Event Production

S.2 Episode 8: 3 Must Know Tips for Events

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!



So today we are going to be talking about things like tips for hiring planners, talking about A/V and production. I really want to dive deep on that one. Then we’re going to talk about a few tricks I have to make your relationship with your team, your executive leadership team, or even your client a little bit better than maybe it is today.

 

So first we’re going to dive into talking about my tips for hiring a planner. We’re currently in the process of hiring a planner ourselves, but for years I have personally worked with planners and I have to say the right planner is absolutely an asset to your team. Whether this is somebody that’s internal or this is somebody that is being hired by a production or being hired by the client. A planner is absolutely a godsend in the right context. I have to tell you whether they’re managing just the budget or all the way up to like onsite details, you really cannot replace the need or the position of a planner with anything else. This person is a key component and I think it’s important to keep in mind there are a few things we need to look at when we hire planners.

 

I had a friend of mine, Amy Zaroff in last week and we were talking about planning, we were talking about all of this stuff around what makes a great vision for an event. And then also what makes a great planner. But I want to reiterate to you guys a couple things that I really learned and one of them was you want someone to be kind of a rule breaker. And not in the negative sense. But you want somebody who is willing to think outside the box. Somebody who’s going, yes, I know that’s how we’ve done it for 10 years or yes, I know that’s how the industry does it, but is that good for us? Is that good for our event? You want this person to question the status quo.

 

The other thing is when you’re looking for a planner, you want to have someone who is very detail oriented. A while back we did an episode with a gal talking about, she is a spreadsheet Ninja and I thought, man, what a cool thing to claim for yourself to be the spreadsheet Ninja. A lot of times in events our world lives and dies by these spreadsheets. And so somebody who can really manage and track detail with spreadsheets is absolutely a must. It is absolutely a skill that you cannot, um, you know, go without.

 

The other really important thing is as you guys probably know, we need to have people that are able to make a decision without clearing it from above. So a great planner is going to be given enough authority to make an onsite decision that needs to get executed right now, hey, we’re thinking about adding additional seating in the back in this area. Is that okay? Well, I don’t know. Let me call the manager of this person who get ahold of this assistant to the CEO. And you really want somebody who can be autonomous that can make those decisions on the spot and can actually be impactful. Another really key component here is someone who has realistic ability to give the people and vendors they’ve hired the autonomy as well. And the reason I say that is have you ever been in a situation where you’ve had so many people doing so many different things, but you have this one person overseeing them and this one person wants to be in control of all of it. So everyone literally has to ask this person for permission or their thoughts or their opinion on everything. I recommend finding someone who is, willing to give autonomy to the people they have delegated stuff too. So if they’ve hired a production company like us, we have a good enough relationship where they trust our decisions. If there are budgetary items that are going to be added, you obviously need clearance for those types of things. But in general, someone who feels comfortable giving that authority away just as they have been given that authority. I have to say another qualification or characteristics I look for is assertiveness. Now some of you listen to this and you go assertiveness. I don’t want to be pushy. The truth is that assertiveness and pushiness are two different things. Being assertive is absolutely crucial in the events world, especially if you’re in a position where you are making decisions and you’re guiding other people, and I’m not saying be assertive, like be a blowhard or be a jerk, I’m saying be assertive. Look for somebody who is assertive. This is if you’re hiring or if you’re the planner yourself, being more assertive actually plays well to the overall picture. Now obviously don’t step outside your role or don’t have someone, don’t hire someone who’s going to constantly step on everybody else’s toes. But having someone who is assertive in the planning position is absolutely critical. Somebody who’s decisive and assertive and all these other things. So those are the kind of the things that I’ve been looking for and those are the things that I have seen are successful in the planning world.

 

Also experience for those of you guys who are listening, who don’t have a lot of experience planning events, I guess for those of you who have been doing it for say less than two years, or if you’ve done less than say, 50 events, I would recommend hooking up with an organization that can give you more experience. I’m not saying work for free for them, but don’t expect them to pay you top dollar when you don’t have the experience yet. Right. Use it as an opportunity to gain more experience and while you’re there, add the value that you can add.

 

So let’s talk about tips for hiring A/V and production. This is like a giant, hairy beast that’s sitting in my office. Everyday I walk in and we meet with some client or prospective client and we talk about production. I always break it down into basically three different types of production companies. Now granted I am in one of these boxes and I am more biased to one of these boxes because that’s the box I’m in. It doesn’t mean anyone is good or bad, they’re just different. But as a client, I think it’s important you are able to differentiate the differences between these different things.

 

So number one is a producer. A lot of times they say they’re a production company, but really they’re a very talented producer who knows how to orchestrate all of the necessary production elements. So this is someone who maybe has been in the business a long time and they say, you know, I don’t want to carry the overhead of equipment or a staff, but I have companies I can call on that have all of those things. A producer generally will put together their team and bring their team in to execute a show. Sometimes they tell you this is how they’re doing it. And other times they just say, no, I’m a production company. And they contract it. It’s not good or bad, it’s just one way of doing it. I think as the client, it’s important that you’re able to know what’s going on when you hire someone. The one thing I will tell you is that producers have a need to make an income. And a lot of times they’re making an income on all of the different elements that they are bringing in.

