Logistics

Episode 16: Event Leadership with Kris Lindahl

This week on Meeting Minds we are joined with Kris Lindahl. He shares with us the importance of core values and vision to each event and how it all starts with leadership.

 

What are the biggest problems you’ve noticed when you’ve been at events?

 

I think of our organization and how what we stand for and what our core values are and I try to translate that to events.  I never feel what an event stands for. There’s no vision or mission statement or values. You don’t even know why they are doing the event. It hasn’t been communicated, there are no takeaways for what the event stands for. It’s frustrating because you don’t know why they are even doing it.  Throw in a big event, you don’t even know where you are going to don’t have a target for what you are trying to accomplish, you’re never going to get to where you want to go. I go to these events and I ask, “what exactly are you trying to do?” and no one can answer that question.

 

I look at events like you’re running a business as well.  It’s different than my real estate business. When you start to lead a big organization of people you have to communicate what you stand for so everyone starts to go in the right direction. Whether  that’s the attendees that show up are clients and we need to experience this, whatever that is I’ve found out no one has it. What is key to success is having your core values that your company lives by, but you also need to communicate that to the consumer as well.  Really successful organizations, are ok with their core values being exposed to the public.

 

When you attend an event where you can feel the core values, how does it make you as a speaker and an audience member feel about being somewhere where it’s clear.

 

It’s no different from the RItz Carlton Four Seasons.  Really good service is really rare which creates the greatest opportunity.  When you get great service and you can feel it and it feels good, it’s memorable.  I remember those moments at those events where i could feel a difference in service and I could feel what they are trying to accomplish.

 

There’s a hotel in LA that has 4.9 on tripadvisor, the number 1 reason is they have red phones at the pool.  It’s the popsicle line, at any time you can call and they come with white gloves and deliver popsicles to the kids.  It’s not the nicest hotel. They realize when you are traveling with your family, the worst part is laundry. They do free laundry for you, they come back and wrap it up in twine and bring your laundry.  The popsicle line and the laundry are the two things that make the big difference and that’s what got them to 4.9 out of 5.

 

You could spend millions on the best rooms but if the service stinks you’re losing.

 

That’s the same thing in the events world, you could have all the right equipment and everything look super beautiful, but if you drop the ball on the human experience, we forget that we are actually leading humans, and when we start to remove that and focus on the technology, how things look and feel and we don’t focus on the actual connection, that’s the most important part.

 

That’s the part that signs or cancels deals.

 

It’s funny you bring that up, the best locker room wins everytime.  I think of the Las Vegas Knights, they were never picked to be in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  They were 5000 to 1 odds to make it anywhere. They far surpassed any expectations. That’s the dangerous thing of any organization, when you pass what people expect of you, then you are playing nothing to lose.  That’s what we are focusing on, having the best locker room. You look at any organization, any sports team, the ones that win the championships aren’t the most talented, they have the best locker room. To your point, when you have someone in your organization that is trying to grandstand the place, it’s not effective for the organization, it can take the whole place down.

 

No greater lesson have I learned than putting my own team first. When you put your team first they will put the customer first.  Help me understand as a leader, how do I take the Chris Lindahl philosophy of leadership and apply it to my organization?

 

Really good culture you can’t talk about, you have to feel it and experience it.  For us it started with me, it starts with the leader. The amount of personal development and training I went through to become a better person is where it starts. You start to get transparent and vulnerable because anything that you’re thinking privately will show up publicly. If i don’t explains something to my company they know something is off. I need to go in front of my company whether good or bad and say, “here were our challenges, here were our success are.” And constantly communicate with the team because it’s not just about being up on top and leading.  We were talking beforehand about having bottom up leadership where everyone is at the same level. I didn’t have any experience when I first started in leading people. I look at people that have started companies around the same time and I look at the different progressions and mine’s been focused on personal development and theirs has been about money and growing the organization, we have surpassed everyone that has started around the same time. Not because I was driven by money, but because i was becoming a better person. Then when I started to become crystal clear on who I was, then I invested in growing my people and my organization.  I really started to shift how I think about every action every move I make, I don’t think as much about my team as much as I think about their families. Every move I make I think about their families and how everything Kris Lindahl does or says affects their families.

 

I have personally met the people on your team, it’s very rare you find people as passionate about what they are doing as the people on your team. It’s hard to build a culture around that.  What is the difference between top down and bottom up leadership?

 

Top down leadership is most of corporate America today.  You have this typically older CEO trying to lead a younger generation of people.  There is this huge disconnect, like “how do you do this, why do you do this?” Instead of walking along and helping them get better it’s dictatorship.  There’s this huge disconnect. I started asking questions to people at different corporations about their leaders. “How do you feel about your leadership, what do they do?” Rarely was it positive, rarely was it “Oh i love that person, I will do whatever that person does whether its this company or not!” more it’s “oh yeah they are rolling out more corporate initiative.  I go there till 5 and leave.”

 

When you have bottom up leadership people will work when they need to to get the job done.  When you have bottom up leadership you have people connected to the organization emotionally, at the heart. You won’t have turnover when they are connected at the heart.  There are always going to be better opportunities where people can leave for more money. But there’s so much to it, especially the younger generation, they want to be apart of something that’s bigger.  They don’t want to be in this individual cubicle or working from home when they have a CEO that’s barking orders down from the top down. What I’ve always found, you can learn a lot about leadership during bad times.  When everyone is having success and things are great, leadership can slip and things are still good. When things get bad and it’s all hands on deck, we’re losing money, things aren’t working, what we rolled out isn’t working, a key player left our organization, those moments are the pivotal moments.  That’s where true leadership shows up, when you’re willing to go boots on together and go through it as an organization. Most CEO and leaders are pointing down and giving orders, they aren’t actually doing it. It’s not the words, it’s the actions. It’s the actions the leaders take, people see what you are doing.  They are willing to do more if you’re willing to march alongside them.

