If you're in events (of any kind) and you're not familiar with Superfly, you might want to take a look. There is definitely something special over there, because they not only keep cranking out some incredible experiences (i.e. Outside Lands, Bonnaroo, Friends Experience, etc.), they also seem to be cranking out some incredible people (Kat Tooley -- Vice, Katelyn Scott -- AEG, Molly Zidow -- DWP, Lisa Day -- InVision, Lindsay Adler -- Superfly, Drew Cohen -- Eventbrite, Julie Daly -- MCP, Jeff King -- Backbone...).
So of course I was incredibly excited about this next interview. These two individuals are some of the best in the business. Although they both got their start in festival ops at Superfly, they've taken very different paths. I thought they would be perfect to help me explore this idea that the event operations world is much more similar than different, no matter what segment you're working in.
It's my belief that now more than ever we need to be learning from each other across all genres. From corporate events and conferences, to experiential and brand events, to sports and festivals, there is so much we can learn from one another.
And that's exactly what I wanted to put to the test with my next pairing:
Director of Production, Superfly - www.superf.ly
Global Events Manager, InVision - www.invisionapp.com
Watch the Video
Lindsay (Left) + Lisa (Right)
Listen to the Audio
- Background and current roles (0:44)
- Career progression (6:43)
- Where they turn for Inspiration and creativity (12:10)
- The evolution of their work in light of Covid (15:18)
- Superfly X and the beginning of virtual events (24:56)
- Innovation in the virtual world (29:42)
- Experiential vs. corporate events (36:02)
- The ins and outs of virtual events (39:27)
- Looking ahead (53:24)
On finding inspiration from international festivals:
"We often look at festivals in the United States for inspiration and ideas and to see how they're doing things and operating, but I think it's also important to look outside the U.S." —LA
"...especially now that some countries are already starting to get back into live events, we can see the way that they're setting up shop." —LD
On what the corporate and festival worlds can learn from each other:
"Corporate events don't have to be stale. There is so much experiential and creativity that can go into corporate events and has already started to go into them. In past years, a lot of brands started using an experiential [approach] to elevate their brand and create opportunities to hands-on interact with their customers and audience." —LD
"The corporate space is a bit more polished, I mean, it has to be a bit more polished, and I think we have taken some of that into the festival and experiential world, just ensuring that what we're producing is very high quality." —LA
On virtual burnout:
"At the beginning, it was like, "All right, we can plan lots of events, like we can have three events a week because we're not all traveling. I think we got into this cadence of like, "All right, let's fill the calendar," and I think that is already starting to evolve due to fatigue from so many events happening." —LD
"We're hosting sometimes 20, 25, 30 events a quarter. And while they're not in person, they still take that same level of detail and logistics and planning from a creative aspect, from a logistical aspect, to stand up and execute." —LD
On making virtual events more engaging and interactive:
"It's very easy to tune in and tune out of something online right now, so I think an operational challenge in that sense would just be producing something that really holds the viewer and makes them feel like they're actually a part of it." —LA
"The Travis Scott Fortnite event was a huge success, and I think a lot of companies are trying to figure out how to get more interactive events where it feels like you're actually participating or you're in an experience. I think they really nailed that." —LA
"Creating experiences that are actually meaningful and have an impact is the goal." —LD
Read the Transcript
00:01 Chris Carver: Welcome to our next LENND event conversation series. I'm Chris Carver, the co-founder and CEO. It's been a long time coming, and I've been really excited to have these two on, so without further ado I want to introduce Lindsay Adler, she's the Director of Production at Superfly, and Lisa Day, Global Events Manager at InVision. How are you guys doing?
00:31 Lisa Day: Good.
00:32 Lindsay Adler: Good. Thanks for having us.
00:33 CC: Yeah, appreciate it. So before we jump into the meat of this, do you mind expanding on your roles and responsibilities at your respective companies?
00:44 LA: Yeah, definitely. I work to produce a wide variety of events. Superfly was mainly focused on music festivals for many years. We worked on Outside Lands, Bonnaroo, and Clusterfest, we launched a couple new festivals, a couple of years ago. Most recently, we've been working more on the agency events with brands like Bravo, Google, Apple, Citi, so it's been a crazy time to work at Superfly just with all the changes, but I mainly work to produce these types of events. Operations and production is my bread and butter.
01:27 CC: Nice. And Lisa, how about yourself?
01:31 LD: I started InVision as their Global Events Manager in January of 2020, and it’s been a whirlwind since then. If you don't know about InVision, they're a leading digital product design platform that works to bring together design and creative teams to collaborate through their product. Lots of really great products out there, but it's been a total pivot for me in terms of changing industries, coming from an agency background and also from Superfly, which I'm sure we'll talk about in a bit. But I work on the growth marketing team as our global events manager, overseeing our own internal event strategy, and basically helping to partner and create really unique events for our own brands, and then also partnering with some third-party conferences in more of a sponsorship aspect.
02:23 CC: Cool, yeah, we've used InVision a lot over the years. It's been really cool to see how much it's grown in the last five years. Incredible job they've done. Lindsay, can you describe what Superfly is, you guys have obviously evolved over the years, and we've had the pleasure of working together, on Outside Lands and Clusterfest and... Yeah, give me the lowdown on what Superfly's up to now.
02:53 LA: Sure. We started 20 years ago or so, I think we're most known for being co-creators of Bonnaroo and Outside Lands, and then like I mentioned before, there are a couple additional festivals that we launched in the last couple of years. We also have an in-house agency, so we work with the brands that I mentioned before to produce events like BravoCon, Google I/O, we did the Apple WWDC bash. So we've been really fortunate to work with some really awesome brands.
