Meetings and Events

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

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Charlesevaneide

Twitter: TheMeetingMinds

S.2 Episode 22: Take a Risk: Think Outside the Four Walls of a Ballroom

Think outside of the ballroom!  This week we are challenged to take a risk on venue choice, picking something exciting and unique.  Ashley from the Driskill, a community loved hotel in Austin Texas joins Charles and Lisa to talk about managing a unique venue and brining in meetings and events. 
Tell us about you.
Like a lot of people that end up in hospitality, I kind of stumbled into it. I had a passion for events, all the way back to high school, planning my prom, being social chair in college. I would not want to have to plan events with me then knowing what I know now! I wanted to make it a professional career, stumbled into my first job at the Hyatt and the rest is history.  Been here since, moved to five different cities.  It’s been a wild ride, never would have expected that.
Tell us about what you’re doing now.
I’ve never worked at a hotel like this 189 rooms, part of our unbound collection, 133 years ago. It is always been a cornerstone of the community.  In the 60’s it was going to be torn down, the community put together a bake sale and sold bonds to save the building. We feel an obligation to our community to stay true to the history of the hotel. 
Our audience is about events and ideas around them. What does non traditional spaces mean and give us ideas and examples of things you’ve seen and done.
Every hotel has something non traditional they can use for meeting spaces.  Whether its a patio or terrace, think of it not just as a reception venue.  Could you use it as a break out?  Get outside of the boring four walled ball rooms, and have fun with your events in non traditional ways. We use just about every space in the hotel.  We are small so we have to get creative. We infuse touches of history so every space feels important and important to what you are doing.
I love how you mentioned spaces that help you to think outside the four walls of a ballroom.  Tell me some of the experiences you’ve see happen.
We cater to much smaller programs, depending on the scale of the meeting, our customers come here because they want an intimate environment so they can idea share.  There is a lot of wellness and purpose discussion that happens at meetings at our hotel. We have a lot of natural light, unique architecture. For a lot of our customers its not just sitting in a general session, there are breakouts and networking and we have spaces that serve all that.
What tips do you have for people looking to get into the hotel and hospitality side of the events industry?
It depends where they are in their career.  I saw a lot of planners got their experience in hotels, so I did that. Don’t be afraid to start from the ground up.  There is no position too small. If you tackle it with energy and creativity you can move up quick.  Reach out and connect with others, directors of sales or events at hotels.  
What is the biggest lesson you have learned?
The thing that I’ve surprised myself with is how comfortable I’ve gotten with resolving problems.  A lot of our job is anticipating problems, but you can’t anticipate everything.  Trust yourself to be able to problem solve on the spot. No problem doesn’t have a solution. 
What is the advise you give to people that are new?
I wish there was a manual for how to do events! Keep your eyes open absorb and learn everything. Ask questions.  I’ve been able to work with seasoned teams I’d spend a lot of my time observing. You have to be patient, you can’t beat yourself up after making mistakes. Don’t be afraid to come to me and tell me you made a mistake I’ll be more upset if you don’t tell me. 
thedriskill.com
Instagram: thedriskill
Instagram: charlesevaneide
eidecomcreative
Twitter: TheMeetingMinds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

S.2 Episode 20: Proceed At Your Own Risk: Bronx Zoo Tells All

Mid 1999, Robert, a native New Yorker, decided to dive headfirst into the “events world.” Since then, he has never looked back! After nearly ten years of running events at a prestigious country club, as well as his own event planning company, Robert began to utilize his talents in Manhattan and the Hamptons.

In the beginning, Robert worked in the Meatpacking District for Robbins Wolfe Eventeurs. Not only did he plan many first-class, off-premise events throughout Manhattan, he also sold, planned and executed many of their pristine events at their exclusive premier venues: Rubin Museum of Art; Bridgehampton Tennis and Surf Club; The Ocean Resort at Bath and Tennis in Westhampton Beach; and Discovery Times Square. 

In 2012, Robert was named General Manager of Elegant Affairs Off-Premise Catering & Event Planning. There he oversaw upwards of twenty Managers and 150 employees. During his tenure, he was also able to learn everything there is to know about catering to New York’s Corporate and Social Markets.

Robert then became a part of the talented, growing team of Relish Caterers + Event Planning in 2016; working on numerous projects throughout Manhattan, the Tri-State, and the Hamptons. 

Currently, Robert is now overseeing the Events Department for the Wildlife Conservation Society, optimizing the profits for all of their private events, being held within all of the WCS Parks (Bronx Zoo, Central Park Zoo, Queens Zoo, Prospect Zoo, and New York Aquarium).