 

It seems like a lot of people will blame that it’s a large organization, I don’t think the size has anything to do with it.

 

It’s very easy for me to see now when I speak at different organizations.  I can tell how long their company will stay intact. You can tell how people respect their leader, the type of culture the type of energy.  That’s emotional intelligence. Sometimes when I’m speaking at an event I’ll tell them, you better fix this leadership problem or you’re not going to any people not long from now.  And you know almost every single time.

 

As an event organizer, how do they make sure that vision and core values of the event or organization are being played through?

 

I’m not in that space but i’ve been on the other side of it.  I don’t think that most people that are planning the events plan for what the experience is going to be.  I walk in and I get this gift I don’t want to carry around. I get these things that are irrelevant from what I use or want and I have this bag to carry around.  They are giving things away because I don’t believe they have walked through their event from the otherside. There’s a huge difference [from hosting to attending]. When I walk into these events I’m always interested in what’s the plan?  What do you want people to experience and no one can answer them. It’s funny because the experience will build the event to the next level. The key players that you want to bring more people to your event are already there. It’s so rare that I’ll go to an event that’s super emotional, they look nice, but there’s an element missing, the service the connection.

 

A lot of these events i go to, they are so focused on the short game rather than building that long game, the audience that will come forever that will tell their friends that will organically grow.  They are not thinking about the brand they are building and what the vision is. Bringing in the wrong speakers is because they don’t know what they stand for. And when you don’t know what you stand for it’s hard to bring in the right speakers.

 

Let’s talk about leading people. How do you manage and lead people that do not know me?  

 

Number one is you have to assess the current people in your organization that are very successful at the positions you want to fill or add to.  Once you figure out what their personality is, you need to hire others that are just like that. You have to make sure that the assessment matches the type of people you want.  If they fit your core values and the assessment fit other people, hire that. Too often, it’s really hard to find good talent, it’s very difficult. We can get as leaders, a tendency to hire people or believe in them and don’t do any core value checks or assessments. If you bring people in that fit those two things, it’s rare you’ll have problems because they fit your organization and have the skill set to get it done.  When I look back to when I first started, I’d sit down and interview and make a decision right there. That’s how most people hire.

 

What I’m hearing you say is as long as you have the similar core values, you should be able to lead  and manage these people well.

 

There’s a couple parts to that.  There’s variables to the event. I think I would assess the company’s, who’s going to be on site from different companies.  We want to assess everyone that is coming into this place. Here are our core values, I would record a video that I would give to anyone on site saying here’s what we stand for this is what we want the experience to be at the event. I would have them sign off before they ever got on site.

 

The challenge is when you have people you haven’t met.  There needs to be an education process. A video is at least some sort of training.  When I go to these events I can tell that there is a disconnect and that they are from different companies and areas and no one knows anyone and nothings consistent.  The best is when I have a question for someone and they are 20 feet away and no one comes up. If you’re not doing it [a training video] you are relying on another company to do that for you. Their expectations may be completely different from what yours are.

 

A lot of people make the mistake of not introducing themselves when they should.  I always go and make a point of meeting people in my crew that I don’t know and thank them for being on the show.

 

Here’s another idea, survey the attendees but also survey the workers. When you get those surveys back, you go how was your experience working with our company.  It becomes a good recruiting tool because they care about the people working they care about the attendees. The biggest thing right now, Uber the company satisfaction, they started with tracking drivers, what’s the review what’s the consumer experience.  Then over time they have the rider reviews. They have both and that’s public information and helps them to figure out how we are doing. A lot of areas where there’s a lot of vehicles and you have a 4.8 you can’t have a black car.

 

The second part to what I would do is id’ have secret shoppers to attend the event and record what the experience is.  I’d hire them to figure out what’s happening and figure out what are the areas we have to get better. You’re never going to get it perfect it’s an ongoing journey but you’re going to try to get better and better. Having secret shoppers focusing on those events is important. I think a lot of people listening, the challenge is people will be scared to do it, scared of the feedback, but the feedback is going to make you better.

 

If we don’t have satisfaction in the work we are doing, you’re clearly doing something wrong.

 

We just rolled out another customer satisfaction dashboard and there were a few scores for a few of our more experienced agents that are amazing that had lower scores. There’s a tendency when you’ve been in an industry for a long time that you start going through the motions.  You don’t go back to what made you sharp. Those scores were good for those agents to see maybe their service isn’t as good as it was before. We now have that as public face to our organization. It makes such a huge difference having those scores because it shows who’s providing the best level of service, which to us i the most important thing.

 

I realize in our organization everything is my fault.  Everything that happens there is something that’s my fault whether it’s training or consumer expectation.  We’ve been talking a lot about taking accountability for things that has happened. That’s how you get good leadership.  We used to blame the customer, and now the analogy that comes to me is, you’re driving down the road and a car comes out and t-bones you, whose fault is it?  In our organization it’s always our fault because we were still driving. That’s how we look at everything that happens. Whether someone hits us or we hit them, it’s always our fault and it’s something to learn from.  Maybe we were going to fast, or didn’t stop at the yellow light, or should have stopped because we saw the car coming. I’ve found that most organizations want to blame someone else, mostly the customer.

 

I love when someone owns something.  That’s what most customers want to hear.  “We messed up.” correct it and move forward.  It’s ok to make a mistake once but don’t make it twice.  That becomes a problem. I want people to fail, we call that learning opportunities.  That’s where people grow. I look back as we’ve grown, the mistakes I’ve made, those were the pivotal moments in our growth where we became an elite company.

 

If you continue to ignore and blame others you are fostering more failure down the road.

