Episode 10

Published on:

16th Oct 2023

Surprising and delighting audiences with Jedd Chang

This week we sit down with Jedd Chang to explore successful events, emphasizing effective attendee communication and the power of a well-managed experience. Drawing from his firsthand experiences including at the World Domination Summit, Jedd walks us through elevating the front-of-house experience while exposing common customer service pitfalls in the industry. We also dive into the concept of 'surprise and delight' within event experiences. Even small, purposeful actions can inject genuine joy into attendees' journeys, and add to the overall experience.

"A good attendee experience is making sure that all attendees are seen and heard and feel valued." - Jedd Chang

Guest Bio

Jedd is a freelance event producer with expertise on the attendee experience and general event support.  Jedd Chang and his wife, Michelle, have been digital nomads since before it was cool, and he has a diverse background of experiences, all rooted in serving communities of all shapes and forms. You can learn more about Jedd and his work at his website jeddchang.com

Key Topics and Takeaways

02:19 - What makes a good attendee experience?

Jedd started in the event industry as a volunteer at World Domination Summit (WDS). He was eventually brought on to the team and shares how volunteering is a great way to get your foot in the door. He talks about his experience with attendees and how he's passionate about creating a great experience for them. He reflects on his role in events and what he believes makes for a great attendee experience.

16:46 - Common mistakes in attendee customer service

Customer service when it comes to the attendee experience can't be ignored. Jedd shares his insights on the importance of being accessible to attendees, communicating clearly and offering a human connection. He also addresses the common mistakes made in the event industry when it comes to customer service.

24:22 - Surprise and Delight

We discuss how surprise and delight can be used to make the attendee experience more meaningful. Jedd shares his experience at WDS and how intentional choices and actions, whether big or small, can bring joy to attendees. We also discuss how focusing on attendee experience can make the event team's job easier.

37:24 - Are you an events person?

Jedd shares his advice on how to break into the industry, such as volunteering and attending events. He also shares how even seemingly random experiences can be useful in the event industry.

Want to dive deeper? Take our free 30 minute training, Community Event Mastery. Access it here.

Additional Resources

Next episode: Balancing technology with the human event experience

This podcast uses the following third-party services for analysis:

Chartable - https://chartable.com/privacy

Welcome to Make it Kickass, where we help leaders of growing communities bring their people together with purpose and lasting impact. Join us as we explore how to make events engaging, exciting, energizing and profitable so that you can build a healthy, sustainable community. I'm Isaac Watson, founder and lead strategist at Kickass Conferences.


And I'm Nessa Jimenez, operations Manager, at Kickass Conferences.


Now let's make it kickass together. Hello everyone, welcome back to today's episode. I am really excited for you to meet my good friend, Jedd Chang. I always say that Jedd ends up being everybody's event best friend that they never knew they needed, and I hope by the end of this episode, Jedd will become your new event best friend. Jedd Chang is a professional people person is what he calls himself, and I think that couldn't be more apt. He is an expert at delivering excellent attendee experiences and thinking always through the attendees' minds and eyes and ears and experiences. Jedd Chang and his wife, michelle, have been digital nomads since before. It was cool, I think, back in 2011. Maybe it was cool before then, but he's a legit nomad and he has a diverse background of experience, but all kind of rooted in serving communities of all shapes and forms, and so I think that's part of what gives him a lot of expertise. So let's give a warm welcome to Jedd Chang. Hi Jedd, how are you?


Hi, hey Isaac, hi, nessa, it's good to be here Hi, thanks for having me.


Welcome. Thanks for joining us. We're really excited to have you. Like, we've both known you for a while now I know Isaac much longer than I have but we both think you're fantastic, so we're glad that you're here. So I just want to get started. Then I want to know from you what do you enjoy about being in the event industry? Why do you like working in it?


