For every naysayer who forecasts the demise of live entertainment due to the 24/7 presence of social media and other convenient distractions, Peter Sagal, NPR host and keynote speaker at the Performing Arts Managers Conference, says to tap the brakes on all the negativity.
“Guess where a lot of the content comes from for all who are on social media?” he asked a full ballroom of PAMC attendees in Chicago. “It comes from live events.”
The message was just one nugget that Sagal entertained and educated the audience with.
Sagal does 615 Wait, Wait .., Don’t Tell Me shows, a number that started at nine when the radio show premiered in 1998.
“Crowds want to be part of something real,” Sagal said. “For a radio audience, audio is dependent on intimacy. Television is a screen, a window, a barrier. Radio is somebody talking to you, often in the most private places like your kitchen, your car, or on your headphones while you exercise.”
Sagal goes back to how technology has impacted the live experience. He cites all our phones can do as an example.
“Really, they create a greater need for what I do,” he said. “We are all connected and yet all isolated. We participate in other moments at other times. Thus, the need for live performance and connection is even more profound. That bodes well for your business and mine.”
While Sagal said he could not predict the future, he still finds himself flummoxed by the present.
“People actually come to our show to sit and listen to me,” he joked. “I mean, this is all they get.”
It has obviously been enough for generations of loyal followers who also believe in the live experience.
The International Association of Venue Managers has named Amy Fitzpatrick as the organization’s new Director of Marketing. Amy joined the team on February 27, 2017. She was previously the Graduate Program Coordinator for the School of Kinesiology, Recreation, and Sport at Western Kentucky University, where six years ago she helped to develop a partnership between WKU and IAVM.
Now, the creation of that partnership has brought her here to Texas, and she is eager to learn more about the world of IAVM.
“I look at this as a learning experience,” Amy says. “I know the organization from the standpoint of being an affiliate from the outside looking in. Now I can see the magnitude of this organization and how IAVM not only educates people within the field, but also the way that they take the trends of the profession and disseminate that information. Normally in this type of professional setting you would probably have more than 100 employees that are doing what this small group of people are doing, and the fact that they do it, and they do it well, just amazes me.”
Amy has already adopted the IAVM brand promise and looks forward to sharing the inspiration, expertise, and connections that the association brings to the table.
“We never stop learning and we never stop growing, and that’s one of the things that I love about IAVM. They believe in that. They inspire people to get them to learn and to make them want to continue on in their field. This is where my passion lies. It’s getting people informed, making sure that they are making the right decisions for their professional career. ”
Born and raised in Bowling Green, Kentucky, it’s only fitting that Amy attended Western Kentucky University, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies, with a minor in English, her Master of Public Administration, and her Master of Science in Recreation and Sport Administration. WKU is also where she spent much of her professional career, until now, where the IAVM team welcomes her with open arms.
When IAVM Junior Designer Jamie Carney submitted an entry into Association Trends Magazine’s Salute to Excellence Awards in the category of Daily or Weekly Communication for her work in the creative of the redesign of the IAVM News newsletter, she did so with the confidence that there could be a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow once the winners were selected in Washington, D.C. last Thursday.
“Definitely,” Carney said. “I thought I had a shot. I was just really excited about having a chance to redesign the newsletter. Given an opportunity to do that was good.”
It turned out to be more than good for Carney, who along with IAVM Director of Marketplace Sales Christy Jacobs was present for the gala. Having already been named a finalist due to receive a gold, silver or bronze award, Carney and Jacobs watched as IAVM’s name did not show up on the screen for the silver and bronze categories. That was when reality sunk in and the celebration began.
“They did the categories in alphabetical order,” Carney said. “When they got to our category, my heart started racing. I put my hand on Christy’s shoulder like, oh my gosh, this is it. We saw the first slide pop up and we weren’t on there, so I started slapping her arm because I was so excited. We weren’t on the screen so I knew that it was going to be the gold. Everyone at our table kind of looked at me funny and was really excited about it. It was really cool.”
And really cool describes the fortune that IAVM has with the talented and exuberant Carney. A graduate of Drury University in Springfield, Missouri, with a major in graphic design, IAVM is Carney’s first post-graduate position and one in which she has already made her mark.
As for the idea of submitting an entry, Carney said that took place last October, just months after her hire in April of last year.
“I talked to Christy about a redesign after we got back from VenueConnect,” she said. “It was after we got our new logo and had a new brand. We had an outdated newsletter that did not work with our brand. I wanted to make it look cleaner, reflect the brand, and overall more readable. It is important to give our members all of the information that they want every week from IAVM.”
Consider that mission accomplished with plenty encores certain to be a part of the talented Carney’s future.
By Emily Herr
Today, we are in a day and age (for better or worse) where we can access news and media outlets instantaneously. In many ways, venue managers have taken advantage of this by offering a wide variety of enhancements for our guests since we have access to them 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Teams and venues send emails, tweets, texts, and push notifications daily to keep our guests involved and informed. From the operational standpoint, the Buffalo Bills remind guests in the days leading up to a game of all the NFL’s best practices including ease of entry, promotions, gate entertainment elements, and the Fan Code of Conduct. We send these constant alerts to engage our fans and to set a standard for our guests before they even begin their commute to the stadium.