 

Constructive feedback is the most important thing.

 

When you’re building and leading your team, how are you ensuring the core values are instilled in your team daily?

 

It’s not words, its the actions.  It is what people see me doing, where people see me commit my time. I’m on video all the time communicating what I’m doing why i;m doing it.  You mentioned earlier the podcast I am doing, Behind the Billboard, I did a video last night to our whole organization telling them why i’m doing this.  Our number one core value is to be generous. I say we have our time treasure and talents to give back. To continue to be a thought leader in our industry this was the natural thought progression for us, and this was going to benefit every family in our organization.  The doors have already opened up, from the podcast, that we wouldn’t have had before if I didn’t have a podcast. I’m always communicating to our company so they know what i’m doing. When you start to cast that vision, they start to feel apart of it. The problem is, leaders are working on these crazy ideas and don’t share the blueprint with anyone else. Then hey let’s go we’re going I’ve been thinking of this for 4 months.

 

Last night I got done with flag football, I returned from speaking at an event in Vegas, I was exhausted but I needed to launch this to facebook and social media but I need to go internal first and tell those in my organization why i’m doing this.  “I’m extremely exhausted but I want to get into here and tell you guys how I feel about this why i’m doing this.” Notice I said feel there because feel is important to culture, it’s the emotional heart connection. Most organizations the feminine energy is a huge part of it.  Super alpha males have been scared to get vulnerable and talk about feelings but that’s what people want to be apart of. They want to feel what’s going on, that’s where it grows. So I communicated to them, that’s why i’m doing this most people would be confused on why Kris Lindahl is opening his playbook and sharing it for free and I said I feel it’s important to give back our time treasure and talents. Yes some people will take the information and use it, but I don’t think anyone can beat our locker room.  The thing is, when you help others it helps you more. We are always students, by no means do I think i have it figured out. Even though in some moments I become a teacher, I can still learn just as much. It’s like becoming a mentor, giving feedback, you learn as much as they learn.

 

There are female leaders that really get it that sometimes we fall short, putting the emotion part of it as a true part of the equation.  I look at the emotional part and I think that’s how people are making decisions, and we have to be mindful of that. You have to lead with heart.

 

Here’s a super short story of something that happened at my organization a few years ago.  Our leadership team is almost all female. I had a conversation with one of our leaders. We were doing a review and trying to determine what the next level was for compensation.  I made a comment, “I think you deserve this number.” She said, “Kris you don’t understand, I’m not motivated by money.” It was the first time i realized there was more happening in my organization than money.  You think for high drivers the motivation is a pay increase, but when someone said that, it was one of those moments where I had this completely raw, it’s more than just money. If people come to your organization for money they will leave for money, every time.  If you really take your core values and what you stand for and communicate those to attendees and staff, it really starts to take a life of its own and that’s why people come to your organization, attend your event, things happen. They won’t leave because they want to help get that organization to the next level.

 

The right people, when you start to broadcast what you stand for the right people are attracted by that and the wrong people are scared away.

 

Final thoughts?

 

Leadership is a commitment to becoming a better person first.  If you can’t take care of yourself you can’t be a better leader.  I look at the early days of my organization and what really helped me was investing in personal development but it was doing video early on.  I’d do 100 videos everyday to improve my communication. Id do a video and it was so bad I’d run into the hallway to make sure no one heard it.  Then what I did, I started speaking. I was doing the boring powerpoints that every speaker does, then I’d do a little more. Then after that I did 30 minutes with just notes.  Then it was 40 minutes light notes, than an hour with nothing, two hours with nothing. Now I can speak 3, 4, 5, hours with nothing no notes, no plans, no powerpoints. It’s because of those videos speaking in those uncomfortable environments where I’ve continued to grow my brains so I can fire at the highest level, all of those things have helped me become a better leader.  Because I am a better communicator. Most people aren’t willing to do that.

 

None of us are natural born leaders, we have to invest and expand our brains to become better people and leaders.  Most people aren’t willing to do those things.

 

Find Kris at Kris Lindahl

 

Behind the Billboard Podcast

 

Episode 15: How to Succeed as a Corporate Events Planner

Kelsey from Lynn David Events joins us to talk about her experience in corporate events. She shares her story getting her to the point of starting her own corporate event company.

 

 

Tell us about you.

 

I have been a corporate event planner for 13 years. I absolutely love it. I love partnering with organizations to bring their dream to reality.  I spent the last 8 years working for an amazing company, John Wiley and Sons publishing company. Its 215 years old. Thomas Jefferson was president when they opened their doors. I was able to manage 150 events a year, just me with them. I got a really well rounded education and experience. Everything from a 700 person conference all the way down to an 8 person board meeting. Runs the gamut of everything. I’ve taken what I learned from them and struck out on my own this year, and started my own event planning company (Lynn David Events). I named it after my children, Neva Lynn and Brooks David, my 3rd baby.

 

How do you become successful in corporate meetings?

 

I think what separates a novice event planner to one that will go the distance and succeed is understanding that as an event planner you have a responsibility to understand the corporate goals and objectives and how the events support those goals. Ways that you need to do that is really be apart of the leadership discussions don’t be shy to ask to sit in on meetings, the non confidential ones of course, ask questions. So many corporations hold the same conference every year or convention just because that’s what we do, that’s how we do it. But why? What are you trying to achieve? What is the overall corporate goal or objective that this one event is trying to satisfy? How can you change this event to make it better and better? What are you trying to get the attendees to walk away with?

 

How do you set yourself apart and how do you add value?