 

So then the second type of production company that I’ve noticed is out there is kind of your lower smaller event production companies, companies that they’re really tooled to say, do you know, 800 people and below the equipment that they own is less expensive equipment. It’s not really your industrial grade equipment. It’s something you could order through guitar center if you wanted to. It’s something that you could go online and just order straight from full compass or These organizations do a decent job doing smaller meetings. If you’re a corporation having a luncheon for a hundred people, you’re not going to hire a creative event company to come put together like a pitch and the whole thing, right? You just need a few speakers on sticks and maybe a stage wash. Well, in that instance, you’re in a good spot when you hire one of these smaller production companies. One thing I’ve noticed those that a lot of times the quality of equipment they have is not so good. I’m not saying always, but a lot of times the equipment’s older, it’s beat up, it’s been rented and used for all kinds of different things. Just make sure that when you’re vetting a production organization that you know the company is, is in line with the size and scale of work you’re doing. So if you’re a meeting planner and you’re just planning a lunch in for one to 200 people in a, you know, a small hotel ballroom and it’s not a big deal, one of these smaller groups might be really good for you. If you’re an organization putting on a large multi day conference for 3000 people, you’re not going to hire one of these smaller companies. They don’t own any of the things and they’re really not set up to even execute or do this. One thing I’ll warn you about, sometimes they will have had a small piece in a big show and then when they find you with your big show, they say, yeah, we did that show. When in reality they didn’t, I’m not saying they’re being shady, but they did do that show, right? Just they did a part of that show and a lot of organizations that are trying to grow will not necessarily turn down business that’s too big for them. So it’s really important for you as the client to be able to differentiate is this organization, is this the size of this production company, the right company for what we’re doing? If you’re doing 70,000 people in a stadium, you’re not going to hire the same group that every day is sending out two speakers on sticks to do meetings at a tiny little hotel luncheon. Two different types of organizations.

 

[14:29] So then I would say there’s the third, which is what we are. And that is a full service, full scale production company where you’re basically a place that we create the creative ideas and concepts for the staging, the look, the creative, right? And then you’ve got the execution arm. Then we go and we actually pull it off. One thing I’ll tell you is that when you get into these larger scale events, no one company has every single piece of equipment for a 70,000 person show or a 50,000 person show or a 20,000 person show. This industry is comprised of little pockets of experts. So no matter how big or small the production is, after a certain point, there’s multiple organizations. I’m very open about the fact that we have other suppliers that we lean on when we have a certain demand for a certain size and scope. But our internal team manages all of that, and so we ourselves own equipment. We then bring in outside partners to help us execute things that are just of a scale we’re not doing. And every single production company of this size is doing the very same thing. When you need crowd barricades. Like for a big concert, let’s say Kenny Chesney’s coming in town and you need crowd barricades. Well, I know of a couple places in town that own crowd barricades, but for me it would make no sense for me to create the design and then also own crowd barricades. It’s two totally different little pockets of need. Just like owning a stage in a trailer, the stages on wheels, those big like concert stages, that’s a very niche product. These are all different production tools that all of us larger companies, we rely on each other to execute. We all own our own equipment, but we’re all obviously working with each other.

 

What I will tell you is that people like to sit around and talk about their equipment. I warn you about this because you can have the best equipment in the world and I really believe we have some of the best equipment in the world. But what does that even matter? If you don’t have a great idea, a great concept, you’re not thinking about the audience, you’re not designing it to really look and feel the way the client needs it to look and feel. It doesn’t matter. You can have the best gear in the world. The other side of that coin is there’s a lot of organizations that have been around a long time and they’re trying to squeeze every last penny out of old equipment. So it is important to know how good and how new the equipment is, but at the same time, that is not the whole game. As the client I’m talking to you, I would, I would remind you not to get tied up in the equipment, but to talk more along the creative lines. The equipment can be changed out. The budget is a crucial component.

 

When you move into talking about budget, here’s what I’ll tell you. You can buy a car for $500 and you can buy a car for $2 million.They’re both cars. But what’s the difference? Well, I guess if you made a list of things you could clearly and easily understand that there’s a major difference between a Bugatti and a Geo Metro. There’s a total difference.The same goes with production. There’s a huge difference between organizations that spend a lot of time hand holding with a creative and have very nice equipment to organizations that have been around. It’s beat up old equipment and it’s coming off of concerts that are you know, they’d been on the road for a long time. There’s a total difference. And here’s what I’ll tell you. Your budget will drive that. So oftentimes when we buy things, and this is a counter intuitive thing, this is like one of the most important things. I’m going to drive home in this segment today.

 

Naturally, when you buy something, this coffee Mug, if I buy one coffee mug and I want my logo on it, they’re going to charge me say $30. For this one, if I buy a dozen of them, it might come down to say $10 a Mug, but if I buy 10,000 of these mugs, they may be a dollar a mug or less. As you buy more of something in the natural world, the costs go down.

 

In the production world, it’s actually the opposite. And I know this sounds crazy to you guys, but it’s the opposite. When you get to a certain point and your moving your event into an arena or into a stadium, the cost of audio, visual production per person starts to exponentially grow. And the reason is, if you could imagine the amount of, um, you’re going to a convention center, it’s flat, right? It’s very easy to rig from the ceiling and serve audio and video to the floor. You move into an arena or a stadium and now you’re getting into unusual structures, unusual rigging, unusual shape of audience and delay. The technology has to be much bigger. And to do a stadium or an arena properly, I would say that great bright projection is great, but really I recommend LED wall when you get to those sizes, like for example here at us bank stadium, US Bank stadium, you can’t even really do projection in there because the ceiling, the roof is like a clear roof and light is bleeding in at all hours of the day. Well LED wall is significantly more expensive and when you get into those massive sizes, I mean you’re talking about truck loads of LED wall just to serve the audience. So as you go up in size of audience, there’s a point in which it shifts and starts to exponentially increase the cost to you per person for the audio visual and, and possibly the venue as well. So that’s a really crucial point I want to make and a lot of customers there going well if I have more people it should be less money per person at a certain point that actually changes. So that’s a really crucial thing for you to know. Again, traditional flat spaces, ballrooms, convention centers, you know, it’s a little different, but when you get into those really big venues, there’s a serious difference in how to do it, including the equipment needed to pull it off.

