Logistics

S.2 Episode 23: 70,000 People in One Room?!

Tell us about you.

Like most people I ended up in  meetings and events by accident.  I was in my last semester of college and there was a test class called special events. A professor asked me to take it. I jumped in and never looked back. I had no idea this industry existed. I have been in events ever since. I’m so thankful I accidentally fell into this industry. I moved out west for a little while and got into doing events for an education company. Came back to Indiana and started working for the FFA 11 years ago.

Your events are big,  tell us about the event.

We have several different events. FFA is a student led/based leadership organization. We have several different conferences we put on through out the year, our big one is the national FFA convention and expo held every hear in the late fall. Last year I was just shy of 70,000 people. The majority of those events are students. We host about 350+ events in a 3 1/2 day period. 

Tell me about these events.

We host 9 general sessions the opening session we have to repeat 3 times to get all the attendees through! You get the kinks out by the third one 😉

We have leadership workshops, a large expo with about 450 exhibitors, we build a shopping mall. We have about 40 mall vendors. Career tours, service projects, and we different leadership networking events. And we have competitive events.  We have a concert and three rodeos. 

Do you ever gather everyone in one space at one time?

No not at one time. We come close during the opening session. 25,000-30,000 people.

How does National FFA get students to come to the event?

Each state has an FFA and there are several chapters within each state. A lot of students get to come because they are competing. For those not competing it depends on the local level.  There are teachers that will bring a different set of students each year, some school comes every other year. It depends on their local program. Overall, our complete membership numbers: over 650,000 FFA members. Usually we end up with 10 % of our membership as our attendance.  The more that our membership continues to grow, I see our convention attendees growing too. 

Have you ever considered breaking it up?  What has been your process to stay one event?

We have had that conversation quite a bit over the last several years. How big is too big? For us we have a couple of factors. 

  1. Capacity and what a city can hold. We use multiple venues and we try to stay within a 50 mile radius so when the bus drivers are driving, they are not behind the wheel for more hours than what they can be. 
  2. Experience: we want you to be able to walk through the expo and be able to go to a booth, or have a seat at a conference.

We take that into consideration each year.

We see a 1-2% increase in attendance each year. By the time we get about 5-7 years down the road, it will become a reality. 

When you are doing this, how do you ensure safety of minors?

It is the first and foremost thing I think about every year. Large events are just not as safe as they used to be. We have an amazing partnership with all the government service entities. I couldn’t do this without their help. They are apart of my planning. They make sure the street is safe as well as where the events are. 

What things do people need to think about for a large conference in a new city?

You have to ask what the working relationship is between police, fire, FBI etc and how they work together. The other thing, we created our own internal emergency safety plan. We have our own structure for our staff but also so we can keep ourselves safe as well as attendees. 

How do you choose the right city?

We send an RFP, with a 5-10 year lead time. Last time we sent it out to 14 cities and it quickly got narrowed down to 3 cities. I have a committee that helps with the process. It takes several months to go through that. 

You guys have had some big names.

Yes we have been so lucky!  We try to get people right when they are on the cusp of becoming really big. We are a non profit and don’t have the pockets large corporations have. A lot of them love what the organization is and love being around the students so the artists have just as much fun as the students. 

What tips do you give to planners?

I have two that I use: 

  1. You have to build a good team around you. We feel like we have to do everything. We have to be the super hero, we make magic happen. 
  2. Get involved in a local meeting planning association. 

mhazlett@ffa.org

Instagram: eidecomcreative

Charlesevaneide

Twitter: TheMeetingMinds

S.2 Episode 18: Being Intentional to Make your Events Amazing

No beige food at your event!?  Tahira is the guest this week and she shares all things she’s learned during her time in the events industry.  Grab your notebook, you will definitely want to write some of this down!

The Society for Incentive Travel Excellence

How did you end up in the events business?

I was a hairstylist and I loved doing that job. I started working at salons when I was 13, at 26 I had crazy surgery on both of my arms and I couldn’t cut hair again. 

