This interview is part of an interview series Lennd produced in partnership with XLIVE's annual conference.
PURPOSE OF THE INTERVIEW SERIES
Our goal with these interviews is to share some of the insights, expertise and advice from some of the top event management professionals around the world. This is how we all can grow in our careers and produce better events.
This next interview is with Sally Lidinsky, VP Live Events for Townsquare Media (one of the largest producers of live events around the country).
Career Advice: when you get an opportunity to chat with someone with Sally's experience, make sure you have plenty of paper. Enjoy. I sure did.
You ready to do this Sally.
Definitely. Excited to be apart of this.
How would you describe your role at Townsquare?
I oversee our team that produces music and camping festivals. I am also festival director for two of our festivals, Country Jam and WE Fest.
If I was hanging out with your family and friends. How would they describe you?
Definitely an over thinker. List maker. I make lots of lists. Write a lot of things down and ask lot of questions.
How did you get into this world of event management and festival operations?
I've been in events my whole career. I started as an intern as a senior in college for a hot air balloon festival in New Jersey. The day after I graduated, they called me and they said, "Hey our festival director just quit. Will you come work for us?" So, I was like, I don't know if I really want to do this, but I don't have a job and just graduated college and I need money. So, I'll work for you temporarily and see how it goes. I did five festivals with them including when I was an intern.
Sally not only started her career at a balloon festival, she’s also a balloon pilot.
Then I worked in Washington D.C. producing triathlons for two years. After I left the Triathlon world, I did some freelance stuff for a little bit. I moved back to New Jersey and then Townsquare found me and I've been here for just over five years now.
Celebrating at the finish line of The Nation’s Triathlon.
If you weren't producing events, what would you be doing?
When I left college I thought I was going to be a teacher or a coach. So, probably one of those things. I love teaching and I look at things from a learning perspective all the time. I always try and learn and to better myself. I also try to use things that go wrong as teaching moments for my team, because I want them to grow so that we can continue to grow together.
I'm sure you've had every job under the sun in this event world. What's one job you're so thankful you don't have to do anymore?
I have had every job. I've also been known to jump in and just do a job that needs to be done and I often get yelled at for that. I'm famous for jumping into the toll booth line or the box office line and just scanning tickets and banding wristbands. It is like a rabbit hole. Once I get in there I get stuck and so I have tried very hard not to do that anymore. So, I guess I'm thankful I don't have do that anymore, but it's more that I have to force myself not to do it.
When you think about the multitude of operational challenges that go into these larger scale events, what are one or two of the biggest challenges that you face or you see other people face?
Figuring out how to communicate and get your messaging across to attendees and guests can be really challenging. We all know that no one reads anything. No one pays attention to any information until they wish they had. Like what time do gates open? I'm not going to worry about that, but when I show up at 11:00 and gates don't open until 1:00, I'm pissed off because you should have figured out a way to make sure I know that. So now it's your fault because I didn't read.
I also know that it can be really challenging to make sure your staff and crew have the appropriate information. I have a team that works all year long on these festivals and knows everything there is to know about them, but then, we also bring in thousands of staff: from ticket takers to people picking up garbage, to operations, to security. Everyone should know the basic information, such as where the bathrooms are, when the headliner goes on stage, etc. Although it is basic information, I find it very challenging to disseminate to the right people. Some staff might be working three days. Others might be working for four hours. These people are definitely not invested like the rest of my full-time team is. The question/challenge is how we get that information to them because any guest wants to be able to go up to anyone with a radio, anyone who looks like they're working at the event, ask a question and get the right answer. So, I think that that's very challenging.
Hiding out in the top bunk of an RV during the NJ Balloon Festival to get some work done.
What area of the event world would you say is still under served when it comes to technology?
Keeping track of staff hours has been really challenging for us. We have thousands of staff on site. I hand each department head or manager a time sheet where they have to hand write in the start and end times of their staff. Then our staffing manager runs around each morning collecting those time sheets and hand calculating the hours. I know that there are systems out there and there are apps that can help with this, but we haven't found one that works. We haven't found one that's easily adaptable for our festivals. There's no time clock that you can put out in the middle of a campground or in the middle of a field where people can check in and check out. So, that is something that we struggle with.
So when you think about spending a few days at a conference like XLIVE, what are you hoping to get out of it?
I think this conference is great. To pick up new information, sit on panels and meet with people in all types of roles and verticals is really helpful. I love the networking. And love the ability to meet with people like you, that I talk to on the phone or exchange emails with all year long and I get to see you once a year. I've gone to a couple dinners this year and previous years where I've gotten to meet people in totally different industries who I would normally think I would have nothing in common with, but there are actually a lot of synergies between the industries. Many times we realize we may be in totally different industries, but we still have those same challenges on the staffing side, on the guest side and on the overall operations side. There's just a lot I can learn from other people that can be really helpful to bring back to our team.
What one piece of advice do you have for those working in the industry?
I think it would be to take advantage of every opportunity. No matter how small it is. No matter what the job title is. Make the most out of it. Work hard, be flexible. You might sign up to be a Box Office Manager, but if they need help with parking staff or someone didn't show up to pump portos, I'd say be the first to raise your hand for the job. The people that stand out are the ones that are willing to do anything, who are flexible and who work hard. You never know where it might lead. You never know who you might meet and what you might learn from that opportunity.
The Townsquare Live Team at Country Jam
I'm an avid Jeopardy watcher and there was a guy on Jeopardy who said he pumps portos for a living. That was his job. First of all, that's a very cool thing to see a guy who pumps portos on Jeopardy. Unfortunately, he didn't win. I was really hoping he would.
What stood out to me about this gentleman, was that when Alex asked him about his job, He was like, "It's so great! I get to go and see things that people don't get to see. I get to work backstage at concerts. I get access to things that people don't have in life."
That really stuck with me. What a cool outlook to have for someone who literally pumps shit for a living.
Country Jam from above. Photo by CJ Berzin
Thank you so much Sally.
No, Thank you!
Lennd is a next generation event and venue management platform that simplifies operations and logistics so event teams can work smarter, move faster, and improve their ROI.
From tracking and managing requests, orders and allocations for credentials, comp tickets, documents, catering, inventory, guest lists and applications to on-boarding vendors, artists, sponsors, suppliers, staff and crew, or any other group, organizations have everything they need to deal with the demands of today’s complex events, all in one central place. Users can move seamlessly from one function to another based on their access level in a fully integrated system.
To learn why some of the most respected event teams trust Lennd to power their operations or sign up for a demo: www.lennd.com
Townsquare Media owns and operates a diversified group of leading radio, digital, marketing services, and live event properties across the United States. For more information: www.townsquaremedia.com
XLIVE is transforming the way live events share expertise, learn and revolutionize experience. XLIVE convenes industry leaders at the intersection of music, sports, film, culinary, beverage, esports, technology, brands and the experiences that culminate at festivals and live events. Driven by a thirst to provide unique, memorable and life changing experiences, the live entertainment industry represents a dynamic and influential community valued over $100 billion.
XLIVE reflects the passion of this vibrant community bringing together industry leaders to share, learn and explore the latest trends and a vision for the industry’s future.