Jess Cook, Head of Content at LASSO takes a look back at five of our most thought-provoking episodes and guests.
Episode 4: Defining Professionalism Ft. Mel Baglio & Bob Solsbak
Join Angela Alea and special guests Melissa Baglio and Bob Solsbak as they define professionalism for both companies and crew in the industry.
What we're talking about 💬
- Why there is a lack of professionalism in the live events industry.
- How to implement Mel's "No Jerk Rule."
- When to invest in training.
- Why we shouldn't treat people like freelancers.
Watch the Episode 📺
Read the Transcript 📚
Angela Alea: Welcome back to Corralling the Chaos! Today we are going to dive into a hot topic of professionalism and events. And what does that mean to both the event companies and what does that mean to the great crew that works these events and today to help us unpack this topic of professionalism, we have two very special guests with us.
The first one is Melissa Bagley. Mel is the director of operations at AV Chicago. And you are in Chicago, Illinois, she has been in the Industry for about 15 years, touring Broadway shows, opening state-of-the-art, performing art centers and managing operations for event production companies. One of the goals she has for her career is to make the events industry more inclusive and diverse.
And many of you may already know or have heard of Mel because she won the young professional AV award at a Vixa back in 2021. So thank you, Mel, for being here with us.
Melissa Baglio: Happy to be here.
Angela Alea: Next we also have with us, Bob Solsbak, who is the staffing and logistics manager at Show Imaging based in San Diego, California.
He has a 30 year events veteran. He's seen quite a few things which we are interested to dive into with him. And Bob started his career in live audio for small stages before moving it to theme park AV with brief segues into live theater. Studio [00:02:00] production before then moving into labor management for large-scale productions.
Welcome, Bob. Thanks for joining us.
Bob Solsbak: Thanks. Good to be here.
Angela Alea: All right. Let's jump in on all things professionalism, and it's a hot topic right now because we have a bird's eye view working with both companies in the industry, as well as the crew. And it's like the chicken or the egg problem.
We have companies who say. We'll treat them professionally when they act professional. And then we've got the crew that's saying I'll be professional if you treat me like a professional. And so it's like the chicken or egg problem. And so I think we would all agree. It's gonna take us all to foster this idea of mutual respect and mutual professionalism.
So I guess my first question for either one of you, or both of you is why is there a lack of professionalism? Something
Melissa Baglio: I've seen in the last couple of years, even during COVID times is that a lot of companies have had to scale down. [00:03:00] And when were scaling down to accommodate less shows, there's a lot less people to take on a lot of the responsibilities and taking care of the freelancers, the contractors in these crew.
I feel like a lot of the times there just leads gaps of like how we're onboarding people, how we're showing clients and crew that they are a valued employee and that we respect them and that we wanna put forth an effort to keep them engaged. And I think that's something that's really fallen off in the last couple of years.
Not that companies aren't working toward professionalism and, having respect, giving respect and receiving it back. But a lot of these companies are like, we just need to get these shows done last minute and I need everyone. Drop everything that they're doing and just start doing whatever they're being told by these companies.
And a lot of us have been having to take a kind of a step back to say how do we get back to that? How do we start reinvesting in our crew? How do we bring them back on and invest in them so that they want to work with us and that they feel respected so that they give the [00:04:00] respect? We say that in the warehouse, like how do we expect crew to treat.
Our gear with respect. If we're sending them dirty, muddy cable ramps and broken gear. So it goes both ways, that whole give respect to get respect. I understand that, but it's about like the whole thing. If you show that you care that people will return. Care as well. And I feel like that's something that, as shows are coming in last minute and people are having higher demands with lighter labor forces.
It's really forcing people to look and see, who's actually caring about these people. Who's actually trying to invest in them and bring back positivity. And that's a really big thing that I think companies should be looking at. How can you provide that care to show them that you do care, that it's good to work for your company because we respect you and here are the things that we do to keep you guys.
Bob Solsbak: I think something that it can't be overlooked. I hate throwing money at a problem, but I think over the last several years we've seen the wage disparity and I think the middle class getting stretched and [00:05:00] stretched. I think people are really starting to take a look at that and I think they're stopping.
And then they're saying time out. And they're saying, okay, what am I making? How much am I making on this job that I'm doing and really reassessing. And I think obviously, as you mentioned, the pandemic huge, we've seen a lot of, people jump, ship, leave the industry and whatnot.