I saw a tiny ad about an event diploma.  I entered the industry the way no one does, which is getting a  diploma in event management Then I got a great job with PCO (professional convention organization company).

Then I was a creative director and I was tired and got really interested in event technology and did that for a bit with quick mobile. Through all of this I wrote a book. I had been blogging and writing for quite some time.  I thought I should collect what I think is important about in events in one place. I called it Intentional Event Design, I think we need to be purposeful and thoughtful and people centric. It’s about how do we rethink seating and food and beverage and build it into our events from the beginning. 

If you create meaningful interactions between people those are the things people remember and take away. Where do you start in all of that?

I start by figuring out the purpose of the event. Theres a thing around starting with why, and it does matter.  Create an empathy map and think about the people attending. Both in our case, we do programs that are hosted, and we are really reliant on our sponsors.  

You said people centric and purpose driven is how you do events, tell me about your approach.

It starts with empathy mapping, dig into the different people that will come.  Who is your audience? It’s looking at it from different perspectives, if I come as a participant, a sponsor, an exhibitor, a supplier partner, and extrovert, introvert: how can I create spaces that tie into the emotional needs of the people attending.  And how do I create the education and topics that are relevant for this group of participants at this time.  You start to build out your events in that way.  Allow them to connect and be comfortable.  

We think of typical networking events at a bar, a room music is too loud to talk over so you’re yelling at people.  It’s impossible to be in if you have hearing issues.  You don’t get food that nourishes you and its primarily alcoholic offerings and those aren’t good for everybody.  My thing around food is no beige food. You start off your day with a bagel and an hour and half later you have crashed and want more food. You are looking for that energy.  You go to lunch and get pasta and a bun.  Now you’re weighted down, no one wants to be the after lunch speaker. We just started to give people color. 

What other things do you do that are purpose driven and people centric?

I try to create quiet spaces for people. Think about nursing mothers, prayer, things that you will want to set aside a room for. 

Use technology smartly. We are past the age of paper things and into mobile apps. Get things to people in a timely fashion. 

How do you work with a venue that only has union run snacks that are not good?

We have to start it in the beginning. It has to be a part of our RFP.  You have to have healthy menus. 

Contact Tahira: intentionaleventdesign.ca 

Instagram: Tahiracreates

tahiralovesevents@gmail.com

Instagram: charlesevaneide

eidecomcreative

Twitter: TheMeetingMinds

S.2 Episode 15: Should you hire a professional emcee?!

Does having a professional Emcee make a difference for your event?  Is it worth the cost of hiring one?  Charles and Lisa sit down with professional Emcee, Amy McWhirter.  Hear the ways emcee’s make a difference for your event and the tricks they have learned to create engagement!

 

Tell us about you.

 
I started out doing trade shows. I’ve been doing that a long time, then about 4 years ago I started transitioning into doing more corporate events. I absolutely love it, the experience from the corporate trade show world led up to this.  Its the live energy I love so much. It’s a lot more improv and in the moment. Trade shows are usually scripted, we have scrips in the live hosting corporate events but our audience is right there and you are guiding them through.  You gauge the energy level and I get such a thrill out of that. 
 
Here in the twin cities we see a lot of news anchors emcee events. How do you create the connection between you and the clients? How are you introduced?
 
Right off the bat I introduce myself and tell them I will be joining them on the journey. I don’t spend too much time on it, just a couple sentences, it’s really all about them and their event. At the end of the event I do have people coming up and say it was great and engaging and think I work for the company.  That is the goal!
 
What sets the tone for an event?  
 
Meetings ahead of time to plan with the client, figuring out what the messaging is.  The tone can vary between the kinds of audiences. The sales meetings are typically a little more high energy, where as a customer gathering is a little different.
 
How do you build your prices?
 
I build pre-planning into the pricing. I consider it part of rehearsal which is the day before the event and are built together for a day rate. For a corporate meeting for a day it is $4,000-5,000. 
 
In your opinion what makes a great emcee?
 
