Is change really possible? Or are we the way we are permanently? Ryan Estis shares with us how to actually change your life! Listen as an expert shares practical ways to enact change!
Tell us your story.
I started my professional career in advertising and communications on the sale side. I worked my way up through that business. The company was acquired, and the last job I had there was chief sales and strategy officer. In that role, I started doing a little speaking. I looked forward to it, those days became my favorite days. I learned about the training and education industry. In 2009 in the height of the recession I decided to make my move. When the world was falling apart I quit and there I was trying to figure out the next chapter of my life. Probably not the best time to do it, but in hindsight looking back, I call it the single best professional decision I’ve ever made.
Tell me about the passion to share messaging and using your platform to change lives.
Some of that was probably innate. Both my parents were school teachers. I have always been passionate about my own education, personal and professional development and growth. The sales background, presenting came natural. I got to a point where I realized, I lost my passion for what I was doing. I would lay awake at night and think, “Is this what I am going to do with the sweet spot of my professional career?” I would get anxiety about that, I knew there was something else and I wanted to take a shot. This is the time and if it does’t work out, I’ll be able to go back and reinvent myself in that world. I wanted to experiment and see if I can turn this into something. It’s evolved but that was how it began.
Now you’re speaking all over the world. How did you come up with your process and what do you teach on?
The curriculum is focused on 2 core things: leading an organization into the future, the other side is we talk about sales growth. My background is in sales. I am a student of selling. I was a pretty good sales person that’s how I worked my way up. I am pretty evenly split between sales and leadership conferences.
Change, you’re either a part of it or you’re against it. Share with us some of your philosophies on how you navigate change.
Some of it’s a mindset. Change is the new normal, it’s not going to stop. I tell people, at the individual level you want to have a foot in two worlds.
The drive to execute and preform.
Maintaining the discipline to continue to invest time in re educating yourself.
That balance you have to invest time in getting better each and everyday.
How do you take initiative everyday to make effective change?
What gets scheduled gets done. If you want to make effective change you need to block time for it. The things the best professionals in the world do, if you’re a meeting planner embrace that type of process.
The five hour rule:
Schedule five hours a week for self improvement. It’ll become a habit.
Is true change possible?
It is possible, there are great examples of people that have made instrumental changes in their lives. They have quit smoking, they are sober. There’s documented evidence that people have changed. You can grow and evolve or expand the best part of who you are. That to me is the idea. It’s easy in life to get overwhelmed or in a rut. Change is useful if people are in an elevated emotion.
How do you make sure you’re not numbing?
Being honest with yourself helps. If you have a container you can document, keep a journal, that’s so important. You can hold yourself accountable. Find a group of people to hold you accountable.
Tell us about a mastermind, that you mentioned before we started recording.
I understand the feelings of loneliness and isolation. Go on the internet and find people, they are out there. I promise you. They are there and they are hungry just like you. Part of this realization and awakening for me… My life looked good on the outside but on the inside I was falling apart. I ended up navigating that journey and ended up at a personal growth retreat.
If someone wants effective change, how do they make it happen?
Decide what you want, and decide what you don’t want. Take the time to think through that and have the discipline to write it down. You get to decide who you want to be and the things you think about. Then put tactics in place. Take it a level deeper if you want it to work and why. How are you going to feel in the future state? Who else is going to benefit if this change is realized? And the consequences of not changing? That’s powerful. What if nothing changes. Progress is success. A lot of reasons people quit, change is hard.
A lot of people deal with a negative cycle. What is something someone can do if they are falling in the negative cycle?
It’s part of the process. Setbacks are, it’s how you respond to the setback that’s critical. The setback is the setup for the comeback and the break through. Anticipate the fact you’re going to have a setback. Elevate your self awareness. Know yourself then confront yourself.
Super power: Hardwork
Cause: The Inner City Ducks innercityducks.org
Twitter: The Meeting Minds
Is change really possible? Or are we the way we are permanently? Ryan Estis shares with us how to actually change your life! Listen as an expert shares practical ways to enact change!
The event industry is a passion industry! How do we move people in the midst of a pandemic? Nick Borelli, an event strategist, sits down and shares how we can make the pivot!