Yeah, I think events are necessary. I can't tell you how much I've doubt about that recently, especially coming out of the pandemic, right, because we in the event industry we bring people together in person to have a collective experience. And I know we kind of are doing that on Zoom and there are things like that that Zoom tends to lend an awesome opportunity for a global audience to participate in something like this. But there is something magical, right, when you get people together for something and I don't care if it's a concert or a corporate event or an expo there's just something magical about having people be in the same place, having the same experience, and so for me, that's what I love about it the energy, the feeling, just seeing people together and then having in a magical experience is even better, right. So, if it's something like an awesome concert or festival, even a food experience you know, I went to a motorcycle expo recently. I thought that was neat. So, just seeing people like experience, something fun and transformative, and community, I think like it's really neat to see people being that have a shared interest in building community too. So, yeah, that's that's what I love, being a part of that.

And then the other thing, isaac, I just want to say real fast because this pertains to you is I love working in the industry because you get to meet awesome people and work with awesome people and you're just like amazed at what folks can do in this industry, right, like I have no interest or technical expertise in like production or design or certain elements, and so when I get to work with amazing people who are just experts in their field, right, you're just like blown away at the things they can do, like to transform a space or to like create cool, like awesome experiences for people, and so for me, it's just like when you get to work on a team like that with amazing, awesome folks I think I've said amazing and awesome like 10 times, but it truly is like.

It just it's a unique experience. It's something that not too many people get to do, but it's just like you get to be a part of an all star group, and so that's that's something that's like just honoring all the time, like I just feel like so honored to be a part of something like that.


So yeah, that's so true. I agree wholeheartedly and I was talking to somebody yesterday about the that that we're just gonna say quah about in-person events. Right, like there's something different that online events haven't yet been able to replicate and I don't know that they can truly, because in-person events are this multi-sensory experience and you are, you here, you are in a space, you are kind of surrendering yourself to what's around you. You are hearing snippets of conversations from neighboring groups. You're like people are coming and going. It's just there's so much more to that experience than participating in something through a screen.


And you know, maybe something that's kind of narcissistic no, not narcissistic, but like I don't know if that's the right word, but something that's really like I don't know if it's like a a little evil thing Is that, like there's high stakes in events and risky, like gambling, like I don't know if you guys feel that way too, but you have to like events and you gotta have to like a little bit of a danger, because you know that there's like so many things that could go wrong and maybe it's.

Maybe it's like you're you love to play the game a little bit or something, but you just know that there's so much high stakes involved in events and there's a lot of people who tend to avoid that. They don't want to like get involved in something that, like all the things could go wrong. You know, like and things that are out of your control. And I think event people they're kind of like you know what I'm going to roll the dice a little bit, like I you know there's a chance it could go wrong, but there's also a chance it's going to be epic and it's worth that effort and I think event people get that and so that's kind of fun to be in that and I kind of like that.


Personally, I don't know if you do feel that way but yeah, I feel like I've never put it in those kinds of words, but there is like that risk element that like you're pushing boundaries and you're testing and you're kind of like it could all fall flat Hopefully it doesn't, and usually it doesn't, but it could and that kind of that puts this kind of urgency and investment into what you're doing in a way that like it's really it never really works to play it safe, I think right.


Oh, yeah, yeah, I think that's the people and that's what draws me to the people back again. You know, it's like I think certain everybody I've worked with in the industry that I like working with they don't want to play it safe Like they really do want to. They know that like to create a really good experience. It's going to take some rest, there's going to take some like unknowns, and it's okay, but having the right people is part of that. And then I guess the camaraderie you know, like Isaac, I met you but then I met Nessa through you, and I think so it's just really neat, like because I feel like if, if I worked together with you and then we have something we want to work on together, just the introductions that happen to it's such a networking camaraderie of a community for the events world, like we need each other. We know we can't do an event on our own, and so I think that that's a really special thing too is we really rely upon each other.


Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So I wanted to get a little bit to what that, what makes that magic? And so you and I met. I don't know how many years ago it was, I probably should have done my research but we started working. We were working on the World Domination Summit team together WDS for short and we also worked on Pioneer Nation, and we've worked on a couple of other events since then. Your role when, when you got into the team and joined us, was as attendee concierge, and that's kind of this role that you've embodied through whatever you do. Tell us a little bit about that experience and that role that you played and how that contributes to a good attendee experience.


Yeah, it's interesting and, by the way, we met in like 2015 or 20, I should say 2014, I was a volunteer and in 2015 I was brought on to the team.

