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Maximizing Event Engagement: How Hard Rock International Delights Attendees and Creates Sales Insights on the Trade Show Floor

In this conversation with Shelley Williams, Director of Global Sales at Hard Rock International, Andy Sharpe, Founder and CEO of SongDivision, and Michael Hoffman, CEO of Gather Voices, we explore best practices for creating high-value event experiences.

To maximize the return of your event engagement, you must create unforgettable experiences that foster long-term relationships between attendees and your brand, while simultaneously creating the sales insights your team needs to convert those attendees into customers. 

In partnership with the talented musicians at SongDivision and the video marketing experts at Gather Voices, the Hard Rock International team did just that at IMEX 2022. 

Throughout this conversation, you’ll learn: 

  • What event attendees expect from brands as they return to in-person events
  • The secret to creating authentic brand experiences that resonate on the show floor
  • How to use video to build excitement, broaden your reach, and generate insights
  • Strategies for extending engagement on the show floor to year-round impact

Video Transcript

Michael Hoffman: Hello everyone. I'm Michael Hoffman from Gather Voices, and I'm really excited to have Shelley and Andy here with me today to talk about how to create engaging live event experiences that add year round value. We know that events are coming back in a big way and so I'm thrilled to be able to have this conversation with two of the most amazing event engagement experts that I know.

Shelley, will you introduce yourself and then, and then Andy, I'll have you do the same. 

Shelley Williams: Hi everyone. My name is Shelley Williams. I am the Director of Global Sales for Hard Rock International, focusing on the meetings and events communities. 

Andy Sharpe: Hi Michael. Thanks for having us. Andy Sharpe. I'm the  Founder and CEO of SongDivision. We strengthen corporate culture using the science of music. 

Michael Hoffman: Awesome. Well, you know, I want to talk about the things that we've done together, but first I just talk about events generally. We just came through the biggest disruption ever. You couldn't even have invented a bigger disruption than Covid. Things just stopped and people were into virtual events in between there.

But I feel like today people really want to be back in person. There's an incredible momentum to the event industry. So, Shelley, how do you see that playing out today? 

Shelley Williams: Yeah. Thanks Michael. You know, I agree. It was a, it was a really tough time for a lot of us. The music didn't stop in my world and that was a good thing.

However, there is this unbelievable momentum. I would say that's a really good word to really connect with people through that culture and how they do it is really an interesting thing of how they're coming back. They're craving this one-on-one face-to-face contact more and more.

The attendance level hasn't necessarily been increasing at what we can see in the events industry, simply because there's so many more events that are happening all over the place. So there's certainly a lot of people moving and getting out into conferences and kind of mixing and melding into different communities. It's just the plethora of events that are happening in today's time in relation to where they were is hard to keep up with, put it that way.

Michael Hoffman: And Andy, what do you think around this? How are you feeling that excitement from in-person events at the moment and how do you see that playing out?

Andy Sharpe: Yeah, there's definitely a lot of pent up demand for in-person events. So I think globally there's a lot of events going on on the virtual front, just to be a little bit contrary about it. We still see a lot of virtual events happening, and they're not mutually exclusive.

I think there's the whole meeting mixed throughout the year for companies. They now know they can save some money having certain meetings online, but that doesn't mean you can just do it all online. It makes getting people together in person even more important. So I think it's putting a focus on: what events are you gonna do in person? What's the purpose for it? How are you gonna make it really engaging and really memorable? And, you know, I think it's an exciting time for all of us. 

Michael Hoffman: Yeah. Andy, let me just follow up with you on that. I want to talk a little bit about the expectations of events.

So there are virtual events and you know, at the beginning of Covid it was like, we're all together on Zoom. And everybody was happy with that. And that's not enough anymore. And with in-person events, I think people have learned that: hey, I don't need to travel necessarily for some educational session.

Right. I want to go to meet people and do things. So, I'd love your thoughts on just how the expectations have changed and, and how you see that playing out. 

Andy Sharpe: Yeah, we're experiencing it as we speak. I can use this as an example because it’s in the press in Australia. We're involved with a five week program for PwC.

