• Melissa

Miami Art Showcases: Pt 1

A lot of people associate event planners automatically to wedding planner. Why? I don't know. A lot of people also associate an Event Consultant to just a planner. And then there's the people that think a Venue Consultant is just someone that helps event planning clients find venues for their events - which I offer in my event consulting services, but that's not the venue consulting I refer to when I present myself as a Venue Consultant. A lot of people also ask me how I got into all the event types that I did as well as WHY I offer so many event types rather than going into just one...or how I got into the niche of venue consulting I'm in. My answer is that my background is mostly productions, specifically fashion show productions. I only got into corporate events, fundraisers, weddings and all the lifestyle events (i.e. showers, birthdays, etc.) once I moved back to MN. At that time I thought, why not? Productions are a beast because the events I come from had at least 500+ attendees and 30+ vendors, so to plan a wedding ranging from 50-250 guests and only managing a small fraction of vendors from what I'm used to, it's easy peasy. The same goes for fundraisers and corporate events. Now that I wrote that out, for those of you who have asked me this question, now you know 😂


On a side note, when I say productions I mean art shows, fashion shows, music showcases, small performances by dancers or spoken word, photography showcases and fashion pop-up's including accessories, hair and makeup.


When I first moved back to MN, I was in venue management. A year later (2016) I decided to open my own business; I came from a contractor lifestyle where I was my own boss. After a year of working for someone, I soon realized that I just can't. Haha! Once an "entrepreneur" always an entrepreneur, am I right?!


Within that first year of being in business, I made the initiative to meet every venue in Minneapolis. There were two things in common between now being a business owner and being that venue manager; everyone was super intrigued when I told them that my background was productions! It's a very uncommon profession here in Minnesota. Here, you're either a corporate event planner or a wedding planner. When you go out to bigger cities such as Miami (where I moved back to MN from), New York, LA, etc., most event planners do it all.


So going back to one of the first questions in the beginning of this post that I get asked a lot about is, "Why don't you just go into one event type?" The answer to that is, it's just in my blood. I need variety. Yes, the wedding industry is a big one, but I don't want to be labeled as a wedding planner. I don't want to work every weekend because I've been doing that my whole life starting at the age of 16. Yes, I know, I'm still young but one big reason why I started my own business is so I can have freedom. There's no right or wrong answer to doing the things you want to do when you own your own business. Side rant, sorry! Now, when you add in my full-time venue consulting, that's even more variety where I'm getting to help venues expand their potential in event types I know and love. Since Minnesota doesn't have a lot of event planners that do these types of productions, it at least gives me a little taste because I'm helping those venues bring that event type here!


Now, let's get into the topic of this blog post - When I was trying to think of a topic to write about this month, I thought that maybe I should write a recap about my productions. By doing this, you will know what that kind of event planning life is like, get a real understanding of what it means and how, as well as why, I am the venue and event consultant + the planner that I am today. So let's head back to where it really began - Miami.


Wynwood arts district, Miami, Florida



What a good run I had in Miami during these art showcases. This is really where my event career took off. Leading up to them in 2011, I had just been doing fashion shows with local designers and stores (big and small) in Minnesota as well as Phoenix. Phoenix is where I moved to around the age of 21 from Minnesota and was the city I resided in prior to Miami. So let's just say it was VERY different when I started events in South Florida. The culture was different, everyone (vendors and artists included) worked at a little bit of a slower pace, the arts industry was stronger than anything I have ever experienced before, the opportunity for growth was insane, and just so much more!! But when it came to the events itself, it took a long time to figure out the flow of things.


I was so used to fashion shows that would take place in one space. I was now dealing with not only vendors that were hanging up their artwork and prints, but fashion designers putting on a runway show, musicians performing, dancers and other performing artists such as spoken word, filmmakers showcasing their short films, while other vendors were setting up their merch tables and racks. All of these vendors couldn't be placed in one area. Due to wall space and how many artists I had to accommodate, they were placed throughout the entire venue.


The venue consisted of 4 spaces: The art gallery (the main space), the cocktail area which was a bit more dim, the outside patio and the "white room" which was used by the venue for photo/video shoots as well as an additional art gallery. I had to think about what kind of medium their artwork was so if the showcase was put on in the middle of the summer, would their work melt/run if they were in a certain room? I had to think about the artists that had to have a table and where were they going to go based on the number of people attending and what the flow would be. I had to think about lighting and who had to be in a well-lit area and who could get by with spotlights (aka your typical gallery lighting). Then I had to think about where were the models going to get ready which ended up being the storage room most of the time (storage room was a lot bigger than it sounds; it was an actual room. And by "most of the time", you will have to wait and see in a later post what that was all about...and don't worry I'll MAKE SURE to get to that part - #EveryPlannersNightmare).