 

Okay. So another big thing to talk about, people talk about the inhouse A?V Versus bringing a production company with you. And people go, well, why don’t I just use the in house a v right? And here’s what I want to speak to. If you’re putting it up against, say, one of those smaller production companies, the tier two, the inhouse may be a great fit, right? It doesn’t maybe make sense to bring in an outside partner for 200 people or a hundred people for a lunch. It might make sense to let the inhouse A/V Do it. But if you’re traveling from city to city or even going to the same city each year and you want a consistent product for your audience, you cannot go with inhouse A/V. The inhouse is there, in my opinion, to serve as a liaison to their rigging, their power, their internet, things like that. But when you really get into say 700 or more people for more than one day, you do not want to rely on the inhouse. A/V, the inhouse, A/V is an inconsistent product at best. And I hate saying that, but every time I see them it’s different. The people are different and you’d go to the same venue. It’s different people.

 

I was at a gala the other night and it was done by the inhouse A/V. We weren’t producing it. And I looked back at the tech desk and I saw the people running the program. It was, it was 1300 people in the room. Mind you and I was astonished. These guys were wearing hoodies and sweatshirts. It looked like we pulled them out of like between dumpsters in the back of the hotel alleyway. And that to me, especially at a black tie gala, fully unacceptable. You should never ever show up in a Hoodie or a sweatshirt if you’re working on the team for a black tie gala. Sure when everyone’s gone and you’re tearing down, fine put your hoodie on. But during the show you better be wearing a suit jacket. It’s stuff like that customer service stuff. It’s the quality of the people in the consistency of the people. And then of course you look up in the ceiling, the inhouse, and they’re still using conventional lighting fixtures from 1994 trying to squeeze every last dollar cause they’re a publicly traded company and they’re trying to squeeze every last dollar out of that equipment. From a business perspective, I get it right. Those guys, they do what they have to do. But at the end of the day, if you want a really quality experience for your audience, that is not the way to go. The other thing is when you’re traveling city to city, we have a couple of clients that they change cities every year. What I’ve learned is that having a consistent team and product from city to city allows the organization to worry less about the variable of production and worry more about the things that you know should be worried about when you’re at a new site. But really your production team, if you’ve been working with them for years and they come from city to city or they go to the same city with the every year, that should be the last of your concerns.

 

Now when you hire a new company, I’m just going to warn you there’s going to be some pain. It doesn’t matter how good they are or how great and organized you are the more disorganized you are, the worst the first year will be. But I will tell you, and I’ve said this to customers over and over again, I believe in loyalty and I would never want my customers to put my work that we do for them out to bid. There’s a level of trust. There’s a level of respect, there’s a level of loyalty. I say the same thing about you and your production company. If you feel like you trust them and you want to stay loyal to them, don’t put them through putting it out to bid every year. It is a painful, expensive process that nobody ever really wins on. So if you find a great company and you’ve been working with them, stick with them. I’m telling you, you’re going to save time. You’re going to save money, you’re gonna save headaches. And honestly, with something as important as the run of your show, do you really want them to feel like you don’t trust them? I would debate that you want to have a very intimate level of trust with your production company. And if you don’t have a talk with them, give them an opportunity to fix it. I have a couple of great clients and honestly like any great relationship, they’ve come to me and they’ve said, hey, I need to talk to you about some things that are just not quite the way I want them to be or are causing problems.If your company that you’re maybe struggling with to have, you know, conversations with are open to the feedback and then they do something about it, keep them. I’m telling you what, in our industry it is very uncommon to have a high level of customer service and then an adaptability.

 

So that brings me to the next thing, which is a little more for the planners, working with vendors and working with not just production but in general. I believe that in order to have a healthy relationship today, think about your relationships today. If you look through your phone, you have probably been texting with them, right? I would recommend that the veil be moved away and you get on a texting basis with your vendors and your customer.

 

We all have vendors and we all have customers. Get on a text messaging basis with them, make them feel comfortable enough that they can have an open line of communication with you about things.It’s an important part of life. I mean I’m on a texting basis with all of my clients. If it’s not a client I manage, my sales team is definitely on a texting basis with them.

 

So those are the types of things to keep an open dialogue. I think texting is key. Also with your clients, send a birthday card to them, show them that you give a crap, send thank you notes. This is one of those things I always like, I’m blown away by because we all get mail every day and we all go to the mailbox and when we see a handwritten note, you know you open that thing first, right? Come on. Getting handwritten mail is special. Well, so if you know that it’s so special and you get it and you like it, my question to you is why don’t you ever send it? So, I mean we have a very, very serious like protocol here that when we meet with somebody, we send them a thank you card. They took their time to meet with us. It’s little stuff like that that your competitors or the people that you’re kind of up against, whether you’re an independent or you’re inside a company even like let’s say you’re a planner and your work inside of a large organization and you met with your executive leadership team and they gave you some idea into their vision. Why wouldn’t you write that leader a thank you note saying, thank you so much for spending time with me today. Even if they’re in your own company. Like thank you so much for spending time with me today to share with me the vision. Now obviously if you’re like a company, that’d be kind of weird cause they’re like down the hall. But like let’s say you’re in a large organization and you meet with them and they’d come in and you have this big meeting. Why wouldn’t you send them a thank you note for spending time sharing with you their vision. It also would give you more visibility and probably opportunity to bring ideas to the table because now you have a voice, a voice that’s on handwritten paper.

 

So these are just a few of the things that I like to do. Obviously you don’t want to cross that line where people feel like you’re bothering them. You want to show people that you actually care. It’s funny because I really believe if everybody did what they say they would do, nobody would ever be out of a job. Think about that. But the reality is like most people say one thing and they either don’t do it or they do something else. And I would recommend in this industry, especially when you say you’re going to do something, you darn well better do it. Because if you don’t, I’m telling you what, you’ve got a reputation and that reputation can be ruined very quickly. And I think that’s why we’ve had a lot of success. We’ve really taken to heart doing what we say and saying what we do.