They know that they can cover the  more dry business content virtually with their teams across the country and across Asia Pacific. But they're bringing in a lot of people into the Hunter Valley near Sydney, which is like Napa. And it's all about connection.

It's all about engagement. It's all about feeling emotions and belonging and having unique experiences. There's really no business content in the conference at all. They call it Corporate Coachella. And I think that is a direct result of what's happened at Covid. 

I was reading something from one of the Hard Rock team today. I think it came from an IMEX brief. It was like, when you're on a trade show booth don't kill them with lists of information. It's like, how do you make them feel? It's that old adage, how do you make them feel? What's the emotional connection? 

Because we all go back to our corners of the globe and the country and the office and get on with the day-to-day business running. But those personal relationships are a result of spending time together. And so, what are you gonna do when you're spending time together?

How are you gonna interact each other and get to know each other a bit more quickly than usual? Let your guard down. And I think they're the design elements that, as event producers, we have to be really thinking about if we're gonna spend the money to get everyone in person. 

Shelley Williams: Yeah. Andy, you make a good point. If we're coming back and we're excited to be back, what are we doing differently?

What did we learn? Right? And virtual has a purpose. We connect to crave. We need to learn. But when we do get together, let's not do the same old thing. And that's one of the things that we've always tried to attempt to do. My team gets together on a trade show. We spend oodles of dollars getting everybody together, and they sit behind laptops showing them static pictures. 

I'm like, no, no, no, no. That's not what we're here for. And that's why, together with SongDivision, we try and make it memorable. It's what do they remember about the engagement that they've had with us that makes it different from everyone else. 

Michael Hoffman: Yeah Shelley, that's really interesting because I there's this idea of the emotional person and the relationships that Andy mentioned as well, and people feeling connected. And I also feel like there's a trend in business and B2B buying that's very technical and very focused on price. On the one hand, people are not making deals over golf like they used to. Things that just ran on relationships in the old days; it doesn't quite work today.

What's the difference between that and what you're talking about? Because I’m trying to get a little bit more in depth on that because I do see that mixed trend in the B2B space. Like we want to connect with buyers, we want to give people an emotional experience. We know people are emotional creatures, but we also know that what you're offering is key.

And this idea of fit fitting the technical spec of what people need. 

Shelley Williams: Yeah, we certainly don't do business on the backside of the napkin anymore, that's for sure. And the days of golfing for four to six hours, nobody has the time, but we still crave that relationship and making sure they understand what we need.

And I think the way you differentiate yourself in that regard about understanding their need and solving a problem that they have becomes that relationship catalyst that you need. What do you learn about them in a really fun, engaging way instead of just asking them straight out questions: do you have a dog?

Well, I can find out if you have a dog in a different way. How are we using this creative pulse of where we're at today? You know, don't drop a LinkedIn DM and say: hey, you know me because you read my profile. How about you do a little bit of warm intro first. And then maybe I'll talk to you. A lot of way the ways we interact today with our customers and how we get that connection in a B2B way isn't the same as we did before.

I know all of our friends in the industry, we’re a very close-knit community in the events industry. But we also desire to raise above and really get to know each other and connect at a different level. And if we solve the problems collectively that we all have, because we all get frustrated with the same ways of the same mundane type of let's go to the same event, do the same thing, same cocktail party, this, that and the other.

If we do things differently, people start to recognize it. 

Michael Hoffman: Yeah. And Andy, coming from the music direction, it's a super emotional connecting thread that really can connect people and make those experiences meaningful. Do you feel that tension at all between delivering the company value in a certain way and then that emotional experience?

Andy Sharpe: Let me just talk about the trade show for a second. You hear those reports of X billions of dollars was done on the trade show floor. And I'm always picturing people out signing contracts and that’s not my main experience is like people are sitting there actually signing multimillion dollar deals on trade show floors.

It may happen. I don't think that's the norm. I'm sure Gather Voices and and Hard Rock have the same experience where you've got a client that you've already had some sort of relationship with. They've got an event coming up and they want to do some business. They're gonna say: Hey, I've got this event in two months in this city. I've got this budget. Let's talk specifics. 

