Leadership / 01.28.22
Remarkable Conversations, Sessions and Exhibitors: Highlights From Day Three
Is there anything better to start the day than a cup of your favorite coffee? You bet there is! Day three of INTIX kicked off with a roundtable general session titled “The 3 C’s: Coffee, Conversation and Change.”
The interactive session over coffee (and bacon requested for our speakers!) kicked off with moderator Wendi Lebow, Chief Venue Officer for Goldstar, who has been an important supporter of vital webinars and conversations such as this one over the past year. In her opening remarks, Lebow thanked the audience for encouraging the dialogue, then started by asking each speaker to share their story.
Ebony Hattix (L) and Wendi Lebow (R).
Ebony Hattix began by sharing how she started in ticketing. At the time, she was working multiple jobs in Tupelo, Michigan, and was offered a part-time position in the ticket office at BancorpSouth Arena. She has not looked back since and today is Director of Guest Relations for the Memphis Grizzlies/FedExForum.
Jessica Lee, Senior Manager of Ticketing and Financial Operations for the Atlanta Braves, had envisioned she would work in marketing and game entertainment when she finished college. A marketing internship at the Consol Energy Center (now PPG Paints Arena) changed the course of her career when she was given a desk right outside Jason Varnish’s office. It was through Varnish that she got her first taste of ticketing.
Stevie Gray spent a year as a marketing and game operations trainee with the Atlanta Hawks, then had the opportunity to move to the San Francisco Bay area. For 19 years since, she has held multiple positions with the Golden State Warriors and today is Vice President of Ticket Operations. “I was going to be a doctor, but I am not good at science or math,” said Gray, laughing. “Nobody wakes up and says ‘I am going to be a box office person’ or ‘I can’t wait to print a ticket!’”
As the conversation progressed, Gray proudly shared that the Warriors have had a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) council for approximately six years, that it is an organizational priority and was founded proactively. “To me, the most important thing is that we are having the important conversations about company culture. You have culture by default or by design, and it is important to have those conversations. If you are not putting in the work or if you have a toxic environment, [it may be difficult for] … women or people of color to feel comfortable or confident to be their most authentic selves.”
“Looking at how you look at things, [consider] do I look at it with just my lens of experience or perspective? Or am I being compassionate and empathetic and looking at it from a different view? That has been the most important thing for myself as well as other people I have talked to,” Hattix said. “Sometimes, in your circle of friends, you just assume that they think like you in certain situations. When you start talking to people and you understand that they don’t understand where you come from when you say there is no representation of me, but I have to go and be the spokesperson. It makes a big difference, [and they may say], ‘I never thought about that.’”
Jessica Lee (L) and Ebony Hattix (R).
When it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion, are we making enough change in the ticketing and live entertainment industry? This is a question Lebow posed to the speakers. They agreed that conversations like this one are a really great start.
“We have had some conversations recently that have stirred the pot [and that point to] more work that has to be done,” Hattix said.
“It is not going to be a fast race,” said Gray, who added she is thankful that the INTIX Board opened a safe space to have discussions about her own lived experiences. “It was through those courageous conversations that we are making changes organizationally. We have now added it to our strategic plan, which is fantastic, and we are starting a DEI Steering Committee, which is also super exciting. If you have a strong voice in the POC community, please reach out to a board member. We want to keep these conversations going so that we get to see the change here that we want to see.”
When it comes to recruiting, Gray challenges people managers and decisions-makers to help bring about change. “You have the power to do that. I consistently hear, ‘Well, we just do not get diverse candidates, so that is why we don’t hire them,’” Gray said. “Then [I ask] how are you recruiting? Where are you recruiting? What connections are you making in the communities where you are lacking?”
Stevie Gray (L), Jessica Lee (center), Ebony Hattix (R).
Once organizations begin to create diversity on their teams, Gray encourages them to think beyond their first hire. “Now that you have a diverse candidate in the room, what are you doing to make sure they are seen, heard and valued?” she asked. “What type of safe space are you providing? How are you affirming and amplifying voices of women and people of color personally?”
The importance of work-life balance is another topic that came up in many INTIX 2022 conference sessions, including this one. Lebow asked the speakers how they are managing their careers, what they do to stay calm and to progress [professionally and personally] in this new environment.
“You have to take a moment and breathe. It is so important to breathe,” said Hattix, who also recommended a mindfulness app called Headspace.
“I think that’s really important, too. I see a lot of these panels with women that talk about work-life balance, but it always seems to come across as how do you achieve work-life balance with your family,” Lee said. “Just because you are not married, and just because you do not have any children, if you are a single female with no children to take care of, this does not mean that you can’t have work-life balance. This is something I did not hear enough of until recently. It took a pandemic [for me] to realize I do need work-life balance. It is so important to have time to not worry about work.”
An audience member asked the panel how to best remain welcoming when you are recruiting and want to ensure you are not crossing any lines. Gray said it’s important to give people a voice. “Do not make decisions for us without us,” is also vital to remember, she said. Additionally, Gray encouraged everyone to create safe spaces, affirm what others say and make sure people feel heard.
Hattix also said it is important for everyone in a room to have the opportunity to talk. “If someone is not saying something, there is a reason,” she said.
Also on day three, Jacque Holowaty, Vice President of Employee and Guest Experience at Climate Pledge Arena and our INTIX 2023, Seattle, Conference Chair, presented a session titled #IamRemarkable.
#IamRemarkable is a Google initiative empowering women and other underrepresented groups to celebrate their achievements in the workplace and beyond.