And I think we just need to make sure that we are compensating fairly, again, everything that Mel said. I completely agree with as far as, we need to make sure that, we're providing a good product, a good service, a good, a good reason to come. For us, but we also have to make sure that we're compensating fairly.
Angela Alea: So I heard a couple things in that I heard moving too fast. Right? Speed. Turnaround time on shows now are shorter than ever before. You're asked to do more with less budgets. Haven't increased. But yet the cost of doing shows is increasing. So how do you accommodate. Being able to move quickly.
And I think you said at Mel, right? Being able to bring them into the fold [00:06:00] in the right way. So they feel a part of it, they're not just. I hate this term. And I love when our crew like, say, Hey, we don't like when we're called the hired help we need to stop saying that, stop looking at them that way they're an extension of your company.
But when you're moving fast, how do you bring them into the fold in the right way, help them internalize what you and your company are trying to do. What the goal of the event is. How do you do that when you're moving so quickly and to your point. Money is really important, right? You can pay, 'em a really great wage, but they also wanna feel a part of it.
And so I think it takes both approaches to make people feel excited and happy and a part of what they're doing. So I think that's great feedback. What are things you look for? Both of, you're pretty close to the freelancers that each of your companies use. What are the biggest qualities you look.
Bob Solsbak: I don't know. I have a saying that I've used for years. [00:07:00] It's it's I think this job is 50% aptitude, 50% attitude. You gotta know what you're doing. There's no doubt about it. I look for technicians that are jacks of all trade. I want the greatest lighting designer.
I want the greatest front of house person, I also want them to be the greatest person at putting up pipe and drape and taping down cable. And unloading trucks as well. So I want that universal, team member, that's looking for that kind of thing. And part of that is also is just attitude.
Are they part of the team? Do they get that team mentality? That's just a huge part of it. I can teach anybody to plug a microphone into a mixing board, but. Can't teach attitude and good manners and being a good employee, a good, good client facing technician. I just, yeah, can't do it.
So I, I don't know. I think it got, those are things I look for obviously personality as well...
Angela Alea: how do you engage that in an interview when you're interviewing somebody that you're considering bringing into your talent pool, you can ask the questions to gauge their knowledge about equipment and the technical aptitude.
But how do you gauge their [00:08:00] attitude and those soft skills?
Bob Solsbak: I think they present themselves in the interview. I think that comes across. I think that's part of good interviewing skills is just, and whether you have good skills at it or not, I think when you've done, enough of them, you kinda you get a idea of how to read people and, and.
Half the time you're wrong. It's just, it happens. There's no way around it. But that's what the interview is for, is to sit down with somebody and get to know them. And to be honest, I usually try to pass off the technical questions to somebody more technically minded. I'm, I am actually more looking for personality because I know where people are, multiple, malleable and, or if you get a feel for if they're, really rigid and not gonna, oh, I do audio and that's all I do.
Angela Alea: So that's good insight. What about you, Mel?
Interested in this topic of professionalism? You might like: Episode 9: How to Market Yourself as a Tech
Melissa Baglio: What do you look for? I would agree with that. People always ask me what is it when you're interviewing people and you're looking at them and I'm like, it's just a feel. I can't explain it. Being able to sit in a room with someone and have a.
Personable conversation with them and just talk to them as like a human being and just [00:09:00] find out more about them. I don't know. I just, you see so many people in so many faces, so you get a feel for what people understand based on their skills. And a lot of it, I agree is, half of it is just having a positive attitude and coming into it saying I'm willing to learn a new skill, learn a new piece of equipment.
I want people who are willing to be flexible with us and understanding and have patience. We have a rule here. There's a no jerk rule. We do not put up with it even in, the hardest of times when we're short on labor. And they're like you should just call this person. And I'm like, they don't have a great attitude and they're like, but we need to get this show done. And for me, yeah. It's not worth it. It's not worth, putting that person in there to show people that even though they might not be the nicest person that will forego it because getting the show done is more important, but I've taken a stand against that.
I'd rather just have people who are positive human beings that treat others the way [00:10:00] they'd like to be treated and they wanna have a positive attitude. These days with a lot of the labor shortages, I'm just looking for people who are willing to help out step in, help others, show others how to do things in foster an environment of like we're all in this together.