So, man, it's been almost 10 years, isaac, and you still look the same. So hats kudos to you. But you know, I was brought on as a volunteer. To be honest with you, my wife, michelle, my partner she said, hey, you should check out this event. And, to be honest with you, I did not want to. It's not that I don't love events, it's just that I was just like I don't know what this is and anything. And so she was just like let's just volunteer, right. And so that's how I got connected to it.

And you know, volunteering is a great way to get in the events industry because you don't, it's just low stakes, you're just there to like sort of participate and take it all in. So that was awesome for me, because I got to kind of experience it, both as an attendee and as someone who's helping put on the event itself. So I think volunteering was awesome. And then from there, you know, I think if you want to be connected to a team and want to sort of like be a part of something, just be a volunteer who's ready to help, right, like ready to do whatever. And so I just remember, like Michelle Jones and some other core team members were like hey, we need someone to do this. And I feel like my hand was always like yeah, put me in wherever you need me. I have learned recently that I am like an Enneagram too. I don't know if anybody knows.


Enneagram up there.


No, I'm not familiar now Well it's a personality thing and basically my title for that is like the helper or the giver, and so it just makes so much sense that then, like somebody on the core team was like, oh, we should have Jedd, you know, like do things directly with attendees. And so that just kind of lend itself to like, oh, first Jedd's going to help with communication, because I said I was interested in those things, I wanted to make sure that people knew like where to go, what to do, that sort of stuff. And then it became about like the programming aspect, like what are attendees going to experience? And I was just very like passionate about that, like I just wanted to know like how can we make that better? So people are leaving me like, oh, that was a really good experience.

So that's how I joined the team for the World Domination Summit, wds, and where I met you, isaac, and I was just blown away again of like all the amazing people that were doing really cool experiences, whether it was the main stage, I think that year we did like the Portland experience, which is like a mini festival for like one day, where we brought in tons of vendors for like an expo where our attendees could just experience things, but somebody was coordinating that.

You know, we had one person coordinating like all the transportation, so it was just really cool to be a part of that and see how, like everyone was working together for the attendee experience. But I do remember, isaac very clearly, that when I started writing like the communications, I was like, so what are you guys telling people like where to go, what to do? Just really basic stuff. We're like I don't know. We kind of just every now and then like we send them an email and certain things like oh, is there like steps, a checklist, you know anything that like people can you know, how do people know this stuff? And it just wasn't a part of the thing back then. And that's something that I feel like I was helping to create over the years to make sure attendees just knew simple things.


Yeah, and I think seeing you develop that communication sequence so kind of for me it became like our gold standard is. As my company grew and we started to take on more and more client work, it became so obvious to me that so many people leave attendee communications to the wayside. I just recently attended a conference where, like, the only email I got was like three days before the event and I was like you need something before that. So I really appreciate the effort that you put into that and in a lot of ways, I'm curious to hear because, like your role when it came to the day of the event was really front lines. Like you were out in the lobby, you were leading the team that was helping answer questions and I think you were also managing registration, or at least at some point you were what it as as somebody who came up in the backstage side of things, back of house, what, what are those key things that really make that front end attendee experience awesome?


Yeah, that's a really good question, because I would ask you the same thing about the back of house, like I want to know everything that happens back there, because I was never back.

So the front of house, which is, yeah, like you said, the direct to any experience, it starts even when with registration, right, like having great information. So it starts even with sales or the registration process. So I think, having someone on your team that knows all those things from the very beginning, before someone even registers, because you have to communicate, like what the events, about what they'll expect, what they'll be doing, right, like the value proposition to actually make that sale and that registration sign up, and then it continues on with what information are they receiving once they do, once they are registered, right, like making sure that they know about, like the hotel you know, like partnerships that we have, or making sure that they know, like, on day of arrival, how do they get their name badge, where do they go from there, the schedule. So I just think there are a lot of pieces and I think we make a mistake thinking that we have to announce everything all at once. I think you already even have to plan all that, all of it all at once, before you even go live. I like to think of it as, like give attendees necessary information, but you can be vague about it, you can be flexible. It's actually worse to communicate something and says, well, this is going to happen on this day, in this time, and then you totally change it on them, like last minute, which is something I learned at WDS. You know, we never communicated the main stage speakers because, lo and behold, life happens, you know, and somebody has to make a change, and then also attendees would sometimes choose to attend whether or not that speaker was at that specific time, and that's not like you kind of have to trust us as event organizers that we know we're going to do something great and we want you to show up because of that, not because just one person was there at one specific time, you know. So it just it's just thinking good, like through the attendee communication, making sure that you know, like you're giving it, like I said, everybody the necessary things, and then I think it's important that you allow yourself to be accessible.

