An interview with Dean Laffan from Real World
Ben Powell: Hi, Welcome to the BetterPODcast in today’s video. We’re going to be talking to Dean Laffan from real-world and we’re going to get into things about production, about his experience with Ireport and doing ASX type general meetings, as a event producer, we’re also going to be talking about how you can make events more exciting with graphics and overlays, and then we’ll get into in quite depth.
A lot of the things that small AV teams and production teams can do to make their client events much more interesting, engaging and successful.
Thanks and enjoy the show.
Thanks very much for joining me on the BetterPODcast.
Dean Laffan: Yeah. Pleasure Ben a thank you. Thank you for having me.
Ben Powell: Of course, of course.
Well, we’ll get right into it. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Dean Laffan: Okay. Well I, I had a non traditional perhaps start into the events business. My role is primarily as an event producer, but I came into this, would you believe as a sales rep? Okay. I way back in the day, I inadvertently stumbled into a job as a sales rep, now, your audience is going to have to Google this, Ben. I’m sorry for, a computer graphic 35 mill. Slide presentation bureau.
So this is pre bureau,
Ben Powell: a bureau?
Dean Laffan: So pre laptops, pre Harvard graphics, pre PowerPoint, pre pre oldest persuasion those first sort of software based, some software programs that would let you create slides before that you couldn’t do it. You had to go to a bureau and have graphic artists do it. And then they were film recorded using a machine worth at the time, about a hundred thousand dollars to make 35 mil glass mounted slides that you would put into a 35 mil slide projector.
Yes, folks. That’s how I am.
Ben Powell: I was going to say, when was this?
Dean Laffan: 90, 92..
Ben Powell: 92 and they were using that was essentially like film overheads. Okay.
Dean Laffan: You know, the big ones were overheads that you’d put down on a, on a overhead projector. These were the little 35 mil slides that you would put in a carousel drop onto a projector and project.
Ben Powell: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So that’s how, that was the only thing you could do if you want the resolution on that would have
Dean Laffan: amazing. Yeah. It went up to 4k, which back in 92 was something anyway. So that’s how I started. So I stumbled into as a, so then I became cognizant and, and started to learn through osmosis about what constituted good presentations.
And so primarily I was, I was a presentation. Not a designer. My wife is a presentation designer working on the tools. So she’ll design a beautiful presentation. When I scribbled up stuff that I want to appear on screen. Even today, it starts on an, A4 sheet of paper and it looks like chicken scratch. And my wife or somebody else with talent turns it into something, but I structure the information for clients.
So for example, these days I would get a script say for, for for an event and then I sit down and I creatively come up with what is going on, on screen at the time that they’re speaking these words. So it’s designing in that sense. So we started out yes, presentation designers, and then we got sick of seeing our presentations butchered in the environment in which they were presented by people who didn’t care or were clueless or both.
So we sort of, we had clients say, can you come along and just help us make sure tit looks, and it worksorks right in the room. And so, you know, we worked with good staging companies. We worked with poor staging companies and we got to sort of understand what constituted good and bad production. And I started to extend my influence and interest into those.
So one thing just led to another. And so by accident, I ended up being an event producer, so that’s where we are today.
Ben Powell: Okay. You said that you were doing like oh, what did they call it? The drawing out the designs, like, yeah, like.
Dean Laffan: Yeah. Yeah. storyboarding, yeah that is the exact word total blank.
I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t I wouldn’t insult storyboard artists around the world by suggesting that, but I literally, we do start with a clean, a stack of clean white A4 paper, and I’m looking at the script and I’ll read through the script and mark up where the logical breaks are for the content as they change topics.
And then within that I’ll go, right. So that needs a video. Okay. We need a video of that and it either exists or we’re going to make one that that’s crying out for an infographic there. Okay. That that’s a photograph, that’s something else, whatever. And then I put them all together in a logical sequence and then ship them off to be shipped them off as in hand off to my partner or someone else to, to to make them.
Professionally designed, which terribly
Ben Powell: is that. So I want to actually talk about that. So is that something that you learned in a broadcast skill or something you’ve just sort of adapted over the years of, of working,
Dean Laffan: right. So I, my, let me just give you a quick rundown of my official what’s the word qualifications and my resume in this area.
So I have qualifications in nothing.
Ben Powell: I was expecting a
Dean Laffan: list. I see.. See. I Stooged you there now look it’s I understand. And it’s a little bit unusual, but it’s sort of not in the events industry. Quite often, people will stumble into it. You know, they begin working, let’s say staging, right? So physical events they’ll begin by bloating, you know, just bumping in and bumping out and then they learn how to run cable and then they learn how that
particular, you know, sound desk works or whatever. They get taught that. And they, they grow into a role. So I’ve never done a course, anything in my life ever. What, what I was good at was saying yes to projects the clients asked for, and then saying, just give me about a week and I’ll, and I’ll come back to you with a sample on that.
And then I would, back in the day, I’d run off and buy, you know, whether it was DVD authoring. First time we got asked, can you author DVDs? Absolutely. What can you show me? Come back, just come back in five days and I’ll rather than show you something generic, show something that’s with your content. Oh, great.
And then furiously ran off and bought, you know, the three main books on three, three main books on DVD authoring and taught myself. DVD studio pro and just started to try and break things and, you know, just spent hours, days and days on the computer at the end of which I was starting to be.
What’s the word conciously incompetent by that stage. And so I could stumble my way through it and yeah. I just love to dive into new things and just, you know, just, just dive in and, and soak in them until you know how to do it. And of course, these days, particularly with online resources, it’s not hard now to find great YouTube resources for companies with their products.
But back in the day, it was all email sort of bulletin board style list. And you’d say, how do I do this? And some kind sole would chime in and say, oh, you do this, this, this, and this. And so I’ve always learned by doing so everything, whether that’s ahh.. Production direction you know, the, the physical environment of the room video compression, streaming, webcasting, all that sort of thing.
It’s all been me with a desire to perhaps I learn it for myself and my own interest, or it was being the case of webcasting back in the day, 10 years ago, we were hiring people to do it for my event. That they were either doing it poorly. And in one case completely screwing it up. And as an event producer, responsible to the client for the, you know, the overall integrity of the event, I just couldn’t have it.
It was giving me kittens and I’m like, I can’t do this. It’s it’s my reputation is in their hands and I have no control and I don’t understand what they’re doing. So it’s important for me as a producer to be able to understand enough of what all of my team are doing without being necessarily an expert in that.
I think the phrase Jack of all trades master of none is often used as a criticism or in a negative way. But that’s really what I am. And I’m, I’m actually, I’m a Jack of all trades and master of some. So there are some things that are absolutely in my wheelhouse video compression. I spent years and years beta testing programs in video compression on a global basis.
I was on the global advisory board for Acrobat for Adobe, for their interactivity and things like that. So some things I know quite well and other things I know well enough to know that that guy knows his job so I can probably trust him until I see him work, but I can assess that. And of course we never go into anything, you know, without any backup.
But, but I need to know enough to know whether they’re going to, whether I think they’re going to work. And I, and I need to understand the processes around that. So there’s a certain minimum amount of level of information that I need to have on whether it’s sound or vision. Mixing or 3d animation or voiceover or all of the moving parts that might entail a show set and display you know working with talent, whether that’s NCS or hosts or bands or dancers or whatever, I need to know how they work and what they expect and what their, what their expectations are and how it works for them, because I need to be able to just pull all of those strings together and then like, you know, make it all kind of work.
Ben Powell: So as far as I know, it’s the whole saying is Jack of all trades master of none, but it’s better than being a master of one from what I know.
