It’s a very special day because it’s an #EventIcons special! That’s right everyone, we are proud to be here today, celebrating 200 episodes of the show. And if you’ve been following us for a while, you know we’ve recently celebrated four years on the air. But because one celebration simply isn’t enough, we’re taking it one step further. There’s cake, confetti, a live concert…okay, maybe not all of that. But you know what? The stuff we have in store for you is even better than all of that!
Guiding us through this week’s journey are our hosts Alex Plaxen, Will Curran, Lindsay Martin-Bilbrey and Brandt Krueger. And we’ve sent an open invitation to all the iconic people who were once part of the show. It’s going to be full of surprise appearances, best-of-moments, recaps, and a whole lot of energy. So, are you excited for the #EventIcons special? Jump on board right now!
Introducing The #EventIcons Family
Alex Plaxen is probably the most memorable face on the show. As he recalls, Alex was “a long time watcher and then I became a live Tweeter. And I was actually just looking through some photos. I found I used to take pictures of the screen and I would tweet them out at the beginning of every episode. And I was going back through some old photos from like 2016, and I found one and I was like, “Oh yeah, I remember when I did that.” And then Will and Brandt asked me to host and the rest is history”.
From Guests To Friends
But on this special occasion, we have plenty of old faces joining us. Benji Harris of Song Division, for instance. “I first got to meet you guys at IMEX in Vegas and I believe we were your last video interview of the entire conference”, he recalls. “And so we were completely just falling over. We were so tired and our brains were mush. And so really glad to be here. Thanks for letting me come in”.
Corbin is another face we’re happy to see again, leaving us with encouraging words. “Congratulations you guys. 200 podcasts. That’s a really significant milestone”, he says. “You deserve all the kudos with that. I have always appreciated your passion for the industry, your positive outlook. It’s been a pleasure dealing with you guys over the multiple podcasts we’ve done together. And I couldn’t be more happy to be here and share this day with you guys”.
Next in line, we have Tiffany Rojer. The episode she was in was related to ILEA live in Minneapolis. “That was pretty exciting with a lot of the chapter leaders and talking about leadership because it was part of the Leadership Live sessions. It was a lot of fun”.
Tahira Endean and Michelle Bruno are also joining us for the beginning of the #EventIcons special, with Tahira being one of the original hosts of the show. And Alex points out that “Michelle’s a perfect example of when we’re at some of these conferences and doing these live shows, people think we have all this preparation. Sometimes we do. But more often than not, we see these amazing people because those places are great places to network and see these amazing people in the industry and true #EventIcons”.
#EventIcons Special: It’s Been A Long Road!
Will tries to go back and figure out how many iconic guests we welcomed on the show. “It’s got to be at least 400 right?”, says Alex. “Think about all the IMEX episodes and live episodes where we have maybe 20 guests on. You have to think it’s at least 400 even with repeats”.
Will arrives at the conclusion that we had “at minimum 37 guests that we had on the air. Which is like insanity. It’s crazy because the episodes I think like the IMEX is and things like that. Like for example, you look at the IMEX episode from 2018 and we were so proud of ourselves. We’re like, we did 23 people in one hour and we were so excited. And then we did the next year and we did four days of it. Like a hundred people”. That’s something! “But yeah, it’s crazy how many people have been. And there’s probably people that are probably not enclosed. It’s probably at 400 plus now at this point”.
The Search For Icons
If it was up to us, we would have all the icons of the industry on the show. But as Will explains, “most people don’t realize that we get shot down a lot because they’re like, I can’t plan all that specific time. Or we, unfortunately, lose a lot of the European market because it’s like 3:00 AM. For example, Dan in our episode last week, came to the show at 3:00 AM because he’s in India. That’s obviously crazy but that’s just a fun fact that most people know is like trying to schedule the 5:00 PM Eastern is tough”.
“I think we try and look for people who are really change-makers in the industry”, adds Alex. “People who are doing something new and exciting. People who’ve been around the industry for a long time and can really share their expertise on a specific topic. Especially when new things pop up or something’s in the news. We definitely try and get people who can speak to that and we just actually had a call this past week that we’re looking at doing some episodes that are like #EventIcons legends. Like who are the legends of the industry? Even if they’re retired, we want to get on the show to share their story and the history of the events industry while we have them around”.
The Crazy & The Unexpected
We couldn’t do an #EventIcons special without covering some of the best stories we’ve had on the show. Will shares one during the event engagement episode, featuring Heiner Copperman and John Frederico. According to Will, when asked about his favorite resources, Heiner “goes, one second, I’ll be right back. And he walks off. And we’re like, okay, he’s going to grab like some notebook or something. But he just grabs a scuba mask and he says, I just got this new scuba mask. And it’ incredible. It allows me to do all this X, Y, Z, and crazy stuff. And it was like so far left field, Laura had no idea what to say and she’s just like, “cool.” John Federico’s reaction is fantastic as well. So great episode. But I mean it’s become such an iconic #EventIcons moment that whenever we say, “Hey, what are the resources you have? It could be a book, a blog, a scuba mask”.
“The live episodes are always really interesting because you have these people”, says Alex. “I mean I think back to IMEX Frankfurt and we had some people just as astronauts come on. Like there’s just some crazy stuff that happens at the trade shows. And we also had a guest on who was doing live tattooing on the show floor. Like those episodes are really fun to watch. Just to hear not only from experts who are there and then icons, but to see and hear and get a taste of what’s going on at the show is always fun”.
