Recapping VenueConnect 2011

It’s been over a week since the IAVM VenueConnect in Phoenix closed. This is the mother of all conferences for venue managers (think arenas, civic centers, large theaters) and for all those who service them (seating, architects, food/beverage, ticketing, publications). For my company, TicketForce, falling into the provider category, it was incredible to have this event take place in our hometown – giving many on our team the chance to attend and get a glimpse who don’t normally travel to conferences.

We loved seeing our bright orange TicketForce Welcomes You to Phoenix registration bags dot downtown – spotted by friends who were just driving through. I thought they made everyone’s outfits look super summery and will be a fashion statement long after everyone returns home…

We also added our client event, FaceTime to the beginning of the conference – hosted at Celebrity Theatre – so we started the week off at full speed, and ended it climbing through mazes at the Arizona Science Center. 

In between, there were keynotes each morning – our hands down favorite was hearing from Juliet Funt (daughter of Candid Camera host, Alan Funt). We laughed, cried, sat in silence, and in the end, pledged to make more white space in our lives.

For some on our team, it was their first chance to see the magnitude of the venue industry. A new hire was both fascinated and shocked by the Your Deal Sucks 101 session – a panel of top concert promoters, agents, and the lone woman and venue manager, which was peppered with more than a few f-bombs, some intentionally pointed questions – but in the end offered candid information from their industry you may not get in any other setting. Of course, this session is capped with the best part – a secret little happy hour which opened the door for more candid conversation that was worth the entire registration cost in itself.

The Trade Show floor seemed initially weak, but the commitment of the venue managers to give face time to their suppliers or potential suppliers was great and by the final day, we’d done 50 demos of our ticketing system and Facebook Ticketing, given away as many t-shirts, and squeezed in some quality conversations with clients, friends, and other suppliers. 

A dozen or so tweeters were in attendance, giving real-time updates from sessions, trade show, and events – a number which grew following a few of the social media seminars – but still needing growth! The trend is up, but I’m hoping to see even more of a push and live streams throughout the conference areas (we had the twitter feed on a screen in our booth – but that’s just a few hours each day). How about the lobbies, registration areas and any other common areas we can find?

The Women of Influence award and happy hour, hosted by VenuesToday, honored three women who have made their way in what used to be a male-dominated field. They told stories of working their way through the ranks with a theme of mentors and learning every step of the way. I’m proud to be part of an organization, now headed by a woman, Vicki Hawarden, that has broken the glass ceiling and offers fantastic opportunities for success.

Finally, we said goodbye to Dexter King, as he steps down from leading the IAVM. He’s truly a good soul, and a genuine person, a leader with humility, and someone who gives me hope that you can be honest and still succeed. 

By the final night at the AZ Science Center – a huge cheer to the host team, by the way, for the inventive use of bike taxis to get us there on the 100 degree evening – my group was to the point of just needing to unwind. It was a great place to do that with friends, and relax from the brain-work and people-work all week. Seeing people who have incredible responsibilities play like kids – albeit with the help of some drinks – I gave up a little sigh and started thinking about when I would see everyone again. I’m pretty sure I saw a little tear in a few eyes as final hugs and goodbyes were said.

With an eye to Ft Lauderdale and VenueConnect 2012 – cheers!

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