Dean Laffan: And, and, and, and look though, just on that point there. Especially when we’re going to delve into the area that we are in terms of webcasting and virtual and hybrid and, and physical events, you absolutely need somebody who is a masters in those particular fields.
So when it comes to comms, for example you know, we’ve got, I’ve got a guy here in Melbourne who works on know Olympic games, world cup soccer. He runs the comms for those events at a level that’s way beyond my job, right. He is a master at that. So I need, if not absolute single purpose masters, I certainly need people who are masters on that particular, in that particular role, whether it’s sound or lighting or vision or camera guys who are, who know what they’re doing.
And, and it’s important for me to be a generalist whilst they’d be a specialist. Now that doesn’t mean that they can only have one specialty, but if it was say, for example, when I go out looking for. 3d video animations. Right? You can spend your whole life in after effects with plugins and, and learn the art of that as well as the technical side of it and how to do all that.
I tried to do just being a decent half decent video editor in the old analog system that I bought for. Don’t even ask me back in the late nineties.. It’s too painful for me to recall the cost of being an early adopter. Huh? Yeah, that’s right. It has, it has all the power of like QuickTime pro now, but I came to the conclusion that that’s not.
Use of my time, same thing with HTML programming back in the day, flash or director that’ll set off some bells, maybe for some people it’s just not worth spending me hundreds and thousands of hours to be mediocre when I can buy somebody who is really good at that for a reasonable amount of money.
And that’s just going to be part of my production budget. So it’s important for me as a producer to know what I, what I need to learn and what, and what the level is on the stuff that I say, I know enough about this now that’s okay. Right. I don’t need to know any more than this to produce the average gig.
And if I strike a gig where I need to learn more, I’ll hit the pause button. Hopefully we’ve got something with a decent lead in time and, and, and I’ll go and do the research and needed to build up experience, knowledge and surety. It’s very important for me as a producer, whose ass is on the line with the client eventually, or.
Essentially I’m at the end of the chain. I’m the one that’s going to hand in the bill for 150 grand or 200 grand for that job to pay everybody else down the line. So if my client says, well, you know that guy over there or somebody, you actually, they want to say somebody, you screwed up that job and not paying it’s like, Hmm, now we have a problem.
So, so trust and, and dependability of the people in the crew very important to me, but I need to. Where to stop about how much each of them do. Yeah. I
Ben Powell: actually, I do want to talk about what goes into making a good team a little bit later, but I want to go back to where we were just a little bit before about and it kinda ties into this, storyboarding your event and considering your event as a overarching concept rather than just a point and shoot.
So we see a lot of incredibly dull and incredibly boring events now. Especially, you know, zoom fatigue is just too much for my, my brain to handle. What do you think a small team on a limited budget can do to make a, a basic, you know, four hour event actually. Interesting.
Dean Laffan: Huh? Good question. Because it opens up so many. So so many fields of inquiry. It’s not just in the current technical COVID inspired zoom landscape that presentations are boring. Oh, sorry. That events are boring and suffer, although it certainly doesn’t help by virtualizing them. So when you abstract the human beings in a, you know face-to-face out of out of an event.
So in other words, let’s say you, you, you did have a physical event, you had 80 people or 150 people in a room, and everyone was sitting together and they can mingle and coffee and it’s human beings and they’re physically present. And that’s the way that humans are wired to be right. We’re social creatures.
And so when you then move into a virtual environment, I, I do have to say that I, I feel for. The vendors who are producing or creating the solutions that I as a producer want to use to connect people like that. So whether, you know, let’s say zoom is obviously the, the, you know, the big silver back gorilla there, but whether it’s teams or whether it’s WebEx or whether it’s something else or blue jeans, it doesn’t matter.
It’s people now on the end of a camera and most, most presenters who would normally present or be present and speaking in those environments, they’re not used to doing that. And when I say not used, I mean, they’ve done it for a year now, but this, I just ran an event the other day. We we set up, it was a, this one was a zoom webinar.
So we had 10 presenters throughout the day. It was a regular conference schedule. Okay. Opening presentation, morning tea break more presentations, lunch break come back afternoon seeions.. bada bing.. Right. So that would normally happen with bickies and coffee in a hotel. Did you know, two years ago now?
It’s now it’s virtualized in zoom. So even though they’d been doing that for 12 months, so we have a separate green room set up for the speakers. So while the sessions running live on one zoom account on another zoom account, I’ve got a green room where the speakers come in and I check their audio video.
Yeah. Okay. And would just things like, okay, show me how you share your screen. Oh yeah. I’ve got this. Okay. Good. And then they start and then they like, oh, wait a minute. Where is, where is my I go? You’ve got a second screen. Don’t you? They go, oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I do. Yeah, I do. Now I’m home. Okay. So what’s happening.
Hmm. And you walk them through that. Right. So you finally get them to understand what they need to do. And then we say, okay, well, look, you’re live in 10 minutes. So I want you to click the link in the that I’ve put on screen there. And we’ll see you in the webinar. And You’ll be ready to go five minutes later, they’re in the show and they can’t share their screen, you know, so it’s, so I feel for the vendors and I feel for those people who need to present, because it’s unnatural, it is unnatural.
So unless you’re broadcast trained, which I’m not by the way, but I have taught myself enough about the process to understand and be able to brief and advise clients how to do it, some of them simply can’t do it. They just, oh, it’s difficult. So, so, okay. Getting back to your question, what makes a good event.
Number one is preparation. It’s, it’s a boring topic, but really when people are, if you’re not well-prepared or so if you don’t prepare your clients well, then they can be ages, basically unprepared, but don’t care or B. Unprepared and nervous. And once you add nerves to the equation for anyone on camera, you’ve got problems.
Yeah. So, so a very clear so the preproduction, no matter what the, what the tool you’re using is critical and the tool, I almost don’t care what the tool is. Right. I don’t care if it’s zoom. I don’t care if it’s teams, I don’t care. We’re platform agnostic to a great extent, because it’s really more about how well do you structure the event?
How well do you, as a producer, imagine the event unfolding, whether it’s physical or, or, or online. And then you need to be able to see how you transition from, from a, to B, to C, to D F and all the way through to Zed when you’re at the end of the show smoothly. And then you need to communicate that clearly to the client.
So that they understand, and that gives them confidence and it, and it gives them a peace of mind that, the event’s going to go fine. Right. And they understand how the parts move and they have to go. Yeah.
Ben Powell: Cause it’s a relates to that. How much kind of input do you feel, or, or working with the event manager?
I mean, you have a vision for how based on the schedual, how it’s going to go, how it’s all going to work. If you see something glaring, how much input or how often in your experience are you doing co managed events with the event manager to change their vision, to fit the technical limitations of what you need to output.
Dean Laffan: Virtually a hundred percent of the time. Right? Okay. Yeah. So, so they will have, they will have a view about how they think the event should go, but they’re obviously not experienced event producers. Or if, if they had that in-house capability, then they wouldn’t be talking to me and some do. So some of the larger listed businesses in Australia and, and elsewhere they’ll have an entire in-house events team that will handle their events.
And that might make sense financially or for control for branding. They want, they want that within their environment and they will handle most of their events that said even, even the largest of companies in the ASX top 10 will still outsource usually their largest and most important events to someone like myself.
who has an external eye on it and they recognize that, you know, we want this to go absolutely perfectly. And we’re willing to pay. Yeah, well, no, not even, maybe it just in the overall budget of the event, maybe the events got a $500,000 budget. By time you fly everybody in business back in the old days.
