Transcript: How Successful Leaders Use Experience Design at Events and Meetings

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Mitch Simon 0:02
Hello and welcome to another episode of team anywhere. I am Mitch Simon, your co host on the West Coast and in the house. We’ve got Ginny nafas, our co host on the east coast. And we’ve also got on the podcast today is Carolyn mellie. So today I’m so excited to have Carolyn Malley. She is an experienced strategist who spent 10 years with Cirque du Soleil in guest experience roles. As an experienced strategist, she helps businesses create more impactful experiences for their employees and their guests in the real world. And in the remote world. Today with Carolyn’s expertise, we will uncover how you should think about planning unique experiences for him, for your employees to get to keep them engaged. Well, I’m going to say that again, today. expertise will cover how you should think about planting unique experiences for your employees to help keep them engaged with your company, no matter where they are on the planet. And talking about the planet. today. We got Carolyn, welcome. You are in Montenegro. So tell us about going from Cirque du Soleil to Montenegro.aHello, yeah, very excited to be here. Thank you for having me on. Yes, I am in Montenegro. I’m currently based here. And I’m here just very randomly, you know, because of the pandemic, I needed somewhere to go as a full time traveler. And I had an opportunity to just be based here for around six months or so. So that’s currently where I am. I did work with Cirque du Soleil for 10 years, traveling the world, I worked in 17 different countries, led teams in 17 different countries. And I did a number of roles. Within the front of house teams, I actually did every role in the front of house teams. But I specialized in the VIP experiences I loved being in the VIP world, not necessarily in terms of status, but just in terms of the kind of experiences that we could create for the guests were very different to the experience that a so called regular paying guests would would have. So I fell in love with that part of the operations. And that’s kind of where I ended up. And where, where a lot of kind of passion and inspiration grew as a result of.

That’s great. So tell us, I think we’re all curious, what is a what makes a VIP experience different from a regular all human experience?

Carolene meli 2:37
Yeah, so the first thing is the amount of people that we cater to. So a big top at Cirque du Soleil holds around two and a half 1000 people in the VIP, the maximum that I ever had was 200. So and sometimes I would have 10 people, you know, sometimes I would have 100. So the level of service that you’re able to give to a very small portion of the of the occupancy of the guests was a lot different, you were able to be a lot more highly personalized. And where I really loved and work where I kind of find my my end where I got my energy from was that I was able to have a lot of one on one conversations with my guests that I would not have in the bigger areas, the bigger concession areas that are very transactional in their nature in the VIP, I was able to actually kind of go on a journey with my guests, I saw them before the show, where their energy was usually very, very excited or anxious. They didn’t know what to expect if they’ve never seen a show before, during the intermission. So they’ve seen half the show and the energy in the intermission It was a short period of time it was 25 minutes, but it was always buzzing. I loved that moment. And then obviously at the end, and that was usually they were almost exhausted from the amount of stimulus that they had been surrounded by, by the last two hours. So it was incredible to kind of witness them at every stage of that journey. And that’s where I really saw the importance of attention to detail in every moment along the journey and not just focusing on one particular area. And that’s where a lot of my work stems from today.

Mitch Simon 4:18
Great. So tell us about your journey over the last year and I think we spoke before and pandemic hit Cirque du Soleil said of while and then now you are on your own. So what have you been doing over the last year?

Carolene meli 4:31
Yes, it was a very interesting moment because I was already on my way out so to speak, I realized that I wanted to take the next step in my own career. But obviously from the pandemic point of view, I had to figure that out on my own. Especially being in the travel event lifestyle entertainment industries. They were the industries that basically got demolished in the in the pandemic right so I couldn’t rely on say regular job opportunities for example within the European summer Kids, those just were not there. And so we really did take quite a long time. And I feel like one year later now I’m at the point where I’m confident in saying, This is my skill set this my expertise is what I can offer you. But it did take quite a long time. And it was really up to me to kind of think, Okay, what am I skills? How are they transferable in the sense of me almost consulting on my own or creating projects on my own? And then how can I translate them into the current reality of today? And that was a very interesting journey. Like I said, it did take a year, it wasn’t anything quick that happened. It took a lot of coaching a lot of mentoring a lot of me kind of talking myself into action every single day and not getting too overwhelmed or too upset with with with the current status of things. And and that has that has been that year long journey that has led me too What now?

Mitch Simon 5:57
Great. So tell us what, tell us what you’ve been doing over the last year. Tell us what you exactly what you’ve been doing over the last year. What have you created?

