Category Archives: iavm

IAVM storms Portland

If you’ve followed my blog for some time, then you know IAVM (International Association of Venue Managers) is an organization very near and dear to my heart. I joined for the first time just 4 years ago.

It’s strange to type that. Not because that 4 years has flown by, but because it’s hard to believe it has only been 4 years.

4 years ago I was a timid wall flower attending their annual conference for the first time. Meeting people at conferences was not at the top of my list of comfort items. I think bungee jumping with an old rope made more sense to me at the time. Meeting people terrified me.

But go I did.

Try to meet people I did.

Absorb everything the conference had to offer I did.

I left with a wealth of knowledge but not a wealth of new contacts. Not a complete failure but not a total success.

Fast forward a few years and over the course of my time in the organization, I’ve grown braver, I’ve grown to hate being a wall flower and I’ve also grown up. I’ve been a panel participant at a couple of sessions (and will be doing so again this week). I’ve graduated from Venue Management School where I served with a group of amazing individuals as class rep. I’ve written an article for an industry publication. I’ve left one job and started another.

I’ve found my professional self.

Pretty soon contacts, old and new, will be flooding into Portland for this year’s annual conference and I cannot wait to sit and catch up over a beverage or two. It refills the tank and I can’t think of a better way to spend the last full week of July.

What have been your favorite professional affiliations? Are you a member of an industry association? Do you participate in a blogger group that provide education and social opportunities to meet up? Do you find that online forums are your best resource? I’d love to hear from you – what makes you tick?


Florida, It’s Been Real

The conference is winding down. The last sessions have been held, I exchanged my last business card this evening and the swag has been packed. It’s always bittersweet at the end. I’m very ready to get back home to the Sweet Boy and the Schmoo Cat but am very sad to be leaving friends.

So much has happened over the past year that I owe almost entirely to my involvement in IAVM. I was talking to a couple of long time IAVM members at lunch today about my speech I gave at the New Member orientation. The speech wasn’t much different than the one I gave last year. Well, it was way different since I kind of made it up as I went along, but the main point was the same.

You absolutely need to try this crazy thing called a conference out more than once.

Heck, while you’re at it, go ahead and sign up for membership in the organization too. You’ll thank me later for that advice, I promise.

I said that last year. I preached on about how your first year is the time to study the map and make sure you know where you’re going. Your second year is when you start heading down the path. It’s the time between your second and third year when you start taking the back roads and scenic routes.

It’s the scenic routes that take you by the most amazing places.

It is because of my involvement in IAVM that lead me to meet a very important mentor. She is a mentor I needed desperately at that point in my career. It is also involvement that lead to my participation during the past Superbowl that lead me to meet some very awesome individuals. Individuals that might lead to new opportunities some day, new experiences and new lessons learned. It is because of my involvement in IAVM that I discovered Venue Manager School and attended on scholarship. That is an opportunity I’m not sure I would have received other wise.

All of this is because I came back. I can’t imagine a world in which I found something else after trying these shoes on only once.

I suppose I don’t want to imagine that world.

Machismo part 2

I’m sunburned. I’m also convinced that the sun in Florida is closer to the earth than the sun in Arkansas. It’s quite the trick, but somehow, the sun has pulled it off.

I paid attention very closely to every detail of today trying to pull out snippets that would result in an entertaining and well thought out blogpost. I did this so well, in fact, that I’m pretty sure I could give you a replay of each moment from the time I enjoyed lump crab under a poached egg for breakfast until the time that I nearly smacked a loud and obnoxious guy riding behind me on the bus leaving the Ticketmaster party.


So quit complaining about the 2 blocks you’ll have to walk to get to your hotel.

You’re making Americans sound even more lazy than we’re already perceived to be.

And if said guy is reading this post, oh well. I still stand by my statement.

As the day wore on, I was worried I wouldn’t come up with a winning topic, but then it happened. It happened right on the floor in the middle of the trade show opening reception. A colleague said “There is just so much machismo in here… you know what I mean?”. I turned to him and said “And that is EXACTLY how I found out how wonderful this organization is”.

If you remember back to my post a year ago about being a wallflower, then you might remember I said something about how I couldn’t find a group to join at a reception. Lots of men… lots of older men… lots of pleated pants. It just wasn’t my scene, or so I thought.
I was almost beside myself when I heard this right out of the mouth of someone new to this organization tonight. Part of me was excited to go on and on about how it might seem like that on the outside, but really, it isn’t like that at all. But part of me had to take a step back and think about how to solve this.

