typically what happens, the projector itself the framerate wouldn’t keep up. It wouldn’t feel real, you’d see the edges and see the cross bleed. Most of the time people do that with depth sensors which are low res, that will change and things will get crazy when that changes. Depth sensor now, you can cut people out you can make really simple background subtraction but it’s choppy and low res. You make a blob.

What I do with background subtraction where I can cut people out in total darkness without a green screen, that technology can;t be applied to any scenario, but with depth cameras it could be applied to any scenario once the resolution is there. You can imagine walking past a wildont and a camera being in the window and looking at it and it completely cuts you out from the scene you are in.

It’s like live rotoscoping.

Yes exactly.

For those of you listening rotoscoping is a film term. In post production, let’s say you have a video of somebody standing in a family room and there is a chair in the background. Rotoscoping is frame by frame they cut the person out or a particular item and manipulate it. You don’t have to have them stand in front of a green screen to have a background behind them.  Another use would be when somebody is using a bald cap makeup so it looks like there is bald. There is always wrinkles and edges so you will edit out the wrinkles frame by frame and blend them.

There are whole production houses that just make actors look tinier bit skinnier or fix them.

Tell me about the theatrical element of an event. I think a lot of meeting planners are always seeking new ideas to engage the audience.

In my opinion it’s all about attention. Most event producers know that too, it’s all about getting the attention: creative voices of god. It can be really upgraded and really creative ideas. I want to encourage event producers to not limit their crazy ideas just because they don’t think it’s possible. If you have a crazy idea for something and the answer that you say to yourself is but one one will be paying attention that problem can easily be solved. If you have something really unique like an elephant walking in and out of the room – something crazy for a gala or something I say go for it. Just really nail the attention part. Corralling people is always a challenge for event people. If the cocktail hour is going long and everyone is still gabbing and you need them to get into the venue, you can flash the lights or strobe the lights and make a crazy scene where a car crashed into the building you can go nuts you can go crazy.

A lot of the non profit events that raise money for years before they worked with us they struggled to get the attention of the audience to stay on stage. Or getting them into the ballroom in a given period of time.  You are right, using directed attention and cues to pull people in, it’s age old stuff.

The age old stuff is the stuff that works the best.

When you can control the sound and the visual you can really control the audience and what they are looking at.

Don’t be afraid to make a couple guests mad. When I would bring that up early in my career, why don’t we go dark. Somebody has to put their glasses on, but they have a family that can help them.

If you are going to cater to everyone you’re not going to cater to anyone.

Tell us more about the onstage theatrics.

I’ve see a lot of cool things. I saw this show in Berlin that blew my mind. This goes back to kinetic lighting. They made and now sells the DMX motors. This was one of their first projects they built these one meter mirror disks and had LED edging on the disc, and both sides were mirrored. They had three points of being hung and three motors per disc.  They had 100 discs and they were hung in a very interesting pattern and all of them could move up and down and they lined the room with the grid of the movers. Very nice precision movers. I talked to the guy later and he told me he had to calibrate them every day because the room ambience of the heat and stuff changes. This act was very precise. They would have the show that was synced to music and sounds where they make these crazy patterns and shoot pointed lights at these mirror. You would be underneath and they would get really close then go up.

You will see a lot of these motors coming into the A/V houses because it’s a cool easy thing to wow someone.

Even if you move anything during a show people are so excited. What other cool things can you technologists do?

Anything you can dream of!

Tell me about projection mapping vs LED.

It depends on the application. Although i’ve seen an LED video booth and I’m very intrigued, it’s that there’s a cost difference that is so hard to get beyond. I’m a resolution kind of guy, I’m really into it especially with what kind of art I do. I don’t want a low res LED wall. It’s about the pitch of the LEDs. If it’s a huge stage it doesn’t matter because people are far away from it. All my ideas with LEDs have people being close. Small pitch LED walls are really expensive.

I don’t understand why a 4k 70 inch tv is $1000 and the pixel density is microscopic and you can walk up to the TV and be an inch from it and still not see the pixels. Why can’t we use that to make LED walls.

It’s never bright enough. We put TVs on the side for my video booths they are awesome but if you look at the whole thing we put Robis up top and we have pixel strips going down the side and those always make the TVs look dark. They make really bright tvs and we’ve purchased them. THe problem is you can’t get the $1000 tv. They make display tvs that are made to run 24/7 and made to look good in broad daylight those are still Tvs, still LCD and they are way more expensive than your average TV.  The brighter you get the lower, crappier black and color levels.

Give us things you’d like planners to think about when using technology.

I always like to say don’t take the human out of technology. I’m kind of anti automation to a certain degree when it comes to technology. I don’t like kiosks at all. I like humans being involved and that comes back to the theatrical part and that will make things memorable.

One think I’d really like planners to think about is bringing your vendors together to the creative table. As a video booth designer, all I want to do is work with bigger and greater decor companies to make crazy sets and come up with cool ideas. That way we are not splitting the budgets. Bring everybody together.

Feedback.video

hal@feedback.video

Meeting Minds by Eidecom

Episode 18: The Importance of Relationships in the Events Industry

How do you make the most out of the relationships you make with people in the events world? We had Jessica Barrett and Beth Plates sit down and talk about ways that they have fostered relationships to create successful events.

 

Welcome back, we have two people from two different businesses. I’m going to start by introducing Beth Plates. The other is Jessica Barrett.

 

We’re here to talk about relationships.  You are both good at building relationships with key people, how do you define a successful relationship?

 

Jessica:  In the industry I would define that as someone that I trust and I know will deliver.  It’s on an intrinsic level, not something I have to worry or question they will pull through even if it’s crazy.  No matter what it will work.

 

Beth: I agree I have to reiterate the trust factor is huge.  You almost develop your own language or no language at all. You start reading eachothers minds. You understand that’s the direction it’s going and you end up clicking and look at eachother

 

Jessica: And when you can look at each other when something is not looking and figure out how it’s going to look and roll with it.  No one’s looking at it like it’s your problem not mine.

 

Beth: Exactly, you’re in it together, you’ve got a partner that has your back.

 

How would someone who is newer start to develop relationships?

 

Beth:  First of all volunteering.  At events, put yourself out there.  Especially if you are looking to gain experience.  It’s huge to go to non profits and work their galas, golf tournaments.  See behind the scenes how it works. That’s where you will meet people, like minded people that want to be apart of and support these organizations.  That’s when I got my start it was volunteering and helped immensely. Professional organizations as well.