Carolene meli 6:39
Yeah, so I started really thinking about, okay, let me go from a workshop point of view and a consulting point of view. And I found a little bit of a niche there, I found some traction there. But where I really, really found my my spot, like where I really wanted to sit was around leadership. And I really wanted to focus specifically on up and coming leaders, you know, new leaders, young leaders, and really helped guide them in their new leadership roles that they that they were coming into. And that led me to create a leadership program for them called better your leadership. And then to complement that kind of as an experienced strategist, you know, I’m thinking of the experience or from the leadership point of view, I’m thinking, How can I help guide and mentor and coach these young leaders to create incredible experiences for their teams, the people around them. And then what I was finding when I was thinking about incredible experiences, you know, I was thinking about the fact that this year has become incredibly isolated, negative, you know, there’s a lot of fighting amongst all of us. And I felt that that magic of experiences had been lost. And I wanted to create something that would rejuvenate the conversation again, around how we can create more impact more meaning in experiences, we that we offer, no matter what that meant for each individual. And that led me to create the experience creators, which is an interview series on YouTube. And I interview incredible experienced creators from all around the world in many different expertises. I had the founder of a sneaker company, company recently, the episode that I put up today was a magician, turned author, speaker consultant on human connection. And I asked questions around experiences. And the one main credit question I always ask is what elements make an incredible experience and no matter what their answers are based on their context, expertise, culture, language, there’s always commonalities in the answers and I love kind of exploring their their answers and pulling those out.

Ginny Bianco-Mathis 8:52
And and so then for our audience, and this is so exciting. What then makes an experience or how does a leader create that experience with a team that’s out there half in front of them half around the world?

Carolene meli 9:09
So what I discovered in all of these conversations really almost validated what I felt myself in terms of what an incredible experience was and how it was made up. And there’s four key elements. The first is personalization. And I think when you’re talking about remote having remote teams, this is the key personalization. The second element is connection or a sense of belonging. The third is memorability. And then the fourth is shareability. And so they were the four key concepts that no matter who I asked, no matter which expert I asked, no matter where they are from around the world, their expertise, their answers show up in that way in some form of another. So they’re the four key elements and the four key elements that I specifically focus on in leadership and creating excellence. answers.

Ginny Bianco-Mathis 10:01
Can you give me an example? Because those are exciting? How do you make them real?

Carolene meli 10:07
Yeah, so I’ll give you the perfect example. I recently signed up for a course creators boot camp, it was through the platform Thinkific, it was helping me with my own program make it even better. And as soon as I signed up for it, I received an email saying kind of Welcome to the bootcamp. And there was a link that was a personalized video. To me. It was a I think it was a 22nd video that one of the the coaching team had created. And it was just a video, just somebody had shot with their phone. Hey, Carolyn, thank you so much for joining us, welcome to the program, we’re really excited to have you. Here’s the next steps. And that was it 22nd video shot on their phone. But that immediately made me feel like oh my gosh, wow, they, they know who I am. Or at least they acknowledged my my applications of the program, my my purchase. And now I feel connected with them in some way, you know, where and we haven’t even started yet. And so that’s a perfect example of how you can use something very simple to create personalization, that will immediately lead to some kind of sense of belonging and connection. I felt like I was now part of that community, that program because one of the coaches knew who I was.

Ginny Bianco-Mathis 11:21
Right, right, that that is a beautiful example and the use of the tool. Right, it would have been one thing for them to call you up, right? It’s a totally different one. Oh my gosh, they’re, they’re here with.

Carolene meli 11:35
And we have to think about what tools we can use that are a very easy to use. So no matter how tech savvy you are, or how you know tech, illiterate you are, you’re able to use them yourself. But that also that it is easy to use for the user, right, I just had to click a link. And it was a I don’t remember the website now. But it was the service on that website was creating these personalized videos. And it was super easy for me to watch. And there was nothing complicated about that process. If you go and start creating personalization, that is highly complicated, you’re going to lose that connection straightaway. And your message is not going to get to the other person. So yeah, it was very simple, very quick, and had very high ROI in terms of how I felt as soon as I watched it.

Mitch Simon 12:20
To bring it bring us to the next three, which is connection and sense of belonging memorability and shareability if you could share with us how either that experience or other experiences that you’ve been involved in, where you can create those other three core elements of creating an amazing experience.