I think some things that people don't often do is they'll say oh, if you need help, contact us. And I actually find it to be a joy when the attendees contact us, because it's a touchpoint, it's a way that you as the event organizer can actually interact with the actual attendee who's coming, and so this is a chance for you to represent your organization, so a chance for them to feel like, oh, their needs are taken care of or, oh, you're getting them excited to come. So I felt like the more that we could do that in a real, in an engagement way. I mean, if you looked at my email history for WDS, I was emailing with people so many times before they even arrived and so I would know people's names and I would take notes like on you know what they needed, what they asked about, so that way, when they arrived, they felt like they had somebody they already that they made contact with.

And those are just those little things that I think like really sets any experience apart, because WDS was what Isaac a thousand people and so it's intimidating so to know that you had one person and you know that person's name and that you know like. I just felt like attendees could do that with me and I feel like when they left, they're like, oh, at least I know Jedd is going to be there and if I need anything I can go to Jedd, and people had said that to me all the time and that's what I really wanted. So so that's how we handled sort of front house. I mean there's a lot of other little technical things, but it was just important to like have people have a human connection from the very beginning to the very end.


And that, that human connection, that is what people will remember, like I'm sure there's people that still remember you and how you helped them and how you made them feel you know, comfortable and welcome. So definitely it plays a huge part. And being front of house that's usually the first person that you know receives people as they arrive to the event. So, related to that, I wanted to ask, in terms of attending experience, though, now that you've worked at so many more events, what patterns do you see in mistakes, like what are the common mistakes that are being made in attending experience that you find that people just keep repeating?


Yeah, that's a great question. You know, it's interesting. We all, every single one of us, interacts with customer service in some sort of way right on a daily basis, and so I feel like there's just really common things that in those kind of pain points that we've experienced with that customer service that I don't know why we keep doing in the event industry, right, like pork, like how many times do any of us hate when you know you work with someone in service industry and they say, oh, you actually need to do this, and you're like, but you didn't tell me that I, you know like, just tell me what I need to bring, documents, or or like, what are the things that I needed for this particular thing? Just communicate that to me. So I think something as basic as that. I think the other thing that event organizers sometimes do mistakenly is they treat their attendees like numbers and not as human beings. So let's, let's get through our emails as quickly as possible, let's send them canned responses, you know like, so somebody has a human problem and you you're just trying to get through your inbox and you just reply something really quickly that's maybe answers their question, but was like really snippety and like not thinking or listening to them or making someone feel heard, then attendees are going to feel that you know. And then also, just like, speaking of emails, I'm a huge proponent of the email support, like helping people through email versus text messages and phone calls. Tell us about that. Yes, this is a. This is a tip here, a little event hack, if you will.

I have found that when you get an email, like if you sent an inquiry to somebody and if they get back to you within one or two days, that's usually accept the word pretty good. If you, if someone gets back to you in a week, you're like oh, that took them a long time, but one, you know 24 to 48 hours is pretty good. If you have on your website, though, for an event, that hey, chat is available you know some people do that like talk with us now or give us a phone call that person is going to expecting answer right then, like they want you to solve their problem right now. But the email, like you, you have, you just given yourself a lot more time you can say things like oh, you know, I'll look into this, I'll get back to you, but and so people will understand, that's true, they're going to look into it. Some may respond that they're getting back to me, but if you are on a phone call, if you're in the text message, they want that incredibly challenging problem to be resolved in like a really short timeframe. So that puts a lot of pressure on you, that puts a lot of pressure on them.