Most recently, we've also been working on a different segment or sector of Superfly, which we just announced yesterday. It's called Superfly X, so it's focused on the global-themed entertainment world, and we have been producing a couple of pop-ups surrounding the FRIENDS TV show, and we just announced FRIENDS Chicago, so that'll be really exciting. But yeah, we're working through what we can do these days when people can't gather in large crowds—what that looks like for us, the industry, and how we can pivot to work on new ideas and new things.
04:02 CC: That's awesome. Not to get off-topic too much, but what's an experience like that look like? I know you've done a few over the past year, I'm just curious.
04:13 LA: Yup, like the FRIENDS experience?
04:15 CC: Yeah, yeah. What's that like?
04:17 LA: It's a walkthrough experience with set recreations, there's props that fans can interact with, there's a ton of photo-ops. It more or less brings the TV show to life.
04:28 CC: That's awesome.
04:29 LA: Highly successful in New York City and Boston. And so Chicago is next on our trip and... Yeah, it's gonna be great.
04:37 CC: That's cool. That's cool. And how long was it in New York?
04:41 LA: It was 30 days.
04:44 CC: So you guys obviously both cut your teeth at Superfly, and I think it's really interesting to think about the fact that there's a bit of a Superfly Mafia Alumni, you got Kat now over at Vice, and you got Molly at DWP, and Caitlyn at BUKU and Hangout. Do you guys keep in touch with each other? And what's that like?
05:13 LA: Yeah, we're really fortunate to have worked closely with such badass women that have gone far and wide in the industry. We definitely keep in contact with a lot of them, if not all. Superfly's been a bit of a family for most of us, so it's been nice to have those connections.
05:33 CC: That's awesome.
05:34 LD: Yeah, I have to agree, especially with the summer happening and seeing all these flashback photos from the past five, six years, Bonnaroos and Outside Lands, and Grandoozys, and Lost Lakes and the different projects that we worked on together, and the different levels of pain and discomfort that we went through being on the field and figuring out the events each year, it's fun to look back at and then just feel how we are right now and see where we used to be.
06:08 LA: Yeah, you always have that connection with these people.
06:18 LD: Yeah.
06:19 CC: So in typical COVID fashion, I have my little son, he's just crying in here. [chuckle]
06:26 CC: Do you mind talking through how you got your start in this whole thing? In this career, and what led you to the point you're at now?
06:43 LD: Sure, do you want me to start, Lindsay? [chuckle]
06:45 LA: Yeah, go ahead.
06:46 LD: Alright, cool. So I actually went to school to study music, I studied voice, and I've always been super interested in music and art. I'm from a music and art family. As soon as I graduated, I knew I wanted to move to New York, so I did that without a job, without any money. And I had some interviews lined up, I had a little bit of savings and enough for a month of rent, and then I went for it and I got a job.
My first week being out in New York City, it was wild. It was for a Mom and Pop music agency, kind of a niche towards wedding musicians. And I got in, working in an admin role and also singing at the time. I always wanted to continue down a path of working with artists, designers, music, being in a creative space. So I worked my way through a few different jobs, I went over to Red Bull and got a real institutional knowledge working for... [chuckle] he's having fun back there, it's highly entertaining to watch... [chuckle] working for Red Bull for a little bit.
07:50 LD: And then I moved on to Superfly, starting more in the business operations, company operations role, still going out to festivals, working in a different capacity out there supporting the people team, and then I knew I wanted to really get out there in the field and start producing events. So I talked with Kat actually, who we mentioned earlier, and we had a sit down and she was like, "Are you sure this is what you want to do?" And I was like, "Yeah, let's do this." And she was like, "Alright, we're gonna bring you onto my team then." [chuckle]
I started working for Kat and it was so awesome. And I had an amazing five years at Superfly, and I feel like I'm going into a soliloquy of my life right now, so apologies, [chuckle] and then after five plus years, I was just ready for a change.
I was on the road a lot, as Lindsay can relate to, it was not a lot of time being spent in New York where I was living, and I decided I wanted to get a little closer to my family, so I moved back to Virginia and then to the DC area, and had a change of pace. Started working for a startup agency called Advoc8, wanted to help grow a startup, and then after a year of that, I landed in-house at InVision. And now I'm still here in DC. [chuckle]
09:13 CC: That's amazing, that's awesome. And how about you, Lindsay?
09:17 LA: Yeah, I've got kind of an interesting beginning in that I always knew I wanted to work in the music industry in some capacity. I didn't quite know where to start, and so I decided that I would go to art school, which lasted for about two years, and I decided that that wasn't necessarily for me. So I ended up dropping out, I got an internship at Superfly in San Francisco, actually, so I worked in the San Francisco office for about three years.
During my internship after my first Outside Lands, I begged them to not let me go, and somehow I was able to convince them to keep me on, and then just started to grow from there, just started to work on the operations team, going out to a bunch of different festivals, working events all over the U.S. between our festivals and our agency. I decided to move to New York two years ago, which is where our headquarters are. And yeah, I just continued to grow with the team, and it's been a fun ride.
10:21 CC: That's amazing. And so did you guys work together?
10:25 LA: Oh, yeah. [chuckle]
10:27 LD: Yes.
10:27 CC: So when you were working together, what were the roles and what were guys working on?