Carolene meli 12:37
Connection, I think is a very important one right now, sense of belonging, we all I think can agree that there is such a disconnect right now in terms of humans human connection, you know, we are not able to do that physically. And so we have to find ways to do that virtually. And especially when you’re looking at leading teams that are potentially scattered across the world. When I worked for Cirque du Soleil, our headquarters were in Montreal and Quebec, but I was never in Montreal, Quebec, I was always on tour, we were always on tour. And so there was this important element of how can we remain connected as an organization? How can we remain part of the spirit of surface LA, when we’re scattered all over the globe, and even on my even on any one, two, or you can have up to 25 different nationalities on that one tour. So it is a very interesting concept to think of, and I think that can really come down to culture, right? How are you creating? How does that that the heart of the company that in Montreal is incredibly strong? And you know, Mitch, I’m sure you can attest to this, like, people from Montreal, a very incubate, are very, very proud of that company, because it is such an integral part of that culture. So how can we take that pride and now translate that to people that are on the other side of the world? And so we’re always trying to find how can we, how can we create that sense of belonging to something no matter what it is, and I think when you’re looking at experiences, the first way to do that A is through personalization, right, it kind of threads into each other. And the third memorability, I think that’s quite self explanatory in the sense that, if I haven’t experienced tomorrow, will I remember it in 10 years time for starters. The second is, if I have an experience tomorrow, will I tell a whole bunch of people about it, right. And one example of that is I have a kind of a segment I do once a week called experience of the week and I put it up on many LinkedIn and on the YouTube channel, the experience creators, and I try to find a really great experience a really cool experience, unique experience that always ticks all of these four boxes, right, and I share that and the example from my experience for the week last week was Massimo Dutti, which is a Spanish retail brand, a clothing brand and they In February this year launched their shoes experience, which is an augmented reality feature on their app. And it’s very cool, you hold the phone down at your feet, you pick the shoe, and it actually looks like they’re on your feet, not like a picture, like I and I went through this experience, obviously to to then share it as he experienced for the week. But I told him, not only through the video that I created in the content I created, but separate for that. I remember like, I take I like WhatsApp, my sister straightaway, I told one of my friends, I was like, Oh my god, you have to try this. It’s really, really cool. And so how can we create something that’s really memorable, right and a in the short term in terms of reach, but then be in the long term in terms of many years to come? Are we still going to remember elements of that moment, and then the fourth is shareability. And I think in 2021, the year that we’re in, you know, that is highly crucial in terms of the success of our experiences and the reach and impact that we can create. And for example, if we take this example of the Massimo Dutti app, they actually have some tools within that platform where you can actually share on social media, the choices that you made, or at least some some video from there. And so looking at how we can actually share our experiences. And I know when I worked at Cirque du Soleil, they, especially in the last couple of years, it was their hashtag. Promotion was really, really big. So it was kind of when you walk around, it was like, use this hashtag show, like, show us that you’re at the show tonight. And it was really cool to have a look at everyone that was at the show tonight, where they were, what they bought, like where they in the VIP what they experienced. And that became a huge part of the the marketing strategy there. And again, the idea with shareability is can you feel yourself in that experience if you’re not there? Because if you can, and you can create some buzz and excitement around Oh, wow, I feel like I’m already there. The inclination is okay, I’m going to go and look at it into it a little bit further. So there there the four the four main ones.

Mitch Simon 17:01
That’s great. That’s thank you so much for that. What I also love about Cirque du Soleil was the you know, the show, I think I’ve been to two of those shows, is they would tell an incredible story. And we had on the podcast a few weeks ago, we had Barry winklers, from CPL in Dublin, and from the future of work Institute, and he talked about how great leaders will be great storytellers. And they not only will they be great storytellers, but what they’ll do is they’ll make their story come alive in their companies. And I was wondering if you can share with us the importance of storytelling in creating a memorable event. And really, as it pertains to the business world now, where people are dispersed. And to really bring them together, you need to have a powerful story that they can really live into.

