Huntly Christie shares insights and strategies for the event industry, including the importance of being the best opportunity for someone, knowing...
Episode 50: Best of 2023: Corralling the Chaos' Top Moments
In this episode, Angela takes a look back at some of 2023's best conversations on event culture, leadership, collaboration, AI capabilities in live events and more.
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[00:00:00] Intro: Welcome to corralling the chaos podcast, where we talk publicly about the things you're worried about privately. My name is Angela Alea, and I'm your host. This is the event industry podcast for companies and crew, where we're going to go deep and nothing is off limits.
[00:00:24] Angela Alea: As we wrap up 2023, we wanted to combine some of our favorite moments from corralling the chaos.
We had some incredible guests and topics on the show and are excited to bring you even more new content next year. This year though was full of growth for our industry and we also saw quite a bit of stabilization given the last few years. You've been great to tune in each week and invest your time with us and please keep sending us your comments.
[00:00:43] Thank you so much for listening and all you do to contribute this industry that none of us can seem to get enough of. Here's to a great 2024. Enjoy. In this episode, the good people over at ICOM are up to good things when it comes to building their company culture. A lot of [00:01:00] people throw that phrase, building culture, around, but in reality it takes guts to protect it, even when you have terrorists, as CEO Charles Eide describes, when they're holding you hostage.
[00:01:11] So many companies listening right now, they know as soon as you said that, oh, so and so's toxic, they know it, but they don't quite have enough courage to do something about it, right? They know it's toxic. They know it's affecting customer relationships, employee relationships, and they know it, but they continue to just say, but the show can't go on without.
[00:01:33] John or so. I want to pause there. How did you talk to us about the courage or what the impetus was to say? You know what? They're toxic. They could be great. They could be stellar technically. But when they're toxic, there's no room. Talk to us about
[00:01:48] Charles Eide: that. I'm a product of my environment. I grew up in this industry.
[00:01:51] I literally came out of high school, started. I'd come and got my butt kicked for the last 20 years. What that [00:02:00] comes down to is I've learned that if I'm a jerk or I'm toxic, I can't get that client to hire me. And so it's trained me, Hey, you better get your, act in order. The, that is not the case when someone is so high demand because that role, like let's say, you know, lighting designers, you know, really great lighting designers are hard to find, like, and they're few and far between.
[00:02:27] That means that some of them, because they're in such high demand, they don't have to be nice. They can just be jerks. But because I need their talent, I hire them. I'm going to tell you right now, guys, the worst thing you can do is say, Hey, they're super talented, but they're toxic and they're terrible on site.
[00:02:45] They're mean and not friendly. And we all know them and, you hire them anyways. Because you say that you have to, and I'll tell you what guys, you're doing the entire industry a disservice by perpetuating that bad behavior, [00:03:00] showing people that, Hey, you can still be a jerk and get paid. In my opinion, we have to be.
[00:03:07] Core values centered and say look if you're gonna be on this team These are the things because you know what? I don't care how talented you are if you're incredibly talented, but you're a jerk You're not working for me. You have to be Kind and what you have to be positive creative effective and a team player We had a light of desire in one time say to us.
[00:03:29] I know the crew call is at 8 a. m, but the show doesn't start until noon, so I'll be here at 11. I've got all my stuff set up and we're like whoa, hold on. The call is at eight. That's when you're here. Nope. I'm not coming at eight. I don't, care what you say. The crew call is shows at noon.
[00:03:48] I'm going to show up at 11 and we were like, that's not. That's not how this goes. And we actually had to let him go right then and there and replace him with somebody else. Because it was like, [00:04:00] you know what, if it's going to be like that, the client's going to come over and ask for something and he's going to go, you know, I don't care what you say.
[00:04:06] This is what I think is better. And it's just not good for anybody.
[00:04:10] Angela Alea: That to me is the true. definition of leadership. Making the tough decisions, knowing what needs to be done, which that's the easy part, but again, having the courage to act on it and figuring it out. So kudos to you. I think that is such a great example of the leadership we need more of. So well, I appreciate
[00:04:32] Charles Eide: that. We call those people. We call those people who are highly talented and so good that you feel like you got to hire them. But they're toxic and terrible for the organization and super selfish. I call those people terrorists because it's like, you feel like you need, this person, but they're a complete jerk.