10:34 LD: My most memorable, first role working with you was at Outside Lands. So I was working as an area manager for different IPs at Outside Lands, the Barbary, which was the comedy tent, GastroMagic, which was our culinary and music and art stage, and then Cocktail Magic, which was originally a Superfly's IP, that was its own standalone event that we brought to Outside Lands that basically brought together the top mixologists in the Bay Area and featured custom cocktails and folk music and also sleight-of-hand magic.
It was pretty fun and all of them were unique in their own ways, so I oversaw operations for those areas and worked with Lindsay with all of the creative assets that I needed for those spaces at that time. And Lindsay was awesome because we became friends obviously quickly through all of this, and Lindsay was living in the Bay Area at that time, so I had my Bay Area best friend right away.
11:42 CC: That's awesome.
11:42 LD: We had a lot of fun adventures on-site and off-site. [chuckle] Yeah.
11:46 CC: So is that when you started talking about your podcast series that you guys are gonna host at some point?
11:52 LD: Yeah. One day we were both having a moment and stepped away and went to the horse stables on our bikes and we really... We really connected then. [chuckle]
12:04 CC: Love it. Love it.
12:07 LA: We were roommates for pretty much every show.
12:10 CC: Oh, wow, that's awesome. Well, I'm glad I could have this opportunity to get you guys on air. So fast-forward to today, how much do you look at other types of events and other markets for ideas and inspirations? I'm just curious to see how you're creatively inspiring yourself.
12:32 LD: Lindsay, you go ahead.
12:34 LA: Yeah, I think something that's always been really interesting to me is the international world of events. I went to a show in Mexico City a couple years ago, which was eye-opening in a sense that it was now a similar festival to what we produce in the States, but there were differences in terms of sponsorship and how they present themselves on site.
I guess the international festival landscape is just different enough than the States. And I think we often look a lot at festivals in the United States for inspiration and ideas and to see how they're doing things and operating, but I think it is also important to look outside the U.S.
13:20 CC: Interesting. Yeah.
13:21 LD: Yeah. Definitely agree with the international, especially now that some countries are already starting to get back into live events, [we can see] the way that they're setting up shop. It's pretty cool. I'd even say just walking around and seeing what hotels and restaurants are doing in your own city, now that we’re secluded to our own spaces, is pretty cool.
People are getting really creative and you can take inspiration from all of those settings. Obviously there's still a landscape for events and we'll look at what our competitors are doing, what the Googles are doing, the Amazons, some of those bigger household names. Especially when at the very beginning of this all, we were kind of looking to them as leaders of like, Okay how... What are they doing and how are we gonna follow but also do this in our own way.
14:23 CC: Yeah. It is interesting to see the different areas of the world where things are popping up, and it's such a unique time. On the positive side, it's gonna be so interesting to see how creativity will evolve over the next 18 months. I feel like the first six months of all this, everybody was a bit in shock and deer in the headlights, and now that creativity is starting to bubble up, and I just feel like there's a ton that all kinds of groups can learn from each other. Which is really cool why this conversation's fun to have.
So take me back to February, late February of this year, and walk me through what's going through your head, both personally and as it pertains to your organization.
15:18 LD: Sure. So back in February, I was in month two of my new job. I was very excited, I was starting to get into the swing of things. Our team was built out, we had our Q1 and Q2 schedules totally locked in and ready to go.
I don't think I mentioned this but InVision is a fully distributed company, so we don't have an office, everyone works remotely, and that was a really cool, unique thing. I was really looking forward to it after working in an office for so many years and also being on the road and traveling, super excited to have more control over my schedule and my time during the working day, and I felt like that was super unique and cool. And I was very excited to be like the only person in my apartment building during the day, so that was fun. I also was very excited about some international travel and getting to see some places I've never been before.
16:15 CC: That's cool. And how about you Lindsay?
16:18 LA: Well, actually Lisa and I were having dinner at... She was in New York for, I think it was an event. Was it your first event?
16:26 LD: Yeah, it was my first event series.
16:29 LA: Yeah. When she was out, we had dinner, and I guess during that dinner and during that trip, she had found out that their yearly sales conference was cancelled, so it was pretty interesting 'cause I think we all were a bit naive in February. Everybody knew that there was a virus out there, and nobody really thought that it was ever gonna make its way to the U.S. somehow. So I think that was a first shock for us at least, just on a personal level of our work being impacted.
16:56 CC: Yeah.
16:56 LA: I say "our" 'cause, we're friends, but... [laughter]
17:00 LD: Yeah. And for us, since we're all remote, it was like, "Oh, I was so excited to be able to finally get to meet my boss in-person, my team in-person, people who I've never met in person before."
17:10 CC: Yeah.
17:11 LD: And I was like, "They're just playing it safe. This will pass. It'll be a few months and then we'll be back on track."
17:19 CC: Yeah. So there's people at your company that you've never met for sure, right Lisa?
17:24 LD: I've only met two people that work at InVision.
17:28 CC: Wow.
17:30 LD: Yeah. It's pretty weird. [chuckle]
17:31 CC: That's awesome that's awesome.
17:33 LD: And in the events role, I would have had the opportunity to meet more going into sales dinners and account dinners, and account-based events and conferences, but we just never got there.
17:45 CC: Yeah. Interesting. And Lindsay, I know, going off a little here, how are you finding working remotely? How do you like it?
17:57 LA: It's interesting, I think when Lisa started in January, it was a very interesting concept to me that her full company was remote. So I feel like I was just asking her questions. I was like, "How nice is it to make lunch at home? And you get hours in the day" and then little did I know that that was gonna happen to me. But yeah, it's been really nice.