That happens on the trade show floor, but I think most of what we're trying to do is creating new relationships, strengthening old ones so that for the rest of the year, our sales teams and marketing departments have this relationship with these people.There's a face to the name, there's some sort of rapport,so that they can get into fulfilling the needs of the business and generating a sustainable, profitable business. 

On the music front, I know it’s a strange response when you asked me what I did and and that is what we do. We strengthen corporate culture using the science of music. The science part is actually pretty simple. When you're putting on a corporate event and people are turning up, we get involved. We just did a 23,000 person post merger and acquisition. People are turning up, they're a little bit anxious.

Sales kickoffs, they're fun events, but you're often turning up to meet people that you have haven't met in person before. You might have never actually met your boss these days or other coworkers. There's a little bit of cortisol floating around your brain, just to keep it pretty simple.

And most people are familiar with this. Cortisol puts you into your amygdala. It's that flight or fright, so you get a bit defensive. The music, especially the co-creation of music, so singing in a choir or writing a song together, which is what we do, actually releases what's called the “cuddle chemical.”

Oxytocin puts you into your prefrontal cortex, and prefrontal cortex is where you want you want your attendees at an event to be. It makes you empathetic, creative, strategic. So quite simply, using music, which is what we do, which is why we partner with Hard Rock and Gather Voices, is how we put people there quite quickly by creating music with them in a matter of minutes.

We can take them from: oh, I don't know about this. I'm a little bit out of my comfort zone to: big smiles. There's warmth. There's a real feeling. I can see the smiles on both your faces because you've experienced it before. And then you can talk business after it. I'll get in trouble for saying this, but it's almost a little bit like we're a drug dealer coming in and sort of giving everyone the drug that puts them in the meeting mindset. It's scientific, but it's pretty simple.

Michael Hoffman: I love that, Andy. I'm asking you about the soft sides and the business stuff. And the real answer is that you need this emotional layer to make it possible for people to pay attention and engage and do the things that are the business things. I think that's really powerful.

Andy Sharpe: Yeah. If you're spending a million bucks on a meeting, flying everyone in to Cancun or to Fort Lauderdale or to Singapore or wherever… And you've got them there. You want them to be in the right mindset. So yeah, when people are a bit unsure about SongDivision or any other sort of creative process, which is seen as a bit light and fluffy, it's protecting your investment is how we see it. That that's why we get booked for events. 

Michael Hoffman: Excellent. Well, I want to talk about the incredible case study of the things we've done together, but first let’s just talk in general about what you're seeing in the events industry. 

You know, people are wanting to go to in-person events to connect to each other more. They're wanting different kind of things online. What are you seeing in the event industry today in general and how that's playing out?

Shelley Williams: I'll start with that. It’s the competition of time, right? And there's just multiple events and you just really need to be on your game.

You need to be doing things a little bit out of the ordinary, a little bit out of the box, but also things that they can share back home because there's a lot of times people don't realize what we do in the events industry. And so sometimes they just don't share what they've done or what it's like or where they've been or who they've met.

So a lot of those times when we're trying to share outside of our community to the buyers, to the people that actually purchase our product outside of the community that already knows our product, many times they're unaware of what we do. And because we're enjoying this experience, if we don't give them the opportunity or the content to share, sometimes we sell ourselves short.

So one of the things that we've done, particularly with Gather Voices, is really to create that FOMO. Why can't I do that too? And it opens up what we do by allowing people to see in, be curious and interrogate what is going on when you go to these conferences. How are you doing these things and what are you doing?

It looks like you're having a great time. We know it's arduous work. But we're spending the time to make sure that that person is in the best light, that they've got the experience, and that they're in the mindset, as Andy says, to be able to do their best work. 

Michael Hoffman: Okay, great. Well, let's talk about the thing we did together. Starting with you, Shelley, I just want to start at a really high level. What are we doing? What are the goals? When you're exhibiting at an IMEX or somewhere you're spending dollars, what are you trying to achieve? And let's start at that high level and talk about that.

Shelley Williams: Yeah, we break it down in a couple ways, obviously from the budget and the ROI perspective, right? So for us it's giving my partners the best selling platform possible, right? To optimize that selling experience is really what it is. Many times we'll have a collection of different hotels that are coming to a particular outing to actually get in front of a community of buyers.