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. 

Charles: You lead a podcast, you’re really good at this stuff. I thought why not let you kind of guide the conversation.

Amy: I am so intrigued by you and your methodology and your social media and I’m really excited about the fact that like you, I am the visionary of my company. And by visionary I mean the person that dreams big things up and then the integrators of our company and the producers of our companies are the ones that really make it happen.

Charles: When did you, learn you were the visionary?

Amy: I think we shared on the last episode when we were together, we talked about the entrepreneurial operating system, which talks about visionaries and integrators and such. But I’ve always been of the mindset that if you dream big things up, you can find people to help you make them happen. It’s amazing to me that you and I, our businesses are about the same age, but we really only connected, um, in the past couple of years. And I think that visionaries, they flock together because their eyes get big when they talk about big ideas and they get excited and energetic and all of these things and it’s like, oh my gosh, I got to introduce you to you, to you, to you, and we’re going to make things happen. But I think that, along with knowing that you’re a visionary comes a resourcefulness. You have to be resourceful. You have to have, I still use the word Rolodex. Does everyone know what that is? You have to have that Rolodex to, to refer to and that contact sheet that you know that if the most obscure idea is there, you know, someone that’s going to be able to make it happen. A while back you had Hal Lovemelt on your show and that was a really, I loved that show. I hung on every word and years ago he and I did an event together and we just sat there as visionaries dreaming big things up and he made them happen because he had the technical knowhow. And sometimes visionaries can also understand each other’s language, whereas other people may not. So you know, you can see something in your head but you can’t always draw it on paper because you know, just cause you’re a visionary doesn’t mean you’re creative and always are an artist. You are an artist, but in different ways.

Amy: So when did you know you are a visionary?

Charles: It’s hard to say. I always knew from the time I was a kid that I would do big things. I always knew that my ideas were generally hard for people to understand and I had to learn how to communicate them clearly. You start where you’re like, I’ve got all these huge ideas in my mind, I can’t articulate how to get it out. Like you were just saying. And it was like, it was a major skill I had to develop if I wanted people to understand the vision, follow the vision and, and clearly see it. And still to this day it’s a, it’s a daily task to make sure that the vision is clear. You have to be clear about it regularly. You, you assume everybody knows what’s in your head.

Amy: So often it’s in our heads and we think everybody gets it. And we don’t take the time in a staff meeting or with our creative partners to sit down and say, wait, no, no, no, no. This is what I meant. Yeah. And you’re right. And that’s a very, um, that’s a learned skill and it takes years to perfect.

Charles: Here’s the thing, I have a special advantage that most entrepreneurs don’t and that is that my business partner, we grew up next door to each other as small children. Our parents still have houses right next door to each other. There’s no houses between them. We literally grew up playing and hanging out and so our entire upbringing, we learned each other.

Amy: You learned each other’s language and nonverbal language, right?

Charles: Mike is much more of your integrator type and so he can read me like a book and he knows what’s going on in my head and then he can help make it happen.

Amy: Who, who instilled in you the confidence to know that you could make anything happen?

Charles: My Mom, well, both my mom and my dad growing up, my dad was a, he was in a boat sales. He sold like sailboats, large sailboats, and my mom was in network marketing and when she would start bringing me to some of these meetings, I was like a kid in a lot of network marketing events. It’s all like, Hey, so you’ve been living in corporate America forever and now it’s time to open your mind and dream. Right. And a lot of people, they do get stuck in a Rut in their career in Corporate America and they don’t dream right. And so from an early age as a kid, I was exposed to you can dream and do anything idea. Which really I think helped me understand that like from an early age, you have to, you have to be clear about what your goals and your vision are I really took that to heart as a, as a kid. And it worked. I was like 14 years old sitting in these seminars for like eight hours. A good speaker would go up there and train on making a vision board. And I was like, I want to have a yacht. I can’t I have a yacht. I want it to be huge.

Lisa: I think that’s so great Charles, because so many children, and I’m sure I’m kind of one of them, grew up with parents just working in corporate America and that’s all you thought that you could do or should do and that’s great. You grow up, you go to college and then you get a job or someone else.

Charles: It really is mental programming.

Amy: Well it is and I will tell you that I have two sons. One is a sophomore in college and the other one will be going to college next year. And I am one of those parents who preach you don’t have to follow the path. You know the path, right? And you can do whatever you want whenever you want. Now I know that some of my friends and colleagues think, well, but that’s just not realistic in today’s world. So far my kids have taken the path. But as a parent, I’ve given them permission and so has my husband to say, whatever you want to explore, please go explore. Because if you get that life experience, it allows you to be good at so many more things than if you just hyper focus on one.

Charles: It seems like our culture today isso built on this path of go to school, get good grades so you can get into a good college. So you can have a piece of paper that says you went through four years of a reading program that we tested you on so that you can get a job. I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, educational inflation where it used to be like the people that had a four year degree kind of stood out from the crowd. Well now everyone has one and now it’s like you have to have your master’s, your phd to stick out. It seems like the way corporations, like if I had a room of like the fortune 500 CEOs in a room, I would say you need to change the way you hire because instead of hiring on, does this person have a degree? We should ask, do they have the skillset for the opportunity you have?

Amy: And do they have the vision? Going back to visionary, do they have the vision to dream big things up that your straight path folks may not have thought of?

