Hello everyone, we're back with another episode of Make it Kick Ass. I'm Isaac Watson, joined by the illustrious Nessa Jimenez. I don't know if I've used that one.::
yet you have, I think.::
Dang it. I need to just come up with a list that I can pin to my monitor here of just adjectives for Nessa. A quick reference yeah, yeah, you know, honestly, I'm still kind of reeling from all of these conversations that we've had with our guests this season. It has been I don't know it just if anything, this season has been for me more than anybody else, I think.::
Yeah, no, for me too, I think yeah like eye-opening.::
It's so good to have these discussions, to be able to talk to people about this kind of stuff, because, you know, sometimes you think you're just all by your own, thinking up your thinking thoughts and don't have any commonalities with other people, but it turns out we do, because what we do involves other people all the time. So it's been really fantastic to have all of these interviews with our fantastic guests and we thought we would take a little bit of time to recap these kind of the main takeaways out of each one and the the bit of narrative thread that has materialized out of this season that we didn't really we didn't really plan, did we?::
No, it's just kind of happened by itself. I'm surprised by how, even though our guests have not talked to the other guests, they seem to naturally make connections with each other, like their stories. So that was really incredible.::
I think what's interesting is that we have the work that we do is so inextricably tied to the human experience, that this state that we're in post-pandemic, and I keep asking myself when are we going to stop talking about it? I think it's going to be like three more years at least, where we're all reconciling with the same things. This deep cultural trauma that we've experienced together has been really, really, I think, beneficial for us to begin with, but has caused a lot of really important conversations, and those conversations influence the work that we do as event producers. So it's it's been fun to tie this narrative thread. So when we put our guest list together at the beginning of the season, when we were doing all our planning for this I will be perfectly honest with you, this was kind of the Isaac and Friends show, as you may have picked up. I know all of these people. I've worked with a lot of them. Some of them have been clients. It was easy that way, especially for the first season, that we decided to invite guests into the show.
But what was fascinating about it is, as we started to map out which interview goes where and such, we started to see that thread materialize. And so what we wanted to kind of recap was three major topical themes across the nine interviews that we had and break down a little bit over over the course of those interviews what we took away from them and what I think will influence our work you know, has been influencing and will continue to influence our work as we go. So those three themes are first strategy, then process, then experience. And so you know, incidentally, that kind of aligns with the way in which we work with our clients and the and the different phases that we go through as we work on an event project. But I want to, I want to start a little bit with. We'll start with strategy. We always start with strategy newsflash why, why is that and what for you was kind of the big thematic elements related to strategy that came out of the first couple of interviews.::
Sure, I think really what this is is a lesson learned session, right, like we're going through the material and figuring out like, okay, what did we learn from these lessons? Right For strategy. I think from these conversations it's clear that, having a genuine interest in the people that you're trying to bring together, we should be using that curiosity as the basis for event strategy. When we spoke to Tara Breanne, emily kept coming up how they just have a genuine curiosity in people. They want to understand the people that they work with, they want to connect with them, but that that ability to connect, that wanting to connect, comes from caring about those people and wanting to serve them in some way.::
Yeah, I see I go on and on about the importance of context for me, like I can't. I have tried doing, like you know, surgical onsite staffing and things like that, and they're always the toughest gigs for me because I often lack the context that comes through working on an event throughout the whole process and that, to me, is rooted in curiosity. I want to know how our clients business works. I want to know what their goals are. I want to know all of that information. I'm very curious about all of that and if we can get really curious about the people that we're serving through the events for our clients, then we can craft something that actually interests them, right? I think you know Tara talked.
I love starting this season off with Tara McMullen's interview because she had such a big picture approach to thinking about moving past an anti human workplace and moving to something more pro human. We talked about you know where she finds community. We talked about how we are creating space for other people and I think that that was such a perfect lens to start with that really, I mean, I don't, I didn't tally, but I feel like in nearly every other interview we referenced that interview with Tara. Yes, absolutely.::
That was a great episode to start the season with, because I feel like if if you don't get that one, if you don't connect with that one, the rest of the season is not going to be very interesting to you, right? Because we are coming from a pro human lens perspective. That's, that's what we're always trying to get to right, improving. So having that conversation first and setting that groundwork there was really important, but we definitely did kept referring back to her.::
Yes, the, I think the next guest, brian Dick from Visionary CEO Academy. I think what was fascinating about her was taking that kind of pro human and people first approach a little bit deeper and more intimate in thinking about how she has found the best way to teach through her life trainings, the way in which she has embraced being imperfect and showing the human side as a host and as a leader, because we also often get caught up in this presentation of perfection Right Like oh.
