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


Networking and why I'm a superb wallflower

I wouldn't say that tonight was a complete failure... at least not for the 100s of people enjoying themselves over a nice, cool adult beverage meeting new friends and keep up with old. It might have just been one for me. Also enjoying myself over a nice adult beverage, or should I say, from behind a nice adult beverage. It happened like it's happened so many times before. I choked and decided that what tonight's reception needed was an amazing wallflower.

Now, don't get me wrong. Every good reception needs a great wallflower... right? It completes the room and provides harmony where harmony might not have been before. I guess I'm doing a service for all events out there. It takes great skill to do what I do.

Great skill and a complete lack of guts.

I'm not sure at what point in my life I lost the ability to chat everyone up like I've known them forever. It was sometime in college, I know that much. It isn't that I can't find topics of discussion if I'm forced into a group setting or if someone sits next to me at the dreaded lounge configuration in any normal reception setting, it's just that I can't bring myself to be the one to join those settings. I'm perfectly happy waiting for them to come to me.

I would like to go to my own defense a bit. I had a terrible time finding people that looked to be about my age at tonight's event. I saw (and even chatted with) industry veterans. Upon asking them how many times the have been to this conference, I got answers like 40 years! 'Scuse me? 40 years? "hi" "bye", not my crowd. Awesome mentors? Yes. Will we leave best Friends on Friday? No. The next group was a gathering of excited girls all sharing cheese off of one plate (and none of them with the aforementioned adult beverage). I'm going to go ahead and guess that these girls don't make up my crowd either. Perhaps here from a college? Maybe, I wouldn't know though, I didn't chat them up (that is the point of this blog post). Then I would think I saw someone my age, I started to approach them, and then I recognized the slumped shoulders and a double dose of registration goodies marking them as assistants to the older person at the table. Perhaps they would have jumped at the chance to talk to me, but their boss whisked them away before I could even make a step in their direction.

And there I was left alone, playing the part of a wallflower well enough to be awarded for it.

I even went as far as to passively aggressively post on Facebook that having a coworker here would be swell and all of my problems would be solved. Perhaps I should retract that statement. I've always gone to conferences with coworkers (well, except this conference last year in Houston) and here I stand at the cusp of my next big opportunity to grow and I'm cowering in the corner, grasping my iPhone as I text friends back home. This isn't the way to be 30 years old, almost 8 years into an amazing career, and taking over the world. I'm ashamed of this person.

Self - I'm giving you an assignment. Get the heck over your fears. Jump out there, meet someone away from an organized session. Walk up to someone and introduce yourself. You're charming, funny, and impressive to boot. Go show that off to the world and quit complaining about it on your blog!

(this is the second 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

I've landed in the desert

I'd prefer it if we didn't dwell on the fact that I haven't blogged in over 4 months. It would be nice if I could say I had been whisked off on a 4 month African Safari sabbatical... or perhaps living in a beach hut working on my tan but I've been doing neither of those things. I'm not going to tell you that the only thing consuming my time since March has been work... or that I come home in the evenings and feel like collapsing in a heap because my brain is so tired from answering thousands of questions about what kind of concessions I plan on selling at the upcoming show... or that I'm just plum tired.

Let's not dwell on that.

Let's get right to the meat and potatoes of this blog post.

I arrived in Phoenix (as in middle of the desert Arizona) earlier this afternoon for the International Association of Venue Managers (here on out referred to as IAVM) annual conference, Venue Connect. Conferences are great for so many reasons - I really could spend all evening writing about each reason. But for right now, right this very second, at 5:13PM PST, the number one reason this conference is great is because I'm feeling myself recharge. That eager spark that had started to dim while sitting behind my desk, answering question after question for the past year is start to gain some strength. Sure, tomorrow I'll probably tell you that the conference is great for the networking or education, but for right now, it's just that it's fanning the flame.

Last January I wrote one of my favorite blog posts from my hotel room in NYC while there for the APAP conference. My creative side was fed at that conference. I consider the IAVM conference one for the analytical side of my brain. This conference is for the organizational, operational, event logistics geek that lives within me. You know, one cannot live on ice cream sundaes alone, you also need your vitamins and that is what I'm getting this week.

The conference officially started today with a golf tournament (eh, not my thing) and a slew of meetings. Unfortunately, getting here from NWA (as is the same with getting almost anywhere from NWA) took the better part of my day, so I didn't get here quite early enough to sit in on meetings, but I'll kick things off into high gear with a very full day tomorrow. In fact, not to let down the "join every club and volunteer for every activity" person inside of me, I'll be speaking at the First Timers Breakfast. I have a 3 minute "2nd Year Testimonial" to grace the audience with and I'm quite chuffed. I'm hoping that during my 3 minutes, I can help ignite the spark that I'm here to feed.

After all, it was during the breakfast last year that I started to fall in love with my job instead of just having a crush on it.

(this is the first 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