 

Jessica:  I would agree with that. That’s one of the first things I say to people when they are looking to burst into the industry.  Every gala is looking for volunteers. It gets people in the industry and gives them an opportunity to see you working and if they want to work with you in the future.  If they have a job available it’s a warm introduction. You get to see people from so many facets.

 

It’s easier to sell yourself if people see how you work and how hard you work.  They would feel more comfortable to have coffee with you. You have to be able to contribute.

 

Jessica:  The professional organizations are key, that’s the easiest way to get into the door and talk to people without having a job. You could still be working at Caribou but go to the night of the hour and start talking to people and building those relationships before you have a leg in the door.

 

How are you supposed to start attending these events?  Do you need a pitch and cards?

 

Beth:  I think it helps if you have somewhat of an elevator pitch.  If you are new and show passion and sincerity, people are going to understand if you don’t have it all figured it out.  

 

What about when you are working for a venue and it’s highly sought after and everyone wants to have something to do with it, how do you develop the right relationships?

 

Jessica:  It helps that I have been in venues for a long time.  I’ve been in venues for 14 years. I had a lot of pre existing relationships before I started Machine Shop. Honestly it was integral to our success, we hit the ground running because I could reach out with people we worked with in the past before I had our website and asked them to see how it would work for them. And getting other people involved.  A lot of times its people hired by clients and and we get to see them and get to know them and see if they fit. We don’t keep a public vendor list on our website because we like to match our clients with the best vendor for them.

 

I’ve had some vendors reach out to get on our list, it can be a catch 22.  You cannot get into the space unless someone hires you and you’re not going to get hired unless we refer you.  There’s other ways around that, like if we work together on something through ILEA. If you’re connected in the industry you hear about what’s good and what’s bad.

 

The word of mouth portion is so much stronger than being on a list. Tell me more about friendships. How do you cultivate those friendships and develop them into something real?

 

Beth: I believe with events, we work such interesting hours, an interesting industry.  We are up at 3 am before an event or we are cleaning up at 3 am. Or sometimes both for the same event. You’re working together these long days shlepping together.  Our clients are looking to us to be resourceful and as you are bonding with your person at the venue, or A/V team, or event planner you are putting your heads together to be creative and it cultivates a very eclectic relationship.

 

You become friends with these people.

 

It doesn’t really matter how good you are if your attitude sucks.

 

Jessica: Yeah that’s one of the things i go back to.  We may book something once and get away with a lot, but if you want to have that repeat business those things won’t fly.  You can only get away with that once or twice or people feel burned.

 

I love that in the event space there is so much competition that it forces everyone to bring their A-game. Not only are they great, but they are also great people.

 

Beth: I think Amy Zaroff said it well in one of your podcasts, “we’re better together.”  as a group we kind of raise the bar in what we are producing.

 

Jessica: And putting Minneapolis on the map, I think it is really shifted in that last couple of years.  That has been amazing to be apart of.

 

We do events all over the country and some clients go from city to city, and I keep telling them they have to come to Minneapolis.  They are now starting to listen.

 

We have a lot of listeners asking how to do I be better.  How do you do that?

 

Jessica: For me, I’ve been trying to refocus on, before I do anything I isolate what are our goals and objectives in this so you know everyone on your team is working on the same thing. As long as you know what those goals or objectives are you can return to that and say “are we meeting those?  Are we making choices that will lead us there?” That will always lead to being better and doing better. Be very clear about those things. People don;t think about the logistics of how you got from point A to point B.

 

One of my pet peeves is when people walk in the door and assume they know more about the space. It’s good to touch base with the people that know alot and come in with an open mind because there might be things that can go a lot better.

 

Beth: And to your point, it’s respecting the knowledge you have.  That’s where I’ve see the most success with events is when you regard those individuals who are working within the space as an expert or the A/V team as the expert.  You can collaborate or question but also respect that they have years of experience and a team of experts they have brought on, they may have a difference of opinion.  We are there looking out for our best interests.

 

Jessica: Right they all want to see this be successful.  No one is trying to sink your ship. There is a paranoia that someone is going to sink the ship and they are going to tighten the screws on it.  I learned a long time ago with A/V companies, I never ask a lot of questions until they are done setting up because a lot of times if you get into the mix they are like “We are not done yet.”  Unless it’s something that is for sure not supposed to be there. I let them do their job and usually when they are done the questions are resolved.

 

The point of respect was interesting. Every corner of the events business the experts you bring in you have to give them the respect that you chose them to do this and they know more about what they are doing.

 

Beth: The outcome is grander. Most of the time if you are hands off and let people do their best work, it’s better than you expected.

 

Jessica: One of the things I love about working with Beth is that when we have initial meetings you love getting input and haven’t made up your mind about every detail.  

 

Beth: You as a venue, you have so much more access to some resources because everybody wants to get into your space, and be seen in your space. Not only are you great about putting together a great venue but you are a great resources, you are full of names and numbers of people that are creative, undiscovered and I look to you as a friend to bring those to the table.

 

Jessica: I love having a relationship where I can give you my options.  Sometimes in the venue we see things that are similar time after time. It’s fun to bring in new elements and try new things.  There’s always ideas in the back of my head. I have to convince someone to do it so I love when people are looking for options.

 

Talk about empathy

 

Beth: Taking into consideration who you are working with, your partners are not just business partners but they are humans who have things going on in their lives. You have a life outside of work. Occasionally we have that personal life that sneaks in but its recognizing it, it goes back to relationships.  You realize people are putting in 100% but there are things that come in in life.

 

Jessica: That goes back to trust.  If you trust them you know they are going to do what they need to do. You can give them the grace when they need it.  We struggle with that because it has become a 24 industry, the world has become a 24/7. People expect you to have things turned around in 15 minutes and if we have a relationship where we trust each other and I send you a message I trust you will take care of it.

 

If you want to add to your reliability, you also need to take on more responsibility.

 

Jessica:  With our team there’s no such thing as that’s not my job.  I don’t care. I have cleaned vomit more times than I care to admit. I’ve never turned around and said clean this up.  If you are the closest person there you just do it.

 

If you’ve taken the responsibility for something follow through on it.

 

We tell our guys not to tell a client they can’t help them, but instead to assist them.

 

Jessica: When people start out there’s a fear of admitting you don’t know something.  That’s why you hire experts, even if it’s the most well oiled machine there will be hiccups you don’t know the answer to.  It’s ok to say I don’t know but let me find out. Let’s figure this out together.

 

Tell me about mentoring, how do you find a mentor or become one?

