Event Production

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



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

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

 

Event Production Traps

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Follow EideCom

Follow Charles on Instagram Charlesevaneide

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

 

 

Meeting Minds by EideCom