WUN: So for people who show up at the Way Up North events, you are a big part of that and they don’t really see you much. So perhaps you could explain what you’re doing and what your business Filosophi is all about?
Erin: Yes, it is true that we sort of hide behind the scenes. What we do is basically to do the planning beforehand, scheduling what time the doors open to the theatre, who’s putting the gift bags or boxes out on the seats and the whole schedule of the day, when the breaks are, and also what speaker gets how much time and in what order they go on. Besides that, we then handle all of the backend stuff, like people’s PowerPoint presentations, all the little videos that introduce the presenters and just making sure that all that stuff is lined up and in the right spot and in the right format and getting queued at the right moment. Once the event kicks off, we’re there making it flow, clipping mics on to speakers, making sure they have water, going to find Sam Hurd in the bathroom when he’s supposed to be walking on stage in one minute and stuff like that.
WUN: So sorting out all the problems that show up.
Erin: Yes, exactly. Ideally making the plans so there won’t be any problems and then when the show is underway, just sort of troubleshooting anything that comes up as we go.
WUN: So what do you do when you’re not doing Way Up North?
Erin: I’m a full time wedding planner and that was kind of how I got involved with WUN