I think it's really important to get a nice work space set up. I definitely thrive when I have a very clean sturdy work space, so getting a nice desk and chair was really important. But also, I think the best part of it is the time that I get back into my day, just not commuting to Manhattan, so I get, I don't know, maybe an extra two, two and a half hours a day without commute, which is just been spent doing whatever I wanna do, whether it be... I bought a bike so I've been biking a lot, just getting outside. It's a whole different thing for me.
18:53 CC: Your commute was 2 1/2 hours?
18:55 LD: You're forgetting sleeping in. [chuckle]
19:01 LA: No, I've actually been getting up earlier now. 'Cause I'm like, "Oh, I have all of this time, let's take more of it."
19:06 CC: That's awesome.
19:07 LA: Yeah. No. My commute was like 45 minutes to an hour.
19:10 CC: Okay. My gosh. I guess that's pretty normal for New York.
19:16 LA: Yeah.
19:17 CC: Us San Diegans, we're... I guess if that was in LA, that would be a shorter commute.
19:23 LA: Yeah, exactly.
19:24 CC: Wow. And sorry to stay on this a little bit more, but how has your creative process evolved or changed or has it, in all this, Lindsay?
19:36 LA: It is interesting not being in the same room with my team, it's interesting to try to compare ideas across Slack sometimes, and everybody's not as readily available as they felt when we were face-to-face in the office and could just walk up to them. So I think it's slowed down a little bit in terms of communication, maybe for the better. I've definitely found that I am able to focus a little bit more when I'm just by myself in my room, and I don't have those taps, so I guess it's a double-edged sword. But yeah, I guess I wouldn't say it's increased or decreased.
20:14 CC: Okay, so we're towards the end of February, early March, around the time you guys were having dinner in New York, how have things changed for you over time? Like reality starts to set in. What's this been like over the past few months?
20:36 LA: Yeah, Lisa, do you wanna kick it off?
20:38 LD: Yeah, so I came back from New York, and I feel like everything changed, like right in that moment, it was crazy. And also considering New York was at the center at the beginning of it all, and I was there and I was like... I wasn't even really thinking twice about it when I was there.
Then I got back and the first phase was like," Okay, this is happening. Everything's being cancelled, let's just take a minute and pause and absorb the shock of what's happening," and then it was like, "Oh, we have contracts in place with venues and vendors and conferences, and our own events are scheduled," and we had to come up with a plan. Right now, people think that they're still attending these, so we had a couple of our first events when it was still in that [phase of] “not everything's cancelled yet; it might be safe to have a smaller group together."
21:30 LD: We really had to make some decisions and align as a team on our comfort level of in-person events, and we ended up erring on the safe side, which I look back and I'm really grateful for, and cancelling everything, immediately pivoting to virtual.
Luckily, being an all-remote company, we already had a lot of those resources in place, like a corporate Zoom account, and we have our own white-boarding tool. So we had some of those tools already ready to go for us, and we had a lot of those best practices figured out already just due to our team being all remote all the time.
But it wasn't easy, especially coming up with aligning on our messaging and why we're doing it, 'cause there were a lot of people at the time in the world that were still like, "I don't believe this is a real thing. Why are you cancelling my event?" So trying to be empathetic towards everyone, but also be safe and make the right decision for everyone. It was an overhaul on comms, an overhaul on contracts and trying to still be a good partner even while protecting yourself and your own financial wellness.
22:41 CC: Yeah, totally. And how long did that last for you Lisa, like that period where you're just getting everything together?
22:49 LD: I feel like it was six weeks, honestly. It was done in phases as it was absolutely immediately needed. And then as things started to settle, start planning more for the future, but as we know, you can't plan for two weeks ahead now these days. [laughter]
23:08 CC: Yeah. Yeah, it's crazy. And Lindsay, how about you? You came out of the dinner, and what were the next few months like?
23:14 LA: Yeah, so my family actually came out to visit me for the first time since I'd been in New York, and they came the full week before everything shut down, and so it seemed like every tourist attraction we wanted to do shut down the day after we visited it, and they had left on Sunday, and then Monday, New York shut down completely.
It was weird; I was out of the office for a week and then I couldn't go back into the office when I was supposed to come back. It was just all happening really fast, and I think that we all felt like we knew what was coming at this point, but nobody wanted to actually believe it.
For me personally, I think when the South By news hit, that was a real, a moment for myself and a lot of my co-workers or just my peers, such a massive event that they pulled the plug on and nobody thought it would happen to them, and then it happened to all of us, and then it just felt like a domino effect after that.
24:18 LA: With Outside Lands, we'd gone on sale with the early bird sale and so people had purchased tickets and we were kind of holding on hope that August was gonna look okay. nobody really knew what the future was gonna look like, and everyone felt hopeful that it would clear up a bit faster than it has. And so we continued to have conversations, of "Okay, if we do this thing, what is it gonna look like? If we don't, when do we call it?" It was just a lot of back and forth conversation and trying to figure out the best next steps for this uncharted territory that we haven't dealt with in this capacity.
Superfly X and the Transition to Virtual Events
24:56 CC: Oh, really? Wow. When did you really start planning this new phase of Superfly then? Was that something that you already had going in parallel, or did this escalate that process?
