I’ve always been a behind-the-scenes type of guy. In my 15-plus years of venue experience, I’ve met a lot of colleagues who found their way into this amazing career the same way I did: starting out as a volunteer or a part-time employee, just because it sounded fun.
My personal introduction to venue work began in undergraduate school in upstate New York where, through our very autonomous student activities organization, I was able to work in many different capacities at concerts that ran the gamut from solo folk singers to national acts like Bruce Springsteen and Frank Zappa. A few more volunteer stints followed that, and after moving halfway across the country, I ended up volunteering at the venue that eventually hired me as a part-timer, and that soon promoted me into a full-time leadership role. I won’t name names, but even though I was working with well-respected professionals with far more experience than I, virtually no one had any industry-specific training.
Always looking for ways to improve my skills and knowledge, I began researching the field of venue management, which is where I ran across the IAVM, in its previous incarnation as the IAAM (the International Association of Assembly Managers). I began attending conferences, taking online and live classroom training, and more. But once I had completed Trained Crowd Manager, attended enough consecutive conferences to be designated as a Guest Service Professional (remember that?), completed training in ICS, NIMS and other courses through FEMA and other agencies, there was still a substantial gulf between where I was in my career and the eligibility criteria for CFE. That’s why I was elated when I heard that the IAVM was considering a mid-level certification—it was exactly what I was looking for.
My CVP certification tells my peers, my colleagues and my current and future employers that I know what I’m doing when it comes to venue management. It shows that I have demonstrated mastery over a broad range of topics in this complex, detail-driven field. Most importantly, it shows my dedication to professional development and continuing education. I am encouraged by the number of venue job postings I see that say “CVP Preferred” when listing job qualifications. I’m also encouraged by the changes IAVM is instituting to streamline the certification process.
I am responsible for my own career. In my mind, investing in a credential that demonstrates my potential value to others in the industry, whomever they may be, is a move that’s both wise and necessary. My CVP does that for me, and I’m confident it will do the same for you.
Bob Potemski, CVP, is the Event Manager at the Carlsen Center in Overland Park, Kansas. You can reach him by email at email@example.com.
First things first. Dr. Tamara Madensen did not advocate in her keynote opening speech at the Academy for Venue Safety & Security to engage in any unethical or illegal tactics when she talked about how stealing solutions helps in her work as the Director, Crowd Management Research Council at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. On the contrary, Madensen was implicit in emphasizing how being alert, reading other publications and understanding what is going on in other industries can only be beneficial as she gathers her data and conducts her research to assist the public assembly venue industry. As solutions are found to problems in those myriad other businesses, she looks to find if there is any application in her work, which there often is.
Then, there is the old tried-and-true method of trusting your gut, which is how she introduced her presentation.
“Research confirms that instinct is powerful,” she said. “You know when someone comes into your venue they may be trouble or they might have your back. At least you think you do.”
Madensen then led the class on a fun “gut instinct” exercise by asking groups which of three vehicles they thought she drove at a particular time, which of three hobbies she participated in and which of three gang groups were prevalent in her neighborhood growing up. To save Dr. Madensen in case she repeats this exercise we will not be providing answers, but suffice to say that the gut often did not win out, no matter how powerful research confirms it.
In short, her research focuses on why people act the way they do and the basic science and principles behind those actions.
She went through a series of situations that all venue managers encounter and then applied those scenarios to other vocations, which is essentially where her “stealing” of solutions enters as she observes and talks to people in those outside industries.
One example is de-escalation. Madensen noted how this is critical as well in the field of medicine, where doctors often deal with mentally ill patients and must exercise active listening skills, use minimal encouraging words such as “uh huh,” and “OK,” and other actions. This also applies to emergency room personnel who must be concise and respect personal space, and in the field of nursing as well.
“The gut instinct is great, but the things you learn here will give you some even better shortcuts,” she said.
Madensen then covered an array of challenges including alcohol management, operations consistency, tailgating, obnoxious patron behavior, aggressive patron behavior, impact of negative events, staff skill set and best practice adoption.
In discussing tailgating, Madensen noted that research has shown that more than 40 percent of attendees are legally intoxicated before even entering a venue as a result of parking lot pre-game tailgating. The time period for this is considered from 150 minutes prior to 10 minutes after kickoff at a football game.
“How do venue alcohol policies influence tailgating activities?” she asked. “You could raise the price of alcohol, but that would only encourage more pre-game drinking.”