Tell us how COVID-19 hit you?
I have been asking this question a lot to my friends too. Many of them are dealing with this in immediate ways, and others are being cautiously optimistic. Personally I work for organizations that represent a lot of events. The ones most affected by this and the least likely to bounce back quickly. Everyone on our team self-quarantined. It’s been a moment of reflection before we start working on solutions in the strategy world for our clients who are hurting pretty badly. When it comes to content there is a lot of work to be done now.
There is pain right? There’s very obvious to find pain. It’s just determining where you have authority, what your lane is, and addressing the pain of the people who are most important to you, in order for you to use your skillsets to improve and help. That is where I am coming from and the work I am doing now. How can we prepare people for massive disruptions so they have systems in place to make better decision making based around design thinking.
How do you strategize when you don’t know if something like this is going to happen?
I will address that we are in uncharted waters for the most part. I am not going to say there is this case study to follow. The best case studies are from 1918, not exactly a lot of road maps for success in the midst of a pandemic in the live events industry.
We can rely on frameworks for thinking. Sit reps, something the military uses on what you know, what you don’t know, what to communicate. There is things like what should you be putting out to the world. It’s not about the products you have but you should be talking about your mission and how you can in the midst of this contribute through your mission.
Create benchmarks, tipping points. If this happens then we know it’s too late for this. Lots of listening. This is an unparalleled time, especially in marketing. The best sales and marketing people know it, and the rest of the world is weak on it. You need a chief listening officer right now. You need someone who has their thumb on the pulse of your community and the world.
Most of us are cheerleaders and believe in live events into our soul. We could make more money doing other things but it’s a passion industry. We’re thinking always with our passion in regards to this stuff. Often times our clients are not. They are not as passionate about what they see as one stream. You need to divorce yourself from that and see it is their perspective. We’re a bunch of believers, you should post-pone, I believe that too, we will get through this people will gather again; the problem is, will that message resonate right now? Is that the message we need to hear internally, yes! Is that the message that resonates externally, I don’t know. I think they are thinking, how can I be made whole? We can become partners and use our skills in different ways and address bigger problems. It may be outside of live experiences. Facilitating the goals of our clients should be something we start thinking a little more flexibly about.
How do you do that?
Look at the client’s mission, and really understand it and understand what they are put on this earth to do. And how can you be a facilitator with one less specialty (events)? If your mission is to connect the world, or service this community, how can I use the skills I have in order to facilitate that? I know how to help people achieve goals through design. I do that with architecture and with props, and with things that engage senses. Whatever your contribution is to live experience is, consider how that can be applied in a useful way in this economy and create new lines of revenue in the short term. That’s one option.
The other option is collaboration. There are lots of people hurting. How can you put together a bunch of different skills and create a new product in the interim.
The last thing I want to see is a bunch of people lowering their prices. It’s a race to the bottom. It’s harder to come back from that. Better to create new things that didn’t exist before and those could dissolve after word.
What is the purpose of strategy and how does it work?
Events have phases. There’s an entrance, engagement, and more. Above the phases there are three umbrellas.
For the longest time were were executors, in the late 90’s we got into true sophisticated planning. There’s planning planning planning and it evolved into a conversion of experiential.
What advice do you have for newbies?
Outside of this atmosphere, get out is something people have said. The first people I want to address is the people who have been in the industry for a while and cut that out. Your problems were of time, and building their problems are intellect and we can’t scare away talent. They are going to stand on your shoulders but don’t have your initial thing be “this is a tough industry”.
No matter your contribution, not everyone gets to create the strategy, but everyone should think strategically.
Figure out what you’re good at besides the thing you do. What are you good at the way you think?
Give us a little hope.
I am a generally pretty optimistic person. I do believe a little bit in business darwinism. As much as a recession is a terrible thing to waste. Everyone on the other side of this is going to be smarter and more educated. We might be able to evolve faster than we could. There’s an ability to overcome things that makes you resilient. This is the time to stretch.
Twitter: The Meeting Minds
This week were were joined by Frank Supovitz who wrote the book on “What to do when things go wrong?” While the world around us is changing, Frank shares hope and how we can and will pick up the pieces.