During the earlier years of his career, Robert attained two Bachelor’s of Science Degrees; one in Economics, the other in Business Management.

In Robert’s spare time, he has a passion for networking, the wine country, movies, good books, and cooking. In addition to that he also loves local sports, art, live music; and all else New York has to offer him.

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 17: Event Photographers: Capture the Event without Screwing it up

Is photography at your event worth the investment?  Amy Coppersmith from Coppersmith photography shares why you should have a photographer at your event. We hear how to vet a photographer to make sure they capture images you will use for years to come!

Tell us how you got your start.


I started a long time ago, I will jump forward a few years. About 1999, I started out in families and kids. I actually fell into an internship with Best Buy corporate studios. It was all their Sunday inserts: pictures of blenders microwaves. I met my husband there. I was only in an internship, after 6 weeks I was done. I fell into another studio that did weddings, ended up becoming one of their lead assistant shooters. When she moved I decided to do photography on my own. My husband had opened up Coppersmith Photography in 99. When I first met him he was a commercial photographer, after Best Buy he wanted to start his own. I kind of pulled him into weddings. If I asked him today he wouldn’t want to do them, but back then we had a really good time and he learned a lot of things he didn’t know. 


What brought you back into the corporate world, corporate events?

Brides are insane! I lost the love for it. It wasn’t fair to brides and grooms, and wasn’t” doing justice to what they wanted covered. I was already doing corporate work and loved it, I had three children so it kinda made sense. Corporate is take out the emotion it’s all business. I understand all business and made my life more calm. I liked the clients a lot more. Every event was a little bit different. 

When it comes to events, why would I need a professional photographer?  

Photo and video are vastly different. When it comes to photo vs video I know photo. I don’t know video, people assume they are one in the same, they can be, but it is not. The editing software is completely different, everything is different. The quality and knowledge of a pro is important. When i go into a room I see things that would be great to have a photo of, things others wouldn’t think of. It’s an outside perspective. It’s the small details people don’t think about: taking a picture of someone taking notes. I approach it as creating a stock inventory as well as documenting their event. It’s more versatile that way. Coming from weddings, it helped because they are so heavily detail oriented. Finding those details were a fun scavenger hunt and its the same in corporate. 


If I’m producing an event, at what point do I want to have my photographer booked and whats the cost?

Timeline depends on the season, summer you need to call at least 4-5 months in advance. Winter dates you could call me the day before. I’ve had that happen multiple times in the winter, sometimes that works just fine. If you want your pick of photographers at least 4 months 5 would be fantastic. I create a contract the client signs, it has stipulations of when their payment is due. Every company is different depending on their financial department. Most of the time I have a signed contract and that is enough for corporations to follow through on. I would look at half day vs full day rates. Do you need an entire day covered, or only half a day?  Can you condense things down? There are some events where Monday and Tuesday are exactly the same, do you need a photographer for both days, probably not.  That will tell me how many hours I need to be on site. I have half day, full day, and hourly rates. I will help walk them through what they need. A lot of photographers are $100-250 per hour. Full day rates can be $1500-3000 for a full day (10 hours). For me that does include post production. *This differs for each photographer if post is included or not.

 
How do I vet a photographer?

Communication is so important. The visitors bureau is a great place to start, you can google search corporate photographer. Check out their websites once you have a list, get recommendations or referrals from them. Then you can see if they are legit or not. Another thing, when you look at their website, what type of website is it? If you are corporate you don’t want to go to a website that is all weddings. There are so many of us out there, find the one you can work well with. When it comes down to it there are events we want to do and love and others we don’t. It’s not that different an event from a wedding. But it is a business event versus a personal event. 
Ask them about past events, what have they done? If you have a dignitary coming on stage and need a specific shot ask, How would you handle this?  They should be able to answer that pretty quickly or verify that they are qualified to do it. 

If I have you come and shoot who owns the photos, and who can use them?

With me you get to use them, they are your companies to use within the company. A lot of companies want to share their images with other companies, that is where it gets gray. You’ve payed for them for your marketing, the other company didn’t pay for it for their marketing. You are basically paying for their marketing, why would you do that? In my contract it states who is able to use what and where and why.

Contact Amy Coppersmith:Instagram – CoppersmithPhotographywww.coppersmithphoto.com

Instagram: charlesevaneide

eidecomcreative

Twitter: TheMeetingMinds