 

Once you can understand what the goals are and why you are holding these events, the executives will look at you in a different light. You’re not just executing on this event every year, you’re playing into their goals and objectives and they’ll see you as more of a team player for the company. Then you are able to have those strategic conversations and look as more of a strategist in the company. What’s the goal of the event and you can better allocate your budget to achieve that goal instead of googling it and saying “30% of your budget should be spent on food and beverage”. What’s the goal? Are you trying to elevate the event to be looked at as educational experience, playing in that realm, then you will want to spend more money on a quality keynote speaker that people will recognize. What if you are trying to launch a new product or elevate a new brand? Then you will want to spend more money on A/V and production to really make that that product or that brand come to life, really play up the colors of this brand. But you also need to know your audience right? So if your audience is a bunch of foodies you’re going to want to still maintain a very healthy budget for the food and beverage while you’re trying to elevate your brand. Or take brand elements and put it into the food and beverage, like putting the new logo kind of showcased on top of the cheesecake would be adorable like ways to achieve your objectives but also strategically spend money to do so.

 

I feel like I almost can remember, to like the day, the turning point in my career when I was stopped being looked at like a party planner “oh she’s an event manager, she’s strategic”.

 

How do you sell a keynote to your organization?

 

Bring it back to the overall goals and objectives. You gotta think the executives your leadership team they’re getting pressure from higher ups from the CEO from maybe a board to achieve these goals and objectives and if one of them is to really become a player in education space or to build attendance and the attendees really value content and education it is a drop in the bucket $100,000 for a keynote speaker that’s going to maximize attendance and really put yourself, the company,and the event as a major player in education or content that’s a drop in the bucket.

 

What else do you have?

 

I think one of the biggest tips I can give anybody starting off in the corporate event space is you really need to create mutually beneficial partnerships with suppliers and vendors, and I want to repeat mutually beneficial.  Because I feel like early on in your event planning career, you think the way you succeed is you negotiate the cost down as far as possible right? And you need to understand you want your partners to make money you want them to look at you like a partnership where they are really caring about the project and also making a profit on it so they’ll  want to work with you again. Having a partner is a one off you’re creating that long term relationship that this is what you do. You should interview suppliers whether A/V or production or what have you, that share the values that your organization does and somebody you want to be in the trenches with. Tell me one event planner that has been at it, at an event that didn’t have something go wrong, and the reason why they’re always  fine in the end, it’s because of your partnership. We’re in this together and we are succeeding together. You want to have someone you click with that’s going to also look at you like “I’m your partner and I’m excited about this event excited about the next hundred events we partner on”.

 

For new planners in the corporate realm, it’s a very  controversial topic among event planners but I believe you should be transparent about your budget to your partners. So many people think “but that’s my power. How can I negotiate, how can I get the price down, how can I get more for less?” You can’t have a good partnership unless you’re transparent, open, and honest about the budget and  the scope of the event. If you do that right away you’re already going to be in a better spot when the event actually happens because you’re going to get the quality you’re going to get the equipment that you need and you’re going to be within budget because the partner that you decided to work with at the beginning they signed up to be that budget.

 

What else do you have?

 

What I didn’t understand early on in my career which I would love just to make sure that all your listeners do, is not every corporate event  planner has a very clear career path outline for them by their organization. I mean maybe you’re blessed to be working in an advanced division for a company where there’s  40 other event planners and maybe it’s a little bit more clear where you can go in the next 5-10 years, but I didn’t have that. I was really the only one corporate event planner. My advice is you need to know that you can look outside the organization for professional development, opportunities, education for networking and you’re not on an island.  You’re able to turn to organizations like MPI or ILEA or what have you, to seek out professional development to network with your peers. It’s an incredibly giving industry like you’re saying with you know somebody that might be a competitor as an independent planner I have been amazed by how all the other independent planners in the Twin Cities are so willing to help.

 

I think breaking out of the walls of your office exposes you to so many things in the industry because you know if you’re doing the same 5-10 events every year and you really are kind of craving new ideas, you’re craving like new technology going to industry events going to these annual association meetings and talking to other planners about what they’re doing, it sparks so many great ideas and not only introduces you to new people like new suppliers it can maybe bring in technology for you. You can also talk to people openly. I encourage people to not get stuck in the walls of their cubicle. The industry is very giving and you can seek elsewhere for networking and education.

 

What else have you got?

 

Also breaking away from your office, getting out of your typical 9-to-5. What’s incredibly important and if you’re a planner you understand that there’s events always held by different venues our national sales manager, Hilton, Loews, Omni, Independence they all hold events and invite planners to them over the course of the year and I encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities because the whether again you’re you are in a division of 40 event planners, or you are a team of one what’s incredibly important is to stay up to speed on the other different venue options out there and hotels are changing every day.  They’re changing flags, they’re renovating, there’s new hotel popping up, there’s new venue a special event spaces in every market. So many times I’ve had someone from the corporate leadership team come to me and is like “we wanna hold an event in three months, we wanna wanna have it in Nashville”. You don’t always have time to hop on a plane is scheduled to be great no I got a handful of properties that I have on the phone with them.

 

Large corporations often have event teams and planners inside, how often are those people also contracting external planners to plan things?

 

It’s actually becoming more and more common.  So as you know event plans for a year or budgets they ebb and flow from year to year based on the plans and those goals and objectives for the corporate organization so you don’t always want to hire another head to be a full-time employee.  We don’t know if we’re going to need that additional person the next year, so a lot of times they’ll save one or two head counts on their team to contract out other planners like myself and other amazing ones in the Twin Cities. But what’s great, is good quality independent planners, can be an extension of your team in any capacity if you need that ,if you need them to understand the product the clients the attendees whatever so they can actually interact with your guest they can do that, if you need them just behind the scenes doing the grunt-work that frees up others on the team they can do that, there are resources out there.

 

How do you choose the right independant planner?