Charles: Yes. And I think for a lot of our listeners, they think, you know, does this mean I’m not a visionary because I don’t have a big vision. And the truth is like, I think everybody has a visionary inside of them to some degree. It’s like a spectrum, right? I was listening to the radio maybe a week ago and they were talking about this youtube star. She’s like 15 years old. She’s got a huge hit and apparently she wears these huge bows on her head. He was saying how it’s driving him crazy that his children are obsessed with this girl. And I thought, you know, think of our kids and the way they’re being raised right now. Everything is a screen and everything’s about media and video and watching things. And so that’s the thing that they’re valuing and going, well I want to be an Instagram star. I want to be famous. And if you think about, you ever watch American idol? These people go on and they think like, I’m so passionate about being an artist. They think like, I’m going to become a rock star. I’m a singer from Nashville. Everybody told me to follow my passion. So that’s what I’m doing! So everybody’s like, let me follow my passion. And you know what? I spoke about this two years ago and I, I did a disservice to everybody to listen. And I said, you should follow your passion. Follow your passion. You know what? That’s horse crap. What you should do, this is where I stand, is that you should follow opportunities where your skills align. Because when you do that, passion will arise out of it.

Amy: That’s a really, really insightful point.

Charles: You will become passionate when you see that what you’re naturally gifted at has opportunity to be fulfilled. You will become passionate.

Amy: Success makes you feel good.. If you’re successful at it, you’re right. Then passion will follow.

Charles: Everybody wants to be a movie star, they want to be Instagram influencer, whatever. Think of any of these things that are not like super glamorous like commodities trading or like the grain business. These are not things that have kids getting excited about. But yet there are people that are missing opportunities where they’re naturally gifted. Like they go on American idol, right? They think they’re going to win. They go up in front of the judges and millions of people and what do they find out?. That they suck. They’re like, don’t quit your day job. And they break down and they’re sad and they’re crying. And it’s like, did you really think that you are going to come on American idol with how horrible you are? You not self aware enough to know that you suck. And if that’s true and something that you were so passionate about but not skilled at and now you’re screwed. So like of course you can be passionate about something but it doesn’t mean you’re any good at it.

Amy: That’s right. You know what, what you said is absolutely right. Seek out the opportunities that you have the skillset for. I’m just going to repeat it because it’s so smart. What you just said, that you have the skillset for it and the passion will follow. It really is so true. That’s very true. In my trajectory as a business person, I went to school for broadcast journalism. I love a microphone. I love a camera. My professor told me my hair was too big to be on air. So I did production instead. That production which we talked about previously of telling a story, producing an event helped me with so many other careers. I was a marketing director, a television producer, owned a restaurant and now an event planning company. But at the core the skillset was about telling a story, producing something. What I’ll tell the listeners, especially hopefully the students that I hope will start to listen to your show. I as a boss, I am not looking at someone’s educational trajectory for what I am hiring them for. I am hiring them for their skillset and more importantly, their character. And so that’s what I believe makes a good visionary because you can pick someone out who has the Chutzpah, the energy, the excitement in them, and then everything follows.

Charles: This is such a great point because like you said, and I have to echo this when you’re looking for people and I can tell like you read people very quickly. You think about how people are applying for jobs right now we have, we’re, we’re hiring for a planner internally to help us with logistics and all that stuff. You get these resumes and it’s funny because a resume is really not an indicator of if it’s a good fit or not. In fact, you can send me resumes, you could send me the best resume, the world. I still need to sit down with you and figure out if you’re a quality human being.

Amy: The resume is a weeding out the absolute nos. But the truth of the matter is you don’t know someone’s innate nature and skill set until like you said, you have that conversation. And also you can tell from watching their body language and where they’re putting their eyes and you know, do they look you in the eye? Are they nervous? That’s all about the human interaction. And I hope we never lose that. And I think that’s why I so enjoy watching your social media posts because even if I’m not directly doing a job with you at any given time, I do feel like I’m immersed in what you’re doing and I’m invested in hoping that you have success, right? Because, and it’s not just, I’m not just, you know, kissing, butt I’m telling you it’s actually entertaining and intriguing. And that I believe is why the younger generation’s watch, you know, youtube and Instagram and all these things because they’re invested in the successes or failures of those that they’re following.

Charles: It’s almost like the youtube when used properly and media and podcasts, this is the new way of being educated. It’s the new form of education. When you post for a, Oh, we’re hiring a planner. It’s like everyone comes out of the woodwork. I tried hiring a couple of other positions earlier last year and it was like pulling teeth. I was like, the economy is so good right now that nobody wants a job. And then all of a sudden, and then all of a sudden I’d post for this planning position and it’s like everyone and their sister comes out of the woodwork and they’re like, oh, I heard you’re hiring for a planner position.

Amy: Everybody thinks that an event planner is the life and my varicose veins are here to tell you that that has, but it doesn’t take it so. So let’s bring that back to being a visionary for a second. Yeah. A planner has to be a visionary mind who thinks out of the box to get to the end result without just checking things off a list and making sure that everything is just so it’s very, it’s collaborative but you also need to become a leader. And I’ve found that a lot of event planner wannabe’s they’re too timid, and you can weed those out right away.

Charles: I made a list of the skill sets that I would love to see in this person and I’m just going to pull it up. So here’s what I said. I said personality traits because this I think is more important than many parts of it. I said number one, rule follower, detail oriented, a negotiator, a goal setter, controlling, assertive, methodical, friendly, sharp, intelligent, educated, well, groomed, fashionable.

Amy: Okay. Well, all right. I will say that I don’t think they should be a rule follower. I would argue with that. They should be a rule breaker. So I’m going to put this down. But um, if you’re a change maker, a rule breaker, and a creator, those to me are very important traits. Now I understand. Yes, everyone on your team is very fashionable. Now I get that. I understand presentability matters. I get that. But I do get that. I do get that, that, that, that does matter. However, I think that it is more important that you have self confidence and the ability to carry yourself in a way that you know what you’re talking about and everyone else in the room knows that too. Now, there is something that I’ve really, and I think I shared this last time too, that I’ve really had to work at is just because you are a visionary and you know what you know and you know that you’re good at, it doesn’t mean that you can come across as condescending or disrespectful or anything like that. But your passion, your passion is going to come out. And if the right team is around you, the creative partners, they’re going to understand that it’s a momentary lapse because you all want that same thing. And that’s, that’s what I wanted to ask you about. How big is too big when you’re thinking about that vision?