 

Beth: I think a great way to mentor is to take interns. Sometimes it does require a lot of work on your part as well. If you have the right intern, some will stay on.  Some interns I’ve told they will have to hire me someday when I’m too old to do events. Someday my interns will hire me. It’s a great opportunity to have a fresh perspective on something you’ve done for years. It makes you rethink the process on why you do something. It’s a way to mentor the next generation.

 

Jessica: It’s ok to ask, but to ask with a humble attitude, “I know you’re busy but do you have time to sit and have coffee with me.” 99% of the time if people ask to have coffee with me I’ll say yes. If you ask for an informational interview and if you click and have a great relationship that person can become your mentor.

 

When you ask someone, make sure you’re making it convenient for the mentor. Show up on time, bring value, and be prepared. Don’t waste the mentor’s time.

 

Jessica: Absolutely, those are more relationships you are forming. No matter where you end up that’s a person you have the second nature conversation.

 

There are a lot of great industry organizations, talk about their value they bring.

 

Jessica: I am on the board of ILEA MSP I am the director of strategic sponsorships which plays well into this conversation, it’s all about relationships and building relationships. It’s been amazing.  I got involved 4 or 5 years ago, it was kind of transformative for me. It helped me expand my circle of people. I don’t get to spend time with people who don’t do events at my space. I got to work with caterers, producers, and one of my employees, that’s how I met her. We were working together at star Awards. Our first conversation was me overhearing what they had planned and being like “what’s that?”  But now we’ve formed a relationship and when I was looking to fill a position she was one of the first people I thought of.

 

Our chapter here in MSP is super active we won for the 5th year, Chapter of the Year. We are are hosting ILEA live next year which is really exciting. It’s been all over the place but it’s coming here in August.  

 

It’s been interesting when we are talking with the ILEA live board of governors, they were really surprised to hear how much sponsorship we have here. They struggle with that other places. We have such a robust industry of people who are willing to give and have an excitement for that.

 

You can contact Jessica Barrett at

jessica@machineshopmpls.com

Machineshopmpls.com

 

You can contact Beth Plates at

elizabeth@ecreativeevents.com

minne-golf.com

 

 

Meeting Minds by EideCom

 

Episode 17: Event Production Traps

Wanting to know tips and tricks straight from a partner in production?  This week Lisa and Charles sit down and go over traps event organizers can fall into.  They use their experience in the industry to create a “cheat sheet” for you.

 

Charles:  So glad you joined us on this special edition. This is the first time Lisa and I have sat down the two of us to share what’s in our brains.

 

Lisa:  I think this will be great cause we can finally share with you who we are, what we do, and how you can get better without anyone here to interfere.

 

Charles:  Here’s the deal, Lisa and I work in the production side of events.  I don’t know if you know that. The company I started back in 2003 is EideCom. It’s basically a full service audio visual creative organization.  Lisa has been with me about a year and a half. It’s been great, a lot of fun.

 

Today what we’re going to do, we’re going to talk about what Lisa and I run into, every mistake and scenario organizations do on accident that end up hurting and screwing up their process, costing them more money.  I said to LIsa the other day, we need to an episode that helps people understand some of the stuff so they don’t make these mistakes.

 

Lisa:  We just talked to Kris Lindahl about leadership in our last podcast. He talked a lot about how event organizers typically dont see through the lens of an attendee. We take a different approach where we sometimes come to the conference or event to just view it and see it and help make notes.  We’ve seen a lot of things.

 

Charles:  We have.  If you start as an attendee in your mind, you’re going to always put the visible things right on paper.  In fact often times I say if I’m not doing someone’s show, “Hey how about I come check it out.” I’ll sit in the audience and make notes. It’s not just all negative, I make positive notes too, like what went well.  I think one that I really want to kick off with, choosing the venue before you understand your production. How often do we have people that have chosen the venue, it’s a new one, and wants to know how much it will cost to produce the show.

 

Lisa: And it sometimes isn’t a great venue to do production in.  Sometimes it’s already set in stone and we think, do we tell them it’s really bad?  Or do we think, great we will work with this? From unions to the in house internet fees, things like that, you have to take into consideration what comes with the venue.

 

Charles:  I’ve always been blown away by some of the internet fees that have been charged to some organizations, it’s been $75,000 to $100,000 to provide internet to their attendees.  Wait for internet for attendees for their whole life forever? No just for three days. You mean in the ballroom? It’s just crazy to me!

 

The other big pitfall with your venue is understanding what type of requirements they have.  Like the in house – PSAV is a large organization and is in house in a lot of places. But there are other organizations that are in house at some places as well.  They have their own set of rules. Some places will require you to use them for any rigging, anything that’s going to hang from the ceiling. That rigging often times, we’re allowed to bring in our own motors and trussing, but we are required to let them rig it because it’s their building.  There are other scenarios where they require us to use their motors, truss, and rigging. We literally have to have contract to them. A lot of people when you book a venue don’t think of these things. You sign the deal and it says rigging power internet to be assessed. We come to help you with your show and they say $100,000 for rigging. There are other venues that wouldn’t cost that much.

 

Lisa:  It’s kind of a double edged sword because for a lot of our clients that aren’t doing rigging, we recommend they move into that rigging scenario because it adds a lot to their show.  But it adds a lot of expense so you have to realize what the investment actually costs.

 

Charles:  To those of you who don’t know what rigging is, it’s the stuff that hangs lighting and projection and other elements over your head.  You can make better use of the space because you are not using the floor to support things. It’s safer actually, you don’t have things hanging in the air ground supported that can topple over.  Not that they usually do but, nothing usually topples over. The possibility is lower.

 

The next one I want to come up with is underestimating what it takes to do a good production.  A lot of people they don’t realize how much staff and equipment it takes.

 

Lisa:  Or even just the lead time to set the room up.  We usually ask for a whole day prior to the show for our medium to large shows.  Our clients are like we only have the room the day of. That puts strain on your people and doesn’t make for the best environment and you don’t have time to run through the show.

 

Charles:  We have some really large shows that take up to four or five days to just load them in.  To your point, I think it’s important to note, if you have a four day load in and you are trying to do it in 2 days, you’re not really saying anything.

 

Lisa: You’re stressing everyone out and to go back to our episode of sleep, you’re team is going to be running at two percent.

 

Charles:  Basically human working hours to put it up, if it was going to be 10 people for 4 days now its 20-30 people for 2 days, if it’s even possible.  Don’t underestimate the cost involved in bringing in the right stuff and give yourself enough load in time to strike the show, AND load out show. We did an event recently very large in a new stadium, we had 2 hours to strike a show that took 2-3 days to set. How are you supposed to do that? This stuff takes time.  Don’t underestimate the cost or loading/out time. That’s really important.