Carolene meli 17:51
Yeah, so at Cirque du Soleil, I just a little bit of context, I would have wait when we moved to a new city, I would receive my team from a hiring agency, we wouldn’t hire them, we just kind of received them. The day that I received them, I would do about a two to three hour training. And then that night was the premiere of the show, the most important Night of the the entire city run. So I had to somehow connect with these guys so incredibly quickly, but in a positive way, right. And not only for that night to be successful, but I only was with them for two months. And what I found was, through telling my own story, my own backstory, how did I get to this spot as your VIP leader tonight as your VIP manager? How did I get to this position because they were already intrigued. So if I was able to open with that, if I was able to start my relationship with my team in that way, the connection was almost immediate. And not only did they feel connected to me in terms of my own personal story, but in that story that I was sharing with them, they learned about the company, they learnt more about the operations around them that they do not see straight in front of their face. And I felt that they were able to grasp what we were trying to do a lot quicker. And that came through those stories. And I actually, on a daily basis, I would I started every day, every night, every shift with a quick 10 minute leadership meeting, I did it every single night, non negotiable. And it always started with a story whether it was something I read in a book, whether it’s something that happened at Cirque du Soleil whether it was something that happened the night before. And through starting that conversation through the story, we were able to I feel like get on the same page a lot quicker. And then when you look at it from a leadership point of view, I think what’s really interesting is these people standing before you through telling your story and almost being a little bit courageous and vulnerable. I mean for me, I’d never met them before. So I was almost taking a bit of a leap of faith. But I almost felt for some of them, they could see themselves in me in my story. They were aspiring leaders themselves, they were aspiring bar managers themselves. Maybe they were even aspiring acrobats or artists that served us today. But I’m definitely not just just to clarify, but through me sharing my story, they were able to grasp one of the elements of it and say, oh, wow, I could be that one day, or I could do something similar. And I think that is where storytelling becomes incredibly important.

Ginny Bianco-Mathis 20:37
That is just wonderful. And as you know, there’s tons of stuff out there now on storytelling, and leaders needing to tell a story. And just to share one thing, I was watching a leader on a on a zoom call, and he always starts with an icebreaker. And we all know about icebreakers. And so However, he did a spin that I think you can identify with, like you said, you had this opening 10 minutes. Whenever he asked them a question to answer. They, they couldn’t just answer it, they had to answer it in a story.

Unknown Speaker 21:15
Well, that’s very cool.

Ginny Bianco-Mathis 21:16
So where were you be in five years? Now remember, you have to tell a story. Right? That that changed everything.

Carolene meli 21:25
I think it also gives you the opportunity to learn how to articulate right, articulate your own personal story, articulate your goals. A lot of times, employees, for example, feel very misunderstood. But half the time the leaders aren’t even aware of that struggle, they’re not even aware of that clash, because the articulation of what the actual problem is or, or why they’re not actually reaching their full potential, or why they’re not feeling they’re getting an opportunity really comes because that expression has not really been explored. And I think so that’s what that’s where that that strategy is incredible for that.

Mitch Simon 22:06
Great. Carolyn, I want to ask you, let’s say I’m a I’m a an executive, and I want to hold an event to bring together my staff from all over the world. And we’re going to meet in Montenegro, of course, favorite word this week? What would be the questions you would ask me that I would need to think about, for this event to be memorable to reach all your elements? And to have my employees leave? and be really proud of working for the company?

Carolene meli 22:47
Yeah, the very first question is, how do you want them to feel at the end? And I think this is such a logical, simple question, right. But I feel like we don’t ask, we don’t ask it enough of ourselves when we’re creating experiences. But also, like you said, If I’m the CEO, so when I’m working with individuals, or when I’m working with with teams, that’s the very first question I asked. And it’s very interesting, a lot of times, they’re kind of like, oh, oh, well, I want them to have had a good time. I want them to be like, motivated. And I’m like, Okay, let’s, let’s, let’s start again. And let’s try this activity. Again, it can actually be quite challenging. So I think the first question in this particular example is, how do you want them to feel when they’ve left and not just the buzzwords like motivated, inspired excited, like, how do you actually want them to feel is this event is the goal of this event, some kind of transformation? Is this event is the goal of this event more around, you know, fun, because it’s the the, the The atmosphere is a little bit down? It’s a bit negative, it’s a bit heavy, we just, we just want something uplifting? So how do you want them to feel at the end? You know, the goal is, if you speak to 100 participants when they leave, are they all going to have that common thread, just like when I asked my guest that common thread of what elements make an incredible experience? There’s always that same underlying answer. So I think that is the very first question. And it’s really, really important to be very, very clear on that before you move on. Because sometimes we get caught up with creating the events or the experience that we want to create, instead of creating the events or experience that is really going to serve whoever were talking in this case, it would be our employees, our teams. So I think sometimes, and I don’t think we do it on purpose, but we almost think a little bit selfishly, and I’m going to create the greatest experience and it’s going to be this and that and it’s going to have all of these elements, but it’s not actually want what the team what your employees actually want. Because if it’s not then then again, you need to you need to go back to that initial question. How do you want them to feel so that would be like the very first thing that’s the first step.