25:12 LA: Yeah, we've been working on it for quite some time now. It definitely... Yeah, it definitely had been in the works before everything happened, and it actually worked out for us, I guess, better because the types of events that we're producing under this Superfly X sector of the company, we have a lot of control over the spaces just because they're like a museum in a sense that you can control the capacity to a T. So we feel very fortunate that we have these types of projects to work on right now in a world where mass gatherings are not happening.
25:48 CC: Totally. Yeah, it's so fascinating. You hear a lot of the bad news, but there is opportunity out there [that are] starting to see a bubble up. I don't know if you guys feel that same way...
26:09 LA: It's definitely having your ducks in a row and having the right conversations with city officials that you kind of understand what you can do and what you can't do and just navigating that. As things are starting to reopen, restaurants, retail stores, people are getting more comfortable getting closer to each other, and they're also getting more comfortable with the health and safety precautions that have been put in place, masks, systems, timed entry, that stuff. So it's... It is possible.
26:43 CC: Yeah. And how about you, Lisa, are you feeling that same way or...
26:50 LD: So right now for InVision, we're still travel-free, probably until 2021. So for us right now, it's virtual events for the rest of the year, and that's kind of how we're planning, we're not doing any events in person. There are some hybrid events that are out there, I would say, where they're doing recording in studios where maybe thought leadership will go in and do a professional recording that's a little different.
But something that's definitely been interesting, just in terms of the way that people are behaving in events is that people have been super open and transparent with each other, and for executive level events, we're seeing executives showing up and having really cool authentic conversations with each other and their kids are playing in the backgrounds. They might be having technical difficulties, but everyone's just there and rallying for each other, which is then really, really cool and I think an interesting way for people to just be more transparent and share their own best practices and tactics with each other.
28:15 CC: And do you feel like... I guess my comment was less about physical events and more about just creativity. So on the virtual side, do you feel like the strategy and offerings are evolving as you learn more?
28:34 LD: Yeah, well, working for a digital company, our product is meant for people to work collaboratively, whether it's remote, in the office, or whatever, but it's cross-functional. It's for teams to communicate and share. I'm seeing that this is a good time for us to be elevating our own product and the content we have.
We have our own blog, and we actually just released our 10th book. We have a podcast series, so what we're doing now is taking new releases of content or old pieces of content that we can bring back and creating events around them to just raise awareness and share best practices and resources with our customers and the design community in general.
29:20 CC: That's awesome. Yeah, it's interesting being obviously on the product side in events. There are so many ways that I think we could go. It's probably our biggest challenge [to figure out] what avenue we take at this point, especially without an end in sight. It's forcing you to be innovative.
Innovation in the Virtual Event World
29:42 LD: Yeah, you have to be innovative because every week Zoom gets duller and more boring. We have to continue to be innovative and yes, hopefully we'll get back to live events. We are getting back to some sort of hybrid live events, especially with Superfly X, that's super awesome that you're able to have that kinda control.
But for companies that are still doing their own internal event strategy and aren't allowed to be going in that direction, it's just like, "How do you make these interactive, interesting and engaging? How do you get people off mute and on camera and participating and having an actual good time."
30:23 CC: Yeah, so this is kind of a personal question, but how do you guys feel like you're doing psychologically, mentally and all of this. Is it a little freeing that it's a little different or is it Groundhog Day? Where are we at here?
30:39 LD: I will say that at the very beginning, it was like a panic moment. I was like, "Did my career just evaporate?" And then I think about... I'm just gonna be totally candid. I think about what jobs I wanna do in my life, and I was like, "Okay, well, what could I do if I wasn't an event producer?" I've had those thoughts.
I'm like, "But no, that's what I wanna do." Everything that I wanna do is still in that vein. It's been a little scary psychologically and definitely anxiety-inducing, but I feel like whenever I'm getting off the rails and thinking too much as a whole, I take a breath, sit down, do a meditation, go for a run. That's how I'm trying and coping with this. Text Lindsay five times in a row and see if she's feeling the same way. [chuckle]
31:28 CC: That's awesome.
31:31 LA: Yeah, it's been challenging and... Yeah, the same with Lisa, I have these thoughts of, "Okay, if I need to make a panic shift which direction do I go in?" And the ideas I've come up with have shocked myself of things that I didn't even know I was interested in, so it's been a fun exercise. But at the end of the day, just like Lisa my passion lies within events and producing, so I'm holding on for dear life. [chuckle]
32:00 CC: Yeah, something tells me that you guys are gonna kill it no matter what, and it's interesting because I have these conversations with all kinds of folks across the industry, and I think the skill set that you both have and other folks have is so applicable to so many other things. The project management side, the production side, the creative side, the technical side. All of those things are so applicable. So I just think it's fascinating and hopefully people realize the capabilities there.
One of the things I was gonna ask you is, you now work on completely different events in so many ways for certain purposes. But there's still... You still have operations, you still have strategy, you still have distribution, and you still have talent. What do you think the corporate event world can learn from that festival and experiential world?
33:00 LA: Go ahead, Lisa.
33:04 LD: You want me to go?
33:05 LA: Yeah, yeah.
33:06 LD: You just said something that really stuck to me, and sorry if it's backtracking a little bit, Chris, but you're right. When you think about events and how integrated they are, there are so many little things that go into them, like, you were saying, tech, creativity, production, the operations, the database, the financing, there are just so, so many pieces.
And I feel like the one thing going into corporate is just like we're our own little events hub. Within a big B2B organization and within the marketing department... I don't wanna say this, it just sounds... I'm just gonna say it. We're kind of the bottom of the totem pole in a way, 'cause especially now when there are no live events, people are like, "Oh, what's the events team doing right now?"