 

Choose a venue before you choose your production company.  A lot of people say I use the inhouse team wherever we go. That is ok up unto a point, until you want a cohesive ongoing consistent look and feel year to year, show to show, city to city.

 

Lisa:  When your brand is a high level expensive beautiful brand, you want it to be consistent wherever you go.  If you are working with a new team, it’s hard to keep the brand on point.

 

Charles:  The relationship you have it’s not the same.  The people that are doing your production arn’t as invested.

 

Putting your budget into the wrong things.  #1 most important thing in my opinion is that everyone can hear when it comes to production.  Don’t sacrifice the quality of the audio. There’s science to back this up. If people can’t hear or there’s an echo or slap back that’s really annoying.  SLap back is where the audio is hitting the back of the room and then hitting you again, what you’re doing is you are exhausting your aducience quicker. WHen the human brain has to hear something and decipher and decode it, it requires a lot more energy for someone’s mind.  Take 5000 in an audience not every person is having to listen closer and try and decipher what’s being said.

 

LIsa:  Just think about someone where english is their second language, another level of decoding.

 

Charles:  If you don’t have good audio that is strong and clear the problem you are going to run into is audience exhaustion and you don’t want that.  Have you ever been in an experience that is 2-3 minutes long and you’re tired? There’s other times where you could sit there for hours. Even in restaurants and other places, think of places you can be there for a long time.  It’s requiring less brain power for you to be you and sit there. That is a real thing.

 

The next thing is understanding unions.  Unions are a part of what we do. They are apart of the events world.  Some people have their opinions some hate and love them. It doesn’t matter what matters is that they are apart of it.  For those of you that are anti-union, don’t go into a union situation and be a jerk. It doesn’t help you. Don’t try to go to the negotiations mat without respect from the people in charge.  This is their livelihood and the way of doing business. You chose a venue that has a union and you’re going to change it. You;re not going to put up and fight and they are going to give in.

 

LIsa:  If you’re willing to talk to your production company ahead of time, we have a good handle of this, certain towns have unions, others have less.  Just have that conversation in the beginning. Get some advice on that before you choose the prettiest coolest place.

 

Charles:  Totally, Chicago is notorious for having lots and lots of union.  It is what it is. They also have fabulous venues, centrally located, and a hub. There’s lots of reason’s to have a Chicago meeting, but know that when you work in chicago it’s going to be a part of life.

 

I have a client who did an event in Chicago and they were not aware of the cost the union would occur on the event.  I don’t need to speak numbers or names but it was a huge shock. They had already signed the deal, we were basically stuck there.  know the union situation. That has a huge impact on budget. The fees can be as large as the production fees.

 

Lisa:  Let’s talk about equipment.  Most event planners don’t know the difference in brands, but it matters.

 

Charles:  I don’t need to go into specific brands.  Each production company boasts they have the best brand.  Let’s look at vehicles: you have your regular american brands – Ford, Chevy, then you have your higher lines – Mercedes Benz, BMW, then you go even higher – Maserati, Aston Martin, then you have Lamborghini.  You don’t want to be using a go cart. A lot of companies they realize the meeting planner doesn’t really know so they show up with a go cart they bought from guitar center. Or they underestimated and rented the cheapest equipment.  

 

My perspective is there’s maybe 3-4 players in production

  1. High level creative companies that are full service production
  2. Mid level production company that own junkier equipment.  They take on small to medium shows but charge full service rates on junkier equipment
  3. Producer then who calls on different companies that specialize on things.  The producer knows the really good players and you don’t care because you trust them.
  4. Then there’s another kind of producer.  They are someone who pretends to be a production company and source out all of the production to one or many companies.  Which is to usually the 2nd company. They are trying to make as much margin as they possibly can on the show. They sell it for a market rate but bring in a second rate production group that does lower end stuff.  It’s so the lower end producer can make more money.

If you want us to take a look at who you are hiring reach out.  That stuff does matter. If you are tiny conference with a small budget, you’re not going to hire a group like us because we are way out of your budget.  If you are a large multi day conference and you are looking for people that can manage all the high level details that you probably would. We run into horror stories where people don’t realize what they are hiring.

 

Lisa:  If I went out on my own as a producer, I wouldn’t want to hire crappy people, even if it cost more I would hire a better production company because it will be a better experience.

 

Charles:  The other thing is being extremely picky with making sure that the crew is well trained.  For example I don’t mean just trained in the skill that the person should know already. Don’t be afraid to see some of the work that they have done.  The other thing is training in customer service. We spend so much time talking about customer service and communication. Unfortunately the production world is not focused on that.  The production world is generally focused on gear and knowledge and logistics. We built our business to be about the customer service experience. For those of you that are my competitors, listen up.  Read the book the Customer Rules by Lee Cockerell. I’m giving my secrets away.

 

Lisa:  I think instead of keeping the competition down get them to do better, it keeps us accountable to work on ourselves.

 

Charles:  Let’s talk about not doing enough pre planning.

 

Lisa: I just met with a client yesterday that said they rushed through rehearsal then during the show had issues with a video.  You need to make sure you save time to rehearse the show and that comes with making sure you have enough time in advance.

 

Charles:  That leads back to the first point we were making which is don’t be hasty when you choose your venue.  These are things you need to negotiate. Enough time. Before you sign the contract you can negotiate these things.  If you have to pay you have to pay. Budget enough time to load in/out and also to rehearse. Your executive team and leaders who are going to be apart of your event are not only going to feel special you invited them to a rehearsal but will also feel relieved when they walk on stage for the show.  It will be you who says it’s going to cost you a day in venue but if we’re not rehearsed what’s the point in general?

 

Lisa:  If the show does’t flow your money is in vain.

 

Charles:  Not having accurate drawings.  Lisa and I are sticklers about making sure the drawings are extremely accurate so when we show it to the customer and they show up on site there’s zero surprises.  Remember, this is a big one. Surprises are bad. I know when you were a kid you loved surprises but surprises when the client shows up are not good they are bad. A good way to fix that is to have good drawings that are accurate.  Even if they are not photo real have them accurate.

 

Lisa:  Also if you have the budget for it, do an onsite meeting.  Even if your shows in california and your production is in Chicago.  Take a day to fly out there and see the spaces. Sometimes there are hidden things you didn’t know about that day of could ruin things.  

 

Charles:  Don’t be afraid to ask your production company to do the drawings for you that include other elements.  “Can you do a drawing with chairs in it?” Don’t be afraid to ask because they will help you to see and not show up surprised.