I brought my colleague along from my venue. It’s his first time at Venue Connect… well… first time at a venue management industry conference at all. I had been introducing him to people all day. Some young, some retired but all of them a vault of valuable information. How can I help him to see beyond his first impression and see what I see? Can I change his perception or is he going to have to do that on his own. I suppose I had help doing this myself, but it was my spark that changed my view. What will his spark be?

I desperately want him to find it. I want him to experience what I do each time I attend an event like this. Maybe it will be tomorrow at the keynote session, maybe in a session about budget cuts and how to deal with them or maybe it will be over a drink at the after hours reception on the top floor of our hotel. I suppose where everyone finds it is different… or does everyone even find it?

*look of horror* I don’t even want to think about that. Sad.

In other news, I had to do an impromptu speech today. I thought the person asking me to go up in front of the room to talk about why returning to this conference after your first year is important was joking, but I could tell by looking at her she wasn’t. I made this speech last year, but it was written out and rehearsed. This year was unexpected, and thanks to some bad weather in Dallas causing delayed flights, desperately needed.

So I talked.

And I wasn’t nervous.

I’m still not sure who this Erin is, but I like her. Oh I like her a lot.

Salamanders and the Macarena

After what felt like an entire day of travel (isn’t that the case for any trip out of a small airport town?) I finally made it to sunny and humid southern Florida. I haven’t been here since 1999 and judging by the pictures taken on that trip, it wasn’t as humid then. Although, it was in May, not July, so that might make a difference.

I was also 18 then. Maybe hair on an 18 year old flows perfectly and doesn’t poof up. It was effortless to be perfect fresh out of high school. The older I get, the more work I have to put into such a task.

I would like to bring up a couple of nice welcoming touches that Ft. Lauderdale prepared for me. The first was the baggage claim at the airport. This wasn’t just any baggage claim, this one came with a special treat. You know how most baggage claims warn you to start paying attention and get off of the luggage belt/track with what seems like the most startling alarm system known to man? Usually they come equipped with an alarm that rivals any tsunami warning alarm I’ve heard of (which isn’t many… but I know they exist and I’m sure they prove to be effective). Not this claim. This claim came with the…

wait for it…

MACARENA!!! Did I hear that right? I’m sure I did. The person I’m here with thought the same thing. Two smart people can’t be wrong, can they? The moment was saved because unlike Jr. High, people didn’t break out into synchronized arm movements ending with a quarter jump to your right.

Had that happened, the charm would have been lost and this post would have a different tone. Instead people just went on about their bag waiting business. Actually, not one single person seems phased by it. Maybe they were used to it.

The 2nd welcoming touch that goes above and beyond the usual touches is my new room pet, a salamander. Yes, one of those creepy, practically see through, kind of slick looking lizard like things. It crawls on the wall of my hotel room and hides behind a decorative mirror. I think I’m as leary of it as it is of me. I’m not as happy with this touch, but it’s certainly unique. Hopefully it will be gone by tomorrow.

It kind of creeps me out.

Or grosses me out.

Either way, I’d be happy to see it pack it’s salamander bags and head on out.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to take away from this year’s conference. I have a different perspective going into this than I did a year ago. A year ago I was unsure, nervous and completely apprehensive. This year I’m not. Actually, there isn’t one ounce of those other things this year. This year I’m feeling good about where I am, where I’m headed, what I’ve learned, who I know and how I need to get there. I really feel as though I have my stuff together. So with that, what am I looking for this year?

I have some guesses… I suppose only the next few days will tell me what it is I’m here to learn this time around. Whatever it is, I’m sure it will blow my socks off in the same way they were blown off last year. I’m always amazed by that.

This post brought to you by LMFAO

No thanks to a local Hibachi restaurant, I’ve got this song stuck in my head:

Now there, you can share in my joy.  Everyday they be shufflin… true story.

I’m sorry to report that I didn’t volunteer to campaign for President of the United States or anything like that today.  I’m sure you were fully expecting some shocking announcement since I mastered the art of fake press conferences yesterday (and if you actually believe I mastered the art, then maybe I should run for President).

I’d like to talk a bit tonight about changing the focus of those you work with (and let’s be honest, changing your focus right along with them).  I’ve been hearing a lot about “X has to be your focus” or “you must focus your team on X” or “If you lose sight of X, then doom and gloom doom and gloom”.  Every time this comes up, I quit taking notes to look around the room.  Does anyone look as hopeless as I do?  No.  Either they all have great poker faces or they’re doing it right! 

