A Massive Impact.

A Perspective To Ponder.

The week’s guest writer is Ben Lewis, a long-time friend and associate. We worked together for many years creating and executing corporate events, from a blank sheet of paper to outstanding and award-winning event marketing programs and environments. The projects we worked on were massive trade show exhibits and customer events, involving many different facets of people and skills, including designers, CAD engineers, carpenters, and on-site install and dismantle teams.

Ben is the Managing Director of MC², a leading experiential marketing company. Experiential marketing is broadly defined as any form of customer-focused marketing activity, at various touch points, that creates a sensory-emotional connection to and with customers, partners, employees and the media. While many of us are aware of the massive layoffs that occurred in many industries, not many are aware of the impact on the corporate event and meeting world. Just as a baseline, here are some facts and figures (pre-pandemic):

  • 1.9 million meetings occur annually —more than 5,200 every single day.
  • Those 1.9 million meetings resulted in some big spending. If you add up planning, production, travel, and other direct expenditures, meetings and events account for $325 billion of direct spending in the U.S. Of that figure, $120 billion comes from travel alone.
  • All that money directly supports 2.5 million jobs. This doesn’t include another 1.5 million indirect jobs and 1.9 million induced jobs , all across a wide cross-section of industries.


A Year in the Life of an Experiential Marketing Professional – Ben Lewis, MC2

Yes folks, it’s been a year now. A year since “live events” came to a screeching halt due to the pandemic. In fact, the last real live tradeshow I attended was one of the country’s largest tradeshows that occurs every three years, called ConExpo. It takes place in Las Vegas and is the American version of BAUMA – a similar show that takes place in Shanghai and Munich. In fact, I left Las Vegas a little early a year ago with what I expect now to have been Covid-19 symptoms in early March, 2020.

Wow. Did things change? More than you can imagine.

As a company that made its bread and butter off of live B2B and B2C events, tradeshows, and Business Theater, etc., we really had to make some major adjustments. I refuse to continue to overuse the word/verb… (Begins with “P”, ends with “T”, and has an “IVO” in there somewhere in the middle). However, we had to do it to stay alive. We went from building physical and architectural environments – often larger than your own office building – to making a nearly gamer-like environment, or ecosystem, that fits on your computer screen. This was nothing new for us really, but it was now more the rule (and the necessity) to the exception. Thankfully, we were already good at it – the “hybrid event” that is. And we were able to… ugh… pivot… rather successfully. The platforms that show organizers were providing just left no way to really stand out from your competition in a virtual tradeshow. That’s why, though they’ve been around for awhile, they’ve never taken off as successful. We had to create an experience beyond that provided platform into something more immersive.

Here’s the toughest part. Our business was, and will soon be again (thankfully), largely built of Operational employees – somewhere around 65-70%. Project Managers, Master Carpenters, Logistics Employees, Traveling Supervision, and Union Labor. All at once, they had nothing to do. Thankfully, our company was strong enough to keep the large percentage of them on furlough, continuing to pay health benefits, and allow for them to draw unemployment – in a sense, they’re all still employed – there’s just very little physical work. It’s been a struggle for so many of our most loyal employees. People that have been with us for 20+ years of full time employment. It can be pretty depressing to be called off furlough several times to accomplish a couple of week’s work, only to have to be furloughed when that trickle of work runs out. Then you’re back home waiting for the next call. Most have had tremendous attitudes about it and are grateful that those of us who are working are doing everything we can to continue to generate revenue, so there’s a job to come back to. A handful have reluctantly moved on to another career path, or are at least considering it.

With the vaccine, and several states taking the steps to reopen more aggressively and despite the piecemeal and sometimes conflicting and confusing information from the press, Dr. Fauci, the CDC, and others, there are brighter days ahead. A recent survey indicated that 78% of potential attendees plan to travel to live events in the late summer and fall. Several large shows, including the “granddaddy of all shows”, CES, seem full speed ahead in early 2022. This show alone generates nearly $300 million in revenue through the approximately 180,000 attendees, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority – in a normalized year, of course. Not to mention the revenue generated for companies like ours, with the lion’s share of creative and production taking place late in 2021 to make it to Las Vegas with the early January 2022 show dates. It will be no simple charge, to go from the skeletal team we have across the country right now – about 110 of us, all sharing resources – to ramp back up quickly when the firehose is turned on for us to drink from again. It’s going to be a welcome challenge. It will still be some time before everyone is back. And unfortunately, some people and smaller companies won’t make it back. But we’ve been through this in some ways before. The stock market in 2008, and of course that fateful day in September of 2001. As traumatic as both of these events were, the pandemic has done more to simply STOP live events, single-handedly, than both of the prior events combined. Crazy right? A simple virus.