And hopefully back soon, get, get a transport accommodation lost lost time and productivity if they’re internal people. So if you’ve got 250 or 500 people within your company, you brought them to Melbourne or Sydney at the exhibition center. Right. There’s a significant cost to that. So the cost of a producer to over to sit over the top of that and just make sure that the event, when you get them all there and they’re all in their bums in seats, that everything goes well.
And that, that cost is a rounding error in the overall event. Some people, some companies understand that and others don’t. So, so yeah, often we’ll say, look, we’re looking at the run sheet and how do you see this working? And they go, oh oh yeah, I hadn’t thought about that or, okay, cool. All right, well let’s work it out.
What about we do this? What about we do that? And so we go through and we’re sort of, yeah, I sort of imagine it like a, like a dash line and sometimes the dashes are longer and those are bits that are all okay. Like, yep. That’s, that’s all gonna work fine. But then there’s like gaps that need to be filled. And so part of my role and I guess 20 years of, of doing this, I had the ability to play.
In my head before it’s happened. And I look at the run sheet and I’m feeling I’m physically, or I’m picturing physically, let’s say it’s people, you know, it’s a, an award show. And what side of the award winners coming up? How are they getting off? Who’s handing them the thing, where do they speak from, if they make a speech, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
And it’s like, okay, well we need a pin spot for that part of the stage, because we’re going to put an RBS and a microphone there. We can’t have them. I don’t want them walking behind the host behind the lectern because we’re recording this and we’re going to post produce it. And I just don’t want that vibe.
Or the client says I don’t care about that. That’s fine. Okay. Fine. Yep. So all those little details get worked out to a lesser or greater extent depending on the client and depending on the project and each one is different. So the answer is, it depends.
Ben Powell: You touched on this, quite some time ago, but I want to, I want to come back to it.
Like I personally think things like graphics, overlays, transitions make production far more dynamic and interesting. Again, just going back to the constant single camera pointing at a person and then a quick shift. What do you think of, of, like I said, Graphics transitions, overlays. And then how, what, or how have you seen problems with managing that in the, in the past?
Dean Laffan: Yeah, so. One of, I’m just going to take a step back to answer the question not changing topics, but just to take, to take I’ll come at it from wide and then I’ll narrow in even before COVID certainly with what we started producing hybrid events may be 10 years ago. So let me just define hybrid event is where there’s a physical presence somewhere, right?
Whether it’s you know, a couple of hundred people in a room or whether it’s simply. Two or three key presenters of the company in a small studio that they’re presenting from. And then we’re throwing to, remote either presenters via VC, or there’s another audience that’s of several hundred or several thousand that are watching elsewhere and either typing comments or, you know, we’re bringing them in with a voice and, or video, whatever.
So that’s a hybrid event. A virtual event is where nobody’s anywhere everyone’s in the cloud. So everybody’s participating remotely. That’s your, you know, COVID stage five disaster plan when nobody can leave their house and everything’s gotta be done in the cloud. And everything runs through a, through in our case, in our through our NOC, our network operation center in Sydney.
So we have all those streams coming in and they’re mixed just like more like a broadcast environment. So that leads me to this even before COVID our advice to clients was. In this new digital landscape, you really need to think of yourselves as broadcasters, every major brand, whether it’s from BHP, Telstra down to even the mid cap, you know, mining company, that’s, you know, mid-cap that a hundred million dollars, let’s say which in ASX terms, is nothing.
You are being measured by your peers and sorry, you’re being, you’re being measured against your peers. And there are so much broadcast quality content out there now that you can’t really just get away. You can no longer get away with just turning up with a..that you know, your laptop camera pointing up your nose because you’re too lazy to put something underneath the laptop and prop it up and get the, get the, the, the lens of the laptop in the bays’ll get that into your eye-line.
So that you’re presenting well, that you’ve got half decent microphone, you know, audio capture, video capture gear, you know, that I’m using a Logitech webcams, 120 bucks, the headphones at 60, you know, a couple of hundred bucks for the blue Yeti. That when you look, when you’re talking to companies, let alone individuals, even if I was, if I was a mid-level executive in a business these days, just purely for my own, the own health of my career, you would want to present yourself as well on screen in a virtual sense possible.
So I’d spend a couple of hundred dollars so that I didn’t come across like a complete numpty. Back to the broadcast model companies have the capacity now through all of the channels that they can present through. Whether it’s internal within their network, whether it’s collaboration tools like zoom and all the rest, whether it’s their YouTube channel, their Vimeo channel, their social media, the clips that they might produce to drop into all the socials,
There’s no reason not to have simple things like properly designed, lower thirds, properly designed you know, title graphics. I think that those who don’t take up that challenge and think of themselves as broadcasters and either do it themselves, or just hire people like us, who can do it, you know, in and out of an event quite easily, then you’re, we’re going to suffer in comparison to the rest of what people are used to because now whether it’s Netflix, whether it’s Disney, plus whether it’s whatever streaming service you’ve got, plus free to wear, plus whatever.
Everything is broadcast quality. And I think that people now instantly judge it. They snap decision judge. It’s not fair, but it is the way it is. If you, if you don’t present half decently, you’re going to get spanked. Yeah. And
Ben Powell: look, if, if millions of 15 year old Twitch streamers can produce 4k well produced, live streams on their own.
Yeah. I think a professional.
Dean Laffan: Can do a little bit better. Well, there you go. So the the answer there, if there’s any clients listening out there, if you have any trouble and you’re a 45 year old mid-level executive and you can’t work it out, just grab your 15 year old son or your 12 year old, he’ll sort you out.
Ben Powell: It’s almost going back to the kids can only, only kids can program the VCR days. It is
Dean Laffan: very much
Ben Powell: we’ve spoken at length about you know, our thoughts on events and conferences and, and how they are broadcast. But let’s say you have a large, this is post COVID, of course, but you have a large event multiple rooms, stuff like that.
Should they be thinking about building like field studios and, and how are they going to take all of these different Content areas into, into a production. And to second question, just to confuse you, do you think that they need to bring, do you think that teams are going to have to be bringing in like sports broadcast producers, to manage that?
Or is it something you can just sort of work out?
Dean Laffan: So you’ve just described an event that I’m doing in about 12 months, actually here in Melbourne, which is a large it’s, it’s a combined conference with multiple presentations streams. So three separate rooms, physical rooms with hundreds of audience members in each, there is a large concurrent exhibition.
So it’s your classic exhibition. Slash conference type thing, you know, where you’ve got a bigger exhibition floor space. You’ve got a, in this case, I think it’s about 150 exhibitors. And then simultaneous to that, on this, off to the side, there’s these three rooms where we’re running presentations all day.
So there’s a lot of content happening. You can’t be everywhere at once. And this is where I’m just a huge proponent to clients of on-demand. It has to be because. You can’t be everywhere at once. So in this case because of the nature of what it is, I’m actually hosting the the, the broadcast. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to build a little mini TV studio in the middle of the, of the exhibition space.
So it’s got a bit of a lot, you know, that live vibe about it. So in this case, I don’t mind people walking around the background of it necessarily, perhaps. I mean, we, we might do a green screen. We might do a physical, like a wave wall. And so we might not get that, but the general hubbub of the energy of that conference floor, if that leaks into the broadcast, nothing but a good thing.
And we’ll be doing one hour of. Streaming of that. So that will be your classic talk show sports kind of a model where everyone’s sitting around a desk, the sponsors of that event will become the ad breaks. So having interviewed one particular subject, I’ll say, thanks very much for joining us. Rob folks, we’re going to take a short break.