I'm leaving this community. I need to be, like you know, top notch, show no wrinkles kind of person, and that's bullshit.::
Right and that's how she's improved her teaching skills. Because she started out right with like the perfect presentation and what she thought was like the best way to teach. But she had that curiosity of why aren't people asking questions when I'm expecting them to ask questions, right, and playing around with that and realizing, oh it's because the perfection that we're trying to achieve is actually repellent to the people that I'm trying to connect with, that I'm trying to teach. So her ability to be curious there is helped her improve her strategy for when she's teaching.::
Absolutely. And then you have Emily, emily Thompson from being Boss and the way that she talked about this very organic way of responding to her community's needs by creating events for them, and it just kind of like you know, her first boss vacation that she and Kathleen organized was hey, we're going to go to New Orleans. Wait, maybe we should ask if any of the bosses want to come with right like it was just a curiosity, like yes, you went out into this and I think she said 80 people showed up like what?::
Yeah, that's incredible, for just something that you just happen to ask. You weren't even sure. Right, it wasn't planned.::
It was just that curiosity to ask.::
And then this her especially. She really touches on this part of community where if you have to genuinely like to be with these people, you have to genuinely care about what they care about and spending that time there, because that's how you're going to build that community. If you don't actually care about those people, about getting to know them and understanding their needs, that community is not going to grow, it's not going anywhere. She definitely, from the very beginning I feel like she jumped into being curious about people and wanting to know about them and serving them.::
Yeah, and I think that that's a perfect case study of someone who's been able to organically and naturally leverage events to deepen relationships within that community and not just relationships between her, her co founder, and the community members themselves, but amongst themselves.
right, and you know, I had the pleasure of attending an informal dinner that she hosted when we were in Denver a podcast movement in August where, you know, there were a couple people from the community that were at the conference and then there were a couple people locally who came and we just had a fantastic time. It was delightful being able to make connections in that way over a shared meal, and you know I'm all about it.::
Yeah, I think it's fantastic how that community, even though it's it's I don't think it's officially closed, I think she's moved on to other things, but the connections that she's made and the relationships that she's had have only continued to grow out of there. And she's not technically, she's not leading a community right now, you know, and yet she's still able to connect with people and bring people together. But that comes from actually caring about people.::
And those deep relationships are helping her start build a community around her retail store, almanac supply co. Which is a very different thing. It has some overlap with being boss, but as a like a physical retail store in Tennessee, like that's, that's a whole other ball of wax right. And yet the groundwork she laid with being bosses is informing that.::
So we talk about then process, which is our second big theme of the season. So we touch on strategy and how. That's the basis. Right, we need to start from that curious place. But with process, why don't you tell us, isaac, your big takeaway or your big lesson learned from the season?::
Process. So these are the conversations we had with Rachel Coddington, jed Chang and Brian Richards and, if I could sum it up, it's about eliminating friction from the attendee experience, because friction is where things go awry and that's everything from curating the event experience to inclusive practices to your technology Right, like there's so many ways that you can introduce friction, and I think what was great about the three of them and their independent perspectives is that they all talked about that friction reduction in different ways. Yes, you know, what I loved about Rachel was how she approached her work, both with XOXO Festival and Design Week Portland, from, I mean, like, really again putting people first, thinking about these human spaces that they were creating and how they could create something magical, with whimsy, with something new and different. With Design Week Portland, it was how to reduce friction to allow the 300 other people involved to organize their own events right, and empowering them with the tools that they needed to host with success so that the entire festival could be great. You know, like that is such a great mindset.::
Yeah, rachel has this ability within her mind to see all the complicated levels of things so that the attendees don't have to worry about that. They never even noticed that. I've personally worked with Rachel on some events that she's done and just the amount of forethought that she has down to the granular levels that simplify the attendees life, it makes the experience better for them. But for those attendees to get that there has to be somebody like Rachel with that mind, with that level of consideration, and she is so good at that.::
And then what she was saying about the ability to pre-plan as much as possible, to give the staff on the ground of the flexibility to respond to stuff as it comes up right, Rather than just saving it for the debrief afterward and putting it into next year's plan. They can actually make time and have the time to solve problems in real time, and I think that that's so, so important, because that you know you're never, you're not going to eliminate friction entirely, no like friction is just a natural part of it.