When I think about that and I think about what my partners ask us for, it's to deliver high quality customers to be able to sell and to allow us to showcase what we do with our brand. A lot of times it's misperceived. What does Hard Rock do? What can they provide us in the meetings and events world?

And so for us, in many cases, it's: how do I solve that misperception? Number one, how do I give them the best optimized selling environment possible? How do I engage with my buyer so that they'll actually be attracted to hear the message that we have? And then what do I collect as content after the fact that I could use on a perennial basis?

So it’s four things that make up that strategy for us, right? Obviously we're spending the money. We need to, we need to make sure that our brand image and perception is set in the marketplace, right? We need to think about our constituents that are buying in to have this experience. We need to think about our audience that is going to be attracted to that message, right? And then it's the longevity of our message and how long it will stay within the marketplace for that existing expenditure.

Michael Hoffman: Got it. So IMEX is an event that's all about travel, incentive travel, booking, and conferences and events. People are coming there looking for a place to hold those things, a place to go. That's what IMEX is about, correct? 

Yeah. Okay. So you're at IMEX and the trade show floor there is full of other hotel brands, for example, and you're trying to create something that stands out and creates the right environment for your salespeople. Talk a little bit about the origins and the thoughts around why this SongDivision, Gather Voices, Hard Rock experience made sense for that environment.

Shelley Williams: Yeah. Well, first of all, differentiation is key for us and music is our DNA as a brand. So it made sense that we could create this really unique experience, set the stage, and give our audience a soapbox per se, and be able to share that with the world. 

What we needed, and what we had, was two great supplier partners. One obviously is authentic original band members that have played with some of the top artists in the world with SongDivision. These are super talented individuals. It's original, but it's authentic for the engaged attendee that is going to have this experience. The second component to that is what's the audience response like? What would they do? What would they partake in and, and would it be easy? 

And when we partnered with Gather Voices, we found the solution that could easily synthesize that experience on a platform that was protected and that could be shared. But it would also not infringe and intimidate the audience so that they didn't want to approach us. Because sometimes even in today's world with Zoom and WebEx and Teams, people are a little bit shy of getting up in front of people, getting filmed and creating that content. So we needed to balance that comfortability with the original artistry because that's really key to our brand, as well.

We didn't want it to just be karaoke. We didn't want it to be just soundtracks. We wanted them to actually engage with that experience. And then the longevity of the project was: what can I use this for? Not only is it in the moment to share and create FOMO with the attendee audience, but then what I can create is a yearbook of all of these customers that my constituents, my partner hotels, could use in case they did business with these individuals in the future.

Right. So we had a really nice trifecta opportunity to bring in the right partners at the right time at the right event for something that could have some longevity within the brand. 

Michael Hoffman: Okay, so let me walk through this a little bit. The SongDivision product, the InstaHit is: you talk to someone for a couple minutes, you learn about them, and then you have these incredible musicians who can write a song about that person. 

Sitting there and witnessing that, I know people love to hear that song about themselves. And what we did with Gather Voices was make it easy to record that and then share that recording back to the person whose song it was so they could share it with their community and their friends and amplify that experience for them.

And that makes sense and there's value there. But you mentioned using that content later for omebody walks into a hotel or something about those buyers. Talk to me a little bit about that. How do you intend to utilize that content? Because not only are they sharing the content, but you have all those InstaHits from all those people.

Shelley Williams: Yeah, so the unique platform that Gather Voices has is obviously creating that hive effect, right? Where we can store all of these individual songs, almost like a yearbook, a high school yearbook, right? And so it's all alphabetized. It's their experience over multiple shows. 

And so we've got this collection where my hotel partners could then reach in and say: there's Cindy James. We wrote a song about her, maybe a year and a half ago. But when she arrives at my property, I could have that at the front desk. I could even send her an email that says, I know that you drink red wine. I know you have a dog named Fido. I know you like to vacation in Cancun and you like R&B.

And so all of these things, all of a sudden create this really interesting connection. She's welcomed before we've even said hello. And so we can have all of these different tools so that we can connect better. It may have been me that connected with her at the trade show, and it may have been one of my directors of sales or hotel sales managers that have now had that presence of that individual walking into that hotel so we can have that shared experience because now we can share the content together.