We’re going to hear from one of our sponsors. When we come back, we’ll be talking to X.Y.Z. So boom. Get him off. Get his lapel off. Get the next guy on blah, blah, blah. Get ready to get set. Boom. Away we go. So we’ll, we’ll do an hour of that, but we’ll also be recording and live streaming. Every presentation that’s going on out of those three concurrent streams.
And and we’ll be producing a whole lot of social media quick little soundbites that we’re going to have multiple camera crews multiple people producing and uploading content live on that weekend of the event. This live stream will go out and we’re marketing the event, which is that this is one of four main events in this particular industry that happened one in the us two in Europe and this one in Australia at the big, the big four.
But as I pointed out to the organizer of this conference, once you start streaming and once you go global, and once you go digital with this, you’re no longer relying on people to be able to physically get to the Sydney entertainment center or the Melbourne entertainment center to, to be your market.
Your market is the world. So know if you’re participating remotely, perhaps you. Okay. Two things, time and space, right? So you either can’t make it that weekend, even though you’re in Sydney, right. Because you’ve got family stuff or whatever, and you just can’t go or you’re away, or you’d love to go. You’ve got the time, but you live in Ohio, right?
You live in Dayton, Ohio. You don’t live in Sydney, but you still would love to attend. So you, you paid to, to, to attend virtually. So then it’s really important that, that virtual experience for those people, that they’re not treated as second class citizens, which I think they often have been, they’re just a, an afterthought, but you want to provide them with the experience where, you know, the way that I look at it, it’s, it’s almost like I try to put in place and experience that I wear two hats.
Right. And it’s like, when I put the virtual hat on, I want the online experience to be better than the physical experience. Right. And if I can achieve that, then I’ve done the right thing by the people who are paying to attend virtually, but I’ve also done the right thing by my client, which would be the event organizer, because they’ve got a kick-ass virtual show.
And of course my background is physical events. I’m going to make sure that physical event is kick-ass as well. Yeah. So, so, so it’s important. I think that we’ve just got to everyone now has to keep this dual strategy of, of in hybrid events, the real life. Has to be slick and smooth and enjoyable and engaging and whatever.
And as you said earlier, your question was but, how do we, how do we achieve that in the online space? And that takes imagination, takes creativity and it takes not settling for mediocre solution.
Ben Powell: Yeah. Perfect point. The, I mean that vision of that event you’ve got is massive. That’s like five crews that would be very expensive.
Now let’s say you have a
Dean Laffan: small team but, but comparatively comparative to, well, of course, of
Ben Powell: course, but let’s say you have a small team with a big vision and a lot of creativity, the right mindset for this is broadcast. How can they kind of justify this additional expense as an ROI to the event managers, to be able to realize some of this vision?
Dean Laffan: Well, I’ll give you an example an event that we hosted recently was a hybrid event and when I say hosted, oh sorry, produced. But we also hosted the, you know, as in hosting of the we were the host, the physical hosts that got people in and out of the virtual event, hosting can mean a few things in this case.
So in this case, it was I think the ticket price for the event was the numbers might be wrong, but it’ll, it’ll be enough to give you an idea, 1800 for the day or 2200 for the day. let’s say was it? The online version of the event was 1500. Mm. So not $200, not $99. Right. It’s now. And so, because there’s not much of a discount from the physical event, that’s the saving obviously of you know, a bigger room, coffee, catering sandwiches, whatever, right.
That, that struck for that particular person. But what the client realized or understood was the value of the information that they were delivering was still as valuable even though it was coming in virtually. So then my ambition then is to make that virtual experience as engaging as it possibly can be for that, for those remote viewers, because they’re paying for it.
So I think. Two things with the clients slash event managers in the past have been very leery of adding an online component to their physical event, because they’ve always believed that people would just not turn up. ohh now they’ll just stay away. And they’ll, they’ll, you know, they’ll buy the $99 virtual ticket instead of the thousand dollar real life ticket.
I don’t swallow that for a second because if it’s, if it’s a conference that I’m going to not working at, but something that I’m interested in. So for example, my, one of my hobbies is ahh.. Cave diving, technical diving, free diving, that sort of thing. If there’s a conference in Sydney that happens every two years or whatever.
Yeah. I’m, I’m not going to not go because I can buy a virtual ticket. I want to go and meet all the guys that I know. I want to see those speakers that I’ve met from overseas in past years. I want to be there bad. Right. But if I can’t be there. Then, okay, great. I can’t get there, but Hey, at least I can attend virtually or I can watch it on demand, but the quality of what I’m getting needs to be good.
So if the quality is good, the organizers can charge good money for it. And not only do I think I would reject your I’d reject the argument that it’s a cost. It actually becomes a new profit center. Right? So in the case of this event, we’re doing next year previously, the manager and the owner of the event has only had the Sydney catchment area or the Melbourne catchment area as their potential revenue stream for tickets and from memory, they had something like, I dunno, 3000 attendees to the exhibition of which some of them just did the exhibition.
But of which the majority also bought tickets for the presentation they bought the gold pass. And so there were, I want to say 500, 600 people attending those presentations, but that’s it, we’re talking 500 presentations, a 10 days in Sydney. But if you now scale that up to global, now your market is not, you know, thousand or 3000 people who express interest in 500 turn up.
Your market is tens of thousands of people all around the globe live and/or on demand you allow people to do. Participate. So to answer one of your questions earlier was how do you make it engaging? I think the broad I’ve said about a broadcast model, but what I really mean is that it’s got to be two way, it’s got to be interactive, right?
So you need to allow people to do more than just type questions blindly into a you know, into a chat window and then wonder whether they’ll ever get answered. Sometimes they never do. And so. Cynical that you allow them to ask questions, but they don’t get answered. I think and, and technologies of course ever increasing to allow this with I know some of the things on the better cars platform, which are fantastic to allow people to actually participate in real time.
And I think giving giving, even if you had a thousand people viewing overseas and a thousand people had a question, you can’t answer a thousand questions in the real, nor can you do it virtually, but it’s important that one or two or three or four or five of them do get the chance to ask questions, because then the guy in Sweden.
And all those remote viewers saw that, oh, \they were taking questions from people around the globe and people remotely. And so I think that in genders, a sense of involvement, they appreciate that the events organized in a way that they can do that. And then they hope that next time when they put up their hand to ask.
In a virtual sense, I don’t necessarily mean zoom, there… Just whatever, however, they want to do it, that they might be able to talk, talk to that, their hero, like in a lot of the retail sort of environment, the, the presenters might be, you know, globally famous. Right. They might be well-known. And so they get the chance to talk to those people, which they wouldn’t otherwise that’s important that two way.
Ben Powell: Yeah. I think the standard kind of pricing understanding really applies here. I read some research recently that one in three people will turn up to a free event. And what you were saying, if it’s 1500, if I’m paying $1,500 for online access, I would expect that content I’d expect that content to be really, really good.
Yeah. If I’m paying a hundred bucks, I’m going to sort of put up with a little bit, or just not expect as much. The application of pricing expectation really does apply to the output and the event as well. Yeah,
Dean Laffan: I think just, just on, and just to round off on that point, you know, you can look at the example that I just gave you with a recent job we did with where the ticket price was, you know, 1800 or $2,000.
That’s clearly a low volume high value application, right. Whereas if you went to the motor show or the home show or something like that, or the boating show, or some sort of classic big event like that, you’re not paying two and a half grand to get in. You might pay $19 or $10 or something. So that’s a low-cost but high volume application.
And both of those models are valid, but both of them would work to turn. The remote costs into it, not a cost, but a profit center. Right. Because the home show might get a hundred thousand, oh I dunno, It wouldn’t get a hundred, probably, I don’t know, 50,000 probably would get 50,000 punters through the door here at Jeff’s shed in Melbourne.