I’m positive I’m not alone here, but why does no one else look frustrated when this comes up?  How on earth do I go back to my venue and get my coworkers to refocus on what is important?  I was going to avoid this topic all together.  It’s going to come out sounding like I work with a team that doesn’t like their job. On the contrary.  I work with a team that ADORES what they do and works endless hours to get it done.  However, and probably due to those endless hours, when you bring up a new event, I almost always get an “ugh” from the back of the meeting room.  If I’m real lucky, I get a visitor in my office to ask who’s idea it was to do yet another activity this year.  Those conversations are only mildly uncomfortable – especially when it was MY idea.

Guess what?  I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  WE’RE IN THE ENTERTAINMENT BIZ, of course we’re going to do one more activity this year.  Heck, we might even to 23.  Get over it.  We’re a theater.  We own and Amphitheater.  We have partnered with some groups to do a concert series in Little Rock.  Presenting events/concerts/theater/activities/whatever is absolutely, 100% what we are here to do.

I know this.  Deep down, I know the “ugh” happy coworkers know this.  However, our focus seems to be on doing what ever we can to get through the day/week/month/season rather than on doing what we can to make the next event the absolute best thing we’ve ever laid our hands on.  I know why this is, but I don’t know how to change it.  I want to thrive in a culture where people are perked up when they hear another concert has been booked.  Heck, I want to be that person.  I can’t wave a magic wand changing everyone’s frame of mind and I can’t press their reset button. 

I’m not sure my team is one that thrives off of a motivational speech, or nifty acronyms printed on posters or star service awards.  So what is it that motivates them?  What is the spark they need to get excited?  What is that one thing I can do that plants the seed in them that is planted in me each and every time I’m around the industry professionals I’m around this week?  

I’m at a loss here.  I can usually come up with a solution, but I’m drawing blanks.  What would you do in this situation?

And why does this topic suck the funny, witty breath right out of me?  I’m guessing because it’s something that I have deep, very deep concern for.  It’s a real problem.  Surely there is a real solution.

A Girl and her fake press conference

Today was a bit of a mismatch.  Like yesterday, I met what seemed like 100s of people (but it wasn’t quite that many) and learned that VMS instructors like to make people laugh… especially the ones from Melbourne (as in Australia… Down Under… home of Crocodile Dundee… yeah, that place).  In an effort to concentrate my thoughts into a specific area, I wrote down a few blog topics that came to me through out the day. 

They are (in no particular order):

  • Why do you work in this industry if you don’t like working events?
  • Why do you work in this industry if you’re going to complain about me booking a show?
  • Why do you work in this industry if you can’t even remember we’re presenting Bon Iver in Little Rock tonight?
  • Why do you… 

wait, see the trend?  None of it positive.  I think I blogged a couple of years ago about being positive, so I better stick to it, right?

The more I heard today, the more the thoughts above ran through my head.  But how do I blog about that without hurting someone’s feelings or making a few enemies?

I don’t.  I blog about fake press conferences instead. 

One of my courses today was Media Relations.  We talked briefly about how we, as a venue, are beneficial to media and vice versa (I know, what a concept).  However, the main point of the course was media relations in a time of crisis.  After a quick exercise introducing the class to a made up tragedy, I found myself volunteering to represent said venue in a press conference.

Wait, back up here, did I really raise my hand for that?  The instructor wanted someone who wasn’t good at it.  I’ve never done it, so I fit the bill, I suppose.  But why on earth did I raise my hand?

Someone must have slipped me something in my lemonade at lunch.

After a few minutes to myself to prepare, I stood in front of my peers (a lot of them), a camera, a microphone and a sea of hands ready to ask VERY difficult questions.  Guys, I have to tell you, fake press conferences regarding a death at your venue is tough stuff.  I found myself getting frustrated with the questions.  “What do you mean you don’t know what a mosh pit is?” is not a good response to a fake reporters question and thankfully those words didn’t fall out of my mouth.  Neither is “Maybe the kid was in over his head and shouldn’t have been in the mosh pit, in fact, no one should go to mosh pits.  I learned my lesson at Rock Fest 1996 – mosh pits are dangerous and I blame his testosterone for doing a dumb thing in the first place”.  Yes, that answer ran through my head.  To fan the flames a bit, we had to watch it all over again on video.  Yay.

Yay me.

Yay me for volunteering.

I think my volunteering to do that was the single most important thing I did today.  Had I watched someone else do it, I wouldn’t have learned what I did while doing it.  I was critiqued, dissected, and thrown into the oreo method a bit (you know, good – bad – good), but most importantly, I learned exactly what I did wrong and think I could take on another fake press conference with much more confidence and would better represent my fake venue.

We’ll save the real press conference for another time!