Energy! Energy is huge, warmth, engaging, charismatic, authentic: those are the things I think make a great host.  
 
My experience with the corporate presenting world goes a long way. I am used to getting immersed in the topic and sounding like an expert. That comes somewhat naturally at this point, part of that is getting familiar with a new client. It goes back to meetings and the content. 
 
How do you balance script vs improv?
 
They have their messaging but I have freedom to make it sound natural and put it in my voice. I either do bullet points or write it out more long form. In the moments there’s a lot of improv. Not changing the messaging but the way it’s delivered, when the people are there vs rehearsing, in the moment it will be different. It just comes alive when the audience is there. You have to be able to read the room and adapt accordingly. 
 
Do you see a lot of companies using employees to emcee and how do you show them the value of hiring a professional?
 
Yes that does happen. If they want to do that, it’s fine.  A professional is a professional for a reason and can handle all those unknowns or unexpected things.  The energy level alone, it’s hard to do that and maintain the energy level. The head of an emcee is in a different place. The employee will have so many other responsibilities and their focus can be pulled during the event. 
 
If I want to interview a few emcees, what kind of things do I need to do to vet them?
 
Do research before even talking to your candidates.  Go to a website for them, look at their testimonials, video clips are huge.  You can see the person in action doing what they do best. Of course talk to them and see how they do one on one and get a personality feel.
 
Do you memorize your script?
 
There are confidence monitors, they are hidden so most people don’t know they are there. I put my notes there.  I carry cards, I rarely need them but they do help especially in an interview or panel on stage. Sometimes the monitor will not be working because a video just played, or they forgot to switch it back. 
 
How do you keep people on time?
 
 Lots of reminders about what’s next and what time to be back for the general session. I point them to the mobile app and reinforce it by having them refer to their app. Things definitely do go long. 
 
What was the most fun moment in your career?
 
I went to host a customer conference in Rome last October. I did not meet the pope!  Honestly a sales meeting I did last month, we had some really fun bits.  We had a trivia game for the sales folks and I wore a crazy rainbow jacket. They played a montage of game shows, including international because we wanted to include all the folks, that was really fun. Then I got to do a song and dance. I am a dancer and I can sing.  And the CEO was so big on me doing a song. “You’re ready for that, you’re going to do that song right?!” It was fun. I put on a top hat and did a little bit from Chorus line, that was super fun!  
 
Has anyone asked you to do anything weird?
 
So far no!  If it really fits with their theme, I will say yes. The wildest I had to get was that colorful jacket. 
 
To get a hold of Amy:
Insta: presenting_amy
 
Instagram: charlesevaneide
eidecomcreative
 
Twitter: TheMeetingMinds

S.2 Episode 11: How to Create an Event that Flows: from a Production Manager’s Perspective

Kyle Arndt, EideCom’s Production Manager takes time out of his day to sit down with Charles and Lisa. He shares from his perspective, how to create a show that flows and what goes into the details. Kyle has years of experience in the industry and with that comes many must know tips!

 

We have a special guest. We actually have the pleasure of working with them every single day here at EideCom, Kyle Arndt welcome.

 

Well the guys, thanks for having me. You know we get to, we get to hang out. We never get to hang out like this.

 

So I thought I would just start by maybe tell us a little bit about how you got into production in general, how you got into the industry.

 

So once upon a time I dreamed of being a rock star. So when I was growing up, I played guitar and then, through my first couple of years of college, we played shows every weekend. And then I ended up like realizing that I liked setting up the equipment and dealing with the equipment more than I liked playing shows. So then I started working for my friend’s bands and I traveled the world working for a bunch of different bands. And then, um, when I got sick of traveling, I joined up with a few companies in town. And then about six months after working around town, I found EideCom here. So then I’ve been on the team for the last two and a half years now.

 

Well, so let’s talk about kind of from the beginning, how do you make a great production that’s well-oiled and turns out to be very successful?