Since we’re doing an #EventIcons special, it’s only natural we get to the nitty and gritty of what goes on behind the scenes. “So we kind of come up with topics. Like with IMEX, because we kind of know how their days go. The speakers tend to come in off the travel, right? So like some days Julius is only going to be there one day. We know we’re going to get him for the first day of the show and so we kind of do it for a three-day show”, Lindsey explains.
“And then we say, we know we want this guest, this guest, and this guest because it’s going to fit in with our women’s in events. It’s going to fit in with diversity inclusion. It’s going to fit into really cool stuff that you should be knowing about. And usually, I think we get about 50% of people beforehand who respond to the emails and be like, absolutely, we’re going to come. And we kind of tentatively pencil them in and then a lot of it is just like behind the scenes going, okay, well they can’t make it at this time, let’s plug them in here and see where it comes in”.
“For the smaller ones where like we do Connect and then recently at PCMA“, she continues. “A lot of that we go and we talk to our friends before we get there. Like Angie, we talked to her a few weeks before and said, “Hey, you’re going to be a PCMA. We realized we haven’t had you on the show. Let’s come in and get your perspective to share what it’s like from that.” And she was booked out much like we book normal guests, so it’s about 50% actual planning, 50% absolute luck”.
“I think it also comes down to how much we’re working with the actual planners of the event”, adds Alex. “If we can get a list of, for example, emails of all the speakers. We’re going to make sure that we try and get the best speakers we can and the most speakers on the show to talk about what they’re talking about at the show. And so usually we’re able to work with them and get kind of a list. Otherwise, it’s more research that we have to do, which works too. We’ll go on the event website, look in the app, see who’s around. But yes, I’d say it’s probably about 50/50. Sometimes we’re just so inspired because we’re walking the trade show floor also. And we see someone who either we didn’t know was going to be there or we see someone at a booth who is doing something amazing that we’re like, we have to have you on the show”.
The Power of Personal Relationships
“The strength of personal relationships. That’s one of the things I’ve always just adored about Tahira”, says Lindsey. “Because she literally knows the coolest, the most informative people and it’s kind of like with Tiffany coming up with these bam-bam ideas. When we found ourselves with a few openings Tahira’d be like, oh well this person’s walking down the hallway. They’re a personal friend and they talk about this and it’s true to form. It would just be amazing. It’d be able to come into it”.
“But those personal relationships, whether it’s Tahira facilitating it or someone else that we were able to bring in through one of the host’s relationships. I think it talks to the strength of the industry that we really have some incredible subject matter experts on the floor and that somebody knows somebody and they’re willing to share that knowledge even if it’s in a 5 to 10-minute snippet”, she concludes.
Speaking of personal relationships that were forged during and after the show, a question about expectations arises. And which episodes our hosts had little expectations for, but turned out amazing. “I think the ones like event safety, where you think, oh safety, eh I have to talk about that again”, says Tahira. “But then like off the charts. So where there are things like that, where there’s just so much learning. I love those. And the same with sponsorship”.
“Mine was one that it wasn’t necessarily something that I had low expectations for”, says Alex. “It was just something I knew so little about and was dying to know more. And I was like, I really hope this is good. And that was the e-sports episode, the first e-sports episode that we had“. Lindsey adds that “the one that had Kiki and Glen talking about keeping it weird and keeping it awesome. Because it was such a big topic and we really dug into some things around the Daybreaker event and the way you would do event design for different ways that different organizations are trying things around risk”.
#EventIcons Special: A Legacy
“That’s kind of speaks to the legacy of the show, right? Like in 200 episodes, people who did not know each other, who we’ve been able to bring together on the show, who had then formed bonds and work together and done other stuff together”, says Alex. “I think it’s really a powerful networking tool, not just for Will and the rest of the hosts, but also for our guests. Usually, we’ll find a topic that we really want to talk about and we’ll try and find people with different perspectives who may not know each other. Like the MC episode from last week, both of them did not know each other and afterward they’re like, we have to work together”.
Leaving You With Some Advice…
What’s the one question we always ask our guests at the end of a show? That’s right – their one tip for event planners. So what better way to wrap up this #EventIcons special other than have our hosts tell us exactly that?
“When I started this back in 2015, back when I was first watching this, I wasn’t even really a speaker back then”, Alex recalls. “And people ask me all the time, event planners and event professionals, how did you come to be a speaker? I’m curious, I want to share my knowledge. I’m curious about speaking, how did you do it?”
And I’m like, apply. So many people, I asked them, have you ever applied to speak? There’s so much knowledge and I think it’s one of the things that I love so much about the show is that we bring on #EventIcons that no one realizes. #EventIcons who really do have amazing well of knowledge to be shared. So my tip would be if you have knowledge and information, don’t be afraid to share it. Get out there, share with the world because it makes our industry better when that knowledge is being shared”.
“Even if you do apply and you’ve been kind of doing some of that, but you’re not sure how to go to the next level or to make those connections because sometimes it’s hard to work up the courage to say I really want to do that and I need help to do it”, says Lindsey. “Because most of us as event planners, we don’t like to ask for help when it’s personal. We like to ask to make the client happy and to make the event fantastic. And just reach out and say, “Hey I have this great idea and I think we’d be great together and I’m going to submarine you at your trade show booth while we’re standing next to each other until you say yes.”
And that’s a wrap on this week’s amazing #EventIcons special! Did you cry? Did you feel all those emotions bubbling up inside you? Well, that’s okay – we feel exactly the same way. But the good part is that next week we’re having even more iconic conversations. And even more the week after! So make sure you subscribe and don’t forget to tune in!