A Brisk two block walk got me to the Sheraton Towers just before the first coffee injection of the day. After a defrost, it only took a few minutes for me to remember why I had made this journey……. To be surrounded by/confined with/debating against hundreds of people just like me, knowledgeable, passionate and desperate to talk tickets.

International Perspectives on Consumers Trends

The chatter aside first session was on international trends. Been to others at many conferences like Intix, but wow! Brian P Sayre’s alone is worth it’s own post, so will get that later in the week.

Core themes Brian covered on Playhouse Square in Cleveland, Ohio were

The 1989 effect ~ just because you have served at an organisation for 24 years you should not take everything as a given, why should you not challenge the “we don’t do that because….” Ideas that often plague our creativity or decision making.

His new ‘non stop subscription sales cycle’ -how by breaking down the separate steps of renewals, seat moves, show changes, upgrades and dispatch into a continuous cycle he smoothed the process, saw higher renewal rates and he dream of ‘fluidity’

Cristina øesterby of Royal Danish Theatre opened with a stay that got the audience jealous. 75% of their income comes from subsidy.

We were treated to a data treat by examining their customer life cycle system. From first contact to subscriber you pass through a series of questions, filters and other stages as they try to help you become a more loyal customer. This involves 25 flows of data in the organisation, bringing bar, restaurant, ticket sales, subscriptions, newsletter sign ups into one CRM melting pot.

Jamie Snelgrove shared not only his cold but some powerful insights to the Edinburgh International Festival. Once he had shared some of Edinburgh’s amazing stats on city size, festival goers and revenue generated, he focused on their simple, easy to digest membership, sorry donations scheme. The reason I make the correction is as Jamie was so good at highlighting, it was by NOT giving free tickets or discounts to these people they were enable to enact gift aid (UK tax deduction alternative) on the full amount of this membership. He told powerful tales of staff being empowered to ‘keep in touch’ with such patrons, how staff could suggest to those in development that Mr Smith, may be a target for a higher level of membership, sorry, donation.

He shared some ‘in this room only’ ideas and anecdotes around giving which is already being a hot topic in a lot of social / coffee discussions.

Adam Rubin ran a great Q&A and it’s always a good sign w that when a session breaks, people surge forward to the panel for more discussions

Brian’s Tie / Pocket Square watch : Yellow

Cirque due Soleil Lunch and Keynote – Tapping Our Inner Futurist.
I was on a lovely table with some folks from Omaha, Nebraska and first vendor looking for ideas for their product. We talked pricing (great table choice), but chatter was lost by the usual annual awards presentation. Speeches, photos and shout outs followed, sometimes as an international delegate, I miss the who what why of these awards as I don’t know the venues, operations or characters, but it makes fun post dining entertainment.

Quote from one speech “we sell happiness and have fun doing it”

I did think, ‘hmmmm…’when I read Gary Golden biog and title of sessions. His discussions of the job title of ‘futurist’ is one that he told us does draw some quite rude remarks from people at parties. Gary touched on many themes, such as demographic transitions, data driven relationships and device driven relationships to help us understand what ‘might’ happen as opposed to ‘will’ happen in the future. These live in what we’re now know as cones of plausibility.

Gary went on to highlight how anticipatory behavioral computing – what we are seeing with Google Now and MindMeld.com for computers to predict or moves and make intelligent suggestions, is an area we all need to be aware of.

Finally, we don’t deal with BigData, we deal in connected data apparently, given his reasons, I could not agree more.

The Art & Science of Forecasting.

Not a session for the jet lagged or post lunch sleepy heads.

A well put together panel of two data and pricing heavy weights in Tim Baker and Steve Jacobson, showed us page after page of statistical models, forecasting and other examples of how data can be used to work out figures such as the number of people extra you could expect on a weekend in August, against the number you could expect to see below your median on July 4th. Why is this important? Not just revenue forecasting, but for operational reasons, do we need more ticket booths? Open auxiliary car parks, extended food service times, all things we love to expect and plan for rather than get hit with on event day.

Both hit on something key we must all appreciate when looking at data. Beware The outliers, why is that day so different than anything else? Why did we take less/see more customers that day? Was their massive traffic disruption/ sporting event? Should we build this info or modeling or just exclude days that we see these occurrences in the future?

Tim’s presentation focused on his work with City of Birmingham (UK) Symphony Orchestra and the use of a repertoire coding system to examine and how the hiring of a Cambridge University graduate in Statistics was able for him to prove “Saturday nights were the most popular(!)” In all seriousness he walked the room through how, by applying coding to sales models, he could start to forecast likely sales, to model how an increase in spend on advertising, or perhaps even a change in the copy used to talk about a performance could affect the sales curve.