Give us your background.
I started at Radio City Music Hall as an usher and worked my way through the organization. Found myself in the special events department. We did the events outside Radio City: Super Bowl Half times, Olympic ceremonies. I was there for 16 years. Then I was head of events for the National Hockey League for 13 years. Then NFL for 10 seasons. Then started my own company Fast Traffic Events and Entertainment in 2014. I worked on the Indy 500, redevelopment of the South Street seaport, the new rooftop at Pier 17. Continued to work on more and more different things all the time!
You had a lot to planning super bowls!
I did for a decade, it was an incredible experience. The Super Bowl is so much more than the halftime show. It’s a mega event filled with everything from games, THE game, to fan festivals, to big parties and meetings. It takes over an entire city. SB actually take 4 years to plan. At any one time you’re working on 3 or 4 of them at once. You’re just at different stages of development. When I left in 2014 a lot of the plans I had put in place for Super Bowls were still going to be rolling out. When you’re working on an event with many details, and that many venues, that many things you have to worry about: something somewhere is going to go wrong for you at some point. Every single time. Sometimes they are tiny details only you know about them, sometimes a handful of people know about them, if you’re less lucky your audience finds out about them.
I wanted to get your insight into how do you know when to cancel?
Safety is not negotiable. People’s health not negotiable. If you have a situation where safety is compromised, first, second, and third priority is keeping people safe. It doesn’t necessarily even have to be like a situation we are facing now. It could have been anything. Any number of things could get in your way. If safety is an issue, it’s not even a question. You just have to bite the bullet, financial considerations come forth after safety safety safety. It’s a really hard decision to make because there are so many people that are dependent on an event moving forward. It’s not just the audience that gets disappointed. It’s all the people like us who manage the events, the people that work with us to manage and coordinate. If it just gets canceled and not postponed, it can really affect the ability to keep people employed. That’s a tough decision to make.
How should you know if you should cancel or postpone?
It really depends on the event. If you can do it, if the venues are available, it’s so much better to postpone and give people both your business and your fans something to look forward to.
We’re all talking about, “When will people pick events back up.” What is your perspective on this?
I don’t think it will be a switch you turn on and people show up. Once it becomes determined you can do these things again, there’s going to be skittishness in the marketplace. “Do I want to be the early adopter?” It’s going to take a while. I think it’s inside that 8 week period that we have been talking about, it’s a question of when the situation peaks, when it starts to decrease, when it becomes safe again. It’s not going to be something where suddenly you unlock a stadium and 80,000 people show up.
How do I get through this? That’s on everybody’s minds right now.
There’s something going on everywhere. I am doing it to: the first few days you’re unraveling everything you’ve done. That’s hard. The second thing is how do I stage myself to recover? Recovery is going to be slow. It’s not going to be instant. That’s what everybody has to focus on. People are keeping themselves relevant, top of mind, what are you doing how are you doing. It’s a people business. Freelancers should continue keeping contact all the time so when it does come back you’re top of mind. That’s really important.
Be creative, we’re all creative people. Stay on social media, write an article or two about what you’re doing and what you’re going through and what you see the future being. I think social media is the best self publishing opportunity and best PR opportunity for everybody. Just keep in touch with everybody in the industry. We’re all going through it.
People are really dedicated to what they do for a living. They know the meeting and event business is something that brings people together, it’s a way of communicating. It’s a way of entertaining people, those are basic human needs and the people who work in our business, really know what place they play if they are really passionate about what they do. They know how important they are.
I want to talk about your book, talk about who it’s for, what is it about?
It’s funny, I speak to a lot of event people. This book resonates with them, there’s a lot of important lessons told through event stories. The original idea was for project managers. It was all about providing business managers with a framework for how to prepare for a crisis and how to manage it if it happens anyway. Event and meeting people really enjoy the book because so many of the stories and lessons are told through the disciplines they know really well, which is an event planning. Planning is really the second step in thinking about how you’re going to manage a crisis. It’s something I learned along the way: we all know how to get to point a to point b. That’s the plan we create. But if you’re not imagining the things that could possibly go wrong, you can’t create the right contingencies. If it hasn’t happened to you, it just hasn’t happened to you yet.