 

Not requiring uniforms:  As the meeting planner organizer, make sure that everybody on the production crew are dressed professionally.  Ask your production provider how their people will look on site. That is huge. Last thing you want is your executive team saying “hey what’s with the guy in the hoodie holding the camera. We’re at an executive summit, no hoodies allowed.”

 

Lisa:  The branding aspect of it, especially if you’re in a venue with union, you want to know what crew you are talking to.  If they don’t have an identifying mark how do you know who is on the team.

 

Charles:  Some people will hire an independent security company going around making sure everyone is following the rules.  On certain shows I do that. I have an independent security consultant and make sure everyone is dressed properly and identified properly. When you are dealing with audiences and crowds you want to make sure everyone is safe.  I know I veered off on the safety issue but that comes back to a sharp looking crew.

 

Lisa:  On thing we’ve been really talking about as a team is, a lot of people go to their production company and share what they did last year and it was fine and want us to do the same thing.  We take a different approach, we ask how can we create a better experience. Everyone that comes to these yearly events already expects something new and exciting. If you’re production can’t come to you and help you to make it more engaging, it’s same old same old.

 

Charles:  People always ask what I do for work, people come to us to change their event game.  I think it’s important as a meeting organizer that you’re expecting out of your vendors and partners, we consider ourselves a partner, that they are bringing you new ideas.  You have to match that with a healthy budget. If you are expecting your production company or designer to bring you new ideas but you are a cheap-wad, they may not because they know you don’t have the money for it.  Make sure your appetite and budget are close to each other. I know they will not be the same, just make sure they are close to each other. Put the budget in the creative. We didn’t use to charge for the creative services, we’d come up with ideas, but I realized that is where the values.

 

Lisa:  We could be the nicest people and that’s how we won our customers, but if you don’t have any new ideas or anything different, why would people keep paying their friend if they don’t have anything new.

 

Charles:  Don’t take this the wrong way, you don’t want to get into the flavor of the month club where you are taking the wheel and trying to reinvent it.  Certain things like audio, if it’s working well don’t change it. When it comes to giving your audience a fresh new feel and look every year, it’s worth it.  You want to remember everyone who attends your event, you are competing with other things. Not only are those other things entertainment or discretionary income or family functions that could interfere with the need to go to the conference you’re putting on, remember you’re competing.  If every year they know it’s a treat to go, that makes a huge difference.

 

Lisa:  I’ve signed up for things and didn’t go back because it was boring, hopefully your conference doesn’t fall into that.

 

Charles:  We were just in our new presentation theatre and it’s funny to think about how many different ways you can put on an event, it’s unlimited.  We were watching the Adobe Max conference, the opening sequence was inspiring. We were like “oh my gosh it is possible!” Make sure you’re gathering inspiration from other things.

 

Lisa:  If you’re an event organizer look at things for inspiration.  See what other people are doing. If they are doing something cooler than you on the same week as yours…. Just saying.

 

Charles: Lisa and I are not involved in the operations side of the business.  That’s for good reason. It allows us to think about the customer and what they need and allows us to come up with new ideas.  The production and operations side of the business, they love when we hand them a new idea because they can draw it up and it’s cool.  They didn’t have time to think up things because they were busy at shows. Make sure as you’re working with your production company that you are being fed new ideas and they are staying up on the trends.  But do not sacrifice things that work. What else do you have?

 

Lisa:  Familiar team.  If you have a team you know and trust, can bring to any venue, and know what you’re getting that’s invaluable.

 

Also, a lot of people nowadays are looking at multi-year multi-event contracts and how can that help your business have a more consistent budget, product, and relationship with your production team.  

 

Charles:  There are economies of scale and they are cost saving.  There is a cost of going out and finding new business. It costs something.  If we have a multi-year agreement with someone, you’re removing the need to replace that business every year.  We are willing to give special perks and discounts so we are not worried about winning the business next year. It works fantastically for you as the client because then you can ask them to add value and save cost if you are guaranteeing them business.

 

Lisa:  DOn’t do that right away, just because you don’t know how you will work with a new company.  Do a trial event or a couple and if you like what we are doing, then let’s talk about it. You’re not going to get married on the first date.

 

Charles:  Some of our great wins have come that way, from starting out something small and realizing it works really well!

 

Follow EideCom

Follow Charles on Instagram Charlesevaneide

Find Lisa on Linkedin or email her at lisa@eidecom.com

 

 

Meeting Minds by EideCom

Episode 6: Producing Work with a Purpose

Talonya Geary is part of the Tony Robbins organization, an author, and an entrepreneur! She is talking all about what it means and looks life to live on purpose, her new book, and what question you need to be asking yourself.

 

TELL US ABOUT THE THINGS YOU’VE LEARNED ABOUT HOW TO LIVE ON PURPOSE  AND HOW DO YOU DO THAT EVERY DAY?

I love that you are asking that question! It is so important. When I first started speaking in 2012, I spoke about hard skills with a soft skill twist, like negotiating tactics and communication, but over the last 5 years I’ve gone through my own transformation and realized those things are great but I was looking for something with meaning. I wanted to know the “why.” I think people are asking that question now more than ever. I don’t think they were asking it to the degree and frequency we are asking it now, but now if you aren’t asking “why am I doing ______,” you are kind of asleep at the wheel! Some people don’t even know they are asleep so hopefully this wakes them up!

HOW DO YOU WAKE UP EVERYDAY AND FIND PURPOSE IN WHAT YOU ARE DOING?

The distinction to make here is that it is a daily practice. My analogy is this, and maybe it’s just me, but I thought living on purpose meant you get hit by some meteor and the meteor gives you your purpose. I feel like people are waiting to get hit by that meteor! If you know what your purpose is and your waking up everyday and chasing that, then some people are like, “where’s my meteor? It hasn’t hit me yet.” Instead of realizing that you have to make the choice every single day to live on purpose. I’ll give you an example of someone that lives physically on purpose. So you have someone that has a really good body and is really healthy. Well that person has to choose every day, several times throughout a day, to live with a body on purpose. Meaning, drinking water over soda, working out instead of sleeping in, etc. They have to make that choice at every crossroad. Same thing goes for living on purpose. I wake up every day and I write in my notebook. I have 6 principles I answer every day. Those 6 principles can be found in my book. I make the choice every day to live by those 6 principles and rewrite them every day. Or if I find one that doesn’t serve me anymore, I update it and I check in with it. For me, living on purpose is a choice. It is something you do everyday and it is something that is within everyones reach.

SO YOU ARE WAKING UP EVERY DAY AND DOING MENTAL EXERCISES, IN A WAY, RIGHT?

