Opportunity Cost…What is That?

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When I was in high school circa 1983-1987, one class that was part of my curriculum was economics. At that point, I did have a plan to run a business or even greater, a plan to promote business. Truth be told, I knew I had a love for communication, but I also loved design and engineering. Even though I can think back and remember many great learning moments from many of my classes, the term Opportunity Cost is a term that I have never forgotten.

Defined as I remember it, Opportunity Cost is the value of the most valuable alternative. According to Wikipedia (2016), “In microeconomic theory, the opportunity cost of a choice is the value of the best alternative forgone where, given limited resources, a choice needs to be made between several mutually exclusive alternatives. Assuming the best choice is made, it is the “cost” incurred by not enjoying the benefit that would have been had by taking the second best available choice.” If you are like me when I read stuff like this, there is a glaze over the eyes and loss of interest growing in this blog post and in microeconomic theory. However, stay with me! Explained further, The New Oxford American Dictionary defines it as “the loss of potential gain from other alternatives when one alternative is chosen.”

Opportunity cost is a key concept in economics, and has been described as expressing “the basic relationship between scarcity and choice.” The notion of opportunity cost plays a crucial part in attempts to ensure that scarce resources are used efficiently (The New Oxford American Dictionary 2016). Wikipedia continues by suggesting that opportunity costs are not restricted to monetary or financial costs: the real cost of output forgone, lost time, pleasure or any other benefit that provides utility should also be considered an opportunity cost (Wikipedia, 2016).

There are terms above that I feel as an industry we should focus on and understand how words and behaviors play a role in our environment. At the end of the last paragraph, you read, “costs are not restricted to monetary or financial costs: the real cost of output forgone, lost time, pleasure or any other benefit that provides value should also be considered.” Looking back at the history of opportunity cost, Benjamin Franklin used the term, “Time is Money” which is still readily used today. This is easy to digest! Frederic Bastiat uses the terms experience and foresight and dives into economic theory deeper. This is good so hold on! Bastiat suggests that, experience teaches how to produce a desired effect. It is these effects and the act of suggesting use that shows us how to learn. It is through the process of using and learning that we achieve foresight. This makes us professionals! Bastiat has many great lessons about business or doing business. One theory or story that correlates to our industry is contrasting the seen with not seen and the arguments for expenditure. After reading his stories, the thought that came to mind was Pinterest. How “Do-It-Yourself” (DIY) has influenced our industry both positively as well as negatively. Even though I share some insight here, my point comes down to and focuses on costs. Where is it seen and where is it not seen?

All too often, we see vendors doing as well as clients getting something for nothing. What is the value of the most valuable alternative? If we continue to devalue our experience and ourselves to include our services, our industry will not grow and flourish nor will we. By showing value that includes experience and foresight in the processes and products we can produce vs the valuable alternative Pinterest that lacks experience and foresight in the processes and products suggested for some DIY novice to achieve; we can reclaim confidence in our abilities and our industry. Sure sites like Pinterest have a place and ideas, but so do we!

When you ask yourself about the value of joining and interacting with other like-minded professionals, think of what is not gained and lost by not learning an answer to a simple question that has plagued you and your business for years. What answer or idea can elevate your business to the next level? You can find out by asking your question or leaving a comment here. Better yet, ask me in person at the next ILEA mixer or program. Why wait, when you can learn more now.

Membership has its Privileges…but does it really matter?

MembershipMatters

During the past several months, our International Live Event Association (ILEA) membership committee has been working long hours to promote and grow membership of our local chapter. Although you can join our international community and local chapter at any point in a given year, there are certain timeframes that we seek out new members. During our May 2016 membership drive at Dave & Buster’s, Kevin Molesworth, CSEP from our Austin chapter talked about membership and what it can do for you. Molesworth used the analogy of a gym membership and discussed why people join gyms; yet fail to meet goals because they do not put in the necessary time required to attain success. Too often, people get a membership, join a group or association, but fail in their attempts to participate by going to meetings and simply networking. Josh at Limelight San Antonio produced an incredible video that established the essence of what an ILEA membership can do for you by expressing and explaining what it has done for others! Click here to watch the video.