 

The holy grail to all these things is how we build a quote, how we recognize where stuff might be missing, the holes, where we need content for, how we play stuff, how many microphones we need, how we build; everything is off of any sort of schedule we can get from the client. If you’re putting on an event, make a detailed schedule or a rough schedule to start and we’ll ask questions. You know, that’s one thing we do is look through a schedule with a comb and say, hey, you know, it looks like we’re missing something here. Or it looks like you have this many people talking here. We’re going to add some, some equipment for that. We’re going to add a few microphones for this. Do you plan on having all these people speak at the podium or do you need microphones for them all? So it’s just the schedule is really the key and that kind of needs to outline the obviously the timing of things. Who speaks at what time for how long they’re speaking. If you’re working with a great production team, they’re usually asking these questions upfront. Building the schedule is different, different per scope of work. A lot of times these gala’s we do you get the information the week of or of the day of even the content shows up on a jump drive and then usually just it’s important for you putting on a show to know who your point person is with, with the product.

 

What are the importance of Comms?

 

There’s a couple of different kinds of systems. I’m mostly familiar with a product called clear, their newest stuff I think is helix net, which is a wired system. So anybody that’s sitting at the front of House table or anyone sitting backstage where their position doesn’t call them to be roaming around the room, you would just plug in there. They have like a comm unit and they can push talk to the people they need to talk to you. And it can be programmed. It doesn’t sound like a radio, Sounds like us talking right here. It’s super nice. It’s super crisp and clear. You can hear everything they’re saying. It’s super controllable. It’s programmable.

 

We always have three teams of people on comm. We always have audio, video and lighting. If we add cameras to a show, that’s another set of people. If we add the client to that, that’s another set of people. So a lot of these shows, even the bigger conferences can have up to 50 or 60 people on it.

 

Tell me about the importance, do you need it?

 

Absolutely. Yeah. I mean it’s like the last thing I’ll try to take off an estimate. When someone’s trying to cut costs, I’m like, we absolutely need this. Even if we’re all sitting next to each other, say it’s a small show if we’re all sitting next to each other, it’s better for us to be whispering to each other than yelling. The comm is insanely cool technology. We can separate everybody. So it’s these people talk to these people and then everybody connects on one channel everybody can hear this, but only people can talk down this ETC.

 

The most important things for the stage manager be doing is to make sure everybody on stage can be seen on camera. To me whenever I get to stage manage, I like to remind people, I’m like, hey, you know the cameras straight out in front of you. We have a camera over here and there’s a camera over here.

 

Like just so they know like they’re always facing forward and you know like in that part of that comes into play. Like some people do panels on stage and okay, then you’re looking at the stage managers usually in charge of setting up those debt furniture, right? So they play a big part and going where it, can this be a pit positioned on stage so we can pick up everybody nicely on camera.

 

Do rehearse the furniture?

 

Yeah, so that’s where comm comes into play because then during the setup, because usually it’s a five minute change over, but then you’re the stage manager who’s helping them set up, you’re connected on comm to the video director who’s watching, who’s physically looking at the camera shots. You got a camera operator and moving around and making sure you can see everything and they’re going, yeah that furniture needs to move. It’s not like somebody’s running back and forth and it takes more time.

 

Tell us about the show flow…

 

There’s a few things I like to do when I gather the information and this information is key. When I talk to a presenter, whether that’s a CEO, an auctioneer, or a keynote, whoever it is, I just like to say, you know, you’re supposed to speak for about this amount of time. How are you wrapping up your speech? Like what are you saying to end it, right? Cause there’s a lot of times I’m looking for a cue. I’m looking for, somebody is going to press a button at the end of this that’s going to start music, the lights are going to move and that has to happen all at the same time. So we’re looking for a vocal cue.

 

Some keynote, CEO’s, and speakers they’re very, very good about what they’re going to say. . And then at the same time, some people literally haven’t thought about it yet. They’re planning on winging it, I’m just going to go up there and talk for a little while. So I’m like, well, it would be helpful for us to just kind of know how you’re going to wrap up. How do you, how do you plan on ending this speech? Like who name five people you’re going to say thank you to or something to get to get them thinking about it because that’ll help them glue it together as well to just kind of bundle it up.