After the math/maths it was time to look at some real world examples, most powerful was perhaps Joe Carter from the LA Philharmonic, who I love listening to, which looked at how the use of these forecasting tools got some great wins, a 7 figure uplift in sales revenue based on the informed decisions he could take from the data and models built with the Pricing Institute, how instead of discounting as a niche holiday show was not selling, they managed to model that this audience would buy late, they did, so that full price ticket revenue was retained instead of lost in applied discounts, I certainly hope others took on board, this was not a ‘gut’ feeling that we often get, but based on years of sales data, built around a complex mathematical model (even with Graphs(!))

I was surprised to see the room start to empty as we approached Q&A. I find it strange that we, as professionals, do not want to get every last piece of wisdom from panels when we get the chance to cross examine. For those not already modelling and forecasting I guess it can seem a scary path to start on. For a start, where do I start? How do I start? Obviously projects like the LA Phil were not “cheap” but their results in being able to increase revenues and reduce discounts based on far more of a hunch shows the return.

Some smaller Symphonies from around the US were keen to focus on the Repertoire coding system and how it could be used for them, whilst others questioned the use and relevance of the mean v the median when looking at data analysis.  It was quite a narrow questioning line, until someone raised an important question, contributed to by Roger Tomlinson, in that should be now pay less attention to sales curves given the rise of mobile / e-ticketing? Well, we did now have a discussion, to which I followed up with the question, “do any of these models, / should they factor in how old data is, thereby applying a lesser reliability score to sales that occurred 6 years ago as opposed to 2 years ago. So much of what shapes a decision could have changed, your brand, your website, your ticketing engine, your discounting policy, or even factors outside of your control – local transport links / parking, the ECONOMY. Tim genuinely did seem interested by this idea of historical weighting, one I hope we get the chance to discuss in the future.

Intix Rebrand 

We were treated to a great video montage showing the history of Intix and how over the last 35 years, some unsung heroes have helped us move from informal meetings, to having the membership we have today, as well as nurturing the next generation of Box Office and Ticketing Professionals, as our industry moves through an ever changing consumer and technological landscape.

The new Intix brand was launched, a clean, crisp brand put together under the Chair of Brian Sayre (this time with Pink tie and pocket square)

Afternoon Keynote

The participatory nature of this session was somewhat lost on our table, but the Improv troupe from SecondCity (birth place of careers for Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi etc) were amazing with some of their skits, and more importantly when relating those to how we work with our colleagues, and how we deal with our customers. To try and wrap the session up here would not do it justice, but I would like to just highlight some key quote and messages.

In customer service you starting a sentence with “yes, but……….” is just “a No in a tuxdeo”

By using the phrase “so what I am hearing” as opposed to “what you are saying is…….” places the emphasis back on the customer to ensure we have not misunderstood their issue, because perhaps what they are saying is the unplanned and perhaps open to misinterpretation.

“I got your back” just like improv performers, by reinforcing that we will be there for our colleagues, help them however we can, enables them to try something new, to ask push the boundaries of what’s possible.

By looking at something and asking “why will this work” as opposed to “why won’t it work” we set ourselves on a positive journey to creating something / making it happen as opposed to never getting past the talking stage.

That “no” is a word that infects an organisation, we should be using the words “yes and……” to try and build our ideal solution to a problem.

Exhibition Hall and Cocktail Hour

A good chance to see the vendors, who support Intix Annual Conferences and examine the latest technology, services and consumables on offer to the industry.

Whereas you could walk the floor in perhaps twenty minutes, most of us could spend hours here. You may not be looking to change system or ticket stock provider, but it’s always good to compare and contrast features, benefits and of course pricing.

I was delighted to meet up with some old Friends from Cirque to Soleil and find out the latest challenges and opportunities to this iconic brand’s ticketing operation, as well as a personal update on my wife, a former employee who I met at Intix in San Francisco back in 2011.

The new range of stunning Stimare printers did catch my eye, they continue to exceed themselves in bringing the latest, affordable solutions in printing and scanning to market and I always look forward to their latest reveal. Following Apple’s lead, they now offer their CMP and CLS models in White, all very iPhone!

Eugene Carr, CEO of Patron Technology caught up on old friends and emerging markets as well as current trends we were witnessing in the current climate.

For some the party was just starting. For those of us suffering the effects of the previous day’s travel, bed was calling. Roll on Day 2.