Mitch Simon 25:01
Great. You shared with me a story when we first met on the importance of a box of popcorn. And I wanted to know if you could tell us that story, because this is about all about storytelling. Tell us about that story. And how could you do popcorn in the remote world?

Ginny Bianco-Mathis 25:18

Carolene meli 25:18
It’s a very good question. The story itself is that I was very shocked at Cirque du Soleil as to how many problems customer service problems I could solve by offering a box of popcorn that on my end, was actually incredibly cheap, basically didn’t cost a whole lot at all, but had such high impact. And I was always surprised at the beginning, I’m like, there’s no way that they’ve just left me happy with that box of popcorn right now, like, what the hell is going on. And I realized very quickly, that it was that simple. You know, a lot of a lot of times in my environment, I was not communicating in my first language. And whether it was me trying to communicate in my second or third language, or whether it was me trying to solve a customer service issue through a translator, which is incredibly challenging, at least by offering a gesture of a popcorn, we were actually able to, to have these guests turn around and walk away happy. And the way that the reason that they did that is not because now I have popcorn, like anyone can buy popcorn, right? It’s because through that gesture, I personally felt that I was showing that I cared about them, that I understood about the problem, I’m was maybe not able to solve it. And especially in an environment, event, experience environment, when if things are very time sensitive. So if the show is starting, if your event is starting in five minutes, you don’t have 20 minutes to like, speak with the guests and then go get the manager and then in this whole meeting, you want to get them in there. So they don’t miss the start of the show, right in my particular case. So that’s where I felt we were able to almost form like a little bit of a connection. And sometimes they would even come up to me at the end of the show like oh my gosh, thank you so much. And it didn’t solve everything, but I think it solved. It was it was more the gesture of it. I think sometimes maybe we overthink things, right? We overthink what is the solution. And this is the perfect example of something so simple. For me something that was incredibly cheap from an operational point of view actually created very, very high impact. So that is the the POC, the popcorn story.

Mitch Simon 27:40
How do we do popcorn in the remote world? Good call. Yeah,

Carolene meli 27:45
it’s a really good question. And the first thing that springs to mind comes back to personalization, right? Just Just that example that I gave at the beginning of this conversation around that video that that coach sent me. You know, again, very, very quick to do very low effort, very high ROI. So when I’m thinking of how can I get something across really, really quickly to to my remote workers, for example, that is the perfect example of something that is very, very simple, but actually means a lot. And it’s because it’s personalized, it’s because this guy used my name, you know, he is my neck. It wasn’t just like, Hey, welcome to the program. It was Hi, Carolyn. So excited to have you here. And so I think sometimes we overlook personalization. Because sometimes when we’re very busy with it, oh gosh, I there’s no way I can personalize all of this. And it doesn’t have to be to the individual if you have 1000 people coming to your event, but it could be maybe two clusters, maybe two teams, you know, hey, marketing team, you know, thank you so much, you know, starting something like that. And another example that I do with the experienced creators is after every interview that I give, I send them a thank you postcard in the post, like as if it’s we’re back in the 90s you know, that. And when they receive because it takes it’s not quick, right? It does take quite a while to get there in our world now where we’re used to kind of a couple of hours receiving of things. It’s special because it extends our connection even further. And so of course in a virtual world, you know, you may not have everybody’s addresses and be able to do something like that. But how can you replicate the intention, that action into something that is going to create really high impact and I think the key here is really personalization in whatever way that that that is doable for your experience or your event.

Ginny Bianco-Mathis 29:49
Everything you shared is so powerful, even your own story and the message in your own personal story you carried all the way through In terms of what leaders have to do, the way you said all I did VIP people, right for circle lays. So now what do I do? And you looked at it and you said through work and coaching, you the word that’s been a lot used totally now pivoted yourself to, here’s what I do really well. And, and and then you just exploded it. And that’s what a leader needs to do. From what do I want them to feel when they’re leaving? Is is so simple. How do I create the popcorn virtually now? Well, guess what you can.