If I have to go too much longer without shaking a customer’s hand, and only looking at their living space behind them in their Zoom call, I might just lose it. One more “you’re on mute, Jack” and I’ll begin to slip. What’s interesting is how convinced I am at my increased productivity working from home. I’m out of the bed and in front of the computer with my coffee, by 6:30-7:00. I normally have an hour commute, each way. That’s literally two hours out of my day. On the flip side, working from home will negatively impact your personal life. There’s no clear “start and stop” time. The standard ten-hour day has become the 12-hour day. It’s been a welcome change to get back into the office, officially, three days a week or more.

I think we’re all due a Brave’s game soon – a concert at the Battery before or after the game.

Have you had your vaccine? Do you plan on taking one? Do you think it will be required for travel? If you don’t want to take the vaccine and it becomes a requirement to travel, OR if to visit your customer, can they require you to have it – jeopardizing your career? Can anyone? Lots of questions.


Thanks Ben. A heartfelt take from an industry professional. The impact has been massive – and hopefully the experiential world will be back very soon.

Adios, pay it forward, stay safe and have a Funday Sunday!

The China Syndrome. Stadia. He Is The Man.

A Happy Medium? Light It Up! Samuel L. Jackson At His Finest.

I need to be careful with this segment of the post as you might take this assessment as political…it is not. I am going to make my point from a holistic point of view. Yes, some of what you will read may relate to the political system of the United States and with that said politics are energy draining.

Bill Maher hosts a weekly show on HBO. In theory, I have no business watching as the subject matter and guests of the show discuss and debate politics. More than often, the information focuses on bipartisan issues that no longer concern me. In last week’s show, Maher, who in my opinion is very intelligent, witty, and sometimes belligerent, went on a rant about the United States and China, which sort of struck a cord with me. His rant related to both China’s aggressive, authoritarian regime along with their ability to analyze, address and solve problems. As a baseline watch the one minute video below.

One year ago China went warp speed – with building hospitals.

Yes, China is different than the United States in many ways. Yes, their authoritarian rule allows for buildings, hospitals, and actual cities to be built in a matter of days or months instead of years. They don’t have the city and state building statutes to contend with…or on the other hand the Food and Drug Administration that dictates and approves the development and distribution of vaccines.

Maher had some rather harsh words for the U.S.A. saying China is overtaking our place on the world stage because “Americans are busy obsessing over culture wars and not doing anything productive.” The following are taken directly from Maher’s rant last Friday night. While I do not agree with some of these comments, he does make comparative points that hit home:

  • “You know who doesn’t care that there’s a stereotype of a Chinese man in a Dr. Seuss book? China. All 1.4 billion of them could give a crouching tiger flying f—,” Maher said, referencing the controversy surrounding six of Seuss’s books that were pulled by Dr. Seuss Enterprises over racist imagery. 
  • “You’re not going to win the battle for the 21st century if you are a silly people, and Americans are a silly people.” This is in reference to a quote from “Lawrence of Arabia” that as long as the U.S. continues to be a bunch of squabbling tribes, we will remain silly people.
  • “In two generations, China has built 500 entire cities from scratch, moved the majority of their huge population from poverty to the middle class and mostly cornered the market in 5g and pharmaceuticals. In China alone, they have 40,000 kilometers of high-speed rail. America has… none. Our fastest train is the tram that goes around the zoo.”
  • “Nothing ever moves in this impacted colon of a country! We see a problem and we ignore it, lie about it, fight about it, endlessly litigate it, sunset clause it, kick it down the road and then write a bill where a half-assed solution doesn’t kick in for 10 years. China sees a problem and they fix it. They build a dam; we debate what to rename it.”

To be clear, I do not agree with all of Maher’s statements. I guess my take is that there has to be a happy medium between authoritarian government that tells everyone what to do and a representative government that sometimes can’t get anything done at all. With all that said, I will not be a hypocrite about my lack of political interest, but if Maher does not like living in the United States I am sure Iran or Myanmar are looking to accept high-wealth comedians.

Anyone who has attended any event at Atlanta’s Mercedes Benz Stadium certainly must enjoy the overall experience. The Atlanta United games I have attended certainly have raised the bar in the sporting world, as the stadium structure and in-game production is outstanding. Other Major League Soccer teams have brought their new soccer-specific stadiums online including Orlando and L.A.F.C. – with Austin, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, Columbus, Nashville and St. Louis following suit. Another new stadium that is very close to opening is in Cincinnati, where their Major League Soccer team will be based. I am not privy to what the stadium amenities include, but one thing is certain: their owners have put their stadium on the map with the use of ‘LED Fins’ to produce an amazing light show on the exterior façade. Five hundred and thirteen ‘LED Fins’ to be exact, which is the area code for Cincinnati and surrounding cities. Kudos to their owners for stepping up the overall stadium experience.