And, just because. Your audio or your lighting, like without everyone getting it done, the event's not gonna get done. And there's definitely more of a camaraderie that needs to be a part of these shows. So like when Bob said, oh, you do only audio and nothing else that, I'm like, I need people who can, if there's 10 minutes before the show and we need to get one more piece of pipe and drape up, like everyone should be like all hands on to get that up because we're not above it.
We're a team. We can't do these shows. The freelancers, but the freelancers also can't do it without us. So we do have to meet in the middle and work together and, make it better for the future of shows.
Angela Alea: I love that word camaraderie that you [00:11:00] used. What does that look like?
Because when we talk to our people, every company they work for, it's a very different experience. And they are very forthcoming with, Hey, this company, they're a complete mess. They're a wreck. They're unorganized, it's chaotic. They don't communicate anything. They're not kind to us.
And then on the flip side, you have these companies. Just take the extra time and effort they're organized, they're communicative, they're doing, crew calls where they're laying out, doing a little pep talk and Hey, it's gonna take all of us. I know we got a big day ahead of us, but like, how do each of you instill camaraderie when you've got, a 30 person crew show up, none of which who have may work, who have maybe worked for you before, or even worked together.
So how do you build that in?
Bob Solsbak: that moment? I think it comes down to empowering your production managers. I don't want to speak for Mel, but I'm not out on a whole lot of show sites right now. So it's making sure that they are good crew chiefs, that they're good leaders, that they are able to do those pep talks and [00:12:00] instill that sense of camaraderie going in.
It's tough and, you show up to a gig, like you said, and there's, 30 people who've never worked. It's not an easy pep talk. It's not an easy pep rally. It's just, it's important that you're a crew chief. Obviously I don't want. Play soccer coach the whole time, but I also need them to at a bare minimum lead by example, mentor of mine would say that, I never asked somebody to do something I wouldn't do.
You can dissect that however you want. But I think that the important thing is when people see you leading by example and see you, not afraid to go and do that, or, I'm gonna go ahead and tape down the cable or I'm gonna unload the truck myself. And I think that builds a sense of, oh he's not too good to do that.
Then I'm not.
Melissa Baglio: Hopefully that works. I would agree with that. One of the things that I try to enforce them and instill in our crew is that we are all human and reminding everyone that we're human beings. And that we're all just trying to figure this out together. So we've really been trying as we've come back.
During COVID times we really struggled cuz we [00:13:00] didn't have crew chiefs. We didn't have project managers. We didn't have in-house techs. 96 to 98% of our shows were done with completely all freelance labor. So we had to figure out a new way to make. All of these events happen with reinventing the wheel really as to how we communicate.
Everyone was saying we don't have enough information on site. So we've started to take time to have a site lead and find just one freelancer or two freelancers. If it's a really big show to say you. We're gonna bring you in early, we'll pay you an extra amount of money to come in.
You can look at the warehouse, pull sheet, see the gear that's on it. You can talk with the client or the account manager about what's happening and starting to try and get everyone to ask questions. Instead of getting to show site and being like I don't know what's going on and no one's directing me.
Now we're sending out paperwork to everyone on the show, we'll send out a whole folder that says here's every single drawing, trying to be as transparent as possible so [00:14:00] that everyone has a buy-in to it instead of it's just like one leader. And yes, maybe that one person had more information than the rest of the crew, but at least everyone has the drawings.
Everyone knows what the expectation is, the scope of work and what we're doing. Because again, it's a collective. Team effort of camaraderie. And it's, we've found that it's actually quite successful. If you bring in more people, it's not really like leading by committee, but it's just giving everyone more information so that when we get to show site and we do like our pre walkthrough and our pre-conversation with the crew, everyone's oh yes, I saw the drawings.
I know where those light. Are going to go, I know where the PA is going to be set up. And I think that's really a huge thing going forward. We can't really expect everyone to just figure it out. , we're past that these days now we have to set it, rely on project managers.
But even for us, we don't always have project managers. It's not a big enough show or or enough time or resources for us to have project managers. So we do have to rely on some of these people and elevate them into positions so that they [00:15:00] can help us out long.
