Imagine this... your husband (who is the mac daddy thoughtful gift-giver of all time) gets you tickets to meet your favorite TV star who just penned her first book. She's not just ANY star. She's Chrissy Metz who plays Kate Pearson on the runaway rollercoaster ride of the new "yes, that's me" drama on NBC's This Is Us. It's one of the top network dramas right now for a reason. (This is coming from a very judgmental eyebrow-raised writer who does not like most network or even cable series these days.) This show is GOOOOOD. To the last teardrop.
You can't explain it, unless you watch it. It's just so... REAL. You just know someone who's like most of the characters in the show. Sometimes a loved one. A dreaded one. Or yourself. With plot twists that make you gasp, cheer or tear up at most episodes.
So here I am - a fellow life-long chubby girl, meeting one of the few plus-sized actresses with great roles - with a special Meet & Greet opportunity which includes a copy of her new book. I dressed in a new red top to echo my joy. I studied the tickets for instructions about the Meet & Greet. They said to arrive at 8:00 PM. We scurried to the venue to be there by 7:00 PM, just to be safe.
We entered the stately concert hall - the Perelman Theater at the Philadelphia Kimmel Center - and approached the check-in table. Two young guys and one girl were perched behind piles of the new book. One guy checked our tickets and handed us the books to be signed. Oh, goodie! Since we were early, we looked for a restroom, and then places to sit before the theater opened. Because I'm the consummate networker and talk to everybody, I turned to a woman next to me who also had a book in hand. I asked her, "When do we go for the Meet & Greet?"
She said, "Oh, honey. That happened at 6:30. Didn't you get an email?"
No, this wasn't happening. We never received an email. Any email. No instructions. I rocketed off my seat and rushed to the Meet & Greet lounge room up a huge stairway. Empty.
Tears sprouted, but my feet moved like a ready-to-charge bull, looking for the matador.
Back at the front desk, the lone girl, seated, said YES, I was confirmed for the Meet & Greet. She then checked me off on the list. Yes, I could proceed to the Meet & Greet venue. And it should still be going on. "No," I told her. Where was the email? Who sent the email? And then I realized... this girl just works here at the venue. Her blank stare told me she had no idea what was going on.
So I put my meeting planner professional hat on, untwisted my panties, and asked to speak to the person in charge of the event, after explaining that my husband just spent $276 for a Meet & Greet which we didn't get. "How would you feel?" I asked. Blank stare. After a few minutes, I spotted a woman with a walkie-talkie.
After explaining our predicament, 10 other people (some who came all the way from New York City) said they received no instructionary email either. Whattyah know. We might have a riot on our hands. I told the manager I have run events with celebrities. Things happen. "So how can we fix this?"
The smart manager of the venue went right to Chrissy's people. Within two minutes, she gathered all of us and secretly wound us through the crowds toward a secret back door entrance. Lo and behold, out comes Chrissy, in all her exuberant smiling glory, hugging each one of us and spending not a minute but 10 with this private VIP group before the show. This wasn't just lemonade... but limoncello!
So, after multiple conversations and pictures, off we went, 12 supremely happy people back into the hall for the talk show-like program. It was terrific. Fun, insightful, poignant and intimate. But as we left, we heard several groups asking where the Meet & Greet was. They didn't get the email. They were hoping the private event was AFTER the performance. And no one from the staff was to be found.
Woah, would I be MAD.
So, what did I learn from this?
1. If you're having an event, a party, a wedding... the success of the event all comes down to attention to details and great communication. One of my favorite sayings is... "The greatest misconception about communication is... that it has been achieved." I know what I said, but did you hear it that way? Most times, I bet not. That's what happened here. Lack of planning details and direct communication.
2. Technology fails sometimes. People fail sometimes. When something is as important as satisfying a person holding a $140 ticket, you would think they would get the list right. Get the email out. Double check the delivery. Was it the ticket company's fault? The promoter? The venue? A hundred different things could have happened. All I know is... there were a number of people who did not get the experience they paid for. Bad reviews happen even when the program was superb.
3. Logistics are important. The staff at the front desk was not trained. Or they did not do their jobs. They were supposed to shepherd us to the woman with the secret list. They didn't. Just handed out books. Gaps in service - and people not working out logistics - can make or break an event. You don't get a second chance.
4. It's how you fix things that count. The manager did her job. Chrissy's staff did theirs. She even apologized for the mishap... even though she had no clue what was happening. All the other team members apologized as well. My "afterwards posse" was thrilled. Felt special. It's all HOW you handle it that counts.