Someone remind me that just last year I was a wallflower and perhaps I should slow down a bit.  No need to jump into the deep end.

Actually, the deep end is kind of fun.  Maybe I’ll stay in for a while… but can someone please pass me the life vest.  A little help never hurt anyone.

Blogging when I should be packing

I really should be packing right now.

I even have nice, shiny new luggage to pack in (my old was obviously run over by a Delta plane).

But here I sit, writing up a new blog post.  And before I sat down at my computer, I made some dinner.  And before I made some dinner, I emptied the dishwasher/folded clothes/hung clothes/did everything I don’t really need to do and avoided packing.

I’ll go ahead and let you in on a little secret… I adore traveling (even if for business) but loathe packing.  There, I said it, I loathe packing.  At least for this business trip I’m not packing a weeks worth of business attire.  Jeans should make this process easier.

I’m heading off to West Virginia tomorrow for the International Association of Venue Managers Venue Management School.  I’m not really sure what to expect.  I’ve read all of the materials, like a good student, and then started on the review questions.  Then my heart sunk.  Many questions I couldn’t answer and I had to go back and reread that section.  Am I that far removed from college that I can’t retain text book information as easily as I used to?  Do I need to reinvigorate my brain?  Has the professional world killed my ability to learn?  I suppose it could be any one of those things.  I’m sure I’ll be fine, but still, the unknown is always a bit tricky for me.

I fully intend to keep up with blogging while there.  It’s always a good plan.  Sometimes it works (as it did last July) and sometimes it fails (anyone remember my trip to NYC in February?  No, probably because I didn’t blog much about it).  In order to fully take in this experience, I think writing about it as much as possible is going to be key.  Probably not key for you, but key for me. 

But hey, I know you’re just DIEING to hear stories from West Virginia… you just might not know it yet.

Stay tuned… I promise you won’t be disappointed.

And Down

Disclaimer: my humor and wit is taking a bit of an afternoon nap right now so this post might be lacking just a bit in those areas. It shall return soon, I promise.

I’m writing this final conference post from the Phoenix airport. I found a very empty Jet Blue gate (they always seem to be empty), a plug and some free wifi, so what better place to sit and enjoy some down time before heading back home?

This morning was a great end to this conference. To start with, my alarm wasn’t set for 5:45AM so waking up at 7AM was almost like sleeping in on Sunday. The last slew of activities were some organized venue tours. I joined about 12 of my fellow Performing Arts venue managers as we toured the Orpheum, Phoenix Symphony Hall and the Herberger Theater. Seeing theaters that I don’t work in 7 days a week was a nice change of scenery but getting a few more precious hours being able to chat with fellow managers was invaluable. I met a fellow who seemed to have my exact job so it was a great chance to bounce some ideas off of each other and get some notes about what works for his venue and what has not worked for them. Again, I’m left feeling full of ideas, full of energy (as soon as I get some sleep in my own bed) and full of enthusiasm. What an amazing feeling to leave a conference with.
Oh, another amazing thing to leave the conference with – a $100 gift card thanks to VenuWorks (gotta love wining drawings). I’m thinking that I’ll apply it to the purchase of an iPad since leaving the conference with one of the many they were giving away wasn’t in the cards for me. VenuWorks also provided me with a peer to look up to. I was very lucky to have the opportunity to meet and hang out with one of their VPs who’s career, participation in IAVM, and excitement about what she does has left me just as excited about my future as the conference did. Wow… lots of use of the word, and variations thereof, excited in that last bit. I can’t help it! It’s just how I feel.
I’m very much looking forward to some time to process the things I’ve learned and to look into some new areas of interest. Looking forward at my calendar for next doesn’t look promising for some reflection time, but I’m sure I’ll find it in between meetings and, well, more meetings. I’ll be curious to see how I use my refreshed enthusiasm and spark when I return to the office.
And speaking of returning to the office, if my team is reading this, a huge THANK YOU for managing things while I was out. It was the first time I didn’t have to put out fires while away on business. I’m so proud of the team I get to work with in the office each and every day.