But if you can reduce whatever you can in advance, that frees you up to then be more responsive in the moment, exactly.::
And I think we mentioned that in our recap episode or our response episode to her where if we take care of as much as possible beforehand the surprises that we didn't plan for, those unknown unknowns, we're able to handle them in a much more effective way. But we need to do a lot of planning first, taking care of all the other things and I think with Jed kind of a continuation with Rachel, because Jed is definitely on the attendee side of things you know, receiving people doing the attendee communications, following up, checking up on people on site, the importance of making those attendees feel seen and feel heard and letting those attendees know through that like we got you.
You know this production team, this event team, we have done all the thinking. You don't have to worry about how we did it, but just know that we have, and we hear you, we see you and we're here to make this experience for you the best one possible.::
I think that was in that interview was my favorite moment, seeing your eyes light up with an aha moment. People just want to feel seen and heard you call that out, and it just it's so deeply resonated with me in a way. You know I'd never really verbalize that before and so that was just a really key takeaway for me that yes we just we're.
we're humans at the end of the day. We want to feel seen, we want to feel heard, we want to feel valued like that's. These are core social desires and we as event people and our clients as event hosts, have the opportunity to create those moments of belonging for people, and I think that that's really, really important. The other kind of secondary takeaway for me from Jed was this the importance of communication and setting expectations with your attendees and making sure that I mean that's part of reducing the friction right. Like yes, if, like, I can't tell you how many times I buy a ticket to a conference to attend and I'm like I was just telling you the other day, we are 30 days out and there have been zero communications from the planning team about the schedule or this, that are the other. It's like come on, people, I need to know, I need to plan, I got plans to make here.::
Yeah, I always say this like once you've given them your credit card information, it's like they disappear. That does not make an attendee feel safe. It makes people feel nervous and like did I fall for some type of scam? And that goes back to you can't just drop people, because that's what it feels like right, Just kind of being dropped into space and time. You don't know what's going on. You need to guide people, and communications is the way that we do that.::
Yeah. So then our conversation with Brian, which I thought was really great, focused a little bit more on the technology side of things, but so much, especially these days. There's so much technology around there that it can often get in the way, and it's so easy especially, you know, with our larger clients who have, who are already working with a large tech stack, who are maybe not accustomed to thinking about things from the attendees side of perspective, is that your technology can be really useful. But the second it gets in the way and it detracts from the experience it gets between you and the people, like it ends up hampering things more than it helps, and so I loved both his implications that we got into with our response around applying a lazy attitude toward event production right.
Like trying to be as efficient as possible, to minimize the work you have to do, and I think that that plays into technology, when you think about how many different platforms and systems and tools that you end up needing to talk to each other, or if you are being the translator between them, which just introduces human error into it.::
And isn't it interesting that this entire season, all these conversations that we're having about creating experiences for people, creating events for people, at no point have we spoken about any app, any tool, any computer thing. Do you know?::
what I mean.::
We've had these conversations about these things and we had no need to talk about any specific tools, because everything that we're talking about can be done, can be achieved, but thinking about the people first and the goals first, and not, oh, this is the tool that's going to do all the things for me, especially with Rachel and Jed, who are two people who are on the protection side of things. At no point in our conversations when are we talking about the specific tools or apps or anything involving and? That tells you something? Right? It's not about these tools.
