Event Production

S.2 Episode 8: 3 Big Points you Should Consider for your Event

This week Charles sits down and talks about three things that he has found to be really important from his time in the events world.  He talks about hiring a planner, hiring A/V and production, as well as maintaining your relationships with clients.  Use these points to up your events game!

S.2 Episode 7 What is the Role of a Visionary?

When you are thinking of new ideas what is too big?  How do we create new things that are fun and engaging without being too crazy?  This week we brought back Amy Zaroff, and she spent some time interviewing Charles. Listen this week’s episode with two visionaries talking about creating. 

S.2 Episode 4 Uncovering the Inc 5000 Event

We are joined by the VP of the Inc 5000 Event Breana Murphy. Tell us about you!

I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years. I started in Marketing, I’ve worked in Media my entire career. I’ve worked in the corporate marketing department, and I grew up there, we put on varying types of events. We did roadshows, tours, pop up stores.  I was there for 10 years. I worked for rolling stone and did stuff on the festival circuit. Then I ended up here as a freelancer. Was recruited by a friend of mine who worked in the industry and she needed someone to help produce the Inc 5000. This will be my 16th 5000 next year.

Tell us about the Inc 5000 event.

The Inc magazine is the premier magazine that services small business magazine.  Every year we publish the Inc 5000 list, the fastest growing small businesses in America. It’s a three day event that celebrates their achievement. It’s not easy to make the list. The folks there are people really excited to come and celebrate their achievement and be recognized for their hard work. Its rooted in content. Everything about our event starts with the content and how we can better empower our audience and readers.

1 day pre conference

2 day conference

1 day gala event.

Tell us about the conference.

The attendees are people who have made the list. Business owners. The speakers are generally other founders. We try to put on the stage notable founders, Mark Cuban to Ben Chestnut, people who have had remarkable success. Or we also do teachers, people who are inspirational. Our audience is across the industry so we don’t cater to any specific industry.

How many attendees?

Just shy of 2000

Where is it?

We move and try to keep it in resort areas. We are in San Antonio this year, coming up it will be in Scottsdale, then Palm Springs.

When it comes to the event, tell us about your process.

There’s two parts, multiple actually. We have the logistics side and the content side. Last week I sat down with my editorial team and my programming team and we brainstormed who will be the big names, who will be interesting, who will make impact, who is relevant, we made a laundry list of people we’d like to go after. That’s on the content side. On the logistic side, the floral plan, anticipating if we have enough rooms, our setup how we like it, keep our sponsors in line.

We have a lot of return sponsors because we deliver a lot. We give them a lot of ROI on their investment. If they keep coming back we are doing something right.

Tell me about the design.

We redesign. Every year we try to inject something new. What we did this year that was successful and unique was a session in the round. We do concurrent sessions and gave the options of really small pointed conversations with business leaders. 30 minute topics with a maximum of 10 people per table. Then they switched and moved tables. Or they could do a breakout session.

It wasn’t just providing them with keynote, it’s interactive.

And that is probably the note we get back most. How can we provide more networking opportunities and that is something we strive to do. We do a kick off networking before our opening session. We do purposeful networking. We do an in depth survey to drill down the content pieces. They are there to be inspired and they want to meet other people.

It’s lonely to be an entrepreneur. You get them in a room it’s amazing they start solving each others problems.

How much does a company need to grow to make your list?

There’s not a set number, you have to be in business for at least 4 years and you have to have over a million in revenue. The growth percentage ranges. Some grow 3000%.

Do you include the room and other things with the ticket?

The ticket is just itself. The marketing department handles that. We have a room block, almost 800 room nights reserved. We have a portal where they can book and get a discounted rate. We do not arrange for travel or pay for hotel.

Tell me about when you are doing the coordination and working with hotel, are you negotiating directly with them?

I work with an organization that I connected with a few years ago. Hotels for Hope. They help us negotiate the room block. I work with them because my contact there is amazing and because the process of managing that block is hard and I have a small team. That process is made turnkey with working with them.

What do they do?

Part of their commission goes to a charitable organization.

When it comes to pricing your ticket, have you had to move it around?

It has stayed, we have separate consumer marketing team that handles that. The price has been pretty consistent year after year. We have to keep in mind inflation. The industry average is 10% i do my best to negotiate that. But food goes up by 10%.

Tell me more about your programming.

I have an executive producer, I’ve worked with her for six years. We sit down and do a draft agenda. We do a lot of planning with our editorial team. We look at who is making waves or has something new coming out, something that will be relevant and topical. We start with key names we want to put in and we try to round out the content and make sure we hit all the notes. Talk about money, company culture, human resources, economically, we empower them to grow their businesses.

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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

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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

 

 

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