Well, we're hosting sometimes 20, 25, 30 events a quarter. And while they're not in person, they still take that same level of detail and logistics and planning from a creative aspect, from a logistical aspect, to stand up and execute. So I think even though we're in this virtual age right now, and we're not wearing our boots and boots-in-the-mud, it's different and even more detail-oriented, I would say.
34:29 CC: I think with events, it's all these disparate people coming together. In a corporate world, and not just to focus on that, everybody's within the framework of the organization. You have this long-term structure that people over time have been able to build off of and make more efficient.
[With events], whether it's a hall with all kinds of different people, you guys come in and have to coordinate that really fast, but there are all the same components. So to me, in a time where there's most change and fluctuation and all of that, that skill set seems to be really valuable. So I feel like there's gotta be a lot of opportunity for folks as they open up their eyes to what's out there.
35:24 LD: Yeah, and I feel like we have this, we'll maybe talk about this later, but just like paid versus free events. All of InVision's events are free, which is kind of new to me, coming from a Superfly world where our whole revenue model was based on ticket sales and sponsorship. And now, our whole model is based on pipe generation and revenue generation with our customers and hoping that we'll be able to create new opportunities and close new opportunities. So I feel like that's kind of a twisted mindset. It took me a while to fully understand going in-house.
Experiential vs. Corporate Events
36:02 CC: Interesting. So tell me, what do you think the corporate event world can learn from the festival and experiential world, Lisa?
36:19 LD: I feel like they're just very similar. Corporate events don't have to be like corporate events. Corporate events don't have to be stale. There is so much experiential and creativity that can go into corporate events and has already started to go into them. I think in the past years, a lot of brands started using an experiential [approach] to elevate their brand and create opportunities to hands-on interact with their customers and audience. And I know Superfly was starting to do that, back when I was there, with our sponsors and starting to create experiences for them. So I think, really, there are a lot of similarities.
37:03 CC: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And Lindsay, obviously, Superfly's been on the leading edge of this for a while now.
37:11 LA: Yeah.
37:13 CC: Do you see that this world is melding together even more?
37:17 LA: Yeah. Definitely. We were approached by a few brands that wanted us to produce their yearly sales conferences on more of an experiential festival site rather than the stale conference room. But I think it doubled as a learning curve for myself personally.
We often tried to, in the earlier years, festivalize the B2B sales conferences which... It doesn't work that way, and I think we learned the hard way that not everything in the festival [world applies], although that's where we come from and most of what we know.
So I think there is a bit to learn from the corporate space on how to really make these events impactful. We're producing an event for 2,000 professionals, not 100,000 kids for a show on a field. It's different, but I think what's really important and interesting to learn from the corporate space is, it is a bit more polished, I mean, it has to be a bit more polished, and I think we have taken some of that into the Festival and experiential world, just ensuring that what we're producing is very, very high quality.
38:37 CC: When you guys get together, I know oftentimes you are talking about other things outside of work, that you guys are friends, and have lives outside of work. But when you do talk about work, what are the things that you're sharing with each other, and what are you looking to learn from each other in that regard?
38:54 LA: Yeah. Surprisingly, we really don't talk about work. But, I don't know, I think it's really fascinating what Lisa's doing right now. She's got a Zoom call with 10 different breakout rooms and all of these people and screens and devices, and I don't know how to use that technology. I think that's something that I would love to learn from her.
The Ins and Outs of Virtual Events
39:27 CC: That's interesting. Yeah when you think about the latest virtual events, walk me through what you guys have both done. You both have done some really interesting events as of late. Walk me through what that pre-planning, the production, and post-event recap look like. I know there's a lot there, but was the planning cycle shorter or longer than normal? There are obviously a bunch of questions that I can go through but give me that perspective and what that looked like with some of these events that you've done as of recent.
40:06 LA: Sure, I can kick it off. We got our intro into the virtual world, as did a lot of companies in March. So we produced small business live a couple months ago, which was a live stream fundraiser that supported at-risk small businesses that were impacted by the pandemic.
Essentially what we did was we gathered talent to perform within their favorite small business. That's a local record shop or a coffee shop, stuff like that. And they spoke to the viewers about why it’s so important to support small businesses, especially right now.
The planning cycle was a bit shorter. It's not as long and drawn out as an on-ground event, especially when you're coming to a new city, it could take upwards of five years to really get on the ground and in with the city and get permits and really be established.
41:09 LA: But it was a new territory for us. We've definitely had a learning curve of being able to push out a live stream to a bunch of different platforms. So I came in as the talent producer to work with the artist's managers, make sure that they had all the recording equipment that they needed, and make sure that they were set up in the small business, the small business was actually comfortable having them in there, everything was safe and sanitized, and everyone was distanced. And yeah, it was a really interesting project to work on. And especially right now, it feels really good to work on something that is beneficial to some of the most at-risk folks. I think it was a really good success.
41:56 CC: That's awesome. That's really awesome. And how about you, Lisa?
42:02 LD: Yeah, so, we have a few different types of events. We have a one-to-one or one-to-few or one-to-many. We want to get into the B2B, go-to marketing, business terms, but we'll have some events that are account-based for our customers, that could be product-related, or it could be content-related or some sort of learning-related event.
I'd say one of my favorite events that we've been doing is... We actually have our own documentary called 'Squads', it came out this year. So we've been rolling out film screenings, which I was super excited about doing those in person. But luckily, it can be streamed virtually, which is great. But that was one of the events that I did in New York. I went into JP Morgan Chase office and screened a film and had a panel discussion and a dinner around it, which was really cool.