Angela Alea: Yeah, there's that idea. Again, of being prepared, planning ahead of time, empowering your people with the things they need to set them up for success.
But on the flip side, the freelancers need to embrace that. They need to do their part to, read what you're sending, do their own plan to prepare, ask questions. I think you had said that Melissa too, as be prepared, ask questions, be curious if you're not sure about something, ask the questions.
So again like you, like both of you have said it, it takes everybody doing their part of communicating. And paying attention to what's being communicated as well. So I think that's, I think that's great. We're talking about the pros in the industry and what it means to be a professional. Describe an amateur.
Describe what being unprofessional at show site means and what that looks like.
Bob Solsbak: Somebody that comes in unprepared and didn't wanna take the [00:16:00] work to begin with. I think I, and maybe this is an old school model, but I think the minute you put on the logo, you put on the shirt, I think you have accepted something.
I think you have decided I'm going to be part of this, whether it is, a mundane task or you're tackling the entire event, I think you've made a commitment. And I think an amateur is somebody that hasn't made that commitment. And if, maybe it's a money thing, maybe it's , don't believe in the work they're doing.
And, we've all had jobs that we hate, but it comes down to, you've made a decision to be here, to be part of this crew, part of this team to make this event happen. And if you're not part of that and you're not prepared, then I see that as amateurish behavior
Angela Alea: agreed. Now, how would you answer that?
Melissa Baglio: Is it more about what makes you. Amateur on or off site, just like pre-show during a show. Let's,
Angela Alea: let's talk about both and think about, think about a show that you've had where you left feeling like I'm never gonna hire that person again. They just, they didn't hold up [00:17:00] their end of the bargain, but what were some things that they exhibited to you that made you feel.
Not the right fit for us, not quite what I needed them to do. So what does that lack of professionalism? How, what did that look like either before or during the.
Melissa Baglio: There have definitely been times where resumes have come to my desk and they're reaching out cuz they want to work for us and I'll have a conversation with them and they're like, I can do everything.
I can do anything you want me to, I can go above and beyond. And I'm like, fantastic. I love that. I like someone who wants to get in and do those things. And they're like, so a go getter about it. And then they're late to show. or the day before, the night before they call out of the show or they know call no show.
And those are three things that I've found recently with clients or with crew who have said, oh yeah, I'll be there for you. I can't wait. I've been wanting to work for this company for so long. And then the night before they're like, Hey, I [00:18:00] got another gig. So I'm out and I always find, for me, we just.
I don't have time to continually wait until the night before six hours before the call and then try and scramble to find someone new. So before the show even happens, that's a huge thing for me. I make notes in their lasso account, says like they no called no showed or they never showed up. Or, they didn't have the right attitude in supplies before they even got there.
And then on site they're super. They don't know where they're going, even though we give them a huge agenda for the day where they need to meet who they need to contact, they don't end up ultimately reaching out to anyone they wander around for a while, or they just give up and they're like, we couldn't find where we were going.
So we left. And so those are, huge things and those are it's you and far between, but they do happen. A lot of times it is a challenge to figure out, how people are going to be before they get on show site. But usually before we even have someone work for us, we set those expectations of this is what we want from you.
These are the things you [00:19:00] should be wearing. This is, these are the tools that you should have for us. These are the things that we expect from you. And if we give them all of these resources and they still don't read it, don't abide by it. Show up wearing overall jeans. When it's like a five star restaurant that we're going to be loading into, then I have to take pause and think then maybe they're not really paying attention and they don't have our best interests at heart.
Angela Alea: Or like Bob said that lack of commitment, to reading, to doing, to showing up when they say they're going to, to honoring their word. Yes. I'm gonna work this show. I'm gonna show up on time. Yeah. It, I'm sensing a theme here from both of you. that makes good sense. What do you do? How do you handle it?
Because obviously there's a massive shortage of people in the industry right now. And they know it, they know we're in neat. So how do you handle that? You've got a huge demand for talent, but when you've got people that show up. [00:20:00] Act unprofessionally don't honor their commitments. What do you do with that?
Knowing you still need them.
Melissa Baglio: How do you handle. So something that we've been trying to work on here, because that's a huge challenge. Great question. The biggest struggle is, not having those people available to us, but I've had conversations with project managers about this, and we get to this point where we're like, Is it worth it to have someone on a show, pay them a day rate for them to not actually provide us what we need.