It's not about the stack of all this stuff that's out there. It really is about making an experience, designing the experience, and then sure, there can be tools that can help us, but that is not the central purpose or the core of the job.::
Yeah, the tool is not the strategy Right, and we've talked about this last season because that's which event platform should I use or which registration platform comes up a lot in early conversations with clients and potential clients and we always say that's the wrong question to be asking. Like you need to think about your strategy first and identify what you need and then find the tool to fit those needs that has the right features.::
Right and I don't blame them because it's not their job to know right. It's our job to know that and to teach them that. Actually, in this world where there's a million apps for all the things, and all the apps are going to change your life, you know I'm not surprised people think, oh, I got to get the right app. There is no right app. It really is about making an experience for people and keeping the tech out of the way. Keeping it out of the way and, again, eliminating friction. When we talk about we want the tech to get out of the way, it's about that eliminating the friction from the attending experience so that people can experience the thing that we want them to and not all these awkward tech mess ups.::
Yeah, and what do they want to experience? They want to experience each other, they want to experience the content. They want to experience the actual if you're in a physical space the actual, like literal environment that you've created for them, and that's, that's what's going to make an impact, beyond which specific tool or platform or technology you've used.::
Absolutely so. Speaking of experience, we want to move on to that third big chunk of the season where we looked at the experience itself. What, what, what do you want? To start there?::
Okay, so these are the interviews with Gary Hirsch, jordan Hales and Mike Pacquione talking about improv movement and storytelling, which fit together.::
so well, yes.::
I can't believe that we didn't plan that and like I think the underlying theme out of all of that is that the experiences that we create have to allow people to bring their whole selves to the event and connect with each other on a human level.::
And everything that you're creating from an experiential standpoint needs to be in service to that Right. I think the the standout thing for me from Gary Hirsch was bringing the improv attitude of creating space for the unknown, setting ego aside and not thinking that you've planned for everything, not thinking that the content you're creating is the only thing that people need, and being able to, to make that that buffer area, that that gray zone where people can explore and experiment and connect with each other in a in a really interesting way.::
From Gary, I feel my biggest takeaway is avoiding over planning.::
Right, and that's where we have this bad habit of not allowing silences or empty spaces, because we just want to keep shoving stuff in your face right and then and not letting you breathe for a minute. I don't know why.
I think that's just a bad habit we have as humans we're afraid of the silence. But what Gary's really telling us is we need that space, we need the silence, we need the unplanned moments, because it is in those unplanned moments, where you give people space to breathe, that the special things happen. And improv is a perfect example of that. Where nothing has been planned, you just have the information that you've been given at that very moment and now it's going to happen.::
Yeah, yeah, and that allows us to feel more human with each other right, Absolutely.
I think the three words that he used in the interview were acknowledge, connect and explore Right. Yes, so like that, like acknowledging each other's presence, Understanding the unknown, acknowledging an elephant in the room, whatever that is, connecting with each other over that and then exploring the possibilities, I think is just really fascinating. We went through the exercise with him, which was fun, but that to me, I think is really it's those like liminal moments I don't know if liminal is the right word, but those areas that can't be programmed.
I think is what are really interesting to me, even thinking about it from an improvisational standpoint.::
Yeah, and I think, though, those are the moments that people most look forward to. Actually, we we've also mentioned a couple times the, the hallway conversations that people are obsessed with having, right there not necessarily even there for the content.
They want to know what's going to happen in this hallway, whom I'm going to meet, what I'm going to see, what's going to happen, how I'm going to connect with, and that is not something that you can plan. That has to happen, naturally, you can, you can create a space where you're subliminally. Is that even a word? Subliminally? Yes pushing people towards each other and suggesting things right, but they have to have the space to figure it out for themselves really and see where that stuff goes.::
Yeah, and we went to the next level with Jordan heels in talking about movement and music and time travel. Yeah right, didn't think that was going to go there. The way in which she approaches hosting events, leading events, facilitating events, from from a, from an acknowledgement of I love this movement is a fundamental human need.
Yes, yes we need to move and giving people permission to do that and to show up fully to bring them their whole selves of tearing down the rigid structures around professionalism and how we're supposed to behave, and having them taking moments to express ourselves through a typical means I think is is really, really fascinating.::
Yeah, and the way Jordan in our conversation we came up with this notion of giving people permission. Right, that opens the door to those unplanned moments, like Gary was telling us about. Right, what Jordan does is she. She really gets to the core of human needs. Right, that's really what she's doing. We think it stands and it's fun and it's music, but she's really is under the surface. She is doing some deep, deep work with people and it's really about knocking down that wall, that fear, that disconnection, and allowing people to come in and experiment and and be seen, which I think is so important, like, why aren't we dancing?::
and all of the things that we do you know, in a lot of ways she's a trickster in what she does right, because it it to the audience and it's like a very benevolent trickster the audience. You don't realize what's happening until you're in the moment and then like, oh a didn't realize I needed this be. I'm feel more open and connected and I'm having this shared experience with other people. That's, that's critical, like I don't know. I mean death to boring business events.::
Let's all just move, absolutely yeah, no totally, and what Gary and Jordan also do. Consent is important to both of them and I think we touched on that on both sides but what that allows you to do is you can participate, okay, and go with the flow. Do the thing, but if you choose not to, it also gives that person an opportunity to think about themselves and analyze themselves and go okay. Why is this freaking me out? Why am I not into this? Why is the notion of dancing in this place so repellent to me? So, even if you're not participating, there is a bit of confrontation maybe confrontations a strong word but there is a moment for reflection.::
So, either way, participate or not, you are experiencing some sort of human connection yeah, and then, lastly, we have bank Pacquione talking about the differences between narrative and storytelling and giving us a few pointers on how to tell better stories and how to use stories to connect with each other. I think that's the key thing for me. Whether you're a speaker or whether you're, you know, meeting people at an event that you're attending, stories have have an ability to Shortcut relating to each other, right. Right, if you can tell them correctly. And what's funny is that I, when I was in Denver at podcast movement, I regaled a group of people with a story about how I got a particular jacket that I wore.
