Category Archives: venue connect

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.

Soaking It In

Today was proof of one thing and one thing only (okay, maybe a few things, but one IMPORTANT thing) – you really never know what you might take away from a day at a conference. Today seemed fairly mild according to the schedule. I’d spend half of the day chasing around partners in the trade show. I expected to talk about tents, flooring, chairs more awesome than any other chairs I’ve ever seen and event management software. I expected to be intrigued by Frank Abagnale (even if I think I will still pretend he looks like Mr. Dicaprio in real life). I expected to end the day with a swollen left foot because after all, what is a day on my feet without going to bed with a mongoloid left foot? I did not expect to wag my finger at myself with a disapproving look. You know the look, it’s the kind you get from your best friend when you’ve actually managed to disappoint him/her (which is hard to do, right, because they are your bestie). Yeah, that kind of look.

I attended a Women in Leadership session today. It dealt heavily with the topic of self doubt (well, that’s not what the speaker called it, but that’s how I’ll explain it for simplicity’s sake). I’m talking about the ugly creature that lives in the back of your head telling you things like “Oh, lucky you being in the right place at the right time and getting that awesome opportunity/promotion/raise/project” or “It won’t be long until my boss figures out that I am TOTALLY the wrong person for the job even though I’ve been doing it for 8 years” or “I think I’ll just go ahead and let someone else do it, they are probably better equipped for it than I am”. Ugly, ugly stuff, people.

At first, I thought that wasn’t me at all. I’m confident. I’m smart. I’m pretty. Dammit, I know what I’m doing and that is more than I can say for some people. Oh yeah, and I’m modest! (see what I did there… it’s called being ironic… or something like that). However, I stepped back for a moment and realized that it was me. It was so much me that I was ashamed of years of being that person.

There is one way, and one way only that I am that person on a regular basis. When people ask how I got into my industry, I almost always say “I fell into it, I guess. The job just happened to be open when I was looking and it was in a small market”.


Why on earth do I tell people that?

Had I not been EXACTLY the right person for the job, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Heck, I’d probably have already gone back to school for a grad degree and be in a completely different field.

Everytime I say that, I’m cutting myself down. I should sing my praises. People ask me about how I got my start in venue management because they are interested. I should indulge them, not downplay it. I should represent myself as the fabulous person I am. I should show my true self, not the self conscience, mousey person I make myself out to be.

So that is my goal tomorrow. When asked about my past, I’ll stand up and explain how awesome my first job was and how my skills and qualifications got me that first job. And I promise to be humble about it. After all, I’m not looking to be a braggart, just to give myself my due.

I would have to say I soaked a great deal in today.

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.

A Post-mortem

Post-mortem – it’s a dark joining of words referring to the time after death. It’s also what any convening of the event planning forces, post event, is called. Throw a big party then schedule a post-mortem to talk about it. Get a huge festival off of the ground then schedule a post-mortem… are you getting the idea?

Upon thinking about it, post-mortem really should be reserved for events gone horribly wrong. You know, the outdoor concert called off because of flooding only minutes after it strikes you that maybe you should have picked a venue on higher ground? Or perhaps the one where the local fire department comes in to make a big scene about not having enough exits when you are clearly using an outdoor space with plenty o’ exits (I’m pretty sure the packed bar across the street would have been a worthier recipient of the Fire Marshal’s attention). However, those events never seem to have a post-mort meeting. Perhaps we want to block those events in a small part of our memory – in that space where we hide less successful activities in order to make room for the hugely successful ones. We are human, after all, no one wants to talk about their failures.
Are they really failures, though? I’d like to consider them chapters in my text book. I’m not sure which class I’m taking, whether it be Life 101, How to Succeed in Business When All You’re Doing is Trying Your Darnedest 101, or Fake It ‘Till You Make It 101… whichever it is, I’m filling up chapters left and right. I’d rather not continue to hide those so called failures, I want to pull them out, dust them off and learn from them. I want to have a post-mortem meeting (alone, mind you, I’m not quite ready to admit some failures to the world) for each and every one of them. Where did I go wrong or did I even go wrong? Did I surround myself with the right team and would a different team resulted in a completely different output? It’s time to look at these and use them as professional (and perhaps personal) growth opportunities. It wouldn’t be smart of me to sit around and wait for the learning opportunities to only come to me at conferences and because of new events at work. I’ve got plenty lined up in the dark corners just waiting to be pulled back out and studied. I should never be out of perfect opportunities for improvement at this rate.
Upon my return from the conference I’ve thought a lot about how that one week in Phoenix will shape me. Coming back from conference can often have the opposite effect that you would think. You come back with such a driving force of inspiration behind you only to be faced with the same old challenges you left at the beginning of the week. They are exhausting, tiresome, and old. You were desperately hoping for new challenges, but there the old ones sit on your desk, smiling their sly, weaselly grins, beckoning you to sit down and try to sort them out in the same way you failed at before.
I will not fall for their tricks.
I’m going to approach them at a different angle. I’ve got new weapons and if I still need to acquire some, I know where to get them. It’s time to broaden my horizons as it seems my current horizons were not enough to solve these problems. As the Booking and Events Manager at my venue, I’m queen bee when it comes to booking spaces. I know how to space events out to avoid timing conflicts (and how to calm people down when my attempts at this are overridden), how to communicate what set up needs there are, and how to get the team working towards great events. I know how to draw up a space use and promoter contract. I know how to negotiate figures so that both parties come out happy (and if they don’t, I know how to get over it). I know how to train a House Manager, how to evacuate the hall in the event of an emergency and how to handle the FOH for a 10,000 seat concert in a hall that isn’t even ours. It isn’t what I already know that is going to be my success. It’s that in combination with what I don’t know.
If this personal post-mortem of my past experiences has taught me anything, it’s that the time has come to jump out of my box and learn some new skills. It’s time to step backstage and learn a bit more about Production than I already do (you know the phrase “I know just enough to get me in trouble” well, that’s me to the “T”). It’s time to sink my teeth into our ticketing and patron database software so I’m not left having to go to others every time I have a question. This girl’s horizon is going to be broadened and no one is going to do it for me, this time it’s up to me.
So I go into the work week ready to ask my peers to become my teachers. I’m ready to learn from them. I’m ready for my workplace to be just as inspirational to me as a conference is. Conferences come a couple of times a year, your office environment is there 365 days (those of you not in the event industry might think I’m exaggerating but I even got emails about work last Christmas day… it doesn’t end, but it’s worth it when the end result is spectacular). Why not let each day be just as inspirational as a conference session?
Dear Friends – what can I learn from you?