Michael Hoffman: Got it. So how many different videos did we get? Or how many different songs, how many different InstaHits did we get there at IMEX?

Shelley Williams: I think we're over a hundred for sure.

Michael Hoffman: Yeah. Andy, tell me a little bit about the emotional connection that people have to these songs. They give you some information about their lives and they're hearing this back.

How does that relate to how they feel about that experience and about that song, and how do you see that? 

Andy Sharpe: I think the most important important thing is how they feel whilst they're talking to the Hard Rock folks or how they feel when they’re talking to the Gather Voices folks, or talking to our sales people after they've heaad the song.

I could just say we just get ChatGPT to write the song, which we can do, by the way, for companies. But just to cover what we’re not. We're not a songwriting company. We are strengthening corporate culture so we can create a song for people on the spot. We could say it into the phone, but there's not enough information about individuals usually on the internet unless you've got your own Wikipedia site.

So it’s the human creation on the spot of writing a song for you. It just puts a smile on their face. Again, going back to the science of it. It just pumps them full of oxytocin. 

A lot of people at these trade shows are away from their families. A lot of them have young kids. And so one of the things we'll ask them is: do you want to do a shout out? And they love doing a shout out to their kids. And it just personalizes it for them. It puts them in a great a mood. 

Coming back to a question that you asked earlier too, Michael, you asked about some of the trends in the industry about bringing your whole self to work. And it's a bit of an overused phrase, but it is true.

You want to feel comfortable at work. And so a lot of these companies are putting more focus on personal growth rather than just being focused so blatantly on company growth because they know if they focus on personal growth and they support their teams, the company grows.

So it's a win-win for everyone. So talking about pets and families and what's their ideal dream holiday in a Hard Rock or corporate event in a Hard Rock around the world. It does mix business and personal, but our lives today do mix business and personal. So it's very different to 20 years ago to 10 years ago.

Michael Hoffman: Yeah, that’s interesting. Those boundaries aren't the same anymore. 

Shelley Williams: Yeah, I think Michael, it's important too to notice that it's the, it's the recall and the memory, right? And so Andy keeps on talking about the science of music.

But with Hard Rock sometimes we use memorabilia. We use artistry to try and recall a really emotional time in people's lives about when they saw an artist do a certain thing or when they were in that certain place. And so that's what Hard Rock has been able to achieve through their global brand.

And from Andy's perspective on the science of music and bringing that into the meetings and events world is exactly that, right? They're using more of a hormonal side to it, where we've used more equity - memorabilia, music artistry - to try and portray that. So it's really a nice blend when we think about the interactions and the engagement that we do with our customers.

It's kind of the same thing. It's like, can you remember when you went to this festival. Can you remember when you first saw Madonna? Do you remember an Elvis song? My dad used to play it in his truck. So there's all kinds of things. Some people are R&B or country or hard rock or jazz.

And so you really get this emotional connection about preferences. And you humanize those people through music. And when you think about the hormonal side of it and you think about recall and memory, we're adding on all these layers to a really good fabric of a relationship. It's not just superficial.

Andy Sharpe: I was in a Hard Rock - as I tend to be in a Hard Rock Hotel - with my family about a week ago. And I'm there reading Jimmy Hendrix's hand-scrolled poems on a napkin from a hotel that he'd been in. And it's an emotional experience. And, and as many of you know, the Hard Rock staff when they walk around, they have the guitar pick and they have who their favorite artist is.

So, you know, when they meet my daughter and one of their favorite artists is Taylor Swift or Lizzo, and it's just this, even when you're not hearing the music, it's like we're so in love with the music of Hendrix or Lizzo that even just hearing their names and thinking about them floods us with those same feelings and emotions.

And it just puts you in a great mood.

Michael Hoffman: Yeah. Music just does that. It triggers these things in your brain that are just super powerful. So we have an example here with Dianne and her InstaHit. So let's take a listen to that. 

So welcome back to IMEX 2022.

I am here with the lovely Dianne, who claims to be our very first InstaHit ever, which I believe it. I believe it, but we're bringing it back. We're going again. She wanted a classic rock song for a classic beauty. So here we you go.