“It is completely OK to share just for you,” Holowaty said. “It is OK to say [on social media], ‘I just got a [great] job, and I’m so proud of myself. High-fives to me.’ This whole initiative is to change and break stereotypes. It has gone global. Hundreds of thousands of people have gone through this … [and we can create change] by actively getting more and more people to take part. It is like creating a new viral video, but why not go viral instead by saying how remarkable you are? Wouldn’t that be a great viral sensation? It is OK to self-promote, and every time you do it, you are also actively encouraging others that it is OK to self-promote.”
Holowaty added, “Diversity makes you more agile, makes you a better organization. We can fit a lot more chairs at the table; we don’t have to be exclusive.”
From the Exhibition Floor
Booking Protect, which offers flexible and comprehensive refund protection, wants the INTIX community to know that they are open for business.
“Refund protection is the must-have product for 2022,” said Simon Mabb, CEO of Booking Protect. “I think COVID-19 has highlighted that plans can be disrupted very quickly. Lots of people have had issues with their employment; they have gotten ill; they have had to change their plans. We are seeing a huge increase in customer demand for our product and, conversely, the number of claims as well.”
Mabb continued, “The thing I would most like people to know is that we are a privately owned, very customer-centric business that is [at INTIX] to partner with like-minded businesses, venues and attractions, to show them that we can help them deliver a really good customer service experience.”
Additionally, Mabb sends thanks to the community for its support during the pandemic. “Obviously, we have suffered as well as our partners … but we have had some fantastic conversations, and we have worked very hard to help wherever we possibly can. Now is the time to look forward, take the opportunity in front of us and [to leverage] that pent-up demand for customers to see live entertainment.”
That pent-up demand means customers are buying tickets. One way to ensure a great customer experience is to let them see, during the purchase flow, the exact view they would have at the show.
“Everyone buys things online now. Typically when you buy something, you see a picture of it first. We are the image for a ticket purchase,” said Steve Stonehouse, Head of North American and Asia Pacific Markets at 3D Digital Venue. “[With our 3D maps,] it is not just a generic, center-of-the-section view. It is an individual seat view from the exact seat that you are purchasing. On the 2D side, we make very good maps that load quickly, scale quickly, can pinch and zoom on a mobile device, and they are flexible and easy to work with. Our API is the same whether you are using 2D or 3D maps, so with one integration, you can use either or both. Some venues toggle back and forth. Some have a team client that uses our 3D for single game sales, then for concert events, [they will] use a 2D map.”
Stonehouse emphasized that while the company is called 3D Digital Venue, “we also make excellent 2D maps.” He added, “We do a lot of custom development and different things for our partners, [too]. Generally, they come through the ticketing providers. We are partnered with Tickets.com, AXS, SeatGeek and AudienceView here in North America. In Europe, [we partner with] SecuTix, VivaTicket, Onebox and others, as well as Ticketek in Australia. Typically, services start with a 2D or a 3D map, and we can go from there.”
With its tall and impressive booth, it was impossible to miss the Protecht team on the exhibition floor. We asked Bryan Derbyshire, CEO and Founder, what he most wants to share with the INTIX community at this time.
“With our proprietary embedded event technology and consumer-facing suite of protection products, Protecht remains committed to building a better experience in today’s online economy for our customers and their consumers,” he said. “But we were reminded at INTIX that our most powerful resource is people. There is endless value in human interaction. After a COVID-19-induced hiatus, all of us at Protecht were thrilled to rekindle those face-to-face relationships in a shared physical space with our partners and customers as well as ignite new relationships. For anyone who walked into our open, inviting space at INTIX, the collective energy and respect amongst Protecht team members and partners was palpable. Coming out of a period where so many have become desensitized and even jaded to goings-on in their industries, all of us at Protecht are just so fortunate to share in our positive outlook and contribute in a meaningful way.”
While the company remains focused on designing and providing turnkey solutions for its clients and their customers, Protecht is equally as excited to announce the rapid expansion of its roster of engineers, developers, e-commerce specialists and consumer service liaisons.
“We have a passion for people and set out to protect their unique defined passions. Our success starts with a phenomenal company culture that protects the health and ambitions of our Protecht team. You will see tremendous growth at Protecht in 2022 as we continue to hire the best-in-class talent and thought leaders.”
On the return to live, Derbyshire could not be more excited. “People are re-engaged,” he said. “The intellectual and emotional momentum driving Protecht to ideate and execute is unstoppable. Within the live events ecosystem, Protecht's technology currently allows for 12,000 ticket protection quotes to be generated per second. We are stronger than ever and are committed to continually looking for ways to enhance the ticket-buying experience across all sectors in the live event space including sports, music, the arts, corporate, theater and family events. We take pride in our team’s collective strength. As fans ourselves, we understand what it means to be in those seats, cheering and hoping for a third encore. At our core, we are live experience enthusiasts.”
INTIX was honored to have Betty Siegel, JD, Director of the Office of Accessibility and VSA at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., present “In Defense of Cultural Rights” as our closing keynote. It was an expansion of the discussion, originally published on INTIX Access, on creating a welcoming environment. A full article on this important topic is scheduled for publishing in the very near future. Watch this space and your weekly INTIX eNews for that story.
In closing, INTIX would like to thank the many attendees, speakers, sponsors and exhibitors who traveled from near and far to be with us in person in Orlando. The efforts you made to be here are proof that live is back and we can do this together. We also send heartfelt good wishes to those who could not be here but cheered us on from afar. We can’t wait to see you all in Seattle in January 2023!
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Tags: Accessibility , Leadership , ticketing pros , INTIX 2022