Carolene meli 30:44
That’s it. And it’s trial and error. Right? It’s trial and error. Like, for example, in my own in the last year, we spoke about the last year for me, I there were certain elements that I tried, I was part of a number of coaching programs, I tried all the strategies, some of them some of the strategies I hated, because I felt like I was not myself anymore. And one pivotal moment for me was when my best friend said to me, I really miss you on Instagram. And I was like, What do you mean, I’m in Instagram more now than ever? She’s like, No, no, you like you as I miss you. And that was such a slap in the face for me and I and it was such a pivotal moment for me in terms of, wow, I’m going down this path of all these strategies that people are telling me to do. But are they really aligning with me as a person as an individual. And one strategy that I found that I absolutely love? Is podcasting. I love having conversations with people all over the world. I love, you know, getting unexpected questions, I love going in different directions and ending up in random places where we can talk more long form, and that message actually can create a lot of reach and impact. But I wouldn’t have I wouldn’t have figured that out had I not just tried, you know, had I not just given it a go, if I had relied solely on Oh, you need to do this, this is how you need to kind of navigate that experience. Okay, let me give it a go. And one thing that I learned at circus I actually won one leadership quality that exists to this day, is the idea of adaptability. And when we are creating experiences, we have to be able to really change very quickly. So to say I did not have the luxury of time, if something didn’t work, I had to change it for the next show. Not like, okay, let’s have a meeting about this. Let’s invite somebody else, let’s do about 20 emails back and forth. Not it was something I that needs to change in the next hour for when the guests come back, because they’re watching the show right now. But when they come back, we have to change that. Or maybe it’s for the next night. And so through that years and years and years of doing that, I learned that I had to be very quick, I had to be very aware of what was going on and how I was experiencing things and the experiences that I was giving and then being able to go, Nope, that’s not aligning, that’s not working pivot go straightaway, quickly adapt and change direction. And I think people are often very scared to do that. But that’s something that I think that I do very well just because of years and years and always being forced to do that in my work environments.

Mitch Simon 33:16
That’s great. Yeah, adaptability is exactly what we need these days, because everything is changing all the time.

Ginny Bianco-Mathis 33:22
Yeah, sounds like you do it in your personal life too. Moving to all these great, all these different

Mitch Simon 33:28
I know, inherently Athens, which will be down for like two and a half hours. Okay, let’s, let’s get to the ROI questions. So how can a company measure ROI on events, especially when events in the new economy will cause companies to bring people together from all over the world? So in this new world, were in a remote world or a virtual world, you can live anywhere, wherever you want anywhere in the world. Now a company’s gonna say, hey, I want to bring bring people back. So it won’t be Hey, everyone drive in. It might have to be we’re gonna actually have to have a get together outside of our city outside of our country. So how can I say, Well, this is a good investment.

Carolene meli 34:13
Yeah, so I think the logical answer to that is looking at analytics, right? And there’s so many incredible tools for that. There’s so many incredible resources and experts in that area. That is not an area that I focus on at all. So I won’t talk about that at all. However, I think it’s almost like old school. It’s always going back to having conversations with people. It’s almost it’s in the follow up, I think, and it is in not just following up saying Oh, can you fill out this quick survey, you know, five minutes survey, you could win an iPad, you know, one of those kind of things. It’s having a deep and meaningful conversation with somebody. And again, this is obviously a lot of work. It can be seen as a lot of work, but I do definitely think there is a way to do this, so that you can actually see the impacts that your events had. Maybe you’re following up a week or two later, but maybe you’ve made a note for yourself to check in with him in six months, right? And is that impact still resonating with them in though in six months time? Because if it is, then you know, you’re onto something really, really good, right? So I think, because of the speed in which we work at the moment, these days, because of our virtual environment, because of the the vastness of the teams that we’re building, I think sometimes we lose a little bit of that, that love of conversation, and that love of deep connection with someone. And if we again, go back to looking at things like personalization, a sense of belonging, if I went to an event, and then, you know, was asked to maybe jump on a 30 minute call just to check in six months later, and I had this most incredible conversation with with the individual personalization tick sense of belonging, a huge tick probably five ticks in that in that area, memorability Wow, no other company is doing this for me, like I’ve never been asked to to give feedback or checking in this kind of way. And shareability I mean, the amount of people that I’m going to tell about this initiative, this conversation is really high. And so I think for some people, they may not like that answer, just because it’s does seem like a lot of work. And you may not have the manpower, the bandwidth to do that. But if that is in your realm, I think having thinking about the depth of conversation, thinking about the depth of the insights, that you’re going back and forth with each other, I think that can actually translate very much so into ROI. If you’re looking at it from a connection, a personalization point of view. So that would be my answer.