I’m here with a super cool lady named Diane. She's a creative magnet. I'm her biggest fan. She's a dancer and artist and full of energy. I can't explain what she's doing to me. She's so famous. She's so cool. 30,000 followers. She's breaking all the rules. She loves happy people and walking around in nature. She's so amazing. No one could ever hate her. It’s Dianne.

Shelley Williams: So let me, let me tell you a little bit about Dianne. Dianne is definitely a Hard Rock follower. Dianne is also a professor at NYU in New York City. Dianne definitely loves music and Dianne definitely loves to share. 

So it was absolutely important that we got her an InstaHit because we knew that with Dianne, not only is she a great fan of Hard Rock and of SongDivision, obviously, but we were able to give her something that she could actually share with the world, right? 

This is why I was excited. You can see it shows her excitement and how interactive and engaged she was. We certainly love to make sure that we get those people also in our videos to show that exact emotion. 

Andy Sharpe: And she's a fan of Gather Voices too, as, as we know.

Michael Hoffman: Yeah Andy, I want to just hear from you about the difference between just having that experience in the moment versus being able to capture that experience with video in the moment when somebody’s having this incredible emotional connection and experience. When you've recorded that, you have the ability to bring them back to those feelings, right? 

Andy Sharpe: Yeah. It's an amplification beyond the event. There’s two things to what you just mentioned there. There's the memento. There's capturing the memory. 

You know, I get in trouble when I'm going around the world taking so many photos with our 12 year old daughter. She's like, why do you take so many photos? It's like, because I don't trust my memory. You know? I want to remember.

In the past, people would record video on their phones and they still do it. They would capture the song on their own phones. But, but we don't necessarily see it again and we don't necessarily know if they upload it to social media either. So we obviously want the attendee to have a personal momento, and we want them to share it with their colleagues and their family and friends.

But also with Gather Voices, when it's recorded, it's just really easily delivered back to them to post on social media. And then that's a huge amplification of the marketing message from Hard Rock and SongDivision and Gather Voices. So, you know, we're creating these really special moments on the trade show floor in Frankfurt or Vegas or Melbourne or wherever we are.

And it's, it's being beamed via other people's social media channels, which is the best, you know, it’s creating a world of raving fans, which is one of our core values. And so Gather voices helps us do that, as does Hard Rock.

Shelley Williams: If you look at the metrics too, which, you know, everything, everything comes back to the dollars and cents, right?

Metrics is really what power is. Are we doing things successfully? Are these things working? I can tell you that there are people that have gone back to their video 6, 7, 8 months later to see that. And we can see that because we're also following them. We can see that people are then following it, then commenting and bringing it back up to their feeds.

So when we work within the algorithms of social media, this has perpetuity all the time, right? It just happens all the time and because we can record it, you know, it's captured like any live performance, right?

It's those people that are watching it and sharing it and watching it and sharing it, and it just creates this snowball effect. And we believe there's marketing value there. 

Michael Hoffman: Yeah. And I love how the Hard Rock brand is in this experience. You know, you see the brand there, but it's not like this ad. it's not like: look at our hotel, we're amazing.

It's really modeling the emotional foundation that you're gonna provide your guests in a way. And it's really different than a sort of typical salesy kind of thing. 

Shelley Williams: Yeah. We're not a sheets and shower kind of brand. I say that often. We're not in everybody brand either.

It’s really that connoisseur of music and those memories and recall. We've made new fans, that's for sure, because we've introduced them to that community through Gather Voices and through SongDivision. To be able to engage, this is something different. Don't stand back. Engage and participate with us.

That's been something that was a little bit of a surprise and delight for us. To be honest, we've really brought those in because people wanted to try more. And post-Covid we do realize that people want to engage more in activities that are front and center in your booth.

You just can't invite them in and give them a tchotchke. You have to invite them in and really embrace them and engage with them. 

Michael Hoffman: Okay. So, you know, I used to do a lot of work in the charity sector and I was always jealous of the animal welfare organizations. They'd be able to have puppies and things that really pulled at people's heartstrings.