So we've taken that now and we've been doing them virtually, with our customers and ensuring that we have this engaging panel that basically ties the content back to what they do in the office each day. So it's a big production.
43:11 LD: It's like, we're doing a screening, we have people from different computers chiming in through a live stream, sometimes it's recorded and shared. We're working with our customers on what technology they use in-house, are we providing the technology so there's lots of different types of planning that go into them.
I'd say, just like any in-person event, these virtual request events require a work-back timeline, they require a run-of-show and a copy dock and a list of email communications. They require a project management tracker for all of the different marketing-ops tasks that need to happen on the back-end, or any new landing pages that need to be created and illustrations and graphics that need to go with that. And especially with all these different partner screenings, you have to look at your partner's brand guidelines and make sure that you're able to publish it and launch it with their permission. There are so many little, small details that go into one of these one-hour events. So, yeah, it feels the same but different.
44:20 CC: In-between, yeah. And you mentioned technology a few times and obviously that's a key part of all of this. What technology do you think is going to really advance in all of this?
44:39 LD: I think definitely virtual, like streaming devices or... I feel like Zoom right now is one of the tops for video quality and audio quality. But also landing pages and event hubs, I think those are starting to evolve. I see, for instance, there is a database but there, I know that they have started to create their own virtual event platform. I think a lot of platforms are starting to try and create more offerings that kinda do everything. Yeah.
45:14 CC: Interesting, and how about you, Lindsay?
45:16 LA: On the talent side, a lot of artists are starting to build an arsenal of video recording equipment, which doesn't seem to have been the case in the past—to gear up and prepare for the influx of live streams that they've been doing. So that's been really interesting.
45:37 CC: Fascinating. And is there anything that you think would have taken, like, five or 10 years that's just been accelerated in all this?
45:48 LA: I'll go. [chuckle]
45:48 CC: Yeah.
45:49 LA: Artists seem to be very connected with their fans right now, especially doing more casual live streams and reading comments and responding. I don't know if it's more of like a five to 10 years thing, but I think if not for a pandemic, I don't know if there would have been as much closer feeling, or casual connection with fans.
46:15 LD: And you feel the same, Lisa on your end?
46:18 LD: Well, in your world it's artists and fans, and in my world it's executives and stakeholders and their teammates, like junior designers. It's just so much easier to connect with stakeholders and people that you might have not wanted to walk into their office in person. [chuckle]
46:40 CC: And I'm curious, is there an aspect of virtual that you think the market is still trying to figure out?
46:51 LA: Yeah, I mean, something that goes back a little bit to technology that's progressed, but is also still trying to be figured out, is virtual reality events. The Travis Scott Fortnite event was a huge success, and I think a lot of companies are trying to figure out how to get more interactive events where it feels like you're actually participating or you're in an experience. I think they really nailed that, and it seems like a lot more of these virtual reality companies are getting quicker to bring up this technology in that sense.
47:25 CC: Yeah, fascinating. I think there was an article yesterday on artificial intelligence around the visualization of a person and what you can do there based on all kinds of data that's flowing through. It looks fascinating, a little scary, but we'll see where it goes. 'Cause I think the whole article is about, do you really know if the other person you're talking to is an actual human being?
47:57 LA: Yeah.
47:58 CC: Yeah, it's definitely pretty crazy to go down that hole.
48:05 LA: Yeah.
48:06 LD: Yeah.
48:07 CC: Are there some areas you're most interested in seeing involved in all this?
48:13 LA: Yeah, I think I'm interested in just seeing how event producers take the virtual world when we are all back together on the ground. I'm curious if there's gonna be opportunities for fans to engage with an event during the actual event that maybe are in another country or across the states or wherever it may be. How are we gonna mix virtual with in-person and do it well in an interactive sense, just for more viewership and I guess a lower barrier to entry without having to travel?
48:47 CC: Yeah, and what do you think the biggest operational challenge is gonna be as things start to come, not back to normal, but as things start to come back?
49:00 LD: I can start on that one. I think there's still a barrier to entry when it comes to purchasing tickets for something you're not sure you can commit to. So right now, I'd say even with free virtual events, we're seeing a lot of attrition. And a lot of conference organizers are seeing even up to 50 percent drop-off even for paid tickets, which is crazy to think about. But I think we can all relate that we're just having a hard time making plans for two days from now, especially when you're not sure if you're gonna be feeling well or your family is not gonna be feeling well. So I think everyone is being cautious with purchasing in general, but especially for an experience.
49:44 LA: Yeah, I think also just making sure that the content is interesting and draws people in.
49:50 LD: Yeah.
49:51 LA: It's very easy to tune in and tune out of something online right now, so I think an operational challenge in that sense would just be producing something that really holds the viewer and makes them feel like they're actually a part of it.
50:06 CC: Yeah, I can imagine that's gonna be...
50:08 LD: Yeah.
50:10 CC: Something that's always evolving.
50:13 LD: Yeah. I will say, we're already seeing restaurants step up and stores and retails stepping up their health precautions and safety, and it's not a cheap thing to do, so I think also just finding the funds to be able to have like that premium, safe experience that levels up with...
50:33 CC: Yeah.
50:34 LD: What people are expecting right now.
50:37 LA: And back to the budget topic, it is very expensive to produce a livestream in terms of actually producing the content, and most of the livestreams that we've seen have been free or for donation, supporting a certain cause. So there's no real money being made by just producing a livestream.