Is there ways that we can try and adjust the schedule to load in with one less person? We try and find ways to make that work. I'm not opposed to going on show site myself. Two months ago when we were thick in the busy season, every single person in this office was on shows because we wanted to provide and show everyone that we're committed to making the best product possible.
And making sure that we show the [00:21:00] outside companies and our clients that like, we respect the work that's being done, and we want others to respect it too. We're not opposed to pulling people off of shows and saying, we'll figure it out without you. Because at this point in time it's a delicate situation, but at the same time, I would rather us be one person short than have someone who's late leaves early.
We can't find them. They lose their temper on show site. That's so much more expensive to handle than us just being like, Don't worry about it. We'll find another way to get it done. And I don't even sometimes wanna go to a labor hall and say, can you bring us extra people? I'd rather just try and foster that within our company, or find ways that we can change the way that the setups are done so that we can accommodate one less person.
Angela Alea: The cost of tolerating things is exorbitant. It's really expensive when you've got the wrong people. Doing things right. And tolerating things by showing up late or doing sloppy work or not taking care [00:22:00] of your equipment or, offending a client. It, all of those different mishaps that can happen.
It's really expensive. I just think it's a challenge right now for our industry. So curious, Bob how would you answer that? How do you all handle.
Bob Solsbak: It's a tough one and I'm sure milk can attest to this as well. I think the biggest challenge we have that from top management down that we've been trying to figure out is getting farther ahead on our scheduling and.
Welcome to AV. It's just not gonna happen. Everything's gonna come in last minute. We're gonna know about shows six months a year in advance, but we're not gonna get good information on that until, pretty late in the game. The challenge, the constant challenge that we're trying to do is trying to staff farther and farther out.
We've added some members to our team still that we can handle the fires that are going on. While we can also look ahead a little bit and we can give those further out shows a little bit more love I find. And especially in this, all of a sudden ramped up crazy busy time, which, we all use the term, good problem to have, but it's hard to stay on top of that when there's so much going on right in the moment.
You have to deal with, so [00:23:00] we're trying to get farther ahead so that, like I said, we can give the love to those shows six months out. I can start putting, our guys on it, our technicians, our full-timers our freelancers, whatever I need to do, trying to do that a little bit further ahead time so that, we do have a little bit more pick of the litter.
Yeah. So we're not there a week out and, getting, the B team and the C team on there.
Angela Alea: Absolutely. There is clearly a shortage of great people in the industry. I think the statistic we've all heard is 38% of event professionals left the industry.
38%. That's a massive number, but yet the demand is higher than it's ever been before. And so what do you think we, as an industry need to do to entice those people to come back.
Bob Solsbak: We need to push our services. I think we need to really show what we do. I think the company I'm with right now has a great, marketing campaign. I think we put out some good material. And one thing I do really like about the company I work for [00:24:00] is that we are an event support company. And my history in this has always been you're part of an AV.
and that doesn't really fly anymore. And I can see why, and it's more than just, okay, we're gonna do more than we used to do, but it's taking ownership. It's taking, okay, we're putting on this product. And when you go to our website or, you look at the client's website and the full production there, we can take ownership of a little bit more of that than just, oh yeah.
There's my speaker. Or, those are the moving lights we did. And I think that's part of the enticement for people we're putting on an event. We're not just, okay. I want you to come in and plug in some cables. I don't know. I think that to me is part of the selling point.
Angela Alea: No, I think that's a great point.
What do each of you wish that your crew and freelancers understood? About your organizations and what it takes to do these shows like if you said, Hey, I wish they were in my shoes and knew this, what would it be that would help them appreciate the position [00:25:00] that you
Melissa Baglio: all are in? I definitely say it's about them understanding the full picture.
I talk a lot at AV Chicago about transparency and trying to get everyone to understand that I'm just trying to do what is put in front of me. And I'm trying to get these shows crude, get them scheduled logistics done. They don't always see it. They're like, I can't believe you're crewing this for tomorrow.
I'm like me too surprised that this event came up today for tomorrow. And so there's definitely been a lot more. Allowing them more transparency and understanding why we are doing things the way that we're doing. We're actually very transparent about how our process works in this office as a company and how information and data flows through our company.