 

I think really going out and being a part of these associations and networking like we  discussed before. I think that’s incredibly important because you get to know who is in your industry and as we were talking about everyone has their niche, right, like what they’re really good at, what they focus on, what they really excel at, what they bring to the table. You can get to know someone and see if you have a need and you have someone as a resource who would fit what you’re looking for.  

 

As you gain experience in this industry, you can’t do it all, and you don’t want to do it all. As you get more experience you become more self aware and figure out what your passion is and what drives you, you’re able to focus on that one area that you can bring purpose to.

 

What other tips do you have for being great and succeeding as a corporate events planner.

 

As corporate you have to think every company has a brand identity and that needs to be brought to life and consistent through the events. If you went to a target event and it didn’t have red you’d be like who is this?  Everyone has a brand a core identity, brand personality, but also quality and consistency needs to be in events.

 

 

You can contact Kelsey at kelsey@lynndavidevents.com

 

Meeting Minds by EideCom

Episode 3: Mistakes In The Events Business

Whether you have an internal events team or not, hiring a dedicated event professional to help with logistics and day-of is a must! On this episode, we chat with Kalsey Beach & Hannah Hegman of Do Good Events, an event and staff planning company that specializes in corporate, non-profit, and social events. Kelsey is the President of Do Good Events and Hannah is their Senior Events Manager. They fill us in on common mistakes, and give us tips on how to ensure your day-of is a huge success (and a weight off your shoulders!).

Contact: Kalsey@dogoodevents.com, Hannah@dogoodevents.com, or check them out at www.dogoodevents.com

 

KELSEY, WHY ENTER INTO THE EVENTS BUSINESS?

Like most event planners, it runs in my blood and honestly gets my adrenaline going. The name “Do Good” really speaks to what we want to bring to the event world, the community, etc. We want to bring people together, cultivating community, building awareness, and creating memories.

 

WHAT MISTAKES IN PLANNING OR EXECUTING AN EVENT HAVE YOU’VE SEEN?

  1. Lacking a Leader. When there is no official leader on site to make sure the event is set up for success the host can no longer be the host and enjoy their party. This often happens when people aren’t doing enough planning/pre-production. We often see this with our clients who are planning their first event or gala and they don’t realize all the little details that need to be planned, like who is picking up the silent auction items. This is where we step in and guide them with a checklist with everything that has to get done.
  2. The Post-Event Marketing. Planning goes much beyond the event! You need to thank your sponsors and vendors, get your traction on social media – do recaps, post photos, and figure out tear down plans, etc.
  3. The Pre-Event Marketing. Social media is a huge place for that. Use Influencers! *More below* Having a silent auction? Put it online and start the bidding a week ahead of time! That expands your opportunity to fundraise and reach the people that cannot be there. Also, it prepares people to spend money at the event.
  4. Event Theme/Brand. We’ve seen people not do it all or be really inconsistent with it. It creates recognition for your guests, so it should be clear from the moment they receive a save the sate to the post-event things.
  5. Hurdles. If you want the most people to show up, you need to remove all the hurdles. So you need to start planning early enough. If you wait too long, people will already have an event on the calendar. Think of who you are going to invite and make sure the date works for them. If it’s teachers & students, the first week in June probably isn’t a good time because they are wrapping up the school year. Think of their location. Where are the people you are inviting located? Will they be hitting rush hour? Once they get there, is it easy? Is their parking or valet? Valet is a great sponsorship opportunity! You could give them a short little script like, “Tonight’s valet is sponsored by…” Think of all the different hurdles there could be and remove them.
  6. Ambassadors. Have people that are your sales folks and encouraging others to go to the event. Don’t just send an email and open registration. You need to make those personal requests and say, “I want you there and I want you to bring three guests.” That is how you expand your audience. Also, UTILIZE SOCIAL MEDIA. *see trends below*
  7. Starting Too Late. You can always make something happen, but the quality of your event and the control you have over your event increases with the more lead time you have. AT LEAST put a date and venue on hold and then figure out the details. Also, add times for buffers between deadlines when planning and recognize what season of events you are in. If you are planning a gala in the middle of your region’s gala season, then you are competing for everything. This impacts what vendors and sponsors you can have, and your audience! Some people are attending galas or 5ks weekly! So what is going to make yours stand out?
  8. Ask big. Don’t be afraid to ask others to give big or sponsor big. Know the worth of the exposure your sponsors are going to receive from your event. Plus, it is an honor for them to be asked and be seen as someone that could give that much.

WHEN SHOULD YOU START PLANNING AN EVENT?

As far out as possible is ideal! We get calls at all different points of the process, typically when our clients have hit a pain point. Like, when they don’t know where to start or they are halfway through planning and it has become too overwhelming or they aren’t gaining enough traction.

WHAT ARE THE TRENDS IN THE EVENT INDUSTRY?

Events in general have become so trendy. There are 1.8 million events in the United States every year and the economic impact is huge!

CONSUMER IMPATIENCE. We make sure that at all of our events our check in and check out time is fast. So from a pre-planning side, we make sure we will have enough systems, tools, and hands on deck that at check in/out no one is waiting.

CHECK IN TIPS:

  1. Have enough staff or volunteers. There should be 1 person for every 50 guests.
  2. Give enough time to train your staff and volunteers. Let them know whats expected from them.
  3. If you have a packet or hand outs for each guest, move that to a different spot! For example, at a 5k, do check in at one spot with the t shirt pick up at another. This keeps people moving.
  4. Know who will be attending! If you have to make name tags at check in or assign bidding numbers in the moment, that is going to really slow down the check in process. When you put forth the pre-planning hours to know who is coming, what meal they want, etc, it expedites the process and creates a better experience for the guests.
  5. When applicable, create an incentive for early arrivals. Like, the first 50 people get a special swag item or if it’s a VIP ticket, which might be more expensive, but they receive an hour of an open bar. Therefor, you are getting more of your guests in the door. Strategies like that really help.
  6. Have clear signage! Registration or check in tables should be clearly marked, not just at the table, but where the line starts, especially if each table is designated for a specific ticket type. For example, VIP Check In or Late Registration.