And I don't know why people do the chat you know the text messaging or the phone call support services. It usually is a bad experience for everybody. So I really find it. Email is the best. And one thing we used to do Isaac, I don't know if you knew this on the world domination website we had a chat bot built into our website and it says like oh, speak to somebody. So somebody thought they were going to click chat, but here's the kicker we would never man it live. It always says like oh, someone's not available, but send us a message anyways and we'll get back to you as soon as possible, and people.

people use that way more often than our contact form, like because they they just know they see a chat thing, they click on it and then they're like Well, I'm going to send my question anyways. So that was way more effective for attendee behavior and it was crazy. We use that all the time. So, anyways, it's just really. I think it's really important to make sure that you treat humans as humans and not forget, you know, I just I really don't like when people treat you as a number or commodity. We see that in the US health care industry. We see that when we talk to somebody on the phone to like settle our bank things right, or our phone service. So I think if you can level up your experience from there, your attendees are going to have a good experience because they're going to be like oh wow, they really see me and value me as a human being.


So I'm hearing communications and I would love I would love people to take that away that attendee communications are so, so important. Up front, set expectations, communicate information, help them engage things and then treating them as humans. From a customer support standpoint, like I, I feel like you could ask any person to provide the like standard customer support script that companies use. Right, like I understand that you are having one issue. The rest assured I will, you know, resolve this for you today. Right, like, that kind of scripty language is so transparent and so easy for people to identify that this is our opportunity to be human with them, to not use canned responses in the same way, to treat them like an individual and to treat them like a priority because they are, because with if you don't have attendees, you don't have an event.


Say it, yes, well, and on the let's continue on this human front, because not just in terms of communication, like emails that's obviously digital, right but like in person, the idea of the attendee experience on just a human level. I cannot tell you how many times I've gone to events and I'm asking where are the bathrooms or how are people going to get food? Or did you provide breaks in your schedule to make sure that, like, yeah, you have a main stage, but like people, if they're thinking about food and bathroom, they're not thinking about what's happening on the main stage and they're getting pissed because biologically, like so it's something that like we just think, oh no, it's intuitive, you know, but we kind of forget about that as event organizers. To really think about just very basic things Like it's kind of like the need to breathe, you don't really think about until you need it. And the same way, we should kind of approach that from, like the human experience for attendees.

If you know weather related stuff, does your, does your event have like unforeseeable weather, things like, what's your plan in case it's really really hot or really cold or wet? And I guess the other thing that really would make events stand out more to is if things like inclusivity and ADA and you know lots of those things were were part of an actual plan and not something that you have to do because an attendee has acknowledged you that they, you know, have a special need or requirement. It just should be something that's part of your, your planning from the get go right and those are. That's a good way to set a mind frame of like oh, what are our human needs and how can we make sure we take care of people, not just like as an afterthought or as an emergency response.


So I think that that's a perfect segue into a concept that I feel like you've embodied in the times that I've known working with you, and you've carried this forward into your work more recently which is this notion of surprise and delight. And I don't know what the origin of surprise and delight came from. It's not a new thing, but it became for us when we were on the World Domination Summit team. It became kind of our motto for how we approach the attendee experience. Can you tell us a little bit more about what that, what surprise and delight, means to you in the context of delivering an excellent attendee experience? And I have a story that I want to tell about something that I saw, but I want you to explain it first.


Oh, I'm excited for that. Well, I can't I definitely can't claim surprise and delight. I think surprise and delight, at its heart, is like obviously doing something that's unexpected and something that leaves somebody with a feeling of joy or appreciation, right. So anything you can do that does those things, doing the unexpected and leaving somebody with a good feeling I think is is maybe at the heart of that and I think there's some core values attached to that. Things like one of the things that I really care about my partner does too is the word intentional, so like really thinking about the choices and decisions you make and the actions you do in a way that is is going to be surprising and, you know, and, like I said, bringing joy to somebody because, again, it doesn't have to be big things.