[00:04:53] And so you're being held hostage. And I call them terrorists because they're nothing but, but a pain [00:05:00] in the butt for everybody. Yeah. So we, have to stand up to that kind of stuff. And you know what, it's going to make them better too. Cause they're going to leave and go, you know what? I just got fired for being a jerk.
[00:05:10] Maybe I should not be such a jerk.
[00:05:13] Angela Alea: In this episode with Huntley Christie of Christie lights, Huntley dives into his thoughts on leadership. Leadership requires both strength and guts. And join us as Huntley talks about the need to often stray from what the crowd is doing rather than running towards what everyone else is doing.
[00:05:32] Clearly, you're an innovator. As I referenced at the beginning, I do feel like every time I've talked to you you do always have something cooking in that head of yours and you're thinking about things and how to, I've really enjoyed our conversations. You are very focused, obviously, on How to make your team's lives better, how you can be a brand of choice, an employer of choice, even though you have people with you, you know, 30 plus years.
[00:05:57] Congratulations. I think you are that, but you're always, you're [00:06:00] not ever satisfied, right? You're always innovating. And so what does that mean to you to innovate in our industry? I
[00:06:08] Huntly Christie: think really innovation needs to find one's own path in that it can be difficult to not let the crowd Be our leader and finding our own path.
[00:06:21] That's a natural course to innovation. And so I think that's what it really means
[00:06:28] Huntly Christie: finding my own path and my team's own path
[00:06:33] In our place
[00:06:34] Angela Alea: in the industry i'm completely gonna steal don't let the crowd be our leader. I wonder what you think in our industry. Do would you describe our industry as a whole as leaders Or which do we need more of leaders or followers? Boy, that's a good
[00:06:53] Huntly Christie: question. I mean, I guess there's a There's the right ratio there somewhere, isn't there?[00:07:00]
[00:07:00] Which do we need more of I don't know. I think it's clear that if you're elite, it helps to know what role you, you want to occupy because supporting a vision is extremely important and, define and defining one and, rolling one out is important too. And I think first, what's most important is to know.
[00:07:24] Which, which of those roles you want to play and if you've got that sorted out, you're set.
[00:07:31] Huntly Christie: But as to whether we need more leaders or followers, Angela, yeah I I, don't know.
[00:07:38] Angela Alea: And that's okay. That is all right. That is all right. My hope and what, I see is there. I mean, I've worked in so many different industries and this industry is just so full of risk takers.
[00:07:55] You know, or people who are creatives and they are the innovators and [00:08:00] they have these great ideas and they pull off these epic experiences. And that takes, you know, thinking big. And I think that's one camp that I think we have a lot of. And then I think we have this other camp that. Has all of those things.
[00:08:16] They're just missing either the courage or the conviction or something to like pull the trigger and do it. You know, if you see a need or you see an opportunity, like go make it better. Let's not sit on the sidelines and talk about how our industry doesn't have a beer. Let's go do it. You know? And so I don't know, that's just my rah and me that I'm like, come on, let's go.
[00:08:35] Let's go do it. Cause there's just so much opportunity in our industry.
[00:08:39] Huntly Christie: It sounds like you think. We could use a few more leaders.
[00:08:43] Angela Alea: I do. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I don't think anybody's chomping over the bit to own a space or own a thought or an idea, or I don't, see that from my purview.
[00:08:56] And I, think that's a good thing sometimes when you've got people chomping at the [00:09:00] bit of who's gonna own a certain space. Yes, I see. I see a lot of people with that's healthy, incredible ideas, but they're lacking either the, courage or the conviction. Those are the two words I just always seem to come back to, to like, go do it.
[00:09:12] In this episode with Kevin Danaj, CEO of MVP Collaborative, learn what the most important phase is in event production and why you can never, ever skip it. So Kevin, what's an event production hill you would die
[00:09:27] Kevin Danaj: on? It's a great question. I think it's around collaboration, right? For us. MVP Collaborative, it's in our name for a reason.
[00:09:35] It's about how we collaborate on a project, how we, and it's not just with our, clients, it's with our partners, our vendors, the more people we can collaborate with we've seen the results of it, right? It's, there's no doubt, when we're at our very best, when it, when that project is done, everyone's high fiving each other, they're all excited.
[00:09:53] It's because there was great collaboration from the beginning. It's just, it's the best way to make our [00:10:00] clients look great. That's part of our mission, right? How do we make our clients look great and how them, how they can enjoy the journey getting there, right? When you
[00:10:06] Angela Alea: collaborate. It's in your name. So yeah.