Charles: This is a really intriguing idea to I guess go down. When I think about vision, oftentimes I feel like the visions I have are too scary for regular humans. Right? So I temper most of what I say. I don’t know if I should or maybe that is a defining characteristic, but I try and temper what I say. I try and not make it sound too nuts. Even though in my head it’s like a hundred times worse than what I say. Clients love crazy ideas. They love that. if something crazy comes to mind in a client meeting, I will share that crazy idea. Just because at this point I’m not afraid. Even if they’re like, yeah, that was stupid. I’m not afraid of that because I always preface it by saying, hey, this might sound nuts and if it does, we can throw in the trash right now. But here’s my idea.

Amy: You’re doing yourself a disservice by putting out that disclaimer first.

Charles: Yeah. I think it’s old security. Yeah. So it’s old insecurity. And maybe I should just boldly come out there and be like, I think we should do this. Great example of this, we were in a meeting, we were the final two for a very large corporate show. This was maybe like s three months ago now. Yeah. And we’re meeting with them and their executive team. And, there’s the chief marketing officer in the room along with the chief of staff and some really, really powerful great people and towards the end of the presentation it went really, really well and I had this crazy idea, just a wild hair and I was like, you know what I want to do with this event? If we can pull it off, I think we can pull this off. I want to run a cable cam across the room so that we can have a very dynamic cut two shot anytime we want that. That’s his camera’s like flying over the crowd, almost like a drone shot. It kind of flew out of my mouth and I was like, oh. And all of a sudden the, the chief marketing officer goes, have you been reading my mind? He’s like, I’ve wanted to do that cable cam idea.

Amy: That’s why I never preface with ah, don’t worry if you don’t like it because every idea that you might think is either crazy or been done before, but it really hasn’t or whatever. It might be fresh and new to the person who you’re telling it to.

Charles: You’re totally right. My old insecurities have have put me in a place where I’m less inclined to just say it.

Amy: Well, so now you’ve started to take your business elsewhere. I mean, not just started, but you’ve been doing it for years, but now you’re really going after the, the big thing. Nationally. So how do you approach those kinds of presentations?

Charles: That’s a really good question. There’s a conference for 30,000 we’re meeting with them tomorrow. But we had a meeting with another one that was like 70,000. So these are very large multi day shows and it is slightly challenging to go, how big is too big and what comes off as maybe too much of a departure from what they’re comfortable with. So you walk this fine line in your presentation. But I find it very helpful when I’m meeting with these people to get as much information and ask as many questions as I can. Because it gives me a sense of how risky are they willing to be? How crazy of an idea can I throw at them? Some of them, they’re like, I don’t care what you throw at me, let’s do this.And you’re like, oh my gosh, this is going to be awesome.

Amy: I think a challenge for visionaries in our local market in the twin cities is not so much that people don’t want to think out of the box or hear what we have to say, but the budgets are very different and that’s okay. I mean, it is what it is. But then what happens to a visionary that exceeds their marketplace?

Charles: This is exactly what I was thinking the other day. What happens when you kind of outgrow where you are?

Amy: To your credit, you have worked so hard to be the face in front of these organizations nationally and it may be the time in your life that you’re at or you know, the excitement that your team has, how you’ve hired your team, the willingness to be risk of, you know, risk savvy if you’re willing to take the risk. But I do think that’s a really big problem and I’ve struggled with it for the past several years because once you hit your stride and there’s only a small pool of people that will pay what you’re worth to do, what you do, what next?

Charles: This is an interesting question. We have a large corporate pitch we were doing and I found out the budget was say X. When I found out that the budget was x, we were already far into the pitch process, what I wanted to pitch was x times two. So it was double their budget. And I said to the team, you know what we should do, let’s go about this as if there is no budget and show them truly what could happen if, if money was no object.

Amy: Well, and by that also, you should always, every professional should show a good, better and best option and you should never take advantage of the fact that a client has said to you, here’s my budget here. That will always fall in the better category, right? The best category doesn’t mean you’re not going to have a great event if you can’t go to the best. But here are some a la carte options. You can choose to just make it one step better.

Charles: Well, and I love that approach. I feel like that puts the client in a position where they feel safe. Cause they go, wow, you know, if I hire Amy and her team, I’m always going to get an Amy Zaroff quality event or an EideCom quality event. But the, the good, better, best lets them go, I feel comfortable with giving you the good, but I actually want to add some of these best options. And it gives you the opportunity to really shine while providing them with that kind of safety to fall back on that they’re not being ridiculous and they’re spending.

Amy: I do want to emphasize also that it’s not about having the biggest budgets, although there comes a point in your career where that may be where you fit as a, as a team, you know, as a vendor for those clients. But it is about constantly improving your capabilities and never standing for status quo. And that’s what I think going back to what a visionary is and my question constantly of myself and if people like you is how big is too big? And I would argue there isn’t such thing as too big. You can always talk about ideas.

Charles: The people who are the right fit for me are going to appreciate and those crazy ideas are going to resonate. For example this huge show that came back as double the budget, I basically took the entire event that was kind of lengthwise in a, in a huge ballroom. And I turned it widthwise, so I completely rotated the format. And I turned it into one giant video screen. And it was like this nutso idea and I got inspiration from a number of really cool things that are going on online. And, and it was amazing to me because the client, when they saw this, they were like, I love the way that this could be. There’s some tweaks we need to make budget wise and in layout, I want to take this concept and I want to use it to make magic happen.