So I guess I guess the way I can describe it at WDS that I loved is on a macro scale, right On like a huge scale. It could be this like great reveal, where attendees didn't know we had this huge plan, like a magician does, and they're like surprise and you're like holy cow. We transformed this space into like a magical Disneyland, but you, it was right in front of your eyes and you didn't know it. So that could be an element of surprise and delight. But it could be as simple as following up with somebody.

I cannot tell you how many times like I've heard people tell me they appreciated me or somebody on our team following up with them.

So if they had a concern or they reached out to us about something we made, if you could follow up with them, it just made their day Like they were surprised that someone was listening to them and got back to them and then, like they left feeling like whoa, like that they went above and beyond, like they were delighted by that. So I think again, it could just be something as small as that and something as big as that and everything in between. But I think when you create a culture of that and you get everybody on board, especially and you think that's something that I thought was really cool at WDS is we had, like, whether it was the core team or whether it was volunteers we tried to provide, we tried to instill that in everybody that try to find ways that you can do surprise and delight, and it just made it an enjoyable experience for everybody the attendees, the producers, et cetera. So I thought that that was kind of cool.


So, ultimately, part of what delights people, surprises them, is like oh, you actually see me. Like I'm not just the number, like there is a back and forth that's happening here, so I think that that's really interesting. What are your thoughts on that?


Nessa, whole mind is blown Like and I know this is a podcast, so my hands are literally like I'm just, like you know, did the snaps thing. But yes, I think that's at the heart of it, right, a good attendee experience is making sure that all attendees are seen and heard and felt valued, whether they whether they are VIP because I've worked at events where I was working with celebrities and helping them with their travel logistics so VIPs right and I've worked with people who are full paid attendees who don't get the cool experience because they didn't pay the full price or whatever right or like the special price and it doesn't matter. I think, like the best producers, event people that I've worked with, they see all human beings as human beings, regardless of the price, regardless of their titles, whatever it may be, and they treat people as such and they leave feeling that they were seen. And if that is not part of what your event's about or whatever, then I don't think it's going to be a good attendee experience. I just don't see how that's possible.

Or you failed, I think, and you know. So that might be a tough thing to say, but, nessa, I think you're hitting it though Events, you can be lost in a crowd of like tens of thousands of people. But I think there's something about you know. Oh, I felt like these are my people. I feel seen, I feel like I can be comfortable. So I think you're 100% spot on with that. I really like that and I'll just oh, I'm going to be taking that with me, as I, you know keep doing it a bit more awesome.


I'm glad to hear it. It just occurred to me because I kept like hearing this, like wait, yeah, that's and that makes sense, Right, Like ultimately we'd be. We're in a community, we go to events, that's what we're looking for, Right. But on the flip side of that, though, I want to ask you because it doesn't just make the attendee experience better, but I feel like on the team side, putting that work in and it makes the work easier and better for us. So can you speak to that on how it helps, how paying attention to attendee experience actually makes the job easier for the team behind the event?


Yeah, well, I would say that focusing on the attendee experience, you're full. If you can focus on pain points, right then you can catch those things instead of like having to put out, as we call it, putting out fires like later on. So it's just like doing a lot of preemptive work. I think really good events and good event producers do that. They like think of all the crit, like all the possibilities and all the worst things that could happen. They also rationalize that like yeah, a meteorite could happen, but let's be honest, it's probably not going to happen. But like we just have to be understanding like what could that mean for this event, right? So I think like having just a really good understanding of attendee experience helps all of our work. In that sense I use the example of the TSA. I really have a lot of respect for the TSA and I also feel like man, the TSA, it could be so much better. And some of the airports do a really good job and some airports do a terrible job. I'll give you a quick example LAX.

I fly through LAX, you know, several times a year and man there was a time when I went through the TSA there and the TSA agents were yelling at the customers, the passengers were yelling back at TSA and everybody was just having a really crappy experience. Like no one was happy and I was like, oh my gosh. But then I realized that there was no communication, no one. There's no sign, there's no passive signage that says like what to take out, what to expect, what to do, and people are waiting in long lines, right, so you could have someone even walking up and down and giving that information ahead of time, prepping people, right.