Molesworth had many talking points and the crowd was excited about his message. Whether you heard his message or not, where are you today? Did you join? If you were a previous member, did you renew? We start our year with numbers in the 70’s, but why not more considering the size of our local industry. Jeremy Miller at stickybranding.com wrote an interesting post about membership and stated possible reasons for low numbers when it comes to membership. According to Miller (2015), professional associations are experiencing a transformation, membership numbers are declining, event participation is fading and recruiting new members is getting more difficult.

In Miller’s article, Belinda Moore, CEO of Australasian Society of Association Executives, writes, “A number of powerful generational, cultural and economic forces are colliding to create a perfect storm that will make the next 5-20 years some of the toughest ever faced by associations. Associations who don’t adapt face a slow decline into obscurity.” Furthermore, Miller suggests that the idea of “membership” is being challenged. Some experts argue that the membership model is dead, and suggest that people do not want to pay dues to belong to an organization (Miller, 2015).

In his post, Miller (2015) refers to the idea of communities and suggests that communities are a natural extension of the digital world. In addition, he suggests that social media provides a method to connect, participate, and learn and you can get it all free (Miller, 2015). He feels that you can socialize with peers every day on Facebook, so why go to a networking event. Miller refers to a generational divide and infers that young professionals lean toward social media and prefer to participate in a group of peers online vs physically meet, network and engage in basic communication and human interaction. Although he argues that people are happy to pay for services and connections they value, he does infer that our society desires free products and services too for no value!

The problem within the virtual communities and some of their participants is that most lack accountability as well as credibility. The voiceless and faceless interaction contained online has created an environment of fake and unrealistic communication. Do not get me wrong, there is some good in many online communities! However, Twitters 140 characters will never compare to face-to-face interaction and learning someone’s true character in a genuine conversation. Should society or our online community judge you and your business by your appearance and posts on social media and related communities?

The point is that membership to an organization can deliver a higher value of interaction that can elevate your abilities personally and professionally and provide benefits of engagement that you cannot encounter online. Miller (2015) proposes that membership is not dead. I agree! In our industry, we each seek to enhance the event with our talents and trade therefore improving the overall experience for our clients.

Why join an association like ILEA and pay for a membership experience. If you are seeking to better your business, expand and connect with like-minded professionals, you must join an association that can extend your reach. You can do this by attending meetings and engaging members face-to-face, which will better your experience personally and professionally.

Miller (2015) ends by suggesting that organizations based on memberships thrive if we connect equally with members and non-members. Moreover, it is suggested that this process will build a community that brings people together and provide them a reason to participate. I do agree that it is important to connect with members in our industry and share the importance of our ILEA community and our message. Nevertheless, Molesworth’s gym analogy about using membership to your advantage must be part of your accountability to meet goals in order to attain desired success. If you have not watched the video linked above, please do! How much value do you place on you? How much value do you place on your business? Do you want to increase your overall value? Becoming an active member does have privileges that matter! Connect, participate, and learn more by engaging with any ILEA member today!

The Art of Networking

AAEAAQAAAAAAAAIRAAAAJDc3NTQ4NTVjLWZkZjQtNDQwYy1iZmE5LWY2Njg1NjUyNmEwNQLike many of you, I often attend various industry mixers including open houses and other social gatherings. Although I spend most of my time in a roll where communication is a necessity, interacting at industry gatherings and meetings does not come as easy. Frankly, I find myself in more of a reserved mode vs outgoing and receptive to others. It is not that I do not want to interact, talk business and exchange knowledge, consequently, at the end of the day I am ready to just watch and listen.

networking 01Recently as I was looking for items to write and blog about but ultimately experiencing writers block. ISES member Kevin Lewis CSEP from FreemanXP in San Francisco, CA. posted a thread about event network strategies. After reading his post and following a helpful link, I felt compelled to share with our local ISESSA family. In his post, Kevin suggests that in our industry we do a lot of networking, both intentionally and unintentionally. It is amazing how much time we each spend each day doing just that. A few weeks ago, ISESSA member Art Menchaca and I were discussing the importance of networking and best methods to approach others. After reading the post by Lewis, his approach and resource he shared may be what can lead me and you to a better networking experience.