We focus on setting high expectations of guest services and the experiences they will have once they do arrive. In sum, we spend countless hours focusing on how to put our venue in a positive light for our guests, the NFL, and to teams/leagues around the world, not only while they are here in our venues, but every day.
But what happens when this instant access to news, media, social media, and viral videos work against you? All of the hard work you’ve put in to build a brand, tarnished by a few bad apples. What steps is your venue taking when something like this happens? Are you being proactive in addressing these issues? Are you acknowledging the issues at all? How can we do better and what are the best practices?
In a venue that had an average of over 200 ejections and more than 20 arrests per game in 2010, we have worked extremely hard to change the fan behavior and ultimately the fan experience at New Era Field. In 2011 we had the least amount of Designated Driver pledges in the NFL, but today we are proud to say we have under 50 ejections per game, we are averaging only one arrest per game, we are fighting for the third-straight Responsibility Bowl title (a TEAM Coalition initiative http://www.fansdontletfansdrivedrunk.org/nfl/responsibility-bowl-iii/), and we are sitting in the top three for most designated driver pledges in the National Football League. However, if you are someone that follows the Buffalo Bills team on Monday morning in the media, you may have no idea the changes we have made and the efforts put in by many to change these rowdy perceptions.
Some of the more notable videos this year that we have been battling include fans jumping on tables, walking, running or jumping through fire, throwing objects on the field, and binge drinking. (It’s never a good feeling as a venue manager thinking your venue could single-handedly provide enough content for Deadspin all year!) And while this may sway some people from coming to a game, or returning back to one, those of us directly involved or those of us that have season tickets know this is far from normal at New Era Field. When asked about these incidents by the media we always keep it professional and say “we are looking into it” and are “making changes to improve the fan experience,” but how many venues have the resources to actually do so? I’m happy to say I work in a venue that does!
Here is how we handle these viral videos at New Era Field:
We start with the relationships. Several years ago we started having weekly meetings with our partners from the state, county, and town including Emergency Medical Personnel, Orchard Park Police, Erie County Sheriff, Erie County Emergency Services, Buffalo Bills Security, NYS Police, Apex Security, CSC Security, NFL representatives, etc. We meet regularly with these groups to ensure that everyone is on the same page and enforcing the same fan code of conduct while still providing a high level of guest services we have preached to our fans.
We are involved in their yearly trainings. Every year these groups have stadium training. Our Vice President of Operations and Guest Experience meets with every County Sheriff that works on game days. He delivers a guest service message and explains our expectations. We also meet with all Apex and CSC security teams to ensure the same message is getting across to all of our security partners. That way if an issue does arise, everyone knows what is expected of them in handling the issue as well as what is tolerated at the stadium vs. what needs to be stopped.
We have developed a plan. A few years back we developed a multi-year plan to enhance the guest experience and remove fans acting inappropriately. First, we started inside the gates – protecting our stadium, our home. We inserted the NFL’s Fan Hotline where guests can call or text issues to an in-house number and the necessary personnel is dispatched to the location to help resolve issues in the bowl or concourses. We have ejected people who were unruly, fighting, or violating the fan code of conduct. Our security teams keep a close eye on those entering the stadium. If they appear to be intoxicated, we do not allow them access to the stadium as we know their condition will only get worse. Buffalo Bills Security has installed security cameras throughout the entire stadium and we have adopted the NFL’s Fan Code of Conduct policy that makes every guest that has been ejected, turned around at the gates, or arrested take a 4-hour online class before returning to the stadium. Our ticket office has had a big hand in helping us instill this by freezing tickets if the offender is a season ticket member.
The second phase of this plan was moving out to our parking lots. In Buffalo, we have over 12,000 parking spaces on our property and several more thousand in surrounding lots. We have placed additional security in all of our parking lots on foot, golf cart, and horse. We know many of these videos that have gained the most attention take place outside of our venue. Since placing additional armed sheriffs and Apex guards in the parking lots, our issues have decreased significantly.
The third phase is making efforts to control the surrounding private lots. We know this is where those image-damaging viral videos are taking place, because there is minimal security and no supervision of the property. While this phase is still in motion, we have started by requiring the residents with private lots to have permits for their space. The next hopeful step is for Sheriff and New York State Troopers to gain access into these lots to observe and be proactive in the lots in addressing fan behavior issues when necessary.