And on the flip side, you go to Portland and I think Portland does a pretty good job with their TSA. I feel like they have good way finding signs. They tell people what to expect, what to do before they get to the, you know, taking out their stuff. But all that to say is like you have two different groups, right. One TSA group is really upset, hates their job, doesn't want to be there, and the other one is like really proud that how quickly they move people and surprise and delight. When you go through a quick TSA check out or a checkpoint, you're like that was pretty good, that was not so bad, right. So I think the TSA motto is a good one as we think about events and like helping our team, think about like oh, what can we do to help attendees, but also it's going to help us. So I think that's kind of hopefully answers your question there.


I think I want to bring it back with this example I was thinking about, to a micro surprise and delight experience that I witnessed. You took on several years ago, and I do not recall the specific context around why you did this, but you ready, there was a point that we found out afterward, after the event was over, that you took it upon yourself to go buy a bottle of wine for I think it was two attendees, a couple. Do you remember this? And it was. It became kind of a classic example. It was like it was a $20 discretionary expense and it was something that just like who does that right? Like you're going to a conference and then whatever I don't remember if they were having trouble checking into the hotel or if it was like a celebration moment or something, but here you end up delivering this bottle of wine to them as just like a courtesy thing and that just like total surprise, total delight, like who would turn that down?


Yeah, but you know, isaac, I feel like we do this for each other's human beings. Yes, you know so. I know that's nice that you think that that's like a cool moment and stuff, but people do that for us in each other, or at least we should. We should be doing these kind of things in each other's lives, like often, right, like I didn't create this like model of like someone buying a bottle of wine to like welcome or help somebody in a terrible situation. It's because that was modeled to me, right, and I think the golden rule applies like treat other people the way you want to be treated. It's golden for a reason. It's a really good standard and I think, yes, I think if you just hear that happening, I think like if it's modeled, then it will also happen.

And I don't take full credit for this because at WDS, I thought the core team did a pretty good job of saying, hey, you know, like we empower you to make decisions to make the attendee experience better, and if you feel like this is going to do that, then go ahead and do it. I think one example of that for me and maybe this spurred me on was I remember maybe it was an attendee that like something happened to them and they needed, like they couldn't get on our mode of transportation, which I think was school buses at the time, and we just had to make a split decision of, like, do they need a taxi, can we call a taxi for them? And it wasn't like I had to go up 10 people up the chain to get a decision. It was like you know, you take care of it, even pay for it on your own credit card, and you don't even have to worry if we're going to reimburse your not, we're going to take care of that, and I think that that, to me, was really cool and that helped me in my position, because it was nice to know that again, isaac, that you know like I had the organizations back to do something like that for an attendee, to use discretion and be like what would I do in this situation? How can we make it right? Did we do a 100% perfect job with that?

No, there were times where I mean we could have communicated our policies better or we could have done something better for somebody, but I do think empowering your organization or, again, building that in like, have a discretionary fund for like attendee gifts instead of swag. Think about personalized gifts that you could give people or like have, have like a secret team of people who like get to know your attendee so well so that they could surprise them with, like a gift card to a local restaurant or, like you know, their favorite candy bar, right, or something like. Those kind of personal touches are like it does blow their minds in some ways.


And it gets back to what Nessa was saying about people feel having the need to be seen and heard and acknowledged and valued, and any way you can do that through the event that you're putting on is going to just level up your attendee experience exponentially. Ok, so you talked a little bit about how you got started in the event industry earlier, by volunteering, raising your hand. As you've gone on now to pursue your freelance career, you've worked more events with larger organizations, all different kinds of events. What other nuggets of wisdom or advice do you have for someone who might be looking to start a career in the event industry, who maybe doesn't have any experience with that, because I think a lot of us. I mean, when I started I had no experience with events, with backstage production. I was learning it as I went. I know the same was true with Nessa. This was true with you. What can you share that might help people along their way?


Yeah, that's a great question. It's interesting because I don't know if people feel this way and I'm curious to know. But I've had a lot of random experiences in my life, like done a lot of random jobs, tried different careers and all these things, and I felt like I liked a lot of it. I liked certain aspects of them, but I also didn't, and so I was just like man, what am I going to do with my life with these random experiences? And it was only at events where I felt like I was in that flow, where I was like whoa, that random DJ job I did Longo and, yes, isaac, I used to kind of DJ but I did live recording. I didn't do live sound, I was like a sound guy at one point and I didn't know where that would come into play.