Yeah I do a spiritual exercise too, but I have done this for so long that I think this way. People ask me what my secret is and the secret is that I wake up everyday and I go do. Consistency. Every single day. And because of that there are some days that I have less time, say 3-5 minutes, to do this practice but I’ve conditioned myself, this is my life style, so I think this way.

HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU ARE DOING THE RIGHT CAREER? SOMETIMES WHEN YOU ARE NEW IN YOUR CAREER YOU STOP AND WONDER IF YOU ARE DOING WHAT YOU ARE CALLED TO DO, HOW ARE THEY TO KNOW? ANY GOOD INSIGHT ON THAT?

For me, the end game is “how quickly do I get to serving others?” I think the end game should always be “what is it going to take for you to get to where you’re living a life of contribution?” And if you are working and your life is all about you and how much money you are making, you are going to be addicted to yourself and that is a quick road to disappointment.

To me, I share this in my book, living on purpose meant starting to change the question to, “how can I serve somebody else, a community, an industry?” And there were days I had nothing to give and I still asked that question. By nothing to give I mean I had nothing. I was a mess. I still forced myself to ask that question. How can I stop obsessing over myself and instead serve and give to something other than myself. At one of my businesses we do corporate talent development and I always tell people, “you have to focus on getting to where you’re living life at a level of mastery” and I learned that from Tony. Then, they always ask me what that means because it seems so out of reach, but when you are living at a level of mastery it means your cup is running over. You now have enough that you can pass onto others. I guarantee everyone has reached a level of mastery somewhere in their life.

LET’S TALK ABOUT PEOPLE THAT KNOW THEY ARE DOING WHAT THE LOVE, BUT THEY DON’T KNOW ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION. HOW DO YOU KNOW IF THE ORGANIZATION OR COMPANY YOU WORK FOR IS REALLY DOING THAT FOR OTHERS AND THAT YOU CAN GET BEHIND THEIR MISSION?

I used to do consulting for companies in helping them design their strategic plans. It was interesting that all these entrepreneurs and great businesses had no strategic plan. To them a strategic plan, especially entrepreneurs, think a strategic plan is for a Fortune 500 company. It’s not. It’s a set of guiding principles that guides that organization every single day to reach goals that then get replaced by new goals. For those that have completed a strategic plan, the second phase (or third depending on what model you follow) is always about values and beliefs. What do we value and believe as an organization, as an industry, and as a culture? A lot of people aren’t fulfilled because their values and beliefs individually are in complete conflict with their organization or industry.

HOW DO YOU MAKE AN EVENT THAT SERVES OTHER PEOPLE? AT YOUR TONY ROBBINS EVENTS, HOW DO YOU DO IT WHERE YOU ARE SERVING OTHER PEOPLE AND THEY ARE THE ONES WALKING AWAY WITH THE WIN?

Well if you’ve ever been to a Tony Robbins event you will hear this question, “How do I add more value to them than anyone else?” Tony’s guiding principle is 100% about serving. I know Tony on stage and behind stage and his guiding question is the same. He is all about adding value to every body at every time no matter what.

HOW DO YOU CRAFT AN EVENT THAT SERVES THE AUDIENCE WELL BEYOND THE VALUE THEY PAY FOR?

We are asking that question, first of all. We ask that question when marketing, when selecting music, etc. I always relate it to: integrity. How do I infuse so much integrity into this experience that it leaves everyone shocked. We don’t skimp on anything. We want every person to feel the integrity, from the moment they open an email to the moment they leave the door.

SO IT SOUNDS LIKE COST IS KIND OF AN AFTER THOUGHT? IT’S MORE ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE.

It’s about the why. If you’ve heard Tony speak at some past staff events he talks about how he used to have 12 day events where he was basically paying for people to go through transformation. But those years after years of him paying to keep integrity is the reason why this man makes millions of dollars.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR BOOK. WHAT LED YOU TO WRITE THIS BOOK?

The book for me is 100$ my purpose right now. It is called “#goDo: How to Live on Purpose” The title comes from a song called “Go Do” by an Icelandic artist, Jónsi. The book is in three parts. One-third my personal story and how I’ve overcome horrible tragedy, like my brother’s suicide. It’s also what I’ve learned in the past 10 years and how you can implement that. Basically, it’s a 6 step daily goal setting exercise. The third part of the book is the data and research behind the 6 steps. I didn’t set out to write a book, I set out to get my life together. Like I said earlier, 5 years ago I was egocentric, now as I wrap up the book I am proud of it because it finally has a real person behind it. At the end of the day, the book is not about me, it is about contributing and serving others.

WHEN IS IT AVAILABLE?

Great question! You can preorder the book now. Go to talonyageary.com/preorder and you will get an autographed copy shipped right to you. It hits the streets, bookstores, and Amazon on August 23rd! If you want a sample of it, text Go Do to 345345 and that’ll send a preface of the book, a bit about me, some testimonials from some very influential people, etc.

Look up Unleash the Power Within for everything with Tony Robbins! To talk to Talonya, email her at talonya@talonyageary.com!

 

 

Meeting Minds by EideCom

Episode 7: Next Level Fundraising with CCRF

Jim Leighton, VP of Events and Partnerships, and HaiVy Thompson, Director of Marketing and Community Engagement from Children’s Cancer Research Fund, join us today to share how they are changing the game of fundraising! In this episode you will learn what makes an event an experience, how to tell a story, and a special premier of CCRF’s big announcement!

 

HOW ARE YOU KEEPING THE DRIVE TO ALWAYS PUSH THE NEEDLE? HOW DO YOU GUYS KEEP IN THE MINDSET OF TAKING IT TO THE NEXT LEVEL?

One of the key things is that we put it into our value statement. One of our values as an organization is innovation. Our team and all of our partners, they know that. We are not afraid to innovate. Personally, I get bored. I don’t want to do the same thing every year. We have the great opportunity to create and play a little bit. Because we are in the non-profit space, we know we have to be cost-effective and money does matter. But you never know where the best next thing is going to come from! We have to diversify. Our event can’t just stay in the ballroom, so we play in the digital and virtual space. Innovation is at our core.

Also, we get so energized by our donors, our fundraisers, the kids, and the families we work with. We get so much inspiration from them to keep pushing ourselves year after year.

WHEN YOU START CRAFTING NEXT YEAR’S EVENT, HOW DO YOU WEAVE IN THE CAUSE INTO THE AUDIENCE’S EXPERIENCE?