Amy: That’s being a changemaker, if you don’t say it, no one will ever know that. It could be. And it doesn’t have to be to the whole extreme of what’s in your head. But even just a taste of that, don’t you just get like giddy with excitement about how that’s going to happen?

Charles: It’s somebody saying yes, I believe in you. And I that never gets old. Every time we’d get us a yes from somebody, I get so excited. Oh, it doesn’t matter if it’s tiny or if it’s huge. It’s like somebody saying I believe in you.

Amy: And, and that’s what I mean about being a rule. It’s not like you’re blatantly doing something illegal or wrong or things like that. No, no, no, no, no. Being a rule breaker means if you wanted it to just be the cookie cutter, same type of thing that you’ve done in the past. We’re going to stick to the rules. But if we want to dream big and show our true colors, we’re going to break some rules here.

Charles: Leading a company of a planning organization. When when you have crazy vision and crazy ideas for our client, you are the CEO of your organization. At what point do you get involved? Is there a revenue threshold or are you like, I’m not going to step in and start like throwing my crazy ideas unless it’s a certain size…

Amy: I get involved in every single event we do from the creative director standpoint. Even though I know that I can and have done the details and the execution and production of events, my role over the past several years has really become how do you dream that big stuff up? I dream that big stuff up. I brainstorm with my team. We figure out how we can make that happen. Typically going back to that Rolodex in my head and not getting it, what is in my head out to the people they need to slow me down and say, Amy, wait, tell us all the ways that we get to what you’re saying and then they will execute those things. Now I have a very creative team as well, so we do it together. The thing that gets me the most excited is dreaming that stuff up just like you. And then, um, being the person that’s the sales, the sales pitch. So I am the ones selling my business and I can’t wait for sales meetings because I love to have conversations like this. I will get along with any person, you know, I mean, if they’re nice to me now, but you know, I want to be in a room. I want you to see that my eyes are always bulging out of my head, that I’m talking with my hands, that I’m excited, genuinely excited about what I do. There have been times over the years where I would have a little slump and it wasn’t a creative slump. It was just like going back to what we were saying, why aren’t more people in our community understanding the value of dreaming big? And I think a lot of people are guilty of just always attaching a dollar amount to that.

Charles: What I’ve learned is dollars aren’t always what controls how big a vision. can be. I mean, you can have a crazy big vision and it doesn’t mean it’s going to cost an arm and a leg. It’s the littlest things can make a tremendous impact. Going back to my talk on education, I think our education system unfortunately has made people so intellectual that that the wild hair in their brain. It gets calmed down and it learns not to dream anymore. You must follow this structure are you will fail your test.

Amy: I have a friend who is a professor of creativity. said to him recently, I would love to just take the class, you know, just take the class or have you teach the class for people in creative businesses because don’t you wonder like what it is in your brain that puts all these pieces together and how can you flex that muscle to do even more?

Amy: I just want to ask you another question, when you’re taking the show on the road, why are you standing out when they have a local option as well?

Charles: You know, that’s a great question. So for those of you listening, a lot of our clients are out of state clients that maybe don’t even produce a show in their area but produce it somewhere else. And so let’s take a client like we’re in Minneapolis, but let’s take a client that’s in, say Denver, and they’re having an event in Orlando. Their option for Orlando being the local option, the only real difference between the Orlando and Minneapolis, even though the shows in Orlando would be the fact that you wouldn’t have to truck the equipment there, right? But when you’re talking about a show that’s say 500,000 to a million dollars in revenue, the trucking aspect is a every my small line item. When you’re talking about the other tangible things like the ability to have the same company, do that show with you year over year, the same producers, the same technicians. That outweighs, outweighs trucking all day long.

Amy: Then you, what you’re saying is relationship is what sells. What I know is true to who you are as a brand. That’s how I am as well. But how do you sell that? Sell the relationship.

Charles: I have an unfair advantage and a good friend of mine who I loved dearly taught me something. He said, when you have an advantage available to you, take it. Well, growing up as a kid, my dad was a pilot, for his own business.When I was in high school, my dad said, well, you’re a horrible student. No, he didn’t say that, but he was like, Hey, do you want to get your pilot’s license? I’ll pay for it if you do the work. And I said, yeah, so I got my pilot’s license. To this day, I still fly. In fact, we own a company, aircraft. People look at airplanes and the like, oh it’s so expensive. It’s so glamorous. You’re such a show off. But if you think about it, like in today’s Instagram culture, people look at a plane and they go, oh, it must be fancy, lavish and whatever. Like our plane is a very nice plane but at the same time that’s not why I have it. Like sure. I love flying but I call it the relationship machines. I will come out and see you and we will talk face to face and we will find out if they’re like, I put the relationship at the center of everything, right? Because if we can build a relationship and we can truly be on the same page, we both know that your show is going to go very well. Let’s say I meet somebody new with this happened a couple of weeks ago. Um, we found that there was a large conference being planned for Minneapolis and they’re based in Chicago. She said, well, I’m coming to Minneapolis and she’s actually coming to Minneapolis tomorrow. I said, you know, before you come to Minneapolis, so I would love to just zip down to Chicago and say hi. So we literally like me, Lisa Paige, Mike, we got in the plane, we flew down there, we had a great meeting, we got to see their facility. And now coming to Minneapolis and tomorrow we’re going to, you know, we’re going to do everything we can to treat her like a VIP while she was in our city, and we’re going to make her feel welcome.

Amy: And the other thing that I really respect about you is that you’ve, you’ve made it clear several times that you know that the job may not happen a month after meeting someone or a year, but you’re willing to go the long haul to invest in that relationship and make people understand.

