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Bizzabo news | 12 May 2016

Eventovation Talks: Endless Entertainment

David Epstein

Will Curran is the CEO of Endless Entertainment, an audio visual company that works with brands like the X Games, Amazon, and Target to create stunning experiences. In a recent interview for Eventovation Talks, Curran shared his thoughts about where the event planning industry is going, what event planners need to know about A/V and what it’s like to run a fast-growing startup.

Here’s what Curran had to say:

Tell me a little bit about Endless Entertainment. What functions do you offer clients, who have you worked with, how long have you been around?

We are the Zappos of the events industry. We’re a customer service company that happens to do A/V. We take care of anything tech related to an event. Everything from creative designs, to breakout room A/V, to creative event content – like creating content for especially wide screens.

Our goal is to make A/V increadibly easy for our clients to deal with. We know that A/V is an area that people spend a ton of money on and wish they didn’t have to.

What makes us different is our culture. We are passionate about having the best people possible. Especially the people customers are going to interface with. We all have the same mission to take care of our clients.

Our creativity makes us different too, we also find ways to do things faster, smarter, cheaper and better.

Something that’s different is that our whole team works remotely. What’s great about that is we have people all over the country. I like to say my house is in Phoenix but I live in hotels. Working remotely helps us to better serve our clients.

 

What are some common problems you see event planners face when it comes to A/V?

One of the biggest problems I see is people lack an understanding of the technology that goes into A/V. They’re fearful that they don’t know what they’re doing, and that they’re getting ripped off.

They assume that A/V is all the same, so when they pull up two bids, they assume the product they are going to get will be the same.

Organizers don’t adequetly undestand the differences presented by A/V companies. There’s low quality and high quality gear, and there’s also low quality and high quality A/V staff.

We make it a point to sit down and talk to clients in detail, when we ask smart questions clients realize that labor and care are not equal between providers. We go the extra mile to better serve customers by truly understanding their needs from the beginning.

 

What are a few pieces of advice for event organizers to overcome these challenges?

People need to re-think their RFP process when it comes to selecting A/V companies. When people come to us and just want a bid and don’t want to sit down and talk about their problems, it is a big mistake.

For organizers unwilling to get to know the A/V company before making a selection, they will be in for a rude surprise when they realize that there is a difference between the sales person who secured the A/V deal and the A/V staff that shows up to the event.

Organizers must sit down, and figure out a way to get to know the people behind the A/V company – just like planners do for a tasting with a caterer.

I think slowing down is important too. We see clients who have an RFP that’s due next week. A dive into the problems, and building a quote will take time. People rush the decision and mistakes happen.

Another tip for planners is to call the A/V vendor before selecting a venue. I think selecting vendors before selecting a venue is important to avoid the fees a venue might charge organizers if they avoid using an in-house A/V team. We use our expertise to help save clients money.

 

What are some A/V related trends you are seeing now?

Now that planners are becoming more educated, planners are realizing that they can avoid fees. Venues are becoming very aggressive, with hitting organizers over the head with fees.

In house A/V companies make their money by partnering with major hotel chains, who have a revenue sharing deal between the venue and the A/V company. That way venues are financially incentivized to sell an in-house A/V company. As a result venues are putting in their contracts that organizers must pay X% of what the outside agency is charging back to the venue.

In sneakier ways, venues are charging babysitting fees, they charge organizers for the time associated with sending a venue staff member to babysit an out of house venue company as they install A/V equipment.

 

Can you think of an example of an outstanding event you recently attended – what was it about that event that made it so successful in your opinion?

I was recently attended Global University in Banff Canada, I thought it was awesome that they did the event in the round. The event had 300-400 people in attendance. Typically, an event of that size can feel pretty big and won’t feel intimate. But since they did it in the round, everyone was only a soft baseball throw away from the stage.

The organizer marketed the event as something that was intimate, and it felt that way. It was also a great way for speakers to engage with the audience in a very unique way.

 

How do you manage your team? Are there any tools or methods you recommend event organizers implement to manage their teams better?