Mitch Simon 36:55
No, what I love about your answer is, is you’re measuring one of the things I love about your answers, you asked the question to basically say, you know, measure it, six months out. We also love is that you said, for an event to be memorable to be fulfilling, you must design it to have those conversations which make it memorable and fulfilling. And I think that that is I think that’s what gets gets lost. Because you know, if I would think about an event, but Cirque du Soleil, for my company, I’m think we’re gonna have an elephant, we’re gonna have great food, we’re gonna have people that can, you know, twist their bodies in ways that you can’t, and then we’ll have loud music. And you say, Carolyn, that’s nice match, but what you need to plan for our conversations, because you tell me more about the types of conversations that you would plan to have your events just be, you know, I would never forget them for years on end.

Carolene meli 37:59
I think it’s not so much what kind of conversations we can have. It’s what can we put in place in the experience for these kind of conversations to happen naturally. And I’ll give you the perfect example. So recently, on the experience creators, I interviewed a natural food chef wellness coach, and she has a conscious catering business. And she’s based in LA, she goes to and she caters events. And I asked her a very similar question around this in terms of how can we use food as a tool to deepen our connection with others? And it was very interesting her answer because it was all around. Okay, first impression. When you walk in, you’re automatically greeted with something very beautifully plated, whether it’s the tiniest little thing, whether it’s a beverage no matter what, but you don’t want people walking in. And we all know we’ve all been in that situation where we’re just kind of awkward are just look at my phone, because I don’t really want to interact with anyone. Food is a natural conversation starter. If it’s done well, I think a lot of events don’t do food well. And we can all think of an event we’ve been to the food was just absolutely shocking. It’s kind of come straight out of the freezer, right? But if you are able to use that tool, the tool of food, if it’s beautiful, I mean, imagine if you walked in, and something beautifully presented something you’ve never seen that done in that way. That is a conversation starter already. Right. You’ve created the opportunity for the conversation, you haven’t created the conversation itself. So I think it’s really around the activation. If you’re if you’re looking at a physical experience, if you’re looking at a virtual experience, what questions can you ask, can you put to the group that are actually going to create some really exciting conversations and usually they are very, like thought provoking a little bit, maybe out of the box or a little bit risky in a way, but those are how your conversations are going to start. So it’s Not about necessarily the content of the conversation, it’s how you can actually create as many opportunities for those conversations that happen naturally around you.

Mitch Simon 40:10
I love that answer. Okay, so I’m a CEO. I’ve run 100%, in real life company. And now I’ve decided to make the move to a virtual company. It’s as we recording this, it’s, gosh, it’s the end of March of 2021. People are getting vaccinated. And I’m looking at my 2022, my first half of 2022. I’m assuming everyone’s be vaccinated, everyone get on a plane? What do I need to think about as I look towards that full year of 2022? And thinking about events? for my company that would really engage them? What are some of the things that that you would suggest I start to think about? Because you are an event strategist, by the way that would have me be able to move from a in real life to a virtual company, and have my employees actually feel even more engaged than they were? Before the pandemic? Ooh, big question.

Carolene meli 41:13
So I think before asking me that question, I think the first step is asking your employees, your teams, I often find that as leaders, we forget how valuable the insights and the expertise of our of our employees actually are. And I’ll give you an example at Cirque du Soleil. I feel like I use Cirque to slay for every example that I give you, but I’m going to go with it because they’re also relevant. I’d like to say, as I mentioned, before, we change cities every two months, right. And in somewhere like America, that was we’re in the same country, same language. However, I spend a lot of my time touring in Europe. So we are changing countries, we are changing languages, we are changing coaches every two months. So in that environments, I if I, let’s say my VIP Team and I, I was the expert in leadership in operations in the logistic side of thing in customer service. But my team were the experts in the guests, right? The guests were their fellow countrymen and women that the guests spoke, they’re the same language as my team. So I lead through curiosity, I lead through asking questions, they were the ones that gave me all the there’s so many ideas that I implemented at that circuit that I cannot take any credit for, because they were devised by my teams, because they were the ones that knew the guests better than any of us at circuitously because we were foreigners, so to speak, right. And if I was lucky, I was able to speak the same language of the guest. But a lot of times, I wasn’t. So I had to rely on my team, I found that I was able to make so much amazing progress in the quality of the experience by getting my team involved by asking them by by not only asking them their ideas, but asking them what their experience was last night, when we had that big group of people like what what were the kinds of things that they were saying, how are we How are they responding to you because of course, we can all judge body language, we can all judge tone of voice. But if we’re not actually physically understanding what they’re saying, you know, it’s sometimes a little bit of a guesswork. So I would then now adopt that same strategy into this example that that you bring up mentioned, say that before I as a leader, go and try and create this crazy strategy. Let’s start by asking the people that this experience is actually for remember, going back to that thing that I said before about, sometimes we focus too much on creating the experience that we want to create. And we don’t focus on creating an experience that is actually relevant to the desires, the wants, and the needs of the people that we’re creating for. So that is a huge step. And, you know, it sounds so simple in theory, but I think so many leaders never use that strategy. Because you know, why? It challenges ego, it challenges your expertise. As a leader, if you start asking questions, Oh, my gosh, people are gonna think that you don’t know what you’re doing, people are gonna think you are less intelligent than you actually are. This is our ego, like telling ourselves these things. But I think if you’re able to kind of let that go a little bit and trust that the outcome will actually be a lot better than you creating yourself. I think that you’re going to actually create so much impact because a lot of the ideas in your strategy is actually going to come through conversations with your employees, your teams or whoever it is that you’re serving through this experience.