But just understanding AV stuff has been huge in the event industry to just even know basic things about it. Or just putting on lots of events for family and friends that I just loved seeing that happen. No one, when you host things for your family and friends, you're not like, oh, maybe this will be a career or something. I didn't really think of it that way, but now I'm like, wow, I had so much experience, all the little logistics that went on to putting those little events that helped me now. So all that to say is that I think if you are somebody out there who enjoys this communal aspect of putting on an activity and it's not- yeah, it could be stressful, but it's also like it's worth the stress.

If that's a feeling for you, then you might be an event person. And if you can wear multiple hats, if you can work in those high-stake environments, and you might be an event person and just working with people. And I think, just like I think the best way to get in the industry is, like I said earlier is just to attend events and to volunteer and to put your hand up, even if you don't have any experience at all. That's a start and, as we all know the three of us have run lots of events together we always need volunteers and we always need someone to help us with something, and what we love is someone who is taking initiative and be like hey, what do you need? How can I help? I cannot tell you how often I love hearing that, because I know that there's something that I just need an extra hand, even if it's moving.

But if you're a willing person to dive in and get to know things, I think that's huge to start. And then I think, as you move on, I think, if this is something you really want to do, I think it's good to learn some of the ins and outs of running your own business because it's just becoming a freelancer. Some of the technical things taxes, legal stuff I mean it's good to know that kind of thing because as you get further on and you actually start putting out requests for work, it's good to know what a contract is and to make sure that you're covering yourself but also the other person, setting good boundaries. And I don't know if the three of you had any stories, but I've learned how to make sure I invoice. Yes, you know. Yes, right, you don't get paid unless you invoice.

And so I always tell my friends that who are starting it's freelance. They're like make sure you invoice I know it sounds silly, but make sure you invoice though. Yes, so little things like that and then think, just finding a niche, right? I think one of the cool things again about events is that once you start learning what you like and don't like, you also specialize in certain areas. And again, I like the attendee experience. Not everybody likes to work with attendees directly. That's OK.

I've worked with people who design sets and I went to a hotel conference recently and they totally took a blank space and turned it into hotel rooms, like open-air hotel rooms, and they had to create the vendors and get all the designs and all the stuff and make it happen. And when I walked in that room I was like how did you do this? And the same thing with production or anything else that is involved in events. There's so many technical aspects and so many parts, so I think there's a place for all of us, but I think the common thread is that magical community being seen, that collective experience. So I think that's yeah, You're welcome.


Welcome to the program. Thanks for listening to this episode of Make it Kickass. We hope you found it entertaining and helpful. If hosting a community event is on your radar, visit GetEventLab.com to take our free 30-minute training called Community Event Mastery. That's GetEventLab.com, or use the link in the show notes. Make it Kickass is hosted by Isaac Watson and Nessa Jimenez, post-production audio by Chris Nelson at Mittens Media. Our theme song is Feel it by Dojo for Crooks. Make it Kickass is a production of Kickass Conferences, an event strategy and design agency serving leaders of growing communities.

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About the Podcast

Make It Kickass
Community Event Mastery
Make It Kickass explores how leaders of growing communities can make conferences with impact, gatherings with purpose, and an attendee experience that knocks their socks off. We uncover the strategies, tactics, and tools we use every day to bring our clients’ conferences to life. If you've ever wanted to host a life-changing conference, this podcast is for you.

Find us at kickassconf.com or geteventlab.com

About your host

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Isaac Watson

Isaac Watson is the founder and Executive Producer at Kickass Conferences, an event strategy and production studio based in the Pacific Northwest. Isaac helps community leaders develop and deliver transformative events for their audiences and inspire them to build a better world.

A maker and introvert at heart, when he’s not working his magic behind the scenes in event strategy and production, he’s usually at home in Vancouver, Washington working on remodeling projects, gardening, cooking, learning to sew, and building LEGO.