[00:10:08] So that's a, that makes complete sense. But how do you get. The clients to be intentional about doing that right and then opening up and then collaborating with your team right because it's got to be two way right so you guys can show up and have all the creative ideas and ask for input. But they have to be a participant in that.
[00:10:27] So how do you get your customers to collaborate with you?
[00:10:29] Kevin Danaj: You know, I think it's, it starts right from the beginning, right? We're, you know, we think about MVP. We're not a production company. We're not just an ad agency. We're, this under one roof organization that we're doing for 40 years.
[00:10:46] So I think we have figured out the, secret sauce, the magic sauce. For us, it's about really diving deep into our client's business objectives. Like we really want to know how can we create meaningful business impact to your project? One [00:11:00] of the techniques we do with a lot of clients is this thing called phase zero, right?
[00:11:03] So it's like before we even start, our goal is to have this phase zero, highly structured meeting where all the key stakeholders get together in one room. It works way better when We're physically in a room together and we go through what are the objectives, what does success look like at the end of the day.
[00:11:21] You know, and if you can get alignment on that so if you could everyone aligned on that early on in the process, my goodness, it's there's no, you just see the collaboration start to kick in, right? So everybody's knows like, these are the objectives. And so you could convey those to your key partners, right?
[00:11:37] So when you're hiring somebody, it's like, Hey, by the way, this is what we want to do. This is, the reason why we want to have a quick lunch, because of this reason. If everybody's on the same page, it's amazing how great a program can be. And it's just something that we've learned over the years, and it's often skipped, right?
[00:11:57] A lot of companies just skip it, like, let's get to [00:12:00] tactics, let's get to figure out what it is. Without taking that step back. That's why we call it phase zero. Like, we got to get to back to zero. Like let's move back one step and look, let's talk about what this could be.
[00:12:10] Angela Alea: I love that you call it phase zero.
[00:12:12] You're right because so many people are anxious to get in and you've got to set You've got to set the table first, right? You've got to have the foundational things there first, because that's what dictates phase two, three, four. It's all built on phase zero, and it begins to come apart if you're not taking that extra step.
[00:12:27] So I love that. And I love that collaborative is in your name. So it makes sense. In this episode with Hong Nguyen, she's the CEO of Shiloh Events. Hong shares how her agency evaluates proposals from AV companies and how to create a comprehensive presentation document. So, walk us through what some of those non negotiables are and why they're so important.
[00:12:51] Huong Nguyen: So, AV is definitely one of those big bucket spend. I mean, it's even sometimes bigger than my own agency costs. It's bigger than, [00:13:00] you know, food oftentimes because it's the, it's a stage presence. It's the very first thing that they see when they walk into the general session. And from my own lessons learned, there's a lot of back and forth when you're doing AV proposals.
[00:13:16] And different AV companies will have different ways of showing you their numbers, so you're going to have to take their proposal and do apples to apples comparison. And oftentimes they don't, you know, categorize it the same way as another company does. So what I've learned is that, you know, I don't just send out a generic email that says, Hey, I'm doing a user conference.
[00:13:36] My, it's 200 people, I need it to be dual projection and a middle screen and I need a stage. Like, I don't do that anymore. I create an entire presentation doc that has several slides program overview slides on who the client is and sometimes if it's NDA, I don't put the client's name, I just put like the gist of the event description.
[00:13:57] Then you have your [00:14:00] location, the dates agenda, and then any brand assets. Because I already know by now that these AV companies gonna want that upfront. Yeah. So I anticipate that because I don't, I wanna eliminate the back and forth. Like I don't have time to go to, to check that. So then I put in the venue specs of like venue capacity, 'cause I know they're gonna want that.
[00:14:19] Ceiling height con venue contact information. And then I give them the agenda by day, right? This is how many breakouts we're going to have. This is how many, expo booth we're going to need and monitors and sound systems for evening reception. So I list it all out. And, you know, lighting for an example, up lighting, stage lighting, environment lighting.
[00:14:41] And then I also put like recording requirements or sizzle reel requirements as well as live stream camera crews. All of that is definitely, you know, let's have, and you can check out my LinkedIn posts if you want to like have a detailed list. But the reason why I sent an entire [00:15:00] deck is because they can digest what it is that I'm really looking for.