If you know lines will form at your event, then make sure your line is part of your consumer experience! We love to have champagne passed through the lines, or a roaming entertainer, like a magician! Also, have your staff trained to be “way finders” to make sure people are in the right line or leading them to a shorter line. Often, we will send staff into the line to do mobile registration. No matter what you need to have a contingency plan, something to fall back on if your lines start to get longer than predicted. It is important to take a pulse of your line, so pick a person and time how long did it take them to get to the front of the line.

PERSONALIZATION. We will often ask the question, “How is this event going to be personal? What can we do?” In the past we have done polls to gage interest in sessions, in the menu, or to find out what that persons favorite candy is to surprise them with a welcome gift that is specific to them. Anything you can do to make it more memorable for each person attending. Think back to childhood, when you left a birthday party you always judged the treat bag! You either loved it or hated it and it is the ending of the party, but the first thing you think back to.

SUSTAINABILITY. Like in digital swag bags, which essentially include all the paper coupons and info you would normally get, but in a .pdf or on a website. This saves time during check in or check out, saves your sponsors money on printing costs, and obviously saves trees. Plus, we are all already on our phones so it is convenient and with it being such a new concept people are more intrigued to find out what’s in it. Besides that, we’ve seen events or galas with recycling or compost on site. Energy sufficiencies in general are really huge right now. We are working with more venues that are LEED certified, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. Another increasingly popular piece to have is an LED wall. Instead of printing a banner or many banners, you can have an LED wall with rotating images. We like to incorporate these new and exciting elements into events to elevate the guests experience.

LOCAL ELEMENTS. Like in the components of your swag bag or what you are giving away as prizes. Being mindful of your swag bag pieces are very important. For example, if you have a lot of attendees that have traveled to be there having big water bottles or cups might not even make it home with them. Think through who will be using it and how. Also, with your food and beverage. Vegan, vegetarian, and the desire for local produce (CSA, which stands for Community-supported agriculture, is a system that connects the producer and consumers within the food system) has become a huge trend in our culture. People now want to know where there food is coming from. Ideally, we would like to know who is vegan or vegetarian before the event so we can plan for that. But we wouldn’t recommend doing an only vegan or vegetarian menu, unless it aligns with the mission and that is communicated appropriately prior to the event. You need to know your audience. Plus, nowadays there are so many extreme diets and restrictions, like Paleo or Keto, and people are expecting these events to adhere to their diets. So communicate to your audience what you will or will not accommodate to.

ENGAGING THE SENSES. We typically check off the boxes of making sure everyone can hear the event, see it, and they will taste good food. But what about smell? How do you make it smell good in the rooms? What about touch? What tablecloths are you using, linens or ones with texture? You want to think through all the little pieces that will engage your attendees senses; see, hear, taste, smell, and touch. Have a mixologist, a person who is skilled at mixing cocktails and other drinks, at your event is great. There is something about seeing the drink made, taking a sip where you smell the cinnamon stick or the orange peel or they add a little smoke on the top. So keep in mind the pairing of foods. Brews & burgers, bubbly & breakfast. These little pairings really stimulate taste and touch. There are several small ways to engage the senses without using a scent machine if that is not applicable for your event.

INFLUENCERS AND SOCIAL MEDIA. These social media influencers at your events can be just as impactful as a celebrity. So whether that is having them share a session at your event or posting about your event on line, the impact is huge. You can also start your auctions online now! *Check out mistake #3 above to see how impactful social media is.*

NONTRADITIONAL EVENTS: People are moving away from the traditional galas. There is a need in the market for a more approachable price point. Fund-raisers vs Friend-raisers. Sometimes you need to get that younger professional into the room, which raises a little less money, but the goal is to move them up the donor-pipeline later. Or do a two part event, a conference then a social hour after. You can come (or buy a ticket) to one or the other or both! Think out of the box about what an event is supposed to look like.

HOW DO YOU PLAN FOR BAD WEATHER OR OTHER CONTINGENCIES?

Since we have most of our events here in Minnesota, we like to have a Plan A, B, and C. Indoors or outdoors, it is something to think about. That level of communication is so important and where the pre-planning comes. Do you have contact information for your guests? Do you have a Facebook event page already made or website? That is the most important thing, letting your guests know the plans as you know them. Your guests want to plan.

Snow can be hard to work with, but for your events in the Spring or Summer with rain, you can use those as opportunities! If it is raining send out volunteers with umbrellas to escort your guests! This could elevate your guests experience. But again it goes back to your pre-planning. Do you have 25 umbrellas around? Did you think about that? What about golf tournaments? Do you have sunscreen and bug spray available? Think of the elements not as challenges, but as opportunities to surprise and delight! Plus, these little luxuries can be sponsorship opportunities, like putting their logo on the umbrella.

When you are doing your walk throughs, be mindful about how the place will feel if it is really cold out or hot, snowing or raining. Especially since most of the time you are doing walk throughs months before the event when it’s a different season. Things to think about that you might not at the time: coat racks, slippery spots in the doorway, extra tents outside for shade.

FINAL THOUGHTS…

Take a moment at the back of the room to take in your event! All the planning has culminated into this moment. Also, take notes at other people’s events! What are their surprise and delight moments? What did you like and didn’t like? Be a constant learner, celebrate the victories throughout the process, and don’t get comfortable! It is always good to push for more.