Right. And, but I don’t know the numbers properly. There could even be bigger. So that means that only the people that could get into there on that weekend could do it. But what about everybody else? And what about everyone in Queensland? And what about whatever? So, so even if the access to the virtual event was only $5 or $10, let’s say it was 10.
If it was $10 and, and you had a thousand people attend, do the maths what if you had 20,000 people, 20,000 people attend at $10. Yeah. Right. So, so it works both ways. It could be, it could be a very contained. High cost event, high ticket price event, or it could be a much wider and lower priced event either way.
I think if it’s structured, right. And if it’s planned properly, I think it’s going to be a profit center potentially even in the job we’re doing next year, potentially even I think it might generate more revenue for the owner of the event from the virtual event than they do from the physical event. Mm.
Ben Powell: I also think it brings up the question of accessibility that short geographically, you may not be able to attend, but even if you’re in the right geography, if you are less physically able to attend a lot, you know, be on your feet for eight hours, physically move around. That’s not having an online access is, is not particularly beneficial to your brand.
And as a large company showing that you are taking into account everyone’s accessibility needs is more than just making money. I think there’s, there’s definitely a reason to do it just because of that.
Dean Laffan: Ah, yeah, I agree. I agree. A hundred percent and I think things like being able to close caption and you know, inject text into these streams either live and or on demand is, is critical.
It’s not a huge cost, but as you say, it, not only is it in some cases, law in some places that the certain events, but it’s just the right thing to do. And I think the opportunity is there as well. For example I pitched a certain company five years. This they’re a very, very big Australian company.
Who have shareholders in all over the globe. And I said to them, why aren’t you translating? Why aren’t we doing live translations on your AGM? Or why aren’t you? So you should be doing, you should be broadcasting this in English. You should be doing it in Mandarin. You should be doing it in Portuguese for the south America market, where they have a significant presence.
So basically just look at your shareholder registry and work out where your shareholders are and what language they’re in. And we can just stream this. It’s the same video stream, but we just have translators to do those languages live. And then of course, on demand as well. I didn’t get anywhere with it.
And I just thought considering the companies
you know, over a hundred billion dollars, I’m going, no, I don’t understand that mindset. So that’s a frustration and I think that that needs to change and hopefully COVID will have made people think more and deeper about that and do the right thing. Yeah. I also
Ben Powell: think the more that event managers see those sorts of things in other people’s events the more likely it’s going to be in everyone’s
Dean Laffan: events.
Yeah. I actually,
Ben Powell: I had a really good talk in, in the very first video I did with a fellow called Alvardo from Akkado. So they’re a software platform provider that will do live human interpretation of whatever language into a second language. And then the user just switches the audio. And now they’re hearing in their language.
So very, very low tech. Well high-tech solution, but a very low tech application for the end user. And as a event production manager, as the production team, having access to these live, these types of tools that could be implemented into a platform gives you the ability to take that argument. You’ve just said to you should be doing this, and this is the execution of how we can do it.
And this is the cost. And then everything gets elevated.
Dean Laffan: I think. Yeah, I agree. A hundred percent. And I think that as, as I think I alluded to it earlier and you’ve said as well, there’s really no. Technical impediment to doing this anymore. Right. And I know that the the Bettercast integration of, you know, what, what, what you guys have done a great job of doing is, is keeping it, you know, I’ve, I’ve described it to clients and to other people as sort of webcast.
That’s how it’s a webcasting platform. I go, Hmm. Maybe if you choose to think of it, not webcast 2.0, but 3.0, right. And I just loved the way that it’s so open and that you can integrate all these different elements into it. You know, it’s Slido, or as you said, with the translations and other things, And it’s going to be really important because you’re right.
The, the, if we look at the corporate market, the people that sign off on this stuff are very, very traditional and risk averse. So often they won’t do anything until someone else does it. Well, if some, if no one does it, then no one does it. Right. But eventually somebody cracks and it’s like, oh, BHP did translation.
So then the Telstra, now we have to do as well. Hang on. Why aren’t we doing this? And so it becomes a. Of keeping up with your peers but also being seen to do the right thing in terms of accessibility. Absolutely. But the other thing is that event producers like myself, you know, we also need to be competitive against each other.
And so if we go to a client and we can pitch and say, oh, by the way that will include, we’ve done some research. And I see that you’ve got in LATAM and and you know let’s say China. So we’re recommending that we do translations into, you know, into Spanish and, and Portuguese into Mandarin, and they go like, oh, oh my God, what do you mean?
Well, let me show you a demo. Here’s, here’s one I prepared earlier. Right. And they go, oh, wow. So that, to me, if, if the other people that we don’t know about that are pitching for that job, if they’re not including that sort of thing, then that’s a competitive advantage for us. So that’s something that I need to be across and that I need to be proactive on because it’s my job to present these options to the client.
They might not have thought of that. They’ve drawn up the run sheet and they’ve got, they think they’re all good to go. And to your earlier point about about about what, what do we bring to the role? It’s my job to throw this stuff up there and if it gets batted away, now we don’t need that.
So what, yeah, maybe, maybe it’ll work on the next one. But the important thing is to pour as much into the event and again, to your point of engagement, well, how engaging would it be for somebody who barely speaks. They’re struggling to hear the language or they’re struggling to process the language.
But they’ve paid money to be there or they can sit back as you said, toggle on, oh my God, they’ve got Mandarin. Thank God, click Mandarin. Oh, how much better of an experience is that? And they’d be much happier campers.
Ben Powell: Yeah. And more engaged with the content, more engaged with the brand, more, felt inclusive.
There’s so much value to adding these, that type of thing. So having that type of tech in your toolkit is great as a producer, but on the day, Building a team that can deliver. If we can talk to small events like you know, small teams just starting out, they’re using OBS. They’re just trying to
Dean Laffan: yeah, sorry.
I didn’t even know that was here.
Ben Powell: Where was it? That’s right.
Dean Laffan: There you go. Folks. I owe Ben a slab, to slab. Because I did not put my phone to silent as I do in every show. 10 minutes before it’s like on the cans. All right. Everyone phones on silent. Yes. Good. Okay. It’s the most non it’s the most, you know, non-required thing to say, but every once in a while, you’ll just see somebody go and put it on.
So I asked for my phone to be brought up from downstairs and I didn’t clock that it was on silent. So culpa, MEA culpa.
Ben Powell: I
Dean Laffan: can edit it out. It’s yeah, no, leave it in because it’s just to the point. Okay. Here I am preparing for this interview. I’ve got everything ready. I’m all set up. And the phone was downstairs, but it got brought up with my coffee.
That w w when, when that came up and of course I just missed that. It was not on silent. So there you go. Prepare, prepare, sorry. Now you were talking about teams Ben,.
Ben Powell: Spent. Yeah. So, so when you’ve got if we can address two different types of events, so you’ve got the smaller event for our small team, what would be the perfect group of people to put together for something like that?
And then let’s say you’ve got a large, you know, not necessarily a large conference, cause you would have a production team already for that, but something a little bit bigger. Like where am I going to start out? What do I need? What are the teams? What do I need to be considering?
Dean Laffan: Okay. So you’re talking about hybrid slash virtual events.
What events are we talking about? predominantly hybrid events in this hybrid. Okay. And when you’re saying, what do I need? Who are you? Who was I? Who are you positioning that question? So, yeah. So who, who am I answering? Yeah. So
Ben Powell: let’s say that you’re a small AV company. You’ve just started getting into live streaming as a service because, you know, hybrid, you used to just have camera PowerPoint on a screen.