Charles: I truly believe that if it’s truly a good fit they make that decision eventually they will choose to work with you. I mean, just like you, if, if I meet someone and I know that there are potential prospect to do work with, right. I don’t care if it’s a year or two or three out because I’m going to be here in a year or two or three.

Lisa: We keep hearing from people too. It’s like it’s the way you go about being persistent. You don’t want to come off as like desperate. You don’t want to come off as you know, annoying. But if you just keep positive process them, hey, is it okay if I follow back up in a couple of months or when would be a good time for us to revisit this? Or is there a chance we can do it next year together?

Charles: Right. And sometimes they’ll surprise you and go, actually, we actually do want somebody like right away. But I also, I also really believe something very specific that I have to say when I meet someone new that’s currently working with somebody else. And that is this, I believe in loyalty. Loyalty means something to me. And so I’m not sitting in front of you here today telling you drop everything you’ve got and the people you’re loyal to and come work with us. It’s all sunshine and rainbows. That’s not how this works and I think to disarm the situation and have people know I respect that you have a relationship already and I’m not here to disrupt that. I’m here when you’re ready to take it to a new place.

Amy: Absolutely. I feel the same way when we’re starting to, because of we don’t want to be speaking out of both sides of our mouth and you don’t want to have double standards. Someone may not have done anything wrong, they just may not have the vision to take it to the next level. So I do agree with that. The other thing though is is that becoming, having deep relationships in your local and national event community benefits those folks in other ways too. So even if you’re not directly working with them at any given time, knowing that someone has the same core values as you, the same tenacity, the same authenticity and transparency. Yeah, that speaks volumes too. I refer people a lot to creative partners that I may not be working with at that time, but that I know are the right fit for those clients.

Charles: Your core value sheets I have it on my desk, it’s still sitting there. It reminds me that not only is the core values thing about your internal hiring, but it’s also like you said, it’s about externally. Do we client and vendor and really more client and partner value the same things, right? Because if we see eye to eye on simple things in life, chances are the way we operate together in business is going to go great.

Amy: Not only is it going the extra mile for the client, creative partners that are true to those core values will go the extra mile for each other. And it’s not, and I don’t mean by you know, discounts or shaving things here or there, although those are nice perks. But, but I what I mean is that these people care about you as a human. So therefore they’re going to show that in the work they do for you, they want your name to be as solid as their name.

Charles: When you start looking at creative partners and you look at how, you know, how far creative partners willing to go, I’m always looking for the client to reciprocate the appreciation back. I’ve had plenty of clients who are like, I’m paying you x amount of dollars so screw you, you will do what I say and you will eat you know what… Eventually you learn like, hey, I have dignity and self respect for my team and I can’t have them being treated like that. And just because you’re paying me a certain amount of money doesn’t give you carte blanche to treat us like crap.

Amy: Well, that’s a whole nother podcast about finding the right clients, keeping them and, or firing them. And that we can talk about another time.

Charles: How do you know when it’s time to break up with a client, you know, and, and then like, you know, how do you, how do you do it? Cause you have experienced doing such things.

Amy: I do. I not plural, but there was, there was one, and I’ll just say this because this goes back to that visionary role. Who Does the work for you? Your team, right? So as a visionary and an integrator, you need to protect your team. And if someone is verbally abusing one of your employees, no dollar amount is worth that. No, not one. And so that’s when you, when you let it go, you know that that also goes into authenticity and transparency of creative partners and when you may need to let one of them go and or call someone out for doing something that was just blatantly not okay. Recently I experienced a fellow company in the twin cities who took one of my events and slapped their watermark on it and you know, called it there’s for their advertising. And so rather than fight fire with fire, the integritous, is that a word? The way to act with integrity, is to say this is not okay. This is my event. I appreciate that you liked it but you can’t use it for your own financial gain.

Charles: After this podcast we’re going to talk about that, cause I actually had a very large competitor of mine do that and they published it in a newsletter and mailed it to God knows how many people it’s not.

Amy: Being that person that thinks big, that has the, all of those adjectives we’ve said earlier, you do the right thing in good times and in bad. And what goes around comes around. And as I’ve said before, all you have is your name.

Charles: You will never get in trouble for being kind to people. Doesn’t mean you have to get walked on. It does not mean you have to, you know, sacrifice profit just means that you need to be kind about it. And you’re absolutely right. That’s one thing I’ve always loved about you is that you always show up not only with a smile on your face, but you’re, you’re always the type of person that I know will bring a positive solution no matter if it’s a negative situation or a dismal situation. Like you’ll always bring a positive attitude and that attitude, I’m telling you what Amy to me is worth more than 90% of the things on my list because it makes me feel like we can get through this together. And if you show up angry and frustrated and crabby, I’m sorry, but we ain’t going to interact very much.

Amy: Think about what you’re posting on social media because it all comes to be, now of course you can be, uh, sometimes you don’t want to post when you’re really not feeling that positivity and you can be honest, but you certainly don’t want to be the Debbie Downer. That’s because people will watch. They are watching.

Amy: I think there’s a time and place for everything. And I think that my hope in 2019 we’re still in January, so we can still be into the new year with positive thinking and all of that. But my hope is that this year kindness will prevail. People will start to treat each other with the respect they deserve. And those that deserve good quality business, we’ll get it. Because people will understand why they deserve it. So let’s just hope for that betterment.

Charles: The momentum with the way things have been going, at least for us and the partners we’ve seen. Yeah. The 2019 is shaping up to be an amazing year in the events business.

Amy: Kudos to you. I agree. I do agree. But I also think it’s because of your tenacity and your willingness to take that plane and go anywhere.

 

info@amyzaroff.com

amyzaroff.com



S.2 Episode 4: Why is the Inc 5000 Event so Successful

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.

Meeting Minds by Eidecom

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

How to Build Profitable Relationships in the Events Business

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