 

Meeting Minds by EideCom

Episode 2: Hotel/Venue Traps to Avoid

Have you ever considered taking your event out-of-state? Do you already travel around the country for your events? Today’s episode is all about making your out-of-state event a success! Charles & Lisa talk to Gina & Anna of Nexstar Network, a member-owned organization that helps educate, coach, and train business owners in the trades. Their events move to new locations each year, so they give us tips on picking locations, how to maximize your dollars with the venue, and which partners should travel with you. Contact: Ginab@nexstarnetwork.com, Annar@nexstarnetwork.com, or check them out at www.nexstarnetwork.com

 

HOW DO YOU PICK THE CITY YOU WANT TO HOST YOUR EVENT?

We look at the downtown area. Our CEO, Jack Tester, loves a vibrant downtown. We want places for our guests to be able to walk to, fun activities for them to do, and great places to eat and see. If not, we want a shuttle near by or other transportation. We look at the quality and service of a hotel. We are not loyal to a brand, but lately we’ve been liking J.W. Marriott & the Hyatt for our larger events. We also check the distance from the hotel to the airport. We do not want our guests to land and then have to drive two hours to get to us. Also, meeting space. We need so much space. We’ve put together a calculation a few years back. It is 34 square feet per person, which is a lot, but we don’t want to feel uncomfortable. Then, we have a list of things we’ve used in the past that we will need, like a meal space, break out spaces for each department, etc. and we reference that for every event we do.

 

HOW ARE YOU FIGURING THIS OUT SINCE YOU ARE LOCATED IN ST. PAUL? ARE YOU FLYING TO THESE CITIES, DOING A LOT OF RESEARCH OR WHAT?

We have hotel reps, which are like Account Executives for each hotel brand, that we use. We put together an RFP, Request For Proposal, with all of our needs (room nights, meeting spaces, etc) and we send that to the hotel reps and from there they will recommend a hotel and send us availability. We do not like using third parties, because we really like having those personal relationships with the hotels reps. Also, the third-party gets commission, which causes the hotel to see our business as not so lucrative for them. Plus, the loyalty that develops when you are working with the same person year after year creates a great working relationship.

 

ARE THE HOTEL REPS VERY RESPONSIVE OR..?

The hotel reps are amazing! It is working with the actual hotel that can be hard. Like some hotels we can’t get into, because we don’t have enough room nights, so they won’t even look into our proposal. Like Austin, TX, we really want to get into there, but you need a minimum of 1,000 room nights to get in there and we are at about 7-800. Nashville and Austin are really hard to get into.

 

DO YOU EVER GO TO LOCAL BUSINESS/CITY BUREAUS, LIKE MEET MINNEAPOLIS, TO GET INTO A HOTEL OR CITY?

That is more like a DMC, Destination Management Company, which we could go to, but I don’t think they have as much pull as the hotels. Sometimes, the hotels will actually use them to try to win our business. One time, we went to meet with the hotel and they had a rep from their local city bureau ready to share with us why they think their area would be a great fit for our event. So they work more with the hotel to get us than with us to get the hotel.

 

ARE YOU WORKING WITH A NATIONAL REP FROM THAT HOTEL BRAND OR ARE YOU CALLING LIKE THE CATERING OR EVENT MANAGER AT A SPECIFIC HOTEL TO WORK THINGS OUT?

We work with a national rep. When we’ve narrowed down on a few hotels, our rep will put us in contact with the right person at the hotel.

 

HOW DO YOU START THE DIALOGUE WITH THE NATIONAL REP AND WHAT DO YOU DISCUSS? HOW MUCH DETAIL DO YOU PUT IN YOUR RFP’S?

Before we send those out, we’ve met with our national hotel reps several times. So they know our business and what we are looking for. Then, the RFPs go into further detail about what we need for that specific event. Like, the space outlined, what class are taking places, how big those classes are, any breakouts needed, hours of the class time, any concessions that we are really hard on, and room block details. Like how many king or queen rooms we need. We are very specific about that. If it is a management level event or a technician level event we need different styles of rooms for our guests. We get a lot of questions back from the hotels about that, but it helps us to weed out what hotels are going to work for us and which won’t.

 

HOW DO YOU DETERMINE WHAT YOU NEED IN A HOTEL BLOCK?

We have a really good formula built up. We look at how many people are budgeted for each class and then we take 30% off the top. We’ve noticed that about 30% of people either don’t come, already live in the area, or they share a room. A lot of our technicians will want to share rooms to save on costs. We have not gotten into any attrition, that’s the thing we don’t want to get into, because we contract so many events across the country that we want to be good stewards of our members money.

 

DO THE MEMBERS PAY YOU OR THE HOTEL DIRECTLY?

They pay the hotel. We orchestrate everything and do the negotiating. Two new things that we are doing in our RFPs this year is that we are asking for a 2% rebate to our members’ master account, because a lot of hotels want to show on paper that there room rates are a little higher, which is okay, and if we don’t have any wiggle room for the room rates we can at least get a credit to our members at the end of it. Also, we are going to give preference to the hotels that give us 75% attrition vs 80% or 90%. The other thing I wanted to throw in is AV. We do lay those details out in the RFPs. For our smaller events, we will use the local AV company, but for our larger events we are happy to say that we use EideCom!

 

I’VE HEARD HOTEL NEGOTIATIONS CAN BE PRETTY FIERCE, CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THAT?