Lewis always follow these 3 rules:

  1. Show up on time – this allows time to walk the room and get the ‘lay of the land’. I also get a chance to determine which food stations look the most attractive before I start ‘filling up’ at the nearest station. I was reminded of this rule recently when listening to fellow ISES member and speaker Roger Haskett [https://twitter.com/rogerhaskett].
  2. Eat first – this allows me to enjoy the food before connecting with others. Everyone knows it’s hard to meet new people with food in your mouth!
  3. Listen more than talk – Making a great connection is often a challenge and it’s therefore important to start off on the right foot. The SF Bay Area events industry is smaller than most people think and I therefore usually run into people at least a second time. I’ve found I can make a better connection after familiarity has been established. I’ve also learned people are much more receptive if I wait until they ask me what I do or what I can offer. If they don’t ask the first time we meet, I take the opportunity to tell them during the second interaction.

Additionally Lewis shared a link to a story that offers 21 ways to network with anyone. Here is the direct link to the article on levo.com: (click here). Jessica Mattern is who wrote the story and shared her career advice and 21 ideas to start a conversation. Here are just a few of her ideas…

  1. “So, what brought you here tonight?” 
  2. “How did you get involved with [name of organization]”?
  3. “How long have you been with [name of organization]?”
  4. “What did you think of [name of speaker]”?
  5. “Have you been to one of these events before?” 
  6. “What do you do at [name of company]?” 
  7. “How did you get into [industry]?” 

Business Social Networking VectorYou can read and see more ideas on Mattern’s blog on levo.com. Lewis said that he was inspired to share his event networking strategy with his fellow ISES community members and I felt this was great knowledge to share here too. Lewis said he has a number of conversation-starters as well as other strategies. Look for me to be using some if not all of these ideas from Mattern’s blog and from fellow ISES member Lewis at future ISESSA meetings. Lewis asked the question in his post and I ask here: What works for you? Share your knowledge or strategies here or with me at the next ISESSA mixer. Happy networking! ISES membership drive is just around the corner. There are many benefits to joining and even more benefits by getting involved in this or other industry groups. Learn more from any of the active ISESSA members. #celebrateISESSA

Just Fun!

An artists' rendering shows the redesign of the water park aarea of the West Edmonton Mall in this handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO

“Life is about taking chances, trying new things, having fun, making mistakes and learning from it.” – Unknown

In my early college days circa 1989, I worked on a project with a roommate called “Just Fun”. My roommate needed an idea for an engineering class and together we brainstormed with a simple idea. Of course, the idea was simple; putting together the actual logistics and cost for a structure to support the idea and bring it to reality was no small task. The project never made it off the page nor out of the classroom. Going through the creative process for the design and implementation was—fun! I felt it would be neat to have a venue that would provide fun that would be attractive to all people seeking all types of fun under one roof. The idea stemmed from the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada. According to Wikipedia, the West Edmonton Mall is the largest shopping mall in North America and the tenth largest in the world (along with The Dubai Mall). It was the world’s largest mall until 2004. Today, there are many smaller versions of such attractions or complexes that I had envisioned. It makes me wonder where I would be if I decided to follow my engineering passion instead of communications.

“We didn’t realize we were making memories…we just knew we were having fun.” – Unknown

Decades later, I still find myself brainstorming and building environments that are constructed around fun! Although the logistics are different, there are still cost considerations, other realities to discuss and clarify while working and negotiating with clients and the contract. The result of what I do and what we do is largely based on an experience. There is fluidity in the process and in the result. I would suggest that it is through collaborative efforts that we achieve the result. Even though we fail as an industry to meet and discuss the important guidelines or the vision of each event, the goal is the same. I suggest fluidity in the process because of the ebb and flow of options and budgets for those planning. I propose fluidity in the result because the experience for the attendees can differ greatly. As a business, my goal is to deliver what is promised including what my clients refer to as “fun”! As a professional, I must understand their impression of fun and know how to apply and implement it for others who may not subscribe to their perspective of fun. As an entertainer, I accept that everyone’s idea of fun spans the Likert Scaling spectrum and at any point, the experience can be elevated or demoted by factors outside my control. Simply stated, our clients and their guests are judging how favorable each item/event/song is with respect to their construct of interest. This suggestion of interest and participation can redirect our purpose and the role we play in the process of fun. The lack of interest, leads to the lack of participation and therefore the lack of fun.