And if you were working for more complex issues, it was harder to figure out what is that thing? And I'm thinking about that with music too. Like if you're an organization, I wanna kind of pull up to more universal lessons here. You know, if you're having a boat show or an art show or something and you don't have rock in your name and you don't have that natural fit necessarily with music, what are those universal things or principles you can think about to create those emotional connections with people?

I know Andy, it's music, but you work with a lot of different organizations that don't have rock in their name. So I’d love your thoughts on that. 

Andy Sharpe: As you said at the start, we have the beautiful situation that everyone loves music, so we are working with concrete trade shows and Rolls Royce and finance companies and actuarial companies.

Because everyone loves music. That's where I spend all my time thinking about is, is us. I don't actually think of myself as an expert in how everyone else does it. I'm, I'm pretty focused on what we do.

But the example of Hard Rock and Gather Voices, from an experiential marketing point of view what works really well is that we've all - yourself, Michael and Joel and the Gather Voices team and Shelley and Danielle and the Hard Rock team - have committed to actually experimenting with each other and having fun.

We are not holding each other like: what's the exact revenue we're gonna get out of this next event? And as Shelley said, it does come down to metrics in the end, but we've given it enough time to get to know each other and to experiment so that when we're on the trade show floor, everyone's in a creative, relaxed, but focused mood.

And so we can come up with some really great stuff. New Zealand has some great trade shows. They'll do the henna tattoos and it's having fun. In the end, don't overcomplicate it. It's whatever your brand and the people on the booth enjoy doing, explore those options.

If you are up on high and you say, I want this young crew of marketing and sales people to deliver a free game of golf or this chocolate or whatever it is that you like, but they're not really into, it's gonna fall flat.

You've gotta work out who's on the front line, what floats their boat, what makes them excited about it? And then that feeling is contagious. That's my best shot at it is just make sure that people in a good mood. You want to work with people that you like.

Get your trade show booth people and people at events enjoying themselves and people are gonna wanna work with them as opposed to them being at the back of the booth catching up on emails. That's the worst case scenario. 

Shelley Williams: You're right Andy. I'm gonna add to that, and I think you're absolutely right.

This was a: hey, I have an idea. Let's try it. It wasn't something that was like, you know, let's get the whiteboard and let's make sure that this all figures out. We came together and I said: Andy, do you trust me? And sometimes I have a hair-brained idea.

I said, Joel, what do you think about going to Germany and testing this out before we try it over in Vegas at the big show. So we did do some beta testing, just to see what it would be like. And to have those type of partners that you know are really trying to change and make difference for people on the trade show floor, I think is important.

Trusting your partners and saying, are you getting what you need out of this? Is this working for you? Asking the questions and again, have some fun and be relaxed because if we're relaxed, our attendees will relax and they'll realize that we're doing it for their benefit, not just for our benefit.

And if we're more humbled and giving that away, that's part of the core values of Hard Rock. We say that music is our DNA, but philanthropy is also what we do, right? So it's at our core. And so I think we always have to have that mindset moving forward.

Experiment. Have fun. We're in the event business and if we can't put on a good event, then shame on us. 

Michael Hoffman: Yeah Andy, the idea that the people who are on the front lines of these events have to actually care about what they're doing there in the moment is so obvious on the one level, and so not done most of the time.

We all go to a lot of trade shows. I go to a lot of shows. You go to a lot of shows. And the things that we've done together and the things that you all are doing is just really incredible and unique. Actually Shelley, you and I were at a show not too long ago together in Vegas, and somebody who watched our presentation came up to me afterwards.

This is somebody who runs really large trade shows. He was like, wow, you know, we're all playing checkers and Shelley is playing 3D chess, you know, in terms of like, thinking deeply about the relationship to your buyers and the long term opportunities that you have to use the show in that way.

So, it’s really powerful. I want to thank both of you for spending time with me today and talking about this and sharing your stories. 

Shelley Williams: Thanks, Michael. Thanks for the opportunity. And Andy, say hi to your wonderful, talented musicians. We love them.

Andy Sharpe: We all do. Thank you, Michael. And, and team Gather Voices, and thank you, Shelley. Looking forward to seeing everyone soon.