All Good Things Come To An End

The last night of a conference is always bittersweet. Every bone in my body is ready to head back to Arkansas, to the Sweet Boy, to the Schmoo cat and to my own bed, but a part of me wants to stay immersed in this environment. My brain wants the continued wealth of knowledge that comes with being surrounded by so many outlets of information. My heart wants that spark to stay bright. My soul wants to continue to be around people who absolutely love what they do day in and day out and work for what they believe in until they have nothing left at the end of the day.
Have I uncovered my take home assignment? Can I carry this spark… no, this flame back to my venue and spread it amongst my team? How can I share this adoration for my career with peers who seem so heavily immersed in the creative side that there isn’t room left for the functional, operational, logistical end of things. I’ve talked all day with anyone who would listen about how disappointed I am that my venue isn’t more involved in this organization. My venue is well on its way down a path towards expansion that will bring more venues online than was even imagined when it first opened its doors. It is so important now, more than ever, to be involved in an organization that puts all types of venues on display to learn from. The conferences are real time text books. They are a chance to bounce ideas of experts in the field and do so face to face. That is something a phone call or email would never be able to duplicate.
An organization like IAVM, the peers that come with it and the learning opportunities presented at it’s many different conferences are not best experienced once a year, but rather all year. Would you all be so kind as to let me compare this to The Sims? When playing The Sims, one of your tasks for a happy little Sim person is to make friends and create relationships (as well as eat, sleep, shower, get smart, lift weights and use the restroom). If you do not work on these relationships daily, your little Sim person gets sad. You can’t just call your Sim buddy up out of the blue (once a year, to tie it back into my discussion point) and expect them to laugh at your jokes or flirt back, they will yell at you and you’ll lose the little Sim relationship. The same goes in real life. If you do not cultivate your relationships in real time, you start to lose your edge and this edge cannot completely be sharpened just once a year.
As I leave this conference tomorrow, I leave more confident than when I arrived. I’m confident in my abilities to lead my team through tough times and situations, confident in my knowledge of how my venue works in comparison to similar venues and confident that I’m on the right path in life. I do hope I am able to find outlets with the organization throughout the year to involve myself in. It would mean so much to me personally and professionally – but I know my continued involvement would also make the world of difference for my coworkers and my workplace.
(this is the fifth in a series of blog posts written while attending IAVM Venue Connect 2011 – just one more to go tomorrow)

follow me on Twitter @WoolyHands and keep up with my conference tweets with a #venueconnect search

Something I Just Can’t Shake

Something away from the conference (but not necessarily away from my career) has derailed me today and I’m left with the life and energy just sucked right out of me. It was one of those afternoons that left me wanting to throw a fit… you know… the kicking, screaming, 5 year old throwing a tantrum in the middle of the candy aisle at your local Target kind of fit. Would anyone hear me? Yes. Would it make a difference? Not in a positive way.

I started my day out at the conference going over a list of Trade Show exhibitors. I marked the ones I wanted to see for reasons that would make sense for my venue and current position at work. Then I marked the ones who were bragging about their amazing swag on Twitter (don’t you judge me, we adults have been robbed of things like Easter Baskets, Santa Claus and trick or treating – we have to get it where we can). Then came the derailment. For whatever reason, that derailment left me staring down the aisles of the Trade Show floor with no purpose or direction. It was a sea of tables, expansive displays and one tower of cotton candy. I was lost.
A few texts of angry venting to my sister (she always listens) and I felt somewhat better. But the energy was long gone at that point. I was hoping to pick some up at the afternoon social media panel, but all I could do was focus on a grouping of individuals who seemed to mock social media with their snide questions and smirks. More energy suckers. They are everywhere today!
HELP. I need to find some positive energy and reset my brain. It’s mid-week and perhaps I’m tired, but I know it’s out there. This conference is full of it, I’ve just struck out today.
Okay, okay – that isn’t entirely true. This morning’s keynote about being overcommitted, overwhelmed and over it left me smiling from ear to ear. It wasn’t overly eye opening. I know I’m at the end of my stress level rope, but it was nice to know I was surrounded by people who also have trouble putting that smart phone down (come on, I’m not the only one out there who has to check her email at stop lights). It’s also nice to know that when given three minutes of time to do absolutely nothing bit sit and see where my brain takes me, my brain takes me around the world and back.
I was also able to meet a couple of interesting people who I’ve been lucky enough to stumble upon thanks to social media since arriving at the conference. They were brief meetings, passings really, but new contacts none the less. You wouldn’t think from reading my post from a couple of nights ago that I had meeting new people in my blood. I’ll surprise even the best of you… or maybe just myself… either way, someone is getting surprised.
Thankfully, today is still young and Venues Today is hosting a Women of Influence Awards Fiesta to kick off the evening. I can’t help but think some of my positive energy will be restored at something like that. Who knows, maybe I’ll even be brave enough to find some dinner buddies.
Whoa there wallflower – you’re certainly stepping outside of your box.

(this is the fourth in a series of blog posts written while attending IAVM Venue Connect 2011 – let’s see if I can keep this up all week)
follow me on Twitter @WoolyHands and keep up with my conference tweets with a #venueconnect search

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