How do we move forward and give us some hope!
We’re really at a turning point. Respond to what’s happening, don’t react to what’s happening. Reacting you make decisions without reasoning them through. That’s true of any crisis you face. Just take a breath, don’t panic. Panic really paralyzes decision making. Or good decision making. Take a step back and decide what the right course of action is.
We will recover, humans are social animals. We need to hear from other people, need to hear what others think. That’s why social media is such a big part of our lives right now. Just know that it’s going to come back together. We’re going to get people together as a group, we may change our business a bit and find there’s a hybrid of virtual and live that needs to be a little bit more ingrained in our lifestyle but that’s ok. Everyone will want to get back together again, it’s just a matter of time. I’m convinced. It’s just a matter of how long.
This week we sit down with two people from Minneapolis Northwest Tourism as they share their passion for maintaining mental health. You’ll want to listen to these simple tricks!
How’d you end up in hospitality and what brings you to the meeting and events world today?
Ashlee: Yeah, well I got my start about 15 years ago in hospitality and hotels where I met my current mentor. She pushed me and made me the amazing queen of sales that I am today. I have been in sales for so long and I love tourism. It’s such a fun industry. You still get to help people, which is kind of my passion. You get to people find their perfect wedding venue or making sure that their corporate event goes perfectly and they get to do some new fun things, it’s really, really rewarding.
How about you Katie?
Katie: I started with a CVB, it’s like destination marketing organization. About six years ago I started with discover St. Louis Park now I’ve been at Minneapolis Northwest for about a year. You get to work with a lot of great planners. You get to go out a lot. You get to travel, which is great.
What are some beginner tips for keeping your head right?
Ashlee: Well, I think one of the hardest things to do is to focus on yourself and the health aspect of traveling and all the stress that comes with it. You’re at a show and food is pretty much everywhere. You have late nights, you have dinners and lunches and all this stuff. Prioritizing good choices is always a really big challenge because there is so much food around you all the time. It’s convenient.
Katie: Yes, and open bars.
Ashlee: So I have a trick for this. This is my travel trick at trade shows. You get the first drink, you order it with everybody else and you get your vodka soda with lime. Perfect. I’m drinking with everybody else. Then as the night progresses, you just go straight to the bar and you tell the bartender I need some club soda and a lime. Same glass. Cause they’ll always give you like a soda glass and then everyone knows. Best way to like maintain cause you still are on, you’re still working.But you’re not that person that’s always like, no thanks. No thanks. And then people are like, you’re no fun.
What other things do you have that are really good tricks to keep your mind right?
Katie: One thing that I try to do when I travel is to get outside, get outdoors, and try to explore the area. A lot of times we travel to places that we’ve never been and so we don’t know what’s around us. And so one of the things that I do is I try to look for the local CVB like us, go on their website and try to find things to do around the area. Another thing that I use when I travel is apps. One of the apps that I use is called the outbound, and the hiking project, and there’s also the MTB project. Some of the apps just populate where you’re located and then they’ll tell you some of the trails that are located right around you so you can just get outside.
Ashlee: If those aren’t available, if your schedule is super packed then the best thing you can do is just try to find some water, like a little body of water. It could be a Lake, it could be a river, a stream, it could be a fountain. It’s scientifically proven that the more you’re around water, the more calming it is you can almost breathe deeper when you’re around water. So that’s my favorite thing too.
What other good ideas?
Ashlee: My favorite is organization. Prioritizing. When you’re focused so much on other things or other people or whatever’s going on, then you have to be in it all the time. That’s stressful. That’s putting a lot on yourself.
You have hydrate on your list, tell me about that.
Ashlee: It’s so important. When you’re traveling and just being on flights and being in a hotel room, you don’t have your water bottle with you all the time maybe. It’s important to always bring your water bottle. You’re gonna feel better and then don’t get puffy
I’ve a number of shows going on out of state at convention centers and hotels for seven days at a time and eating restaurant food straight for that long. Do you have any tips on how to avoid that?