[00:15:04] Angela Alea: Yeah. And then We'll make them work for it, yeah. Yeah, and
[00:15:06] Huong Nguyen: then And all the proposals that come in would look the same because I gave them a format and template of how I want the information so that I don't even have to do the work of doing apples to apples because I've already given them that template to fill in the information.
[00:15:20] Angela Alea: So we have a lot of AV production companies that subscribe to our podcast. So. What are some things they can do to stand out, right? You give them the requirements. They all come back and should, you know, so you can compare apples to apples. But what, are some tips you can give them? What are, you looking for for them to stand out?
[00:15:42] Huong Nguyen: Yeah, great question. I mean, for us, yes, budget matters, numbers matters. But what we really are also looking for is a strategic creative partner.
[00:15:51] Angela Alea: Okay. To give us ideas.
[00:15:53] Huong Nguyen: So, I'm going to tell you my budget is 250 or 300. I don't want to tell you what stage, I don't only want to tell you what [00:16:00] stage I'm looking for.
[00:16:01] I want you to tell me what I can afford with that, with those numbers. Yeah. And then think beyond, you know, think outside the box. Don't just, you know, if I give you 200, 250, 350, don't give me just those options. Say, hey, if you want, here's some options under 250. You know, here's some options beyond 300 to give you an idea of what.
[00:16:20] Angela Alea: What we could do for you and that word options again, the options. Yes. And
[00:16:25] Huong Nguyen: the strategic behind that is also really important because we're looking for a strategic partner who can help us solve problems. Once we bring them on
[00:16:33] Angela Alea: board, Seth Mackey is the CEO of LEMG. Join Seth as he walks us through what LEMG does to create a reputation of valuing their employees.
[00:16:45] So we talk a lot on this show about you are making a reputation for yourself, whether it's for good. And the good news is, you're in control of what you want that reputation to be. But the actions do, lend itself to that. So, What are some [00:17:00] things that you all do, you talked about, you know the old model was bring somebody young in, work them hard, you know, just grind it out and, you know, hopefully, you know, they don't get burnout and then maybe they'll make it to the next step.
[00:17:12] So, like how is that different for you all? Because there's a supply and demand, not it's stabilizing, thank goodness now, but, you know, last probably 18 months there was a big imbalance and the supply and demand and great. The talent was saying. Work me to death, right? Like we, got to make hay while we can, but how do you balance that and not burn people to the ground when you do have limited resources?
[00:17:37] How do you balance that?
[00:17:40] Seth Macchi: Yeah. Okay. So I think there's, a differentiation. So I've done all of it. I've done freelance. I've done on staff. I've done, you know, different sides of the business. So first of all freelancers, you need to differentiate. Some freelancers are like, give me all the work you have.
[00:17:58] And I'll do it and, [00:18:00] then I'll decide, you know, I'll decide to take I don't know July off or something. And they, do that and that's fine. But then they, it's how you treat the freelancers while they're working for you. That's one. And the second is staff. Staff is a little bit different.
[00:18:18] So when I, you know, I'll back up a little, just in a general sense, when you're on staff, you can tend to be in a situation where you feel like a bit claustrophobic, where you have no control. Over your schedule at all. And so that was, you know, as we, we talked about this and how we're going to grow this and how we'd like to see the company, we really have tried to figure out a good balance of having the budget higher, with your crew. So you don't have to like you overuse people and
[00:18:48] Angela Alea: Pause there because what you said is so important. It's not going to just miraculously happen. You have to plan to have the budget. You have to be intentional. To [00:19:00] make sure you have the budget to get the right staff. So they're not burnout.
[00:19:02] So you have margin. So I just want to make sure that point is not lost, that comes with intention. You don't just accidentally land on having bandwidth to be able to do that. So
[00:19:13] Seth Macchi: I feel like we're like This conversation's zooming and there's so many rabbit trails I could go on Each time we pass because you could talk about what type of clients you have and are they good or bad?
[00:19:23] And do they have budgets and yeah but when you talk about staff just making sure that You're distributing it correctly making sure there's a balance among everybody and then keeping an eye making sure we have directors So making sure our directors are Or checking in and making sure there's no warning signs and investing in freelance labor when you need to, even though you might have staff available on day eight of a run, but they really need a break, you know, and that kind of a thing.