Now the client’s saying, we want to stream this as well. So let’s say that’s your, you need to build a small functional team that can deal with anything phone’s going off in the middle of interviews and stuff like that. But also let’s say that you’ve had a client for a while now they’re doing something bigger and you need to instantly scale up your production skills.
Where would you start considering, like, how are we going to.
Dean Laffan: Hmm. Okay. I would think most event companies, certainly in Australia at Melbourne and Sydney, if they’re still around at the moment, they must have got across some kind of a hybrid solution or otherwise they just don’t exist. Then sadly we can, if we just sort of look at where we are right now, we’re recording this, interview in late July of 2021, Melbourne’s in a stage three lockdown, Sydney’s in a stage four.
Maybe next year, once the vaccines are out and things are, things might be better, but who knows? They might, you know, we’re currently dealing with the Delta strain it could be Epsilon. So there’s all, you know, who knows how that the COVID thing’s going to work out with a small team. If you. Have the experience, then you need to choose a trusted partner.
So to my earlier comments that I said earlier on about the about knowing enough to know whether somebody can deliver, whether that’s a person or whether that’s a business or a technical solution or a platform whether it’s any of those, you do need to be, I think a little bit of a, as I said, a master, a Jack of all trades to some extent, but you can’t get there in one leap.
So I think partnering. If you’re a small events team and you’ve, your client has said to you, Hey, can you stage this event for us as a hybrid, doing what you normally do. Plus we want to reach out to, you know, whether it’s just a national thing. It’s like, we want to, we’re going to publish the links to this internally.
And we want to hit our stakeholders and staff or customers in the other states of Australia or whether it’s international. It doesn’t matter. Cause once it’s you know, once it’s in the network, it’s irrelevant. There are other relevant factors that come into play about a global, you know a global event rather than just a national event, but you would need to choose trusted partners.
And I could only encourage you to start dipping your toe in the water. Now, if you haven’t been asked already, which would be unusual, or if you’ve shied away, Don’t be afraid because there are people like yourself, Ben, who, when we stumbled across you several months ago have been just, you know, your, your willingness to help us achieve what we wanted to achieve has been fantastic.
And a lot of the tools that we might use around the Bettercast solution. So whether it’s something like the airs.. Or whether it’s any of those sort of, you know, PC or PC, I mean, Mac based kind of solutions that you might also choose to use, whether it’s zoom ISO or something like this, or whatever, there are all sorts of tools that you use for all sorts of things.
Most of them come with a free you know, you can download them and play with them for free. They’re either watermarked or you can’t output or something, but you can stumble through that stuff. And there are great resources, YouTube. So if you download a program like zoom, You can then just go onto their YouTube channel and they’ll walk you through how to use it, what to do, blah, blah, blah.
And you can start playing with it, right, just in between other projects and get a handle on it. And if you’re not capable and not comfortable, comfortable, and confident enough to do that yourself, it’s not hard to reach out surely within your network and find somebody who is just hire them onto onto the job.
So whether for me sometimes I’ll host, I will be the operator on my own small jobs. If I’ve got nothing else going on that day, whether it’s just babysitting corporate zoom calls. And as I outlined earlier, just setting up a couple of a green room and then a webinar and checking them out and pushing them into the webinar and stuff, you know, it’s a, it’s a lazy, not lazy days work, but it’s a day’s work with a bit of pre-production, but we also do things.
In leading up to the event, I will get email addresses from all of the, of all of the attendees and I will set up a test with them. So we’ll do a test beforehand and I’ll look at their, their backgrounds and I’ll say, well, you’ve is this where you’re going to be presenting from? Because that big window, that huge window behind you, that you is flaring out the camera and you know, your, your because they don’t, they don’t look at that, right.
They’re just corporates or presenters or whatever. So they’re not looking at it from an AV perspective. So we’ll, we’ll, you know, look after them and just try as much as we can to do the work, to make sure that on the day it’s fine. So if you don’t have those skills, then get them in. They won’t be expensive in the overall scheme of the event.
You know, it’s not going to cost you the cost of the event to get someone in to do it. You’ve got an operator, you know, they might. 7 5800, 900, $1,200 for the day. But if they can do for you, what you can’t do, but your client needs and you get to observe and see how it’s done, which doesn’t mean you’re trying to put them out of work.
It’s just that somethings you can do internally. And other times, like for me in a small event, I might have my one other operator, either physically with me or in the cloud, helping me with that stuff and or two. So maybe one or two someone, a small event might be myself, just making sure things are good.
I don’t want to be the one pushing buttons and listening, you know, eight hours a day to that. I’ve got the clients calling me off offline going, Hey, what about whatever? Where’s the next speaker? We can’t find him. He’s not responding to mobile and text and whatever. What are we, what do we do if he doesn’t turn up in the next five minutes?
And I say, well, we’ve already got the one after him has already checked in. So why don’t we just switch the order? So then we’ve got to communicate to the host and well, folks, I know it says that Harry’s up next, but Harry’s still making his way here. So in the virtual sense, so we’re going to go with George, George.
Thanks for being here. You’re talking on blah.. Just handling those sorts of things. So I need, I can’t do that as a producer. If I’m hunched over the tools, just look ready to pounce when something goes wrong. So in that, in that occasion, Well, I’ll pay for someone to do that and do it well. Cause that’s what they do a lot of.
So that’s the small event. Yep.
Ben Powell: That’s great. So really for small event, it’s very straightforward, a small amount of gear, simple stuff. You can stream yourself without too much hassle, large event, get some specialists in and just pass that cost on. Cause you know, the quality of output is going to be fantastic.
Dean Laffan: Well, I, sorry. No, but even a small event, like if you don’t. So around me at the moment, I’ve still got the detritus of a little show that I did the other day. And so I had two active primary computers with live backups running. And then I had two PCs logged in. So windows because I operate on a Mac, but I want to see what the majority of my people are seeing.
So I want, I wanted the windows version of the latest version of zoom running and I’m, and I’ve got two of those plugged in so I can see. What I’m sending out because that isn’t always, you know, it’s just like a monitor to talk about monitoring your output. That’s the basic as that. So what are people really seeing out there in the real world?
And, and then I’ll have maybe an iPad connected as well, just so I can see what the tablet experience is doing. And I can just glance to the side and they’re all racked up on the, you can see, you cant see it. There’s a, there’s a, a bench beside me and I can see that. So that’s just sort of pretty much me in a small environment.
But if I didn’t know what I was doing, I could still do all of that. But I might say to my buddy, Adrian, Hey mate, I’m going to need some help on this. Can you just join me for this event? I’ll pay you. And I need you to be hands-on with that because I need to be doing, but I need to be a producer. Yeah.
Fielding those calls I spoke about. So you can even shop out the small and, and that once you’ve got the trust in that person, and once you know that they can do the job that gives you the surety to know that this events, you know, probably going to go okay and you learn as you go. So even in small events, it’s, it’s still feasible to, to get some outside help if you need it.
Ben Powell: So I want to wind up a little bit now. Really I wanted to get your opinion on the future. We know that events are it’s a hybrid world. We know this research says something like 60% of all managers will include hybrid as a default state for events. We also know that the technology is allowing production teams to make things more inclusive and more accessible.
But is there.. Is there something beyond that? Do you see, how do you see the industry evolving over the next, say two or three years?
Dean Laffan: Hm. I will be honest and tell you, I don’t know. And I, I would probably suggest that anyone that says they do know if they’re either super, super way smarter than me, although that that’s a pretty big slice of the pie chart, let’s be honest.