Katie: Not really to avoid it because you have to get food somewhere. A lot of times I’ll find the local CVS or target or some store within walking distance and a lot of times I’ll go grab some snacks, but I really try to stick to salad, stick to kind of your healthier options on the menu. I know that in the convention center you can’t really pick what you’re gonna eat. I’ll also try not to eat the dessert or have just a couple of bites, which was really hard for me cause I love dessert.
Twitter: The Meeting Minds
We sat down with event expert, David Adler, and were not disappointed! David came with great event pet peeves which ended up turning into a hot tips list!
Tell us your story.
I am definitely one of the oldest people in our industry at this point. I was a startup guy, I started a magazine. So at the age of 21 I put on my tuxedo and I started covering events and parties and built a media company there where we would cover the event for the power and society of Washington DC. Everything was about black tie. I met the greats of the world that are no longer with us. I worked from the Gerald Ford administration to the Carter administration, to the Reagan administration, to the Bush administration and then sold my media company and got headhunted to work for a British media Lord by the name of Robert Maxwell who was like Rupert Murdoch’s arch-rival. He would host events all around the world on his yacht and his yacht was, he and Donald Trump had the same kind of yachts. So we had all these events on yachts. I would do events within three hours notice, call the president of the United States and set up a meeting, that type of thing. So I really learned that the CEO’s of the world really think of events as an real strategic tool. This was back when I thought the event industry was sitting at the children’s table for Thanksgiving. Nobody cared. Now what they realize is that this is where the action happens. So I ended up doing all the events for New York magazine, 17, and soap opera digest, and we had, we had so many magazines and we did all the big events and we kept them at the corporate level so that we can use it for investment purposes so we can show off our events to our analysts and things like that. I really got into the event industry and I was spending millions and millions of dollars on events.
We started covering events in New York city. We did that for about three or four years and then we just exploded and go, went to other cities. We started out as an online property only. Then we decided to do a trade show at the Javits center in New York. Then we decided to do a magazine. Then we decided to go into Los Angeles. We expanded. Then we decided to go into Toronto and we expanded. And then Miami and then expanded and then Washington and expanded. And so we went into these major markets because that was kind of where the action was. It was kinda like being in the real estate business by the hour. Cause the first thing people need is a venue. So they’re basically buying a venue like you would search for an apartment, you’re going to search for a venue for your event. So we kind of used that and we added this really strong editorial voice to it. So we didn’t say, okay, here’s the florists. We said, here’s this cool thing that they’re doing.
Then 9/11 happened and devastated the industry. So I gathered about 300 event organizers and companies and we brought together this group called the convention exhibit meeting coalition to help bring New York city back after 9/11. I spent six months working for the city to do this and we hosted events at the mayor’s house, Gracie mansion, where we brought all the meeting and event planners together and we flew people in from all around the world and we lit the empire state building in yellow so that Snapple would be encouraged to do an event. We would do all of these different types of leadership roles. We found that when you get these people together and you go to Gracie mansion and a Broadway singer is singing New York, New York, after 9/11, you get goosebumps. Right from that, I started a magazine so that convinced people around the world that they should come to New York to do their events. So we added this emotional element to our business. I do think that that is kind of the key. I mean, it’s kind of what you’re doing with your podcast too when you think about it, because you’re adding an emotion to something that doesn’t have emotion. Events have emotion, but they’re also something that that goes away. My whole career is driven on the Maya Angelou quote, but people don’t remember what you said. They remember how you made them feel.
Our whole industry is driven by that. Everything that we do has gotta be about that. So I started out covering events and we now are the largest website for event organizers in these major markets with about 200,000 users a month come to our store. They get ideas and they love it. They really love it. We do trade shows in New York, LA, and in Florida.
Let’s talk about things you see in the event industry people are doing well, and things you see could be improved on.
