“Live” from XLIVE

January 23rd, 2019 | Mark Harrison, President & CEO, T1

conference seats

I love events.

I’m amazed at what attracts people to get together. To spend their money. To use their points. To invest their time. To share their passion. With friends. With strangers. With strange friends.

But I may be more enthralled by the people who stage these events. The curators of these experiences. As one thought-provoking presenter prosed – are events an art or a business? I tend to think of the best event curators as both artisans, mad scientists and hustling entrepreneurs.

Few summits draw a more diverse collection of live event curators and practitioners than the annual XLIVE Conference in Las Vegas. For the most recent edition, I was invited to moderate a panel which I shared with Michael Lummack of the Vancouver Whitecaps and Mark Stewart of Wondermakr. Our panel was the best of the conference. By far.

Okay, I am joking. Seriously. Or maybe testing if you were paying attention. Plus, I now have an easy segue to share with you some of my top XLIVE conference highlights of 2018:

  1. Leanne McGowan of EA. As the lead producer of EA Play, McGowan left the audience
    with three vital messages: 1) The value of respecting your community and meeting their needs versus yours as a brand; 2) The invaluable currency of loyalty in dealing with partners; and 3) Being passionate in all circumstances. I say this because the audience for her presentation was horribly small, yet McGowan oozed passion and enthusiasm with every key point as if she was speaking to a keynote-sized crowd.
  2. Russell Ward from The Confluence moderated a panel on International Expansion – my favourite of the entire conference. Each of his four panelists were gems in their own right (Michael Julian of Made Events – LiveStyle, Ryan Kruger of The RKET Group, Chris Donohue at See Tickets and Kim Scott, Company Manager of events such as Cirque du Soleil and CRISS ANGEL BeLIEve). There were some key pieces of advice they shared about the pratfalls of taking your events to new markets, but Ward struck home most deeply with me when he talked about finding the snake in the grass – the understanding that no matter where you go, there will be a snake waiting to bite you: local government, competition, authorities, whomever. The key is to find the snake before it finds you. Once you’ve eliminated that threat, your immediate next step is to find the next snake who was waiting for the first snake to be killed. In less metaphoric terms, Ward and the panel talked about developing scenarios where you identify all the pitfalls you may encounter and how to overcome them.
  3. Milan Malivuk of Intellitix was the author of the above mentioned “Art or Business” question. His presentation acknowledged the artistic side of the question but educationally dealt with how to increase profitability. The crux of his sharing was for events to focus on identifying their top spenders and ensure they are focused on their return, year after year. As you do, focus on how to increase their average transaction size. Then study what campaigns attracted these top spenders and replicate to encourage them to spend more frequently. The focus on the 80/20 rule of customers works in every industry since the beginning of time and always will.

Michael, Mark, and I did share one lesson with our attendees that I feel too important to omit from this recap. While our panel focused on activations, an important test of the quality of your effort is whether the consumer would consider it something so valuable, they would pay for it. Handing out samples or erecting a branded photo backdrop may generate the volume metrics a brand is seeking from their activation. But a brand seeking to generate sales should measure their effort with a better proxy. Is our activation value worth enough to a consumer they would shell out for it?

If the answer is yes, then you are sure to feel the love!