F.C. Cincinnati will play their games at West End Stadium.

I have exhausted my take on culture wars, social imbalance, police brutality, and racial discrimination. Then we again get hit hard with last week’s tragedy in the Atlanta area and it again brings our sensitivity and awareness of hate crimes to light. Then we get onto the subject of stereotyping, which in my mind is another version of racist behavior. Enough is enough as the divide in this country continues – a divide that includes politics, race, religion and origin. On another front, the video clip below brings some levity to light in regards to stereotyping with the way Samuel L. Jackson handled this moronic Los Angeles-based entertainment reporter. As much as Samuel L. Jackson is a gentleman by continuing the interview, he certainly did not cut this reporter any slack. Well done SLJ, as most of us would have certainly ended this interview early on.

You can’t fix stupid.

Adios, pay it forward, stay safe, and have a Funday Sunday!

One Year. Near-Earth Impact. Tunnel It. Speak In Tongues. Time To Kick It. Larry David – Not Sensitive.

A Year Of Infamy. 100X The Speed Of Sound. Box Jacking At Its Finest. Speaking Of Ridiculous. Let’s Play! Larry Made Us Cringe.

  • Last Wednesday marked one year when the sports world shut down. Led by the NBA stoppage, the onslaught of Covid-19 led to the temporary end of competitive sports. With that said, factoring in all the issues with the pandemic, it was amazing that the Major League Soccer restart was back four months later with that infamous tournament in Orlando. A tournament that gave all of us hope that with a massive spend and tight protocols, sports once again could give us some television viewing pleasure. The NBA followed with their “Orlando-based season” and at whatever level, live sports on television got many of us through a very difficult year. A year to both remember and forget.
  • An asteroid as wide as the Golden Gate Bridge is long will hurtle past Earth next Sunday. The bad news: this asteroid’s speed and velocity, if colliding with our planet would be devastating, especially if it hit near a highly-populated area or the ocean, where it could create a tsunami or vaporize enough seawater to cast a haze over the entire planet. A bit difficult to comprehend, but as a comparison a plane flies at 575 miles per hour, the International Space Station at 17,000 miles per hour and this FO32 asteroid at 77,000 miles per hour, or 100 times the speed of sound. The good news: though NASA scientists call this a “near-earth” pass, this massive rock will actually come no closer than 1.25 million miles from earth, which obviously poses the question why it is deemed a “near-earth” experience?
asteroid flyby
Say hello to the asteroid FO32, a mile wide and traveling at 77,000 mph.
  • I have always appreciated and enjoyed the creative world. I have lived it for most of my business career, along with the engineering, production and installation process that follows the design development phase. I came across a construction process called box jacking reading about Florida’s Brightline train service, which is in the process of building their railway system from Miami to West Palm Beach to Orlando, and hopefully to Tampa. In theory, box jacking is a well-established means of engineering culverts or tunnels under highway overpasses, rail embankments or waterways to accommodate road or rail traffic.  Brightline has enlisted the box jacking methodology to save immense time with creating tunnels under overpasses. What usually takes many months or years to accomplish with traditional burrowing methods can now be cut in half using box jacking. Used in Europe for many years, box jacking has recently been employed in the United States, most significantly in the Boston area. The animation below is a bit wonky, but it does simulate the process of pushing massive concrete structures inch by inch under an overpass. Not simple, but a much faster way than conventional methods.
  • As I mentioned last week, I can be tough on many issues and I am sensitive to any type of discrimination but this aversion to everyday culture is ridiculous. Calling out Dr. Seuss books as racist did not sit well with me and now I read about a very ‘high-end’ private K-12 school in New York City that has gone way too far. The school (name withheld) has produced a 12-page guide for their students and staff that demands they use more “inclusive language” – their effort to explain the school’s mission of inclusivity. As an example, one part of this 12-page guide tells students and staff to stop using the terms “mom,” “dad,” and “parents” – because these words make too much assumption about a student’s home life. While I understand children live in a myriad of home circumstances, the school now recommends the use of terms “grown-ups,” “folks,” “family” or “guardians” as alternatives to “mom,” “dad” and “parents.” It also suggests using “caregiver” instead of “nanny/babysitter.” This is insane and this “sensitivity at all cost” is not a good thing. As if our youth don’t have enough socio-economic issues to contend with….they now need to learn a new way to discuss their family support system. Insanity at best.
  • Major League Soccer is back. The League announced the season and home openers for each of the 27 teams last week – and will follow up with the season schedule by the end of the month. I don’t envy the League’s scheduling staff, as they still are dealing with the national and state protocols with Covid-19, while trying to prepare a schedule that is competitively balanced. One great opening weekend matchup sees Atlanta United visiting Orlando City the afternoon of April 17. For many reasons this opener should be great fun to watch due to their long-standing rivalry and the return of Orlando nemesis Josef Martinez. Depending on the League and the State of Florida, Orlando City will hopefully announce a level of fan capacity soon. Though Orlando City lost a key striker, Darryl Dike, to a loan with an English Premier League team, they have made some key additions to their player pool. Look for Orlando City and Atlanta United to be on top of their conference standings this year.
Exploria Stadium - Verdazzo
Orlando’s Exploria Stadiuma fantastic soccer-specific and multi-purpose stadium.
  • I have exhausted the topic of sensitivity. Classic movies being called to the carpet, schools dictating how their students refer to their home lives, and anything else that sets off our “sense of sensitivity.” The dilemma is that some of the funniest people on earth used their “insensitivity” as a platform for comedy. What would we have done without the crazy Don Rickles? What about the numerous scenes in the Blazing Saddles movie? Did we all not laugh hard at Rodney Dangerfield’s comedy? All of us: black, white, green and purple, laughed out loud at Leslie Nielsen in the movie Airplane, as he abused everyone from air traffic controllers to nuns. Richard Pryor, pound for pound the best standup comedian ever, abused every race, religion and nationality and WE ALL LAUGHED hard at his content and amazing delivery. While we need to keep racism in check, we don’t ever need to go away from raucous comedy. Larry David in the HBO show Curb Your Enthusiasm made everyone cringe – in every episode. He was brutal with everyone, and we all watched and cried laughing at him being a total moron. Please don’t get me wrong. There is a time and place for everything – and racism has NO place in our society. Just watch Larry David in this classic scene with him visiting a lemonade stand. OMG.
Larry David made EVERYONE uncomfortable.