What is an event, first of all? An event is a conference, a trade show, a party, a festival. It really is the way humans gather in any way, shape, and form. In fact, when when 9/11 happened in New York city, while the big commercial events didn’t happen, there were more events than ever because people wanted to gather. That is kind of a part of the core of, we need food, shelter, clothing, and we need socialization and people want to gather, especially in things. So I believe that event organizers can not be just event organizers and worry about logistics anymore. They have to be collaboration artists. They have to be taking their audience in one way and making sure that they talk to each other. Because when people talk to each other, things happen. The most powerful word in the English language, I’ve stolen this from somebody else. It’s not my original idea is the word. Let’s L E T apostrophe S because whenever people get together, they say, let’s go to lunch, let’s go to dinner, let’s hook up, let’s start a revolution, let’s get married. When people talk, they get together. So if you are on a stage and you’re just talking at someone and don’t give the audience the ability to connect, you’re going to lose the let’s, so my feeling what’s happening with Ted talks and things like that, people are doing shorter programs to allow people to absorb and then talk amongst themselves. That’s why at at trade shows and conferences, the white space is in the hallway, we always thought that was just the doorway. But it’s really where the action happens. And so I’m seeing that happening more and more that that smart event organizers are giving people time to germinate these ideas that they’re hearing from the stages. And so you’re seeing more of that.
So you judge an event by not how many people attend, but by how many conversations that you’re curating. And you can almost do it the way the web is doing it, where if they’re like 300 people and there’s a bunch of conversations, you can actually sort of say there’s 20,000 conversations happening. It’s a whole new way of thinking about what an event is. So that’s one thing. The idea now is that you have to value people’s time because we’re busy, we have choices.
The other thing that I think that is on the collaboration side, is that CEOs and corporate guys suck at being hosts many times. Millennials, they go into a room and they never even meet anybody. They never talk to anybody. So you have to give people permission to talk to each other. And one of the ways to do that is to be a better host. I’m seeing that that is like something that’s happening now or they’ll just sort of sit and they’ll be looking at their screen and not having to interact. So the idea of giving people permission to talk to each other is an important part of the event industry now. I do it on stage. Before a speech I say okay I’m not the important person in the room. You are, talk to the person next to you like you do at a church or synagogue and you never know you can get to the less you can hook up with them. You have to kind of give people permission to interact cause nothing is more boring or less satisfying than going to an event and never talking to anybody.
Summer camp is kind of the model for what an event really should be about. Well that’s what people are wanting. That’s what these big events are, people spending thousands of dollars to going to an event. They’re returning to summer camp. So learning becomes fun again. We’re also trying to figure out how to get over what they call the forgetting curve, which is 99% of the time you go to an event and you forget everything by the time you leave. And so then you go back to your office and you forget everything that you said. So a lot of people now are figuring out when they videotape their events, they’re sending people a snippet every day for a week so that you remember, it gets top of mind. And so that’s a big problem that we’re trying to overcome. That’s huge.
I was at an event the other night, the sound system was terrible. If you cannot hear, don’t even. It was too big. The sound system didn’t work and I wanted to jump out of my skin. People don’t realize the value of sound. They don’t realize the value of looking at all different parts of a room so that you can hear the sound in all different parts of the room. I heard this blaring at my table and the lighting was bad and they had a singing group up there and they seem to have the wrong microphones for the singing group cause they just sounded terrible. The worst singing I have ever seen in my life.
The other thing that was a pet peeve was they kept the lights so dark and they started serving food. I couldn’t see what I was eating.
The idea that type, the programming. The other thing that is two type programming that goes on for hours. Nobody gives a crap about half the things you say. So keep it really, really tight and make sure that you’re a little bit entertaining because you’re getting bored. Boredom is the worst thing.
Oh, here’s another one. Big hors d’oeuvres. It’s two bites, one shoe. Like sometimes they give these huge hor d’oeuvres that you like are like, it’s spilling all over you and things like that. And like you can’t do that. You don’t know what to do with your napkins. At the end of the day you have your pocket stuffed with, but there’s no place to really put it.
Super Power: Thinking on his feet idea guy
David, are there any last things you want to leave with our audience?
Our BizBash newsletter that comes out every day has so many ideas for people that inspire so many people that I encourage as many people as possible to go to bizbash.com start reading our stuff because our end users touch 30 million people. If you’re an event organizer listening to this, that’s the lesson: How do you respect your audience and how do you do everything with integrity and everything with sort of a sense of the higher purpose.
Twitter: The Meeting Minds