So there's more of an under. More of a human aspect of it, because a lot of it is done, through a computer or over text message or emails. And so they don't always understand that, we have a whole team of people that are trying to work to make sure that [00:26:00] things are successful. And that kind of goes back to the last question of like, how do you.
Show people, or how do you entice people to come to your company? And work for you. But we've been trying so hard to get out there and figure out what that is. And if it's that the crew member who's in charge of audio or lighting is wanting to come in ahead of time and work through some of the gear, I'll pay you extra money, come in.
Because that means that when it gets to show site, you're going to have the gear you need. We won't need to be doing truck runs because you have things you're set up for success. And you have the things to be able to do a show smooth. So if it means bringing you in early, we'll pay you extra money to do that.
If it's having in-house trainings or bringing in someone to teach crew how to run our Alon or VMX PTZ cameras starting to actually invest in training and like what. Hundred dollars when you're just trying to invest in these people. And so maybe you have to spend a thousand dollars getting people trained, [00:27:00] but now you have those five to 10 extra people who on a moment's notice can deploy PTZ cameras in a vMix rig out in the middle of nowhere and, Those are things that I think a lot of other companies haven't been investing in, they're just hoping that everyone should know exactly how they do things, how their rigs are built and how they should accomplish it without ever giving.
A chance. So we've seen a huge influx of freelancers actually moving from other companies to ours, because they're like you provide us training. You provide us investments in our careers because it doesn't help us to keep this internal, we want to supply. People with knowledge and some companies will say like, why waste the money?
They're just gonna leave and go somewhere else. And I'm like, leave it better than you found it. Be, a positive person for this community and invest in people so that if they leave that's okay, they're probably gonna go off and do better things. And they'll probably tell other people how great your company was and how well you invested in them.
And that will bring more people in. And I think [00:28:00] that's really been the only thing that's been keeping us successful with crew during this time. Really haven't struggled too much with labor. Yeah.
Angela Alea: I think that cannot be stated enough, and I think about these people coming into our industry as a quote unquote freelancer, they have to figure out their own path themselves. There's no one that's taking them under their wing that says, Hey, come on. Let me show you the ropes, right? Let me train you. Let me teach you. Let me show you what show etiquette means, right? Let me teach you the vernacular, right? You can study in college textbook things, but until you are in the moment when stakes are high, the pressure's high keynote speaker wants to do an extra rehearsal spur of the moment and you hadn't prepared for that.
What does that look like? Or the truck's running six hours late and it's, there's not enough time to get. There is a deadline for these things. And I think you can only learn how to deal with the stress of shows by being at the show site. And guess what? The only way they're gonna learn is to [00:29:00] be there.
But they need someone to give them a chance, right? So then it's up to them to build their own career, to figure out the companies they wanna work for to teach themselves, to learn, to pay for their own training. It's no wonder that our industry is where it is right now. There's been no ecosystem, no community where they can go to tap into peers, to talk to others, to learn from others at all.
They're just hoping they get a shot at a. Which is where they're gonna learn the most and where they have the opportunity to shine. But I think we've gotta do a better job of not treating them like freelancers. Trading them like one of our own full-time staff in our industry. It's never gonna make sense to hire everybody.
Full-time that's we do events, right? It's job based. It's project based it's that is never going to change. But I think how we bring these people into the fold. Is really important because it's all about the people we always say here at lasso. Every event experience is only as good as the [00:30:00] people who make it happen.
It's all about the people. So if we're not investing in them, their skill set, their knowledge. It's gonna fall apart. And I think that's, I think it's great. I know you AB Chicago I know you do that. We work closely with you. Same with you. Show imaging. You all, both have such stellar, literally stellar reputations in this industry because you value the people.
You value their experience, you value your reputation. And I think that just goes such a long way and I hope more and more companies begin to study what each of you do, what your leadership teams do, just how you view the world, how you view the industry and the importance and money and time that you invest in doing things the right way.
So I applaud each of you for. As we wrap up this episode of corralling the chaos, I just wanna encourage us all to take what we heard today and to really apply it, work to listen first, be thorough, [00:31:00] communicate with the companies you work for and companies communicate the details to the people, set them up for success, empower them to do a great job for you.
We all have so much to learn from this and such a long way to go, but such a great opportunity ahead for. So thank you guys for tuning in.
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