Adios, pay it forward, be safe, have a Funday Sunday, and ENJOY DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME!

Mobile Tech. It Floats. Checkmate. Playing For Change. One Week.

Touch A Button – It Expands! Too Much Wine. The Queen’s Gambit. Let’s Be Certain. Daylight Coming.

  • Almost two years ago I ranted about Samsung’s effort to enter a new era of mobile phones. They had just introduced their ‘foldable’ model only to receive feedback that the hinges allowing the phone to fold were not working and many screens were detaching from the frame. A $2,000 phone and it failed miserably in the marketplace. Two years later, there does seem to be a mobile phone technology that could be a game-changer. Oppo, along with other device makers, has introduced a ‘rollable’ phone allowing a normal-sized phone to expand to a small tablet. If this rollable technology does maintain efficacy, consumers will once again get on wait lists for its availability.
  • We long for the trip to the shore to take in the balmy ocean breezes and the soft pounding of the surf. There is definitely a peaceful existence to being at a coastline, until you look out to the sea and try to recollect the quantity of Cabernet consumed the previous evening. There is a “out of my pay grade” scientific reason you witness a massive cargo ship flying above the water’s surface, but we remain silent to avoid our family and friends calling us crazy. Us crazy?
The quantitative discrepancies between the sea and air temperature…” Whatever.
  • My brother, who very early on was at a much different level of intelligence, introduced me to the game of chess. I enjoyed learning how to play, as the strategy of thinking many moves ahead challenged me. I was never successful playing against my brother but enjoyed hm teaching me how to play. Unfortunatly, like many indoor activities, I did not spend too much time on the chess board as I was always outside playing sports and listening to music. After watching a few episodes of The Queen’s Gambit, I wish I had spent much more time learning the game of chess.
Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon in "The Queen's Gambit" on Netflix.
The Queen’s Gambit is a Cold War drama with many twists and turns.
  • A thank you to a long-time friend who sent me this YouTube video. While we all need to be aware of racial discrimination, police brutality, social injustice, and sexual indiscretions, I feel strongly that words need to be turned into actions. There are many who are doing just that, putting actions into place that hopefully will get us into a more positive environment. Unfortunately, in my opinion, some of this sensitivity has strayed too far as I recently learned that movie classics including Gone With The Wind and Guess Who’s Comng To Dinner have been lambasted by some who call out themes of racism and discrimination. Again, I am extremely supportive of ACTION taking place to put these social injustices behind us once and for all, but calling out classic movies, enjoyed by millions of people, made over fifty years ago, has gone too far. Black, white, or brown, I have never heard one negative comment about Kathryn Hepburn, Sidney Portier, or Spencer Tracy in the classic Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner. Let’s all check reality at the door before we judge a classic movie, with amazing actors, made fifty years ago.
Actions speaking louder than words has never been more relevant.
  • Today is March 7, 2021 and I should not have to tell you what that means. One week to go.

Adios, pay it forward, be safe, and have a Funday Sunday.