Besides dealing with the layout logistics, I had to do the production schedule. If you saw my social media post back in May, this is actually one of my favorite things to do, even to this day! Now when I said a few paragraphs ago that Miami was a different culture, one of things I meant by this is that everyone arrives late. If something starts at 7pm, they won't start arriving until 7:30pm. This meant that my event really couldn't start until 7:45pm at the earliest - Most of the time it started at 8pm. You also had to take in mind the weather because if it was raining, that meant a start time of MAYBE 8:15pm! In addition to the production schedule, I had to train and manage a team of staff such as my photographer, videographer, the DJ, the host, all my assistants and train my PA (production assistant) so if I was busy they knew how to manage the other staff members. Then I had to run all the PR, make appearances, plan for an interview within the schedule and make sure I was even available to do it. I also had to do the social media throughout the event, AND then there was the prepping of the artists.


Somehow I felt the need to coach and train these artists. A lot of them were experiencing their first showcase and didn't know how to prep. On another note, the reason why I did this was because if they weren't prepared, it was a reflection on me since it was my event - just like if something goes wrong during a wedding and even though the planner didn't have anything to do with it nor did they have control over it, it's still their fault. So with that being said, every week I would call each artist (remember, there were at least 30+ at each event) with a topic of conversation; how to act, what supplies they needed, how to get their supplies, what to wear that still fit their creative brand, how they should display their work, get them to think outside the box (another part of this blog series that I'll get to eventually), so on and so on. I'm so happy that I invested my time into this though because not only did my art showcases grow in attendance and vendor-wise because of how smooth the planning process was, but also (and more importantly), my artists VALUED it! I had gotten thank you notes sent to me, emails, phone calls, you name it! All of which, they told me that they were so grateful that I taught them the things I did because it prepped them for their career as well as their future showcases. Most of them went on to display their work at one of the biggest art shows in the world too - Art Basel! If you know me personally and know 'my why', this is exactly where it comes from; I just love to help people! I'm motivated by it.


Side note: It's not pronounced "Art Basil", it's "Art Bah-zel". A lot of people pronounce it as "basil", so just wanted to clear that up for ya 😉


My first event was a learning curve, that's for sure!! But when you're launching an event series, they only get better time after time. You learn from your mistakes and know what to look for. I preach this to my interns actually; you really don't know how to become an event planner until you produce an event after an event and get thrown into obstacles where you don't have a helpline. You have to think quick on your feet and just get it resolved. I am so thankful that I have a production background because the shit that pops up that you would never experience in a wedding or a fundraiser, happens! As I'm literally laughing out loud as I write this because you guys have NO IDEA what I had to deal with. It's hilarious! Anywho, now that you know what goes into events like these, I'll give you an intro snippet on what really happened at my first event:


Remember when I brought up the fact that the start time in Miami has to be at least 30-45 minutes later? Well, I didn't know that going in. Thankfully, one of my strengths that I have always had is getting creative on how to make up for time if things do run behind (things run behind ALL THE TIME in fashion shows). Another one of my strengths is that I always think of the positive out of the negative. The positive out of this situation was that Miami starts their nights late so even though it was mid-week, starting later than I personally wanted to worked out for my attendees and vendors. The first opening act was always a musician, which, who wants to perform to a half-empty room anyways?! Boom! A positive in a negative.


Initially, my music performances were taking place indoors due to the heat. Bad idea! The acoustics were completely off. If you're a venue that has worked with me via my venue consulting services or when I'm planning a client's event, this is the EXACT reason why I ask about the acoustics. Eventually the music portion of my events moved to the outdoor patio. It was sometimes hot, yes, but we had a giant ceiling fan and quite honestly, it's not like here in MN; South Floridians are used to the heat all year round so it wasn't bad. Also, it was good for me! We sold tickets prior to the event but we also accepted walk-in's. By having a light show and live music happening outside as well as the entrance being off of a main road, it was advertising in itself - Win, win, win!



The fashion show took a bit of work. You don't really know how the execution of a fashion show is going to be in a unique space like this one until you actually do it. The 'green room' where the models got ready (aka the storage room I talked about) was right off of the 'white room'. So naturally, it made sense for them to walk out of the 'green room' and straight down the 'white room', right? Nope! Logistically it just didn't work because the room wasn't big enough for all my attendees...especially since the opening of it (which was a garage door) made the flow of people go into a bottleneck. I didn't know how many people were going to actually attend. Yes, I had the ticket sales to show me, but not everyone will come even though they bought a non-refundable ticket. I also didn't know how many walk-in's would come since it was, again, my first event. So although it was awesome that the room was packed full of people, I quickly learned that at the next event we would definitely have to move it to the main space where there was more room. Thankfully the 'green room' had access to that space through a hallway too!


Read my blog post about What To Look For in a Venue - line 7. It talks about what to look for if you're putting on a fashion show.


I did these events for years to follow. What I had to deal with prior to the event day like the venue changing the layout without telling me, what I had to deal with during setup the day of such as an artist not taking my calls but showed up the day of unprepared, as well as what ended up happening with these events...meaning the venue shutdown about a month prior to my next event...is for a future post. I'll even let you in on how I planned an event remotely one time and why I now offer, and can, do destination events with my eyes closed 😉 But all I can say to wrap this specific post up is that, again, I wouldn't be the consultant (not only for events and weddings, but for venues too!) and planner that I am today if I didn't go through the obstacles that I did and the events that I produced.


Join me in September when I launch my 2nd post to my event production series. Until then, stay well!

-Melissa


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Photo credit: Airos Design Photography