Words Escape Me or my Brain Won't Function

How is it that I can be SO full of ideas and things to share when I'm away at a conference or at school (it's weird to say school, makes me feel like I'm 17 again) but when I return home I have nothing, absolutely nothing to say.

Really, I have nothing.

And I'm hungry.

And people in Fayetteville can't drive today.

That is all, I just thought I would update so you'll know I'm alive and at least considering blogging.


West By God Virginia

Good Gravy!  I see that some of you have left some amazing replies to my post yesterday.  It helps me more than you could know to get some insight from those removed from the situation.  Sometimes just living the frustration from day to day can bog you down and it takes words coming from someone else's mouth to help point you in the right direction.  I have some amazing blog readers!

I don't have any insightful professional topics to write about tonight.  Actually, I'm a liar.  I had an entire blog post written out about false perceptions vs. real reality, but it got wordy, I had trouble making a point, and I just didn't like it.

So I hit delete... quite a few times, in fact.

I'd really just like to tell you about the fabulous time I had in West By God Virginia today.

This afternoon was left class free so that VMS students could go on a tour, or ride a horse, or play some golf (or maybe take a nap).  Based on the recommendation by a 2nd year student, I signed up to go on the Wheeling tour.  The tour would take us around town and to the Capital Theatre and West Banco Arena. 

Little did I know how INTERSTING that tour would be.

Venues aside (both were lovely, the theater being my favorite, I am partial after all), I absolutely became enamored by the history of Wheeling.  I had no idea it existed before hearing about VMS, but wow, what a history. 

How about a summary?  Here goes:
  • Locals call it the real gateway to the West.  After hearing why, I might agree.  Sorry St. Louis.
  • Wheeling had filtered city water pumped to their houses 3 years before Manhattan.  Take that NYC!
  • The National Road runs right through the heart of town.
  • It's home to the oldest, functioning suspension bridge in the US.
  • Someone said the steam boat was invented here, but really I just think a TON were manufactured here.
  • It was the first capital of West Virginia (the only state to be formed during the Civil War.
  • Loads of rich people build loads of awesome houses during the 8 decades of the Victorian era.  You can buy some of those now for a song.
  • The Capital Theatre used to have a swimming pool and a bowling alley under the theater.  It was planned for it to also house a 7 story hotel on top.  The hotel never happen, neither did the pool.  The bowling alley was donated to a penitentiary in the 1970s.  However, the theater is still there and it's GORGEOUS.
  • Brad Paisley and John Corbett are both from Wheeling.  I'm "meh" about Brad, but wouldn't mind being pals with John Corbett.
So there you have it, Wheeling in a quick, very quick, bullet point list.  If you're ever up this way, check it out.  It's really a lovely place.

If I've piqued your interest a bit, you can read all about it here: http://wheeling.weirton.lib.wv.us/history.htm


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.


Greetings from West Virginia

It was many hours ago when my alarm went off at 4:00am and during that time I flew to Chicago, then to Pittsburgh, drove to West Virginia, ate at an old school Dairy Queen, set food in a Kroger for the first time since 1999, met a TON of people, exchanged many business cards, was gifted a can of Skyline Chili and drank one too many drinks (you know, the ones that require drink tickets or bar tabs).  It's been a long day and I preface my blog post with this info so you can go ahead and throw judgement out of the window when you get to the end of the post and think "gee, Erin has lost her edge".  Bear with me, it's been a long day.

I'm not really sure what my topic needs to be tonight.  So far I'm having a great time.  I was lucky enough to meet up with a follow classmate in Chicago so we were able to get to know each other a bit over lunch and then even more so on the drive in from the airport.  My old self would have quickly latched on to the opportunity to never leave her side for the entire week.  This new Erin, on the other hand, let her fend for herself (thankfully, she doesn't seem to have the wallflower problem I've been known to struggle with) and met new people and had a great time.

Have I killed off the wall flower completely?  Now wait, before you get on to me for rehashing the wallflower topic, allow me to explain.   I firmly believe that my biggest weakness is my keen ability to play the wallflower.  I'm not good at mingling, meeting, making friends, etc.  It is a HUGE fall back and I loathe (there is that word again) that I haven't been able to shake it in the past.  However, tonight seemed different.  Hands were shook, smiles exchanged, uncontrollable laughter over some region's common and regular use of the world corn hole happened (because really, deep down inside, we're all 8 years old and that was hilarious) and I didn't once feel timid or shy.  The only time I was reminded of my old wallflower ways was when someone in line at the bar said "this is hard... I'm an events person... we aren't outgoing types".

Huh.  That's right.  As I said last year, we're the observers.  We stand on the outside making sure everyone else is having a great time.

So where does that leave me now?

It makes me feel naked.

But in a good way.  And I'll leave you with that.



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.