The Plan in action: Fortunately, we have been very successful over the past several years implementing our plan with the help and support of our security partners. One of our viral videos from last year showed a man sliding down the railing from the 300 level and in the end, falling down to the 100 level. Thankfully no one was badly injured, but due to the camera systems and our security partners we were able to find out who the individual was and we were able to take action. We revoked his tickets and banned him from our stadium. This year, one of our viral videos showed two guests throwing an object onto the field. Luckily, the two brothers couldn’t stop bragging about it and because of this, we used social media to track them down, find their website, and reach out to them directly. They too have had their season tickets revoked and are not allowed back into the stadium. Lastly, we had a viral video that involved binge drinking in one of our private parking lots. The Orchard Park Police in conjunction with the Buffalo Police, found this individual realized there was a warrant for his arrest and the necessary action was taken to ensure he will not return to our venue. In working with the law enforcement officials and media partners, we were also able to hold press conferences announcing these reactions to show how serious we are taking inappropriate fan behavior at our games. They are not true representations of our fan base and work directly against the guest experience we have worked so hard to create.
Fortunately, our efforts are not going unnoticed. We have improved our ejection/arrest numbers tremendously over the last five years, we have moved from worst in the league to top three in the NFL in designated driver pledges, and we have improved the overall experience for thousands of our guests. But most importantly, many of the returning season ticket holders have written letters, called, emailed, or thanked us in person for making these improvements. Ticket holders that said they would never bring their children or grandchildren to a Bills game, can comfortably do so again. I’m fortunate enough to work in a venue that takes these behaviors seriously and actually wants to improve our image in the media. With enough time and continued efforts, I believe we can change the mentality of ALL of our fans and end the damaging viral videos.
What actions is your venue taking to make sure your image isn’t tarnished by viral videos?
Emily Herr is coordinator of event services for the Buffalo Bills and currently serves on the IAVM Stadium Committee.
When Levitt Foundation Executive Director Sharon Yazowski got together with other producing organizations across the country to float the idea of a webinar for performance venues, little did she know that the dominos would start falling and her private foundation would join with IAVM for staff training for the organization’s six (and soon to be seven) venues that feature free concerts in an outdoor setting for their communities.
We’re all aware of the incidents that have been happening on public spaces across the country over the past two years,” she said. “All of our venues are outdoor spaces. We have become more proactive in terms of how we are preparing for unfortunate situations should they happen.”
That very scenario, in fact, played out last June when protesters disrupted an outdoor concert at the Levitt Pavilion Arlington (Texas) in a demonstration against a grand jury’s decision not to indict a police trainee who fatally shot a teenager the previous year. Two of the protesters were reportedly armed with rifles. One person with an AK-47 was arrested for disorderly conduct at the concert by the Humming House band, which reportedly drew an audience of about 3,000 people.
“The protesters marched on the lawn and wanted to get on stage, so it was an incident that disrupted the performance,” Yazowski said. “It became very clear that these sorts of things could happen at Levitt venues because they are open to the public. The executive director at the venue, Patti Diou, reached out to (IAVM Director of Education) Mark Herrera because she had heard him speak during the webinar.”
Herrera conducted onsite training with the Levitt Arlington team, and after Diou reported back to Yazowski that it was an “incredibly positive experience and we should provide the training for all the executive directors at the venues,” the wheels were set in motion for the group to become proactive in its support and resources to its venues across the country.
“We invited Mark to join our executives,” Yazowski said. “It was a wonderful experience and really just the tip of the iceberg. The training was set to get everyone’s minds thinking in a circular way. We are now working with Mark and IAVM to develop onsite training for all our venues so that he is not only working with executive leadership but also with those on the front line … the staff, production crew, volunteers and others.”
Yazowski acknowledged that preventing those with bad intentions can’t always be headed off, but without advance training the chances for safeguarding venues drop significantly.
“Sometimes no matter how much training you do, you can’t prevent something from happening,” she said. “But if you are trained you have the tools, you have the knowledge, to diffuse the situation as quickly as possible. We want to make sure we are putting measures in place that would make our sites undesirable to that sort of interruption, but if an event happens all of our people are ready to manage the situation in an efficient manner that can secure everybody and ensure everyone’s safety as quickly as possible.”
Based in Los Angeles, the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation’s website describes the foundation as one “dedicated to reinvigorating America’s public spaces through creative place-making and creating opportunities for everyone to experience the performing arts. The need for more third places—those informal gathering spots outside the realms of home and the workplace—has become increasingly clear in today’s world and guides us in our community-driven efforts. Our goal is to reflect the best of American city life by creating community and social interaction among people of all ages and backgrounds; empowering cities across America to reclaim green spaces and reinvigorate public spaces; and ensuring the performing arts are accessible to all through high quality, free concerts.”
“We are a national funder so we provide grants to each of the venues, and we facilitate network dialogue and network cohesion, but each of the individual venues has its own team in place that’s responsible for the programming and the sustainability of the venue and what happens on the ground level,” Yazowski said. “We support them in those efforts and provide training resources, but ultimately they will work with Mark in a way that makes the most sense for their venue and for their communities.”
Yazowski said that the leaders in place at the Levitt venues all exemplify the organization’s ideals.
“They are excellent at what they do,” she said. “These venues are an integral part of their community. They are really excited to have this opportunity because they know it will benefit the venue and it will benefit the community at large.”