[00:19:51] So sometimes you're. Utilizing freelance labor strategically. Actually you used a word. I'm going to start using it on another podcast because I [00:20:00] was doing my homework Was it you that talked about talent transitioning from labor to talent? Yeah. Okay, so we're gonna use freelance talent Strategically, to help with that as well and we have so we've done that too to make sure That people get some time if they need it That being said, it is a hard industry.
[00:20:20] So it's just playing that balance of like just watching for red flags.
[00:20:25] Angela Alea: In this episode with Jay O'Connor, founder of ReactionAV, Jay walks us through how automation has given reaction a competitive advantage. So learn more about that during this episode. The iterations now are literally days apart, which is fascinating.
[00:20:43] But where do you think AI will play a role in our industry? AI
[00:20:47] J Ocana: is, something that, you know it's, a big. You know, big buzzword, right? Because incorporates so many different things into this concept, right? And some people think of, you know, like Terminator and Skynet, and it's going to take over the [00:21:00] world.
[00:21:00] And I don't know, maybe it will. I don't know. But, really, the reason why AI is such a big thing now is truly because of the ability of the supercomputing. The supercomputing technology has accelerated and the level of programming and putting in this code into a computer to teach it, you know, human concepts.
[00:21:19] is amazing. And at that part is accelerating really fast, and that's what's pushing it, making it so pervasive in our industry and every industry, I think for our industry specifically is going back to the automated processes and talking about how do we do those things? That's where I could make a huge impact in our industry.
[00:21:40] Yeah. Give an example. I, one of the things that we spent some time with is when we do, you know, really large trade shows and events and there's 100 breakout rooms. Okay. And the 100 breakout rooms are running at all different times in different rooms. And some of them run, you know, 8 to 10 on Monday.
[00:21:59] That's it. [00:22:00] One runs, you know, 2 to 4 on Monday and 6 to 8 on Wednesday. And you're like we have, you know, 100 rooms. With 100 projectors, 100, you know, screens and whatever else, it's like no, we really aren't using utilizing 100
[00:22:14] Angela Alea: overlapping. But yet they're not. Yes. And
[00:22:16] J Ocana: do you know how long that takes for one person to sit down and map it out with the tracks?
[00:22:23] And then Oh, this room shuts down and that's gone for the rest of the show. So now we're gonna move that projector and screen over here. Imagine a I It's processing that information at exponential speed. You literally could just plug in the information, upload it, and boom. It's already figured out for you.
[00:22:40] This is how many projectors you need, how many screens you need, and when you need them. That's the kind of power of, AI. It's really Yeah. Computing human thought at the speed of supercomputing. That's really what it is. Yeah. And anytime you can look at a problem and have that kind of ability and speed to deal with [00:23:00] that issue, that's where AI is gonna make a, play.
[00:23:03] So I, it's early on. I don't know exactly all the different things that, you know, it'll do for our industry. That's just an example I could think of.
[00:23:11] Angela Alea: Yeah. Yeah I think, that's a great example. You know, my hope is also. So, so many people talk about, Oh I didn't know until after the fact that this had happened and my margin, I thought it was this, but then it came in and it was really like this.
[00:23:25] And so I think a lot of it could also be just, you know, having access to data and the moment in time in which you need it to make. Better decisions versus kind of finding out after the fact. So again, that A. I. Kind of building that job.
[00:23:38] J Ocana: Job costing is a big one, right? I mean, we have, we spend lots of manpower hours on job costing and every time we think we've got it right.
[00:23:47] And it takes some time to do that. I could see A. I. Solving that issue. Quite easy. You know, so yeah, there's a lot of
[00:23:58] J Ocana: Yes. Hopefully it doesn't take over the [00:24:00] world. But yes, I'll be fascinated. I'm
[00:24:01] Angela Alea: sure he'll not. I sure have not.
[00:24:04] J Ocana: It's so funny. Every I read these articles, you know, everything from the Wall Street Journal to wire to whatever.
[00:24:08] And some of them are so like, Oh, my gosh, A. I. Is going to solve the world's problems. And then the next one's like, A. I. Is going to destroy us all. And It's probably something in between. It's just, it's a new tool that we need to figure out. The internet's not good or bad. It's just the internet, social media is not necessarily good or bad.
[00:24:26] Angela Alea: that can be good or bad. Thank you for listening. And we're looking forward to bringing you more insights on Corralling the Chaos in 2024.