It is but one example of situations that are real to venue managers. While not divulging the answer to the above, Madensen ensured the audience that by the time they finished their four days of AVSS, they would be equipped for answering that and the other questions and challenges that she posed.
After extensive study, review and open discussion over the last two years, the IAVM Board of Directors voted unanimously to bring forward changes to the bylaws that would make our association more inclusive and diverse in our decision making. As a means to incorporate the perspective of all of our members, these changes would allow every member of IAVM equal opportunity to engage in the association through the right to vote. This initiative also defines the qualifications for IAVM senior Board leadership, including requiring a CFE and at least 10-years of senior venue management experience. The proposed changes have been presented at sector conferences, online through webinars, blog posts, articles in the IAVM Newsletter and FM Magazine, and disseminated through email blitzes so that you, our members, were kept up-to-date along the way in regards to the progress of the initiative.
Find out more about this important initiative! These proposed changes must be approved by two-thirds of the current voting members of IAVM. The vote will open on May 19th. We invite all members to read the proposed amendments in the links below. Following the amendments, you will find links to our FAQ, our magazine article, our informational webinar, and a platform to discuss the proposed change.
IAVM’s one-day Severe Weather Preparedness event at the Marriott Quorum Hotel in Dallas came and went with the intensity and urgency one associates with, well, severe weather.
From real-life severe weather experiences at venues to understanding severe weather tools to looking at advances in weather science to be better prepared to exploring severe weather cases from legal standpoints, attendees were treated to a single day of information and education to help them address all aspects when it comes to severe weather.
“Terrorism is always on the table, but severe weather is the first thing,” said Paul Turner, CFE, senior director of event operations, Dallas Cowboys/AT&T Stadium, joined by Rob Matwick, who works just across the street from Turner as executive vice president, business operations for the Texas Rangers, on a panel moderated by Billy Langenstein, director of event services, SMG/U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. “Severe weather is inevitable. You have to deal with it head on at some point.”
Paul Turner, CFE, is the senior director of event operations for AT&T Stadium and the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas. Yes, that stadium that carries with it a hypnotizing effect thanks to its grandeur. It is a stadium that offers so much more than just the event taking place on the stadium’s floor, be that NFL football or any other number of events that line up to play there.
“Our product is the experience and memories,” Turner said during IAVM’s GuestX at a session entitled Enhancing the Guest Experience Beyond the Event. “Our product is different for each of our customers. Yours is too. We give you an experience and we can’t recreate that experience. It is unique to everyone who comes into a venue.
“I like to say that we have first time, last time experiences. You are making a first impression or a last impression for people. I remember when my dad turned 86 and could just no longer go to a game. It broke his heart to miss something that he loved so much.”
Turner said that enhancing experiences are created by facilities and also programs and activities.
On the facility side, tailgating is an obvious for several stadium and arena venues. He noted that AT&T Stadium’s lots have perimeters of grass suitable for tailgating that do not take up other parking space. Additional outdoor plazas on the east side and west side of the stadium combine for seven acres of fans enjoying making memories and experiences.
Turner noted how other facilities in recent years have seized the opportunity as well, with San Diego’s Petco Park creating “Major League Memories” for fans and BC Place in Vancouver creating “Make Amazing Happen” following a 2011 renovation. The Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans created an outdoor Champions Plaza after the venue reopened in 2006 following Hurricane Katrina.
“Now, our footprint is creeping outside our stadiums,” Turner said. “U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis was built with a huge public park at its doorstep.”
Then there is EverBank Field in Jacksonville, home to the NFL Jaguars, which has a swimming pool within the stadium complete with lifeguard.
Programs and activities also greatly enhance the guest experience.
“We keep our Miller Lite Corral open two hours after the game,” Turner said. “It is a way to extend our event, a way for people to have a drink and allow traffic to clear.”
Turner cited other examples such as pre-game field passes, Field Club access and a high-five line for fans. “Many of these ideas aren’t ground-breaking, but they are relevant to the guest experience,” he said.
While all of the enhancements add to the guest experience, Turner emphasized the importance of paying attention to the basics.
“You have to remember the essentials,” he said. “Get back to some of the basics and control what you can control. Examine your status quo. The basics must come before distractions. Walk your building through the eyes of your guests. Pay attention to details. These things may not sound as exciting as some of the other experiences we have talked about, but they have to be done first.”