I see it as a challenge. When we start the proposal process with the hotels you begin a relationship with them. I know that we are a great piece of business and our members are a fun group of people. Hotels love us on site. Our guys are great and we are going to bring them a nice piece of business so we are asking for some back. It helps that our hotel reps know us. We don’t cancel, we fill our blocks, we spend way more money on food and beverage, we overflow our blocks, our members like to go out, drink, and spend money. We ask for a lot of concessions. Like, F&B, food and beverage, which we usually ask for 20% off the top. We might not always get it, but something is better than nothing! We can’t negotiate plus plus (the tax that hotels charge). We have a list of about 25 concessions that we always ask for. Like, a two-way cut off for our hotel block, which gives you two weeks prior to the start of the event to book your room at the negotiated rate. But, if the block fills, the hotel can do whatever they want. For the most part, they will honor the negotiated rate if it is in the two-week mark. So we try to negotiate two weeks prior. We do 10% off AV. We do 80% attrition and this year we are giving priority to the 75% attrition. We do discounted staff room rates, meeting planner points, welcome amenities, suite upgrades, and more. We also have a lot of contractual addendum’s. Like, a mutual cancellation policy. So if I cancel on the hotel, the amount is the same as if the hotel cancels on me. We’ve never had to cancel an event, but if we were to, we want to be protected. Or if the hotel decides to cancel on us, we are in a really bad situation. We also do a meeting space clause, which means the hotel cannot move us without our written permission. We also do a no walk clause. Some hotels, if they over book they will bump you, so this clause states that if they over book they have to bump other people and not our members. We also do not pay for meeting space. We work it into our food and beverage minimum. Another tip to save money: negotiate that all your packages will be delivered for free! Hotels will charge you hundreds of dollars if you get something delivered there.

 

HAVE YOU EVER DEALT WITH UNIONS?

Oh yes. We’ve had a lot of issues with unions, so that is something we look at upfront when we are selecting hotels and venues. If they are union, we do a lot of research and look at their history, because we have been burned, where the management staff is amazing, but the banquet staff (the staff that is union) that has to execute the work won’t follow through, so we end up being on site labor. Plus, the prices you pay at a union hotel are crazy! We try to avoid unions. We do not want to pay the extra fees. The plus plus is enough. As a rule of thumb, we estimate plus plus to be a minimum of 32%.

 

WHAT IS NEGOTIABLE?

Food and beverage and AV for sure. Especially, if you have history with the hotel and can prove your F&B budget and room block, they can work with your budget.

 

WHAT OTHER THINGS HAVE YOU LEARNED TO NOT OVERLOOK?

When you start negotiating, always look into your rigging costs. Any type of license or permits that’s needed from the hotel side, like if you need a security guard or someone overseeing stuff, that can be upwards of $5,000, so I ask for the production guidelines from the hotel before a site visit and send that to EideCom, or the production team, and they let me know what the event will actually cost. That way you are not getting a surprise bill later on.

 

WHAT ABOUT THINGS LIKE POWER AND INTERNET?

I ask the hotel right away what that will cost. For internet, we do not provide wi-fi for all of our members, because it is crazy expensive, like $50,000. We do provide it for the production team and we put it out at the registration desk and then we negotiate wi-fi in members room. So they do have free wi-fi while they are there. We don’t want them on their phone all day anyways, but we do have a lot of members ask about it.

Another thing to check when you are negotiating is construction. It is always good to know if there is any planned construction and what they can do to work around that for our guests. It is also important to know who else is going to be at the hotel. We don’t run into this problem very often, but with our smaller events when we aren’t taking up the majority of the hotel or meeting spaces, you do not want to be in a room next to people having a party when you are trying to have a focused, thinking time with your group, which has happened to us. We ended up having to move rooms overnight.

Another thing to think about, we like to contract out a year and a half to two years for our really big meetings.

 

ARE THERE ANY CITIES YOU WOULDN’T RECOMMEND?

Las Vegas and New Orleans, because there are so many distractions. We still go to New Orleans but we are more thoughtful about where we go and what our itinerary is. Also, Canada is hard, because now you need a passport. But once we get there, everything is so much cheaper.

Another thing we think about is the weather. Like, don’t book an event in Florida during hurricane season. We’ve thought about having an event here in Minnesota, but there is no hotel that is big enough for our Super Meeting. We would have to book two hotels, one for overflow, and we don’t want to do that.

 

LET’S TALK ABOUT THE THINGS THAT YOU THINK ARE THE MUST DO’S FOR PLANNING AN EVENT OUT OF STATE?

  1. You have to do a site visit for a large meeting. See how people treat you, how the food is, what does the meeting space look like?
  2. Check the cost of flights! If it is hard place to get to, like there isn’t an international airport nearby and flights alone are $1,000, people probably won’t want to pay that, plus a hotel and more.
  3. Location. You don’t want to be in a weird or unsafe area that makes your guests uncomfortable
  4. Put together a check list that is full of things that are important to you and your business and make sure everything checks off while you are there! It’s a process to put together a good contract, but when you give it the time you need the outcome will be so much better. Have a very detailed person and even a lawyer look over it.

 

ARE THERE ANY BIG RED FLAGS YOU SHOULD BE AWARE OF WHEN TALKING TO A HOTEL?

For the most part, the hotels want your business, so they won’t try to pull a fast one on you. I would just be sure to look at the cancellation policy.

It is key to build trust between you and the hotel reps and staff!

 

WHY DO YOU CHOOSE TO WORK WITH A PRODUCTION COMPANY THAT WILL TRAVEL WITH YOU INSTEAD OF THE IN-HOUSE PRODUCTION CREW?

We want a team that knows our content, our people, the way we think, our membership, so that we can work easier together and the level and quality of equipment that a production company, like EideCom, owns is so great. On top of that, there is a level of trust that builds. We trust you guys to take care of us and our members. And honestly, it is not that much more expensive, if any at all!

All of our vendors leading up to a big event, we are very loyal to them and they are very loyal to us. Events are all about the little details, so for us, we have so many things going on, it is such a load off of us to work with people who know all the little details!

 

Contact: Ginab@nexstarnetwork.com, Annar@nexstarnetwork.com, or check them out at www.nexstarnetwork.com

 

 

Meeting Minds by EideCom