Just got a jungle print on it with you know, tropical leaves and flowers and tigers and stuff, and I think it's really funny story. But I've, as as I've, learned what works and what doesn't about telling the story over the years and through the conversation that we had with Mike, I started rethinking oh, what you know, what tension am I adding? What editing am I doing to like cut to the chase? What detail am I using strategically to help people either relate to a character in the story or understand the point that I'm trying to make? And so the tension, editing and detail, I think thing I think was was really interesting. But I think at the core and Jordan touched on this too Storytelling is has been part of the human existence since language was invented, and even pre-language right Like as long as there have been people, that have been stories and we've been using stories to connect, to teach, to learn, absolutely.
And, and there's a whole. I mean I could go on a terror about the stories we tell ourselves, Right and like that's. Set that aside for now. But we really do relate to each other through storytelling, whether it's explicit or not. And if we can learn to build better relationships through that art of storytelling, I think that will serve us better in the long run.::
I think that, as event producers or people anybody putting together an event we should be more conscious of storytelling as the tool that it is. And also, no matter if we don't think we're telling a story, yes we are, because people will make their own stories of whatever's happening around them. So, being more conscious of that of storytelling and being more intentional with the stories that we tell and pay attention because, believe it or not, there's always a story going on, and I love Mike's ability to shape the stories help us get to the point right, help us be better storytellers and for the future, I will definitely be a little bit more conscious of that.::
Yeah, I think the other thing to remember is that we are also, as we are producing an event, we are creating a story for other people, right, like they are experiencing a story as a timeline between them deciding to go to an event, all the way up to going to it and then what happens afterward. And so if we can think about the ways in which we as producers and organizers and hosts and leaders, can better craft the event story for the attendees, I think that may be a more effective way for them to connect with each other as humans.::
Right and I hope that we create events that people will then tell stories about right, Hopefully that event will be part of people's stories in the future. You know that's something that's all they can use to tell their stories. So, yeah, I hope we're able to be a positive story in people's like repertoire. So why don't we wrap this whole thing up? Then let's go over. I want to make sure that we touch on our lessons learned from like the big three.::
So the big three are strategy, process and experience. And strategy is about having a genuine curiosity in people and using that curiosity for the foundation of your event strategy. If you start with that, if you start from a curious place and you seek knowledge around who you're creating this thing for, you will have a better event.::
Right. And next one we have is process and in process. We want to eliminate the friction from the attendee experience. We want technology that gets out of the way. We want spaces that serve as many people as possible, that everybody, as many people, can access as possible. We want to really think about what is standing in the way of people being able to fully experience this event to the best of their ability, and eliminating friction is the core of that.::
And that gets down to our experience, which is being able to create experiences which allow people to bring their whole selves to the event and connect with each other on a human level, and I think that it's just kind of this gorgeous cycle, starting from that human curiosity at the beginning and ending with having created a space where people can be curious about each other and connect with each other and explore themselves and the people around them in a way that builds a stronger community, that makes deeper connections and that leaves a much more effective impact on the people who are there than bringing in a celebrity speaker or something and I think it was Jordan who probably summed it up best which was at the end of the day, people aren't going to remember the exact content or who was on stage, but they're going to remember how you made them feel and how they felt belonging at the event, and I think that is just a gorgeous, gorgeous way to sum it up.