 

So that leads me to the question about rehearsals before we talk about transitions and other things like that. Like tell me about rehearsals.

 

We get the opportunity of doing a show in all different situations. When we have short rehearsal time or no rehearsal time, we can pick our team based on that. I think the most important part of rehearsal is how somebody is getting on and off stage. Because once they’re on stage, they’re going, if it’s a performance piece, it’s a little bit more involved. But if it’s a keynote, it’s like they want to know how they’re going on and off stage, what the lights are doing, where they’re walking from. We get the opportunity to figure out like how long they’re going to take to get onstage.Everyone’s walks at a different speed, if they get the opportunity to do it twice, that’s kind of in their mind like this is how I’m going to do it. Now if we cycled to a performance, they’ve got dancers and they have singers and they’re on this stage and they’re gonna move to this stage. We have the opportunity of setting up the day before for this particular gala and we’re going to run through that for probably about three hours from the night before and we’re going to get the performance piece rehearsed the night before. That way we have time to walk through anything the next day if needed, and then we get it. And then we’ll take the rest of that time the next day before the event starts to go through all the the keynote speeches.

 

From a production standpoint, we love the venue the day before. Now we understand that it increases costs and we take steps to try to minimize that. We’ll go in with a reduced crew just to get some stuff in place. Try to do a half day there. There’s ways that it doesn’t double the labor costs. There’s creative ways to figure that out. If you’re a client and you feel like you’re always running around with your head cut off an hour before the show starts, trying to get in the night before the day is going to help your show immensely.

 

We were talking about the show flow and it going well. Are there softwares or tools or do you just use a spreadsheet?

 

There is a web based program called show shoflo. It’s more or less just a spreadsheet that you update on the web so everybody can see it on their device or whatever. They can log into it and they can even follow along. So as the show goes, the timings on there and there’s a person in charge of pressing next, so you can see, okay, we did that, this is what’s coming up next.

 

When we get the opportunity to help build the show flow we tend to use a spreadsheet. That’s how a lot of our show callers have always done it.

 

How do you make sure that weird stuff doesn’t happen?

 

I just talk through a show so many times before the show. With the team, with myself, with the, with the client, with everybody. Just to make sure we got everything okay. Every piece of the transition, how something ends, what happens in between, how that person gets on stage every detail is talked through. Those small points speed everything up. They make it so it’s not awkward because it can’t cause the second it’s awkward you’re sitting at the tech table and back, everybody’s turning around looking at you and you’re like, oh, I guess it is our fault because we are running the production.

 

Tell me about like having an MC?

 

The best mcs they kind of show up and they go, Yup, I’ll go on stage whenever you guys need me. Uh, looks like there’s a script printed out. Let me know if I’m needed for anything else. The news casters around town, they’re all very good. I think the quality of a person is how involved they are in the project. That speaks with how our team works here. We try to be very involved with everything we’re doing. And then we’re invested. Same thing goes with an MC. It’s like, you know, how much are they involved with your organization, if at all?

 

You’ve done some of our shows repeatedly, do you have a level of comfortability once you’ve done it before?

 

Oh, absolutely. Every time we do a show, the second year the show goes well. The second year it’s like, we did this last year, how is it different? We’re familiar. We know the people involved. We go, okay that person’s speaking for sure they’re involved with the organization at this level so there’ll be on stage. We get to the opportunity to go into a little bit more detail. We know where are the most important people sitting.





S.2 Episode 10: Event Planners; Hire or Contract?!

This episode we are joined by Lisa.  We dive into the issue of hiring versus contracting event planners and where the threshold is.

Today we have Lisa Schuler, the president of Schuler Marketing. Tell us a little bit about you.

 

I’ve worked in the marketing communications field coming out of college and started out with international Dairy Queen.  I wrote all about DQ treats. I was the Children’s Miracle network coordinator, did a lot of traveling with their events. That is how it all started and I got the bug for the events and production component.