“I am doing exactly what I want to do, and I am having fun doing it.” – David Johansen

Recently, I spent time training a new employee. His attraction to the work was based on fun! He would make comments like, “This looks like fun; …that looks like fun, or wouldn’t it be fun if…” while preparing for our events or while interacting with others. Being introspective, I tried to analyze if I have lost his youthful perspective of fun and if our idea of fun was even on the same page. I questioned the possibility that our idea of fun may not be on the same page and if so, how different could it be. In short, I was aware of the difference. I too, made such comments but acted on the thought vs wondering what would happen if I acted! I have the knowledge, the experience and the wherewithal to create, put into practice, recreate, redistribute, re-purpose and react as needed in a given situation. What fun! We all do this in our own way and do so because we can.

“When you have confidence, you can have a lot of fun. And when you have fun, you can do amazing things.” – Joe Namath

Some questioned our industry and line of work. Others have experienced our work and seen the passion that engulfs every aspect of our character, business, industry and overall professionalism. Looking back, I had the confidence to design and create an idea of fun. Today, confidence allows me to act and deliver fun as an experience to many people seeking fun under many roofs. Now that is fun! Celebrate what you do because the impact is greater than you know. #celebrateisessa

Following Your Passion; It’s Past, Present and Future!

Where are you?

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” – Harriet Tubman

In the winter edition of the Special Events magazine, Lisa Hurley shares a story about Janice Blackmon in The Last Word “A Way with Weddings.” The short article mentions simple aspects of life that feed each of us as we conduct business each day and manage life. The terms that captured my attention were “follow my passion”, “what the future may hold”, “technology”, “client behavior”, “narrow down…ideas…to make…more cohesive…vision”, “right now”, and “immediate feedback”. These words may hold meaning for you too; on the other hand, you may use different words to express that which allows you to be part of this industry and thrive.

“Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” – Oprah Winfrey

This somewhat obscure collection of words mentioned above surrounds us daily as we labor on and toward the energy needed to conduct or run a business. This is understood and we often shared these words and even more so by actions! This past month like many of you, I spent time preparing and focusing on wedding fairs and open houses. It has been a whirlwind of client interviews or what I refer to as first dates. It is a constant effort to take care of our current clients as well as engage with new clients. Rain, snow, sleet or shine, we have the passion for what we do that guides us through the (insert you word here…) to attain our goals in business and in life. I feel we all want to achieve success even though the path we take, the methods we use and share differ. The result expected is the same…success!

“It is obvious that we can no more explain a passion to a person who has never experienced it than we can explain light to the blind.” – T. S. Eliot

In the article, the sidebar note mentions that it takes a team. We each look for motivation, inspiration, clarification, suggestion and answers as we navigate the daily back and forth of negotiation and compromise. When I was studying for my bachelors, we discussed access to technology and those who have access and have not. We would get into deep discussions about the impact of access or use of technology i.e. the internet and the opportunity to access knowledge…the good, bad or indifferent. Would such access have a positive impact on a given community or negative impact? Does access to a site like Pinterest or other social media sites have a positive or negative impact on our community or industry?

 “Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” – Anthony J. D’Angelo

I agree with a statement that Blackmon shares in the article. She states that, “I am constantly working with my brides to narrow down all of their ideas to make things more cohesive for their vision” (Special Events – Winter 2016). Blackmon continues to talk about other factors such as the “want it right now” mentality and “immediate feedback.” There is a delicate balance to these processes but even more important is the ability to educate the client about options and opportunities and the possible reality that we are not the right person for the job. Learning and knowing the right person or business that would suggest a better result for the client or allow collaboration by a team of industry specialists may be the better option to present to our client. Get to know your ability and others!