But I mean, no one saw COVID coming, so so-so no one knew about that. Although it is, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s a black Swan event globally, not just for business, but for, you know, for human life. And we got out of it light because obviously if it was, it could have been much worse, even though it’s been as devastating to our economies and workflows and business models as it has been, if it was as transmissible.
As Delta is now, but it had the, you know, the mortality or the morbidity rate of SARS. We’d been being a whole different world. We wouldn’t be having this conversation. So we ducked the bullet there. So you never know what’s coming. People will talk about VR and AI and that kind of stuff and weather, that’s going to play a part.
I have toyed with those technologies. What are your thoughts? Like I think VR is, is going to be a thing, but I think it’s going to have a, a niche. I don’t think it’s going to be for example, in events, I don’t see people sitting around with big headsets on goggles and doing that. I don’t see that something like VR, VR, however, which I have worked on a project collaborated with somebody on it.
On something in the sort of Marine space. And I think, for example, that whether you’re at home with a unit or whether you go somewhere to a museum or to some, some venue to be able to strap on VR and then be in a 360 degree immersive 4k environment with killer whales or hammerhead sharks or lions, or, you know, that sort of a thing.
It, it would and could, and should put every that that solution should put every. SeaWorld at a business, sorry, sea world. I there’s just no justification for me paying a hundred dollars to sit my ass on a plastic seat, 50 meters away from some poor whale when I could be and the goggles, and I could be in there looking right next to touching them right.
And get a much better view and be a whole more immersive experience. So I think VR for that would be good. Do I think that’s going to relate to exhibitions and things? I don’t know. I think there’s such a pent up demand in the corporate, as well as the, I talk about corporate and retail. So retail, meaning home show, boat, show that sort of thing for events, corporate being obviously listed in mainly listed, but some private businesses, there’s such a pent up demand to get back to real, to IRL meetings, but they will never, I don’t think they’ll ever occur again without a side stream.
So every event going forward I believe would be hybrid unless it’s. Yeah, there are some use cases where you can say, now we won’t bother with a virtual side of it, but if it’s a conference, if it’s a a corporate event, if it’s an AGM, if it’s a a gala dinner, if it’s something like that and only a certain amount of people, unless they want thexclusivity of no if you’rere not there.
Yeah. You don’t get it. That’s understandable in some cases. But I think virtual sorry, hybrid events are just, that’s a foregone conclusion. As you said, what’s coming down the pipe. I would hope a realization from clients that they need to be more inclusive than simply just pushing one way, video streams and audio streams, as good as some of those can be.
If the, if the participants at the other end can’t feedback and can’t feel like they’re in it and that’s stream is not two ways, then I think it’s subpar and that’s mediocre. And I don’t like to do mediocre. I don’t do mediocre. So, you know, we turn down jobs. I go, no, we just want to do this, this and this.
It’s like, well, but you, you know, but that, that’s not us because we’re as an event producer, I’m only as good as my last job. And I’m only as good as my last client that I can refer the new one to, to say, well, we just did this work for, you know, ABC Corp. And I’m using that’s not the real name, but whoever, and I’ve got to be able to say, look, just go and talk to them about the event.
And by the way, here’s a link to, to the event or it’s behind a paywall, but I’ll get you access. And I’m happy for you to talk directly to the client. We live and die on every job that we do. And so, you know, for us, if, if something’s achievable, there’s so much low hanging fruit that I still think gets lost.
They’re just, they just don’t a lot of clients don’t take them up. And when I look at other events, I’m like, like, all you needed to do was this, this and this. Why didn’t, why didn’t that happen? And there may have been good reasons for it, but yeah. Rounding off on your question, what’s coming. I don’t know, but I do know that if you want to be part of whatever gets shifted like that.
So if you were a physical event person and you’d poo-pooed, and, and didn’t worry about webcasting or, you know, streaming or whatever, I don’t care about that because, you know, we charge 200 grand, you know, per event to do these big corporate events. Well, how’s that working for you now? Right? So if you don’t have a little bit of a lens over the event, horizon, and if you can’t look.
You don’t know what’s coming, but you’ve got to be ready and you’ve got to keep an open mind to be adaptable so that when something like COVID does happen, you’re able to pivot and you’re able to adapt. And even if it’s temporarily, it’s like, okay, well, you might not want to be an online or hybrid event producer for the rest of your life, but guess what if you want to survive for the next, you know, from March of 2020, until this thing is over, then you go need to do something else, or you’re rich enough to just park yourself then for you.
I have bills to pay. I have a wife and family and all that. So yeah, I just think you’ve got to stay flexible and keep your mind open and be willing to jump in and learn new things. And like I said, there’s these days wit it’s not the sort of walled off silo, like trying to learn how to edit video back in the nineties or trying to learn how to program DVD.
It was not, it was harder than it is now to learn new things because or the fact that we live in a networked world, and there’s an answer for every question you Google, it there’ll be an answer. There’ll be a, a Reddit forum or a YouTube channel or their company’s own how to what’s the show or the program I use on occasions called ScreenFlow, which is a Mac based recording program.
That’s sort of morphed into a sort of half of not a half decent quite a, quite a decent and easy to use though. Relatively limited, but great at what it does, video editor, and one of the things that they cottoned onto really early on was they produced the most amazing. How to videos shout out to Lucas Bisholder
I hope I pronounced his name rod at at ScreenFlow. They produced really good quality videos. I’m talking four years ago where they shot him on a green screen. And then comped him down so that you had the whole UI of, of the program visible, but he was still able to look at you and talk to you.
So you had that eye contact and you could get, and they ran through everything of how to use the program. And that was my gold standard. It’s like, wow, if you’re going to do a, how to video, this is how you do it. So there’s a lot of those resources available and you just got to be open to. So
Ben Powell: who do you think, who do you think it’s on?
Is it more on the AV and production teams to lead this charge into being online and offline? Or is it on the event managers? They’re the ones who have to be, this is what I’m doing or is it joint? Like who’s going to push this.
Dean Laffan: I love the expression lead follow, or get out. So it doesn’t matter where you sit within that Venn diagram of AV company event producer, whether that’s an individual or, or maybe it’s or, you know, maybe it’s a, an outsource, you know, third party, excuse me, event management company, right.
That companies, when they had to travel and they would organize all of that travel, accommodation entertainment of which then the conference is just part of all that professional conference organizers or PCO’s so whether you are where you are in that chain, I think you need to be confident enough to put your hand up and say, Hey, by the way, have you guys thought about this?
Maybe that’s not for everybody. And maybe you’re just content to, to, to be the cog in the machine that you need to be. And I don’t mean that in a, in a denigrating way, because even though we generally function as the top level event producer, sometimes we’ll get asked to, to take part in an event where we are just doing, say pure presentation design, right.
Because we’re really good at it. And the who hire the people who hire us know that we are, but there’s already a massive production team on the job, but they just want what looks on screen to, to look Mickey mouse. And we say, not a problem. Would I love to do the whole event? Yeah, that will be cool.
But we get asked to do a certain thing and I’m just going to sit in there. Now I’m going to have my views with the client about what appears on screen, because you know, you’ve already told me, okay, we’re using watch out. We’re blending. You know, we’re blending a 30 meter backdrop screen with, you know, six 20 K projectors and blah, blah, blah, blah.
Or which means we’ve got a big canvas to paint on, which means it’s a big venue or no, its a 150 person ballroom. We’ve got a 16 by nine screen, which is actually 16 feet by nine feet. Let’s say so now I know what that looks like from the worst seat in the room. So I will feed back with my, and I’ll push hard if they ask for stuff, that’s quote wrong, as opposed to what I think is, is, is right.