 

I’ve been in events for over 20 years.

 

Today’s topic we are talking all about how to know when to hire someone internally or hire someone externally. A lot of times they will have an admin do it.

 

I think that happens a lot.  Sometimes events brew up and starts and grows. It starts out small and all of a sudden it’s a big thing, they have an admin trying to manage it while supporting an executive, feeling overwhelmed and not as knowledgeable about negotiating contracts. They know enough but are not as focused. It takes a certain skill set. Meeting planners, you have to be able to juggle a lot of plates, and some people are not comfortable with that. You either love it or not.  Sometimes you are handing things off to people and it’s not their sweet spot or niche. That is sometimes when an organization should step back and see if they should bring someone in, focused on the event, putting the pieces together, and they can work virtually with the team that is part of the organization.

 

Bringing in a meeting planner, you can let them run the show, put the team together.  A lot of times I will step in and lead the team, bring them together and have a pulse check meetings. As a meeting planner, I can be focused on the event the whole time.

 

How does the company know when to hire internally?

 

It depends on the need. At some point if you’re not needing someone full time all the time, maybe you should be looking to fill that as a resource.  It’s not just putting anyone in, you need someone assertive and confident. When you get past the point of a group sitting together and start adding production pieces and getting more complicated, now you are starting to look at the point of needing a meeting planner.

 

So maybe you’re not at the point where you should hire someone full time, how do you create an arrangement with a 3rd party where they have authority and control?

 

In my role that is spot on.  You have to get comfortable with that and find the right person. I’m brought in a lot and looked at as a team member.  There are times people think I am an employee. Find someone who looks and immerse themselves into the organization. You need to know enough about the content to deliver that into the meeting.  If there’s such a separation, you’re completely missing out on the flow and integration on how the event goes.

 

How do you budget for a planner?

 

Typically I come in and it’s part of an event expense. You put it in as a line item. I scope it based on the event and give them a set amount you are working in. I help them manage that whole event. It really depends on the situation.

 

There are benefits to a contractor.  One of the benefits, is you are already a highly connected individual.

 

Absolutely.  There is that whole perspective. You have the preferred vendors, you know who you can go to.  There is a beauty to working with people you love to work with and can count on. And then it flows, that flow is so important.

 

Do you find huddles with the team are helpful?

 

Absolutely. I like to do them every morning before. You need to, things change and move and everyone needs to know about that. Bring together the key players, including the team of the event.  They need to know. It all has to move together, you want to have some kumbaya between the team.

 

If you are a fortune 500 company and you’ve added events and you need to hire a contractor, how do you as a corporation give you autonomy without feeling like you will take advantage?

 

Part of it is setting up a creative blueprint. Talk about the scope the audience and the objective of the event. I define what I’ll be in charge of and check if they are ok with it. You have to be very clear about what the expectation is.

 

Where do you see the most successful meeting planners putting themselves for budgeting?

 

For most people it’s basing it on the scope of the project. Doing a project price. We all know there is scope creep, you have to put that in a contract. What if they add another day of educational events?

 

A planner is kind of a liaison between the vendors.

 

Right, and they can lay out the options.

 

So say I’m a meeting planner and want to start doing more work for corporations, how do I present myself?

 

Sometimes businesses get so busy that they are not thinking about it. You need to work through a meeting planning department or where the meetings initiate in a company. Help them to understand that if they have a need they can bring you in to focus on it.

 

Take someone out of school and they want to get into meeting and event planning…

 

It’s really funny because everyone sees it as the fun thing. There are parts that are fun, but it’s a lot of stress, and you have to be able to manage it.  You coming out of school, one of the best things you can do, get on board and help with a component of a meeting. Volunteer, get involved in associations that are doing events.

 

What tips can you leave for those in the events industry who are contractor?

 

You can use indeed or LinkedIn, they may think they need a meeting planner, but maybe they need someone to come in and manage the event. Use your network to see if someone would look at a position as a contract role. At least ask, what’s the worst that could happen?