We start by thinking about what are some compelling stories that are happening with our families right now. We get so much inspiration from the things they are dealing with in their cancer journey. Even when the journey is complete and they are living post-cancer, there are a lot of challenges that come with that. We stay close with our families and we learn a lot from them. Then, we talk to our researchers and ask them what they are doing, what they are excited about, and what is new and different that donors might really enjoy hearing about. We take that and start there. Then, with all the event components, we ask how can we weave that into each and every moment whether that be a gala or a walk/run.

Impact in our world is challenging to show. Impact takes a long time. Research takes a long time. One of the things at CCRF we pride ourselves on is the time from bench to bedside. Because we focus on certain research we have had some situations where that has been greatly shortened and then we can tell that great story! In research it can be decades before we get to clinical trials. So instead of asking people to give money now and see their result in 30 years, we focus on those things that have had a greater impact in a shorter amount of time. We build those relationships with the researchers to share those stories.

ONE THING YOU ARE VERY WELL KNOWN FOR IS CREATING AN AUDIENCE EXPERIENCE LIKE NOTHING ELSE. SO COULD YOU TALK US THROUGH YOUR MENTALITY. HOW DO YOU MAKE THE EVENT SO SPECIAL FOR THE AUDIENCE?

Thank you so much. We think about all of the ways people are engaging. All of the senses. The one we haven’t figured out is smell, but we will get it.

In 2007 we had a mom share her story and it was so impactful (tune in to hear the story!). That was the moment in my career that I said, “Authentic storytelling. How can we continue to tell these stories?” And then we started assembling a team. So now with HaiVy and her marketing team, our partners (who are so important because we need people to amplify that story and craft it) we really put stories and mission at the forefront of every event.

A few years ago, we took the guests on an experience that the children go through. So going back to the five senses, we wanted people to experience an MRI, because that is something a lot of the kids have to go through and it is really scary for them. You have to lay really still and go through this dark tunnel. So we worked with you guys, EideCom, to really build the sound for that and we dimmed the lights and we got people to experience what an MRI feels like to signify how challenging the journey is for families, and kids especially, and that their support makes it possible so that this doesn’t have to happen in the future. That was really cool because it involved all the senses. We want to give the guests something truly memorable that they can share with their families and friends tomorrow.

We can’t do any of this without our partners. You need to have partners you can trust. Like you guys, EideCom, were so onboard with our MRI idea and you made it possible. There was a lot of things that could have gone wrong!

THERE IS SOMETHING REALLY POWERFUL ABOUT KEEPING UP WITH EVENTS, LIKE WHAT YOU DID WITH THAT MOTHER SHARING HER STORY. HOW DO YOU GUYS STAY UP WITH ALL THE STUFF THAT’S GOING ON AND FIGURE OUT WHAT IS RELEVANT TO YOUR CAUSE?

It’s about relationships. Great relationships with the researchers. Then, collaborations. We have a great collaboration with a group of moms called Momcology. This group is made up of 6,000 women across the country that have the unfortunate common ground of having a child with cancer. We have people on our team involved with that, listening to what is going on. The first thing in sharing a great story is that you have to listen. Then, we think how can we effectively share that story. One thing we are being more cognizant of is utilizing digital and social media, figuring out how we can tell these stories before we get into the ballroom and how do we continue the conversation after they leave the ballroom?

The other thing to add is that we have invested resources into relationships and listening. You can’t just go out and find a great story. You have to have relationships with families, researchers, caretakers, and then those stories bubble up over time. So that is the number one thing I recommend a lot of marketing teams to do, invest in an outreach person.

HAVE YOU GUYS EVER GONE BACK AND RETOLD A STORY, LIKE WITH AN UPDATE?

Definitely! One that we have retold and has new chapters to expound on is Mindy. Her son, Connor, has a brain tumor and she now works for us, but in the mid 2000s we featured her story at Dawn of a Dream and a few other marketing places. Connor was a baby at that point and had a few treatments for his cancer already. Then, a decade later things started to change. The after effects of all the treatments cause him to start having seizures. And for the past ten years his family was thinking they had conquered the cancer and they would be fine, and all of sudden the reality hits again. We shared that story.

WHEN YOU SAY FOCUS ON THE THINGS YOU NEED TO CHANGE, BUT DON’T CHANGE EVERYTHING, WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?

This is about guest experience, not necessarily story telling. We look at everything about the event afterwards and we see what worked, what should be tweaked, and what didn’t go well. So for us, we will always have a live auction because it works. We really want to focus on the things that will have to most impact because again we don’t have a lot of money. Some organizations like to do things new every year and go to a new venue every year. And for us, well next year we are going to a new venue, but it has been 15 years at the same place! To us it is important to have consistency with our partners so you can make those impactful changes. One thing we try to change-up is how we tell the story. So not just through video, but through live interviews, live talent, etc. We try to switch it up so you have a variable of experiences throughout the night. We have found that in person story telling is something magical. The thing about focusing on the things that work, know who your audience is. It doesn’t matter if we are bored. Just because we might be bored with it, doesn’t mean our audience is!

We also think about the morning after. I call it “the Caribou experience.” I want someone who has attend our gala for the first time to talk about the event they were at last night when they go to the coffee shop the next morning. If they say, “I was at a great event last night,” that’s good but I’m sure they say that about a lot of events. I want them to explode with passion. So we really think about what we want that Caribou conversation to be when we are crafting the message and planning the event. If all they can recall is the dinner and drinks and not the actual message, we had them there as a guest, not a donor.

Awareness and story telling is all a way to get funds raised. Raising as much money as we can is the key to all of this. Experience matters to fundraising, so when we have a new team member or partner I talk about the guest walking into the room. Say that guest has $500 in their pocket. Every time they have a bad experience, like valet takes too long, there goes a $100. So we don’t play games like that. It takes the whole team to be involved in making every experience matter. Registration has everything to do with revenue. All the little things combine to make a major difference.

LET’S TALK ABOUT DOING YOUR HOMEWORK ON WHO IS IN THE ROOM.

In gala situations, talk to your table hosts. Who is it they are bringing? We are working on personas of our gala guests. There are a few assumptions we make, like they are from the Twin Cities or the west metro and they probably go to a gala a month. So we need to step up our game. But what excites them? What are the types of things that they want to do? This is a group of people who, for the most part, can buy what they want. But maybe they weren’t thinking of going on a trip to Australia, but trips sell! There is a lot of talk about balance, like there has to be something for the sports person or this or that, but for us we know trips are going to do well. So I’m not going to put in a Nascar experience, because there might only be one or two people in the room that care about that.

TELL US MORE ABOUT TRIPS.