Mitch Simon 44:49
I love that answer. is a great, great answer. That is just

Ginny Bianco-Mathis 44:55
that’s great. And and how a thought that I had and see how you respond when you said leaders are sometimes afraid, because they have this persona of what they have to be, and I have to go ask people and get the input and be participative. There’s also I think, going into this new hybrid world. If you’re going to create the experience, there is a bit of a marketing sense to the the six month follow up, how many hits of conversations Do I need for trust to have been built? How many feelings Do I need to create to then see that the culture has moved out there? And the crux of that, I think, is some leaders may reject that, oh, that’s not what a leader does, you better do going forward. And you are such a personification of that in terms of the work that and all these ideas that you’re share?

Carolene meli 46:00
You know, sometimes also, I think there is a lot of pressure to determine a very immediate ROI, right? Especially when you’re looking from a financial point of view, right? If I invest $50,000, into this experience, what am I getting out of this? And how am I going to prove that to the to the higher ups, and I have never wants to focused on that ROI in particular. And of course, some people may disagree, they need that is a that is a prerequisite for them creating something, and I totally understand that. But how many times have you I mean, I just think of the impact that we create, like, for example, I did a presentation recently, on a pod fest summit, right. And I gave this five minute presentation entitled, one great experience has the potential to change someone’s world. And I had no idea of the ROI of this yet. Apparently, there was 10,000 people there who knows, I don’t really know, I don’t know how many people saw my presentation. And then a couple of weeks later, I got a LinkedIn message from somebody who’d watched it and it was the most beautiful for me, like, it just touched me in such a way that was, I almost like shed a little bit of a tear it was so it was so crazy, the impact that my five minutes and what I’d created had had on this, this woman. Now that exists all the time. But we don’t necessarily communicate to that to that other person. So sometimes I find that if we just look at the quality that we’re creating, in the experiences that we offer, sometimes putting a little bit of a trust into the impact that that’s actually going to have alleviates that pressure of oh my gosh, what is the immediate ROI? Again, that strategy doesn’t work in every single circumstance. But personally for me in all the work that I’m doing everything that I’m creating, that is my strategy, and it aligns 100% with my own leadership style, my own strategist style. And that is Yeah, that is how I roll in that regard.

Mitch Simon 48:06
Carolyn, is there any question that we should have asked you that we have not asked you? We have never spoken to an event strategist in our lives. So this is new for us. We’re very nervous.

Carolene meli 48:18
I think that we have covered a lot. I think that I’ve shared lots of stories, you guys have asked a lot of great questions. So I’m gonna say no, I think this has been amazing.

Mitch Simon 48:29
It has been amazing. Okay, so where can people find you?

Carolene meli 48:32
Yeah, so the experience creators is on YouTube, that is my current love. I just, every time I work on that, I’m just obsessed with it. And the feedback has been amazing. So if you’d like to check that out, that’s the experience creators on YouTube. And then in terms of my own personal brand, all the work that I’m doing currently in, and you can check the spelling in this podcast.

Mitch Simon 48:57
Great. Thank you, Carolyn. This has been really, really great, really things I think I’d never really have even considered thinking about that will really change I think my events going forward. And we hope we’ll stay in touch with you and get you back on the podcast real soon. Thank you, Jenny. And thank you, our audience, which has been growing greatly over the last few weeks. We really appreciate you listening. We appreciate your curiosity. Please share this segment in All our segments with all of your colleagues and friends. And we look forward to seeing you next week on our next episode of team anywhere.

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