One of the first things that I’ve found really successful, is to avoid micromanagement. When I first started in 2007, it was hard not to micromanage people.

I suggest setting up core values, and sharing core values with your team. When core values are violated, you make sure people know it’s a big deal. Then you give people autonomy to achieve those core values, as a result great things happen.

It’s easy for planners to take a step back and think they need to be involved in everything. But a lot of times, if you get the right people, and you give people the freedom they deserve, they’ll do a great job.

I think the second piece is really creating a good culture, something that attracts a lot of people. We don’t do paid job postings, but we get 100 employee applications a week because of the great culture we have built.

Another thing as far as management goes is finding a great way to communicate. We use Slack for example to talk to one another. Organizers should find whatever means of communication they like the best and stick to it. Stop switching to different tools to avoid confusing your team about what tools they should be using.

Making it really clear what people’s metrics and goals are and holding people accountable to them is also important. People should be incentivized to achieve their goals, when you clearly define what a goal is and make it metrics driven, people suddenly have a tangible way of measuring their own performance.

 

How do you build a culture and core company values since everyone works remotely?

We implemented our remote working policy only 12 months ago. When you’re building a remote team, you have to recognize that the people you have aren’t going to perfectly transition to being remote.

You hear that it makes people better in every way, but this is only for some people. I have a few employees who are naturally entrepreneurial and have complete autonomy. The way it works with us is you work wherever, whenever you want – whatever will make you more productive.

You realize it allows people to flourish when you are metrics driven and have a core culture. Some people need an office to go to and a boss to tell them what to do, but others just flourish.

I have people who are doing 4x the amount of work and feel way more energized. They are also working when they get the most amount of work done.

When working remotely, over communication is key. Recently I needed to leave and get my cats cat food, and I messaged the team telling them I was stepping out of the office for a second. It avoided people relying on me at the wrong time.

 

How do you recognize when people are ready to go remote?

I recently hired Matt, a sales development rep, we worked with Spark Hire to find him. Before, we screened people’s resumes and did a phone interview. Now I did a Spark Hire interview, and since the service asks applicants to submit a recorded video, I could recognize when people had a quiet place to work, and could figure out how to use Spark Hire on their own.

Technological competence is important, and being able to carry yourself on web-cam is important too. If you’ve never worked remote before or have never video conferenced before, that can be a problem. You have to be able to communicate well to the camera.

Also, work experience is a big factor. Did they clock in and out from 9-5, or did they have to juggle a personal life with work? When people work remotely, they are waking up whenever they want. It’s all about self-accountability, so a lot of people who are current or past company owners are great fits for us.

 

What resources do you use to educate yourself about business, or about the events industry?

For business, I am lucky to have a lot of great mentors, I belong to Entrepreneurs’ Organization, which involves 6-7 people involved in medium sized business where who come together to talk about business problems.

I used to be very interested in blogs, but now it’s hard to find consistently good content. Now, I like to read a lot of books about Entrepreneurship. I’m looking at bigger strategic issues now.

For example one of my favorite books is Drive by Daniel Pink, about how to motivate people and to carry out your mission. Counter to popular belief, money doesn’t motivate people. It’s more about giving people enough to take money off the table. There’s a good TED Talk about it as well.

I also love Elon Musk’s biography. It’s a really great story and it makes you want to spend all of your money on Tesla stock.

I also like Traction by Gino Wickman, about how to manage a leadership team, set goals, etc. A very tactical book.

Lastly, I recommend everyone read Epic Content Marketing by Joe Pulizzi, it talks about how you need to become a media company to be succeessful at marketing today.

Event resources: I love the Bizzabo blog, if you’re really interested in A/V, I’d recommend our #Eventicons Blab series where I interview meeting and planners every month. and our ebook called the Ultimate Guide to A/V Quotes.

 

How can people get in touch with you, or with Endless Entertainment?

People should feel free to feel to reach out to me on Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.

If people want help with their A/V, they can just give us a call at 602-358-0226.

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