We know about our demographic. They like first class. If you don’t include it, they will probably upgrade anyways but be crabby about it. So it’s all about knowing your audience. If we were doing an event at a school or a smaller event, we wouldn’t do luxury trips. Also, it’s about collaboration like we said. We have an amazing partnership with a luxury travel company, Travel Beyond. Since 2010 we’ve been working with them to curate these trips. We trust them and they are excited about what we are doing. We sit down with them and they tell us what is hot and trending. They also do such a great job at selling the trip that night. They come up with the description, they will speak about it, they truly work with us in our event.

A LOT OF NEW PLANNERS ASK, “HOW MUCH DO WE NEED TO RAISE THE NIGHT OF AND HOW MUCH  SHOULD WE RAISE BEFORE THE EVENT?” CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT?

This is something I’ve grown on. Raise the money before you get in the room. You don’t know what is going to happen that night. We raise the most money through our Fund a Need, a direct ask. So as a fundraiser and human, that makes me feel really good, because the donors are not getting anything out of it. These people are giving purely philanthropical. But that doesn’t happen without us doing our homework and building relationships and asking for that money. We can try to control the experience and event, but we can’t control the weather. So what if we had an event on a snow storm and people didn’t show up? You have to build your relationships and get as much money raised as possible beforehand.

I would say we raise more than half of our goal beforehand. Our live auction does do really well but we know some people like to donate privately. We are very conscientious about that. We have a rule with our auctioneer, never call out a person’s name. We want to give recognition, but not too much.

TELL ME ABOUT THE NEED TO VARY YOUR OVERALL FUNDRAISING PORTFOLIO?

So this is more than just what’s happening with the gala. As an organization, we are getting about 50% of our revenue from partnerships and events. So it can’t just be the gala. One of the biggest things we did is we invested in this peer-to-peer fundraising. That is a whole different fundraising conversation. It is not about logistics or people in the room, it is about where we are with fundraising. We created an opportunity for people to not have to be in the ballroom. It is the Great Cycle Challenge. They ride their bike anytime in the month of June and they set their mileage and fundraising goal. We engage volunteers to fundraise for us all over the country. This started in 2015, and in the first year we raised 1.7 million dollars. It is extremely effective and it allows us to play and be a little more creative on the other events. It is all possible because of digital! We leverage Facebook and social media. 10 years ago this would not have been possible. It is really cool to be able to take advantage of the new audiences. We get to expose ourselves and give other people the chance to know us all over the country, which is really cool.

The funds are raised all digitally. For scope, the first year we raised that 1.7M and this last year we were at 6.8M. We had 50,000 people participating and of that 15,000 fundraised. We couldn’t employ 15,000 people across the country, so we are now engaging volunteer fundraisers to do the work we couldn’t do. As an organization we pay attention the trends. Our legacy is the gala, we started as a gala, and could easily be a nice organization that does really great events here in the Twin Cities, but the trends led us to opportunities else where. We are now a national event organization. That was four years ago and now we are asking, “Now what? What’s next?”

LET’S TALK ABOUT THE OVERALL EVENT EXPERIENCE, GALA OR NOT. HOW ARE YOU TAKING THE GUESTS ON A JOURNEY?

From the moment they get invited to the event, we want the experience to start there. For us it is a lot of careful planning and making sure it is authentic to our brand. So before the invitation even arrives, they are hearing from us via email or social media or whatever. We want to make sure that when that invite arrives it is consistent to what they have been hearing from us throughout the year. So that to us is the most important thing. We want to set the tone for what they will be experiencing. That is something we want to build on for our next gala. How can we get people really excited? We want to set the theme. Right away there needs to be a key message. When they walk into the room that night or pull up to the valet, we don’t want them to be surprised. We want them to be delighted, not shocked that they walked into this thing they weren’t expecting. So it starts long before they purchase a ticket.

Once they are in the room, it is utilizing decor in different ways to lead them on that journey. We have been partners with BeEvents for years and they know how to create a space authentic to what we are looking for. They create focal points, not just little things all over. Sometimes it is using the stories to fill the room with decor. Some years we’ve had like an art gallery of children’s faces. We’ve turned technical problems into an art installation. It is really important we have great partners out there doing amazing things because they bring back new ideas to us! We do a good job of asking our partners to do that. We don’t have a laundry list of what we need. We like to empower them and give them creative freedom, because they are the experts, not us.

WHERE ARE YOU HEADED?

This all started a little while ago, and it started as a resource conversation. We ask a lot of our marketing team and donor services, so we were looking at our calendars to see what we could move around so they weren’t feeling such a crunch. We want to allow the marketing team to have the time to do everything well. So I was trying to figure out what we completely control, because we do a lot of partnership events that we don’t have full control over, like golf tournaments, radio shows, etc. And the thing that came to mind was the gala. We decided to move the gala from November, which it has been for 15-20 years, to the spring. This can be a bit risky, because it is a more competitive season, but makes more sense for us and our resources. Then, we though about our venue. We have been at The Depot for a long time, it’s great and we love it! But we heard of this great new venue that people are really excited about and we wanted to be part of it, so we started the conversation with The Armory. So I went to the space and I realized it might not really work for all the things we usually do, because it is more of a concert space. So I thought maybe it’s time for some national entertainment. I went to The Armory with the idea of doing dinner and then a concert, and they weren’t really onboard. A few weeks later we were talking and they brought up the idea! It was great. We started talking about it and I realized I had no idea how we were going to do it, because we are bringing in now two different groups of people. We have our core audience that will attend the dinner, but then we want to bring in up to 5,000 other people for the concert! We now have the former producers of Macy’s Glamorama that are working with us to produce this! We feel comfortable with them and their experience.

We are so excited, because our audience for the gala is getting younger. We see younger people in the room and in the analytics. We wanted to be able to build a new experience to match the new generation of donors and attract new people. I believe this plan that we have is going to help us achieve those goals.

The last part of our transformation was the name. Does Dawn of a Dream still make sense? So the team got together and brainstormed. We realized there are a lot of hurdles and sensitivities we have to be aware of with changing the name, but at the end of the day we are producing a new event. So on Saturday, April 27th, at The Armory you will see the debut of Dream.

HOW DO PEOPLE FIND OUT MORE ABOUT IT?

We still have the website, dawnofadream.com, which would be the place to go. We will be announcing talent around December or January. It’s challenging because we are a non-profit producing this concert so we have to get the right price. Cost per dollar raised is the key we go by. We do have a dream team put together that have good connections though! So be on the lookout for that.

This is an event you will not want to miss! Check out dawnofadream.com for more info and childrenscancer.org for more about Children’s Cancer Research Fund.

 

Meeting Minds by EideCom