50:58 CC: Yeah, it's fascinating. I mean, the budget's gotta come from somewhere, right? And especially when you go back to a hybrid type event, it's gonna be interesting to see some of the areas that suffer because of the money that's flowing into that, or the health and safety precautions that you're having to spend on.
51:17 LA: Yeah.
51:18 LD: Yeah, I feel like it's also an interesting thing, 'cause when this all started, musicians and artists were doing work and sharing content for free as a way to give back. And now that we're changing and they're needing money again, how do we go from free to paying for talent again?
51:42 CC: Yeah.
51:42 LD: My gym as well, and all of these fitness instructors online sharing their content, how long is that sustainable for?
51:50 CC: Yeah.
51:51 LA: Yeah, I think that's when it becomes more of an experience that you feel like you're gaining something from is when you're gonna put some money down, whether it be receiving a merch package or something in the mail, or just... There's gotta be something that people will feel like they will pay for.
52:09 CC: Yeah, yeah. And how do you think networking and engagement will evolve?
52:20 LD: Well, I feel like in one way, right now it's really easy to network. I think I mentioned that earlier. It's easier. It's a lower barrier to entry. I can just be like, "Hey, you wanna hop on a call really quick?", "Hey, do you wanna hop on a Zoom?", "Hey, do you wanna hop on a Google Hangout?" but I feel like there are so many people wanting to connect right now especially with people in our job market looking for new opportunities and asking for advice on the next best steps that it's almost becoming overwhelming to think about... To think about yourself, to think about others, and I kinda just wanna shut my computer and close my eyes. [chuckle]
53:00 CC: Yeah.
53:00 LA: Yeah, it's definitely a double edged sword. I mean, there's a lot of people looking to make a transition just in and out of the industry and when you've been on your computer all day and then you have to take a call or another Zoom meeting to chat through stuff, it's honestly pretty exhausting, but I think that hopefully, we find a way to find a happy balance.
53:21 LD: Yeah.
53:24 CC: So you kind of both touched on this a little bit, but what do you think the next couple of months look like for you?
53:35 LD: Go ahead, Lindsay. [chuckle]
53:42 LA: It's gonna be interesting, it's trial and error right now, and it's making sure that if you are putting something into the world that is a physical experience, that you are being as safe and cautious and just buttoned up as you possibly can be.
I know that nobody really wants to be the first back, and it's just really evaluating the risk of putting dates to a calendar and what that really looks like, and also just your own credibility to not keep shifting forward and forward and forward. It's a tough balance, and I think we're all just absorbing as much as we can right now to understand what we can do, how we can do it in the safest way, and just educating ourselves and knowing that we're probably not gonna be back to normal or to 2019 or the years before that, any time soon, so instead of dwelling on that, how can we create experiences that are impactful going forward.
54:44 LD: Yeah, I totally agree. I think out of sheer state of panic and everything at the beginning, it was like, "Alright, well, we can plan now lots of events, like we can have three events a week because we're not all traveling, and I think we got into this cadence of like, "All right, let's fill the calendar," and I think that is already starting to evolve due to fatigue from so many events happening.
So I think even personally and professionally, less is more. And being really thoughtful about what you're actually executing and making sure it's resonating [is important] and that it's actually worth [people’s] time. So I think, yes, creating experiences that are actually meaningful and having an impact is the goal.
55:28 LA: Yeah, and even for the virtual world too it's... I think myself also, I feel like I have a little bit of live stream fatigue, and there's just so much of it, and I think everyone was very quick to push something out, and so I hope that the next couple of months, like Lisa's saying there are impactful things that are happening and they continue to keep our attention.
55:49 CC: Yeah, I keep saying this, but it seems like it's evolving, I'm sure that what you guys are rolling out at Superfly, Lindsay is gonna be incredibly unique and it's pretty exciting, and obviously, with what you're doing, Lisa, it just seems like that stuff... People are gonna learn more and more every time. Folks like you guys put something out there that's going to help the rest of the industry.
I guess my last question is, if you could pick my next interview pairing, who would you want to see talk and what would you want them to go through?
56:33 LA: We thought about this for a while. [chuckle] Like do we say some friends, who do we go with?
56:40 CC: Yeah, yeah. Go with anybody.
56:40 LA: I think what we came to was hearing from some vendors that have been struggling and out of work and what that's looked like for them. What are ticketing companies doing right now? What are festival and event on-site venders doing right now? How have they pivoted? A lot of tent companies have pivoted to put up temporary hospitals and testing sites, and everyone just seems to be innovating what their business is, just not knowing what the future holds. But I think it'd be really interesting to hear that initial shock of cancellation after cancellation after cancellation, and just trying to stay afloat.
57:19 LD: Yeah, I totally agree and when you think about it, you have caterers, you have your crews, these people are capable of building buildings and providing food to first responders, those are the kind of opportunities that I hope have [come about] for our vendors in the meantime, because their skills definitely lie beyond festivals. They can really be providing things to help people's lives right now.
57:47 CC: Yeah. Well, I really appreciate you guys taking the time, and really fascinating to get both your perspectives and I've been excited about doing this for a while, and it definitely didn't disappoint. It's just really interesting to hear your perspective, and I can't thank you enough for taking the time to do it.
58:08 LA: Awesome, thanks so much.
58:10 CC: Yeah, have a good one.
58:13 LA: Thanks.
58:13 LD: Thank you.
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