5. I should have been more prepared. At future Meet & Greets, I will know to ask up front... when and where.
6. Be grateful. I have an amazing husband who showers me with love and thoughtfulness. It's my turn to return the love.
And that also means being grateful for a wonderful event, saying thanks to Chrissy Metz and her team for the great comeback. And to the entire cast of This Is Us, thanks for making Tuesday night TV enjoyable again, even for this jaded writer.
The Detail-Driven Devil of Meeting Planners...
A new friend I met at my Networking seminar invited me to join him as his guest to the Philadelphia Addy Awards last week. (Thanks, Peter!) I hate to admit that it has been well over 20-something years since I have attended an Addy Awards evening, honoring the best in local achievements in promotion.
As I entered the venue and climbed the winding stairs with other registrants waiting to reach the badge table, I looked around, wondering if I was at the wrong event. Of the 75 people in line ahead of me, I was the only person above the age of 40. Maybe 35. OK, perhaps 30. Some of the girls wearing spike heels and slinky short cocktail dresses. Others in slouchy work boots and tights. Young hipsters in either bow ties or flannel shirts. A few very slim tapered suits. Many beards and backpacks. Am I at an Imagine Dragons concert?
Nope. The table sign said "The Addy's." My badge was waiting. I felt like the chaperone. So I entered the ballroom looking for someone, anyone I might know. Or perhaps anyone who might remember who James Taylor is. After a few circles around the ballroom, and food tables of sliders and sushi (What ELSE would they serve to this audience? Nailed it!) I texted my friend, who rescued me and brought me to his table. We chuckled together over my younger audience observation, and then began to notice there were, indeed, other "elders" in the room here and there. We networked and made some refreshing new contacts.
And then the program began. A very unconventional program. One with no human host. Lights rose onto the ballroom-size digital screen, as a novel "Show's starting in 5 minutes" spot featuring 4 dogs and a cat with a launch pad counting clock. Every minute, one of the dogs would POOF off the screen leaving, well, errr, a brown "package" in its place on the screen. With one minute left, there was only the cat and 4 poop piles, hopefully NOT a foreshadowing of the presentation to come. My friend Peter whispered that it was a video presentation, no speakers, that would last for 30 minutes. I thought that odd. But, hey, a lot changes in 20+ years.
I looked around, and most people did not even have seats... it was cocktail style sporadic seating. They grouped like packs with their respective agencies, hoping and waiting for their names to be called as a Gold or Silver winner. They seemed OK to stand for another half hour. (Again, what a difference that 20+ years can make. I was relieved for the seat. And I wasn't even in spiked heels.)
Suddenly, like a grandiose Close Encounter experience of Imax proportions, a digital Alexa-esque narrator boomed through the room, guiding us through the categories of awards and their champions, with hints of inter-galactic static thrown in. Nice touch. As I listened to the categories and saw mini-glimpses of the elements that won - I was riveted. Catapulted from my good old days into the future. From the ad world I once knew into foreign categories such as, "Out-of-Home & Ambient Media', "Cross Platform", "Elements of Advertising" (Why not just "Advertising?"), "Microsites", "Apps, Tools & Virtual Reality - Tools & Utilities", "Branded Content & Entertainment for Online/Interactive" and my favorite, "Webisodes."
Thank Goodness there were some traditional categories awarded, like Packaging, Point of Purchase, Posters, Brochures, Printed Annual Reports, Radio Advertising, Advertising Industry Self Promotion, Direct Mail and 3D/Mixed Media (that would be "Promotional Products.") But the big winners of the night and best in show were mostly video.
My point here, folks, is this: Times... they are a changing. Could I just rag about how a new generation is changing what things are called? (Just like when they changed "Personnel Department" to "Human Resources" back in MY day. Still makes no sense to me. But what does the world call it now? Human Resources.)
Sure I could. But I should remember how I felt 20 or 30 years ago when things in my advertising world were changing. There were new trends, new advances, new vehicles like email, just like what's happening today. (Heck... many of these agencies who were finalists in this competition did not even EXIST 20 years ago.) But that doesn't mean that I, as a practitioner and creator of branding programs, should be in the dark about these innovations. They are the waves of the future. And OUR vehicles - promotional products - 3D advertising branding tools - blend with THEIR vehicles.
Even if I will never write or produce a Webisode, I should know what it is, for the sake of my clients. And you should too.
So, read up, my friends. Stay current. Stay connected. We owe it to our clients.
Lots to learn with yah...
Photo credit to the Philadelphia Ad Club. Thanks for an enlightening event. And to Peter Zales of Affordable Offset Printing for the wonderful invitation!
Mary Ellen Sokalski
Diva of Direct Marketing.