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

Shoot For The Moon

Allow me to start by expressing my deep hatred for my iPhone right now. I took a lot of notes today upon said phone and somehow, half of them were deleted. I can’t imagine I deleted them but I also don’t want to accept that my small piece of modern technology is plotting against my ability to blog about all of the wonderful things I heard today. This might be an important lesson in good, old fashion note taking. Get out your pens and notepads people, technology can fail you.

Thankfully, most of the major points that I wanted to take with me after the conference have stuck with me. For my first blog post today, I’d like to concentrate on a couple of areas. One will be my attempt at making a theme out of last night’s wallflower heavy post. Another I touched on with the title of this post.
You might as well shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. This isn’t something I recite at my reflection each morning (actually, positive affirmations have never been my thing). However, this is something I practice in almost everything I do without even realizing it. Some people call me a perfectionist, some call me anal (such a nice word, no?), but I prefer to consider myself committed to the end result. Do whatever it is you’re doing with amazing passion and consideration for the end result and even if you miss the moon, you’ll land among the stars.
This saying could not be more evident in my life than what happened this morning. For a couple of weeks, I have been working on my 2nd Year Testimonial speech for the Venue Connect First Timers Breakfast. I wanted what I was going to say to stick with someone. I wanted to make the difference for anyone listening that someone made in me last year. I wanted to be inspirational but also real (not always easy). I also wanted to make an impression. Humans are somewhat self serving creatures, and while I wanted to help ignite sparks amongst the audience, I also wanted to show those listening what I can offer. I’m passionate about what I do, I’m one of the hardest workers you’ll ever run across, I’m smart, well spoken and darn it, I can write a speech! Reciting the speech was another thing – but I’ve never claimed to be the world’s greatest public speaker (if a cute, shakey voice does it for you then I’m sorry you missed the breakfast, I was full of cute, shakey voice).
This speech, my 2.5 minutes in front of a brand new group of peers, was a success beyond what I could have imagined. While standing up in front of the crowd, with my shakey voice and written speech, my eyes met with nods of approval, agreement, and empathy. I saw realization in the eyes of people sitting where I sat last year. After the breakfast, I was met with words of encouragement, appreciation and congratulatory remarks. I was also met with the opportunity to take my words, refine them, and potentially have them printed in an industry publication.
I shot for the moon and just might have landed there. I can’t even imagine today happening any other way. It’s just not in me to sit back and let things pass by me. Life is an amazing gift – live it your way!
Now, as promised, to get back to that wallflower topic from last night. I’d like to spin that from a negative to a positive. Is it so bad to be one that stands back and observes? Am I searching out the right opportunity to insert myself before jumping into the first opportunity I see? What if my immediate and exuberant insertion blocks my ability to see another less prominent but amazing opportunity just waiting in the wings? My leadership style is definitely a “go get them” style but I’m overly conscience about my team and how the team works together. I am successful in what I do because hang out on the sidelines playing coach instead of quarterback. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s my thing.
At least I made it a point to meet new people today and also jumped all over the opportunity to take someone up on a lunch invitation. It’s still the old Erin (she’s too valuable to leave behind), just one trying to play a braver role.

(this is the third 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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