And I will try and guide them as best I can, but I’m just confining myself to, to being that particular cog in that bigger machine and my job is to do that well, do it right. And make sure that if the machine gets sticky, it’s not because of my cock, you know, we’re all good to go. So there’s nothing wrong with being that.
So I just want to highlight that there’s nothing wrong with doing what you do and doing what you know, and it shouldn’t, you shouldn’t feel people listening. If your AV people don’t feel like you need to know everything. That’s the most dangerous thing you can ever do is to not, is to be scared of saying, I don’t know, like you just asked me what the event business going to look like.
Well, I could waffle on and tell you it’s going to be, I don’t know. So I just say, I don’t know. And so, you know, it’s a balance between stick to your knitting, right? Which you do really well, but also that’s fine. As long as that meeting is something that keeps being a demand for, and of course, in live events that hasn’t been the case recently with COVID, but things evolve you know, we’re not doing 35 Mill slides anymore.
I’m not doing DVD authoring anymore, which kills me because I used to love creating that stuff and programming it and working with the guys that were the gurus that were making all the Hollywood movies that you’d end up buying on DVD or Blu-ray, I’m watching. So, but that’s gone, Flash’s gone a director’s gone, right.
It just things evolve. And you’ve got to keep evolving with them and recognize. Even though you have core skills, sometimes they might need to get tweaked and they get tweaked, tweaked, tweaked, and then 10 years later you still might have a core skill. Audio and you know what good audio is, what it sounds like and how you get it, but you’re using completely different tools.
Maybe you’re now you were working on a physical sound desk before with sliders and buttons, and it was all, you know, and now you’re working in a virtual environment with software and you’re, you know, touching, you’re driving everything with an iPad and you’re pre-programming stuff and, and, and hitting play on certain actions and things like that.
So your core skills aren’t wasted, but the landscape keeps changing and you got it.
Ben Powell: So to finish up you have multiple different businesses and, and serve different clients. How, how can people get in touch with you if they’re looking to add that level of production
Dean Laffan: to their production? Yeah. Well, thank you.
So look, we have three main brands within the real. So the company is real world productions and that’s become an umbrella for the, the two main brands, which are I report. And you can find us at, Ireport.com.au And that was the, all of the IR related work that we do, which is the bulk of what we’ve done.
So as if you’ve listened this far, and I haven’t put you to sleep, you’ll understand that most of our work is corporate. And a lot of it is when I say I, I mean, investor relations What’s the other, I are the one that everyone. No, no, no, no, no. Like health and safety blank mind. Oh, I blanked out anyway.
So investor relations. So the I report brand is for investor relations work. So that’s all the AGM’s half and full year results, streaming, webcasting, that kind of thing. And and then we have Streamit.net.au, which is focused, which provides a lot of services to Ireport, which is. you know, classic webcasting, as well as all the VC work that we do.
And we work with a number of partners, trusted team members that are outside of, of my employment. But guys that I’ve worked with for, you know, 10, 15 years, and we all get together as a little band of Merry men to deliver the sort of projects that we do. So yeah, that’s that’s our wheelhouse and you know, we’ve, we’ve loved to use your Bettercast platform.
I’m so excited about what it does and what it will allow me me an event producer to take to clients and offer them. And just, just the baked in stuff that you’ve already got, which is great. The, the stage, if you will, when people log into to, to the, to the site and their event, what they get with the timeline and the ability to add in sponsors and exhibitors, and then have things like translation and share their slides and this and that, and blah, blah.
It’s to me as a ahh.. As a, someone interested in design and driven by design, although not a designer myself, what that user experiences like, that’s really what my job is as a producer, what is the user experience? So whether that’s when they walk into the ballroom and the doors swing open, and there’s, you know, we’ve spent $50,000 on set and display and lighting and theming and table decorations.
And what is the music that’s playing? Where’s the lighting set at, you know, blah, blah, blah. What’s on screen. All these things, the same thing applies when they land on the page, what is the user experience? What do they say? Where’s the branding for the client. But most importantly, what’s the, what’s the experience like for those remote participants?
Can they navigate you know, easily? Is it obvious? Is it laid out? Well, I’ve seen some solutions recently and the solution comes with a 10 minute, how to video just on the UI. It’s like, dude, if you need to, if you need a 10 minute Hatoo on what to do with the landing page, I think you need to go back and redesign.
And this is why I love, you know, when we found you, it was like, oh, look at this. This is brilliant. So, you know, for my corporate clients, to be able to take that to them and say, have a look at this and they go, whoa, oh, that’s nice. And then we explain how we’re going to inject all the different sources.
We’re going to take this room and put that there and we’re going to take that room and put that there. And we’ll have lower thirds and it’ll be professional and all that sort of thing. To be able to do that and do it with confidence, for me as a producer, I have to have the confidence that things are going to work or otherwise, if it messes up, I’ll be carrying the can for that.
And I’ll, I’ll cop it in the can money-wise in some way, shape or form, but worse reputation wise. And I just can’t have it. So you’re the one at
Ben Powell: the coalface. I mean, it’s the client when working with, with better cast. Also, this is not a paid promotion. So anyone listening, I’d never paid him to say those very nice things, but when you’re picking a platform to work with, whether it’s me or not,
Dean Laffan: doesn’t say that if something appeared in my bank account, I would send it back.
Given folks. Now I’m a fan, as you can tell,
Ben Powell: I appreciate it. But we’re picking a platform like. The platform has to understand that you are the one on the coalface. It’s the client screaming at you when the platform doesn’t work? Not the platform, correct? Yeah. So, and, and have
Dean Laffan: considerations important.
It is. And, and Bettercast cast is, is without a doubt, the best solution that I’ve seen for those sorts of environments, but also as an AV producer I can’t have a one size fits all toolbox, right? If the only tool, you know, how to use as a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. So the old saying goes, and so sometimes it’s not, it’s just not the right fit, right.
It’s like casting. So I have a podcast off to the side, let me plug that killer casting podcast. Look it up everywhere. And we did. And it’s about film and television. And so on a casting perspective, you can have a great actor, a brilliant actor who just doesn’t fit that role. Right. It just doesn’t work in that role.
And you’ve seen people miscast in movies where you go, that’s a great movie, but I don’t know why they, why was it him or her. Right. And so the same thing, when you get an event brief, we keep, we start with a totally open mind. Right. We don’t just go, oh, okay, great. How do we cram that square peg into this round hole?
That’s not, I can’t afford to do that as a producer. So it’s about me taking, absorbing the brief, and then working out. Right. What is the best solution for the client? Number one? Two and simultaneously the the end-user, right? So the viewer. Then it’s usually not internal it’s, it’s them. It’s not what never one person.
And then and then other issues of security assuraty, reliability, blah, blah, blah, all those things. I’ve got to go through those and go, right. Ah, this is looking like a Bettercast job or you know what, this is just going to be a simple OBS stream, you know will shark it and whatever, or this might be a media site solution, or this might be whatever.
But you can’t, if, if, if you just go in with one solution, You’re going to it’ll work sometimes. And then other times you’ll find yourself in trouble and you don’t want to be in trouble. Yeah. So, yeah, so it’s important to keep an open mind. Awesome. Well, Dean!
Ben Powell: Thank you so very much. Got a lot out of this video.
So thanks for your time. I really
Dean Laffan: appreciate it. It’s been a pleasure and let’s just keep plugging away and stay flexible. And because the core skills, if you really care for your clients and you really care about the outcomes, and if you reject mediocrity, it will lead you to solutions like Bettercast and it will lead you to do better events for your clients.
And if you do that, they’re going to hire you again and again and again. Perfect.
Ben Powell: Thanks Dean