“You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.” – Steve Jobs

January is the time of the year when we look back as well as look forward. Jean-Paul Sartre claimed, “We must act out passion before we can feel it.” Mia Hamm exclaimed, “If you don’t love what you do, you won’t do it with much conviction or passion.” Wanda Skyes stated, “If you feel like there’s something out there that you’re supposed to be doing, if you have a passion for it, then stop wishing and just do it.” Lastly, Barbara Corcoran argues, “You can’t fake passion.” I love being part of the special events industry! I love this community of passionate people who get to follow their dreams and evoke inspiration weekly if not daily. Share your passion, your knowledge, and you with the world. Be present today and don’t forget to celebrate!

To be or not to be – What is the role that we are paid to play?

A few months ago, I read a Facebook post about a DJ who took over 200 photos at a wedding. He was not hired to be the photographer, but he took pictures to promote his business and to promote good will (i.e. free images) to the bridal couple and family on his social media site. There is more to the story! I clicked through to the full story posted on Petapixel.com and read the intense dialog between professionals and non-professionals. It was nothing short of personal attacks, inaccurate details and pintsized knowledge and opinions. We all toy with diversity and depth in our businesses, however, is there a point reached where what we are doing does more damage than good for our industry? One statement posted suggests, “Real professionals know their role and respect other businesses.” How much truth is there to this statement?

I like many of you have a passion for what I do in the industry. I have taken time to watch, listen and learn from industry experts and others who offered their opinions and perspectives as mentors or leaders. I extend my education academically with a Master’s in Education. This willingness to learn is an on-going process and the lessons learned are not always easy to accept and assimilate through the process. This past year during the February 2015 ISES meeting, Kevin Molesworth from Brass Tacks Events shared his presentation about ethical and unethical practices. Amy Mader with Platinum Weddings and Events spoke to us in June 2015 about contracts and insurance. It was apparent that we are all in the same boat when it comes to the service/leisure/hospitality industry. We have similar business and client issues. We can learn from each other. We can hurt each other too. Whether we are providing services for a wedding or some other special event, the result or raincloud that surrounds it can be a benefit or disadvantage to our city, industry, and business. So where do we go from here? What is the real issue with the post mentioned above? How can we prevent the negative discourse and amplify the positive?

This past August, a fellow ISES SA member posted a question on Facebook about negative comments posted publicly on the social media site by employees. Issues like this can cause a flood of inquiry even if it is just poking fun at something or someone at an event. A legal response could follow if the content posted damages the person or business intentionally or non-intentional in the social environment. It could be considered a blatant attack. Something like this is not water under the bridge, rather a storm that can damage not just business, but a community for years. On the passionate thread of the story mentioned above, someone stated that this issue would self-correct itself and I agree. As much as some claim what they posted is private, the medium is public and the imprint of such content and comments can cultivate lives of their own and live on longer than expected or desired. We see how such inferences have damaged businesses and lives. Again, I ask, “Where do we go from here? What is the real issue with the post mentioned above? How can we prevent the negative discourse and amplify the positive?”

My mother told me if I did not have something nice to say, I should not say anything! I like to adhere to the simple “Golden Rule” and treat others how I want to be treated. These issues in this today’s digital age and online society make negative faceless attacks easy. Forms of bullying and negative press span social media and our industry is caught up in the fury just as quickly as other industries and communities. In the thread below the story mentioned above, many mention having the courtesy to let someone do their job and it is that simple. We are hired to do a job and play a role. Our personal and business reputation has opened that door to share our success. We should pause before we criticize another professional’s role and gain knowledge directly from him or her. We are hired to do what we do best! Overstepping our bounds or changing the script surrounding our role can lead to an unfortunate ending and legal ramifications in some cases. We must learn to better communicate and collaborate…as the professionals we claim to be. We must clarify points of interest that could cause conflict. This is what we do every week and for some…daily. Our clients, for the most part, do not have the knowledge that we each have attained from years if not decades of work and events…no matter what Pinterest can connect in seconds. Over 400 comments were made in five days with this story and the atmosphere was extremely negative. We are at these events as professionals. We should act as such in every given scenario. The end goal is achieved with happy clients and success for all involved! As we progress forward in 2016, I ask you to think of what can make a difficult given moment a better moment and positive learning experience for us, our industry and the clients we represent. Share your thoughts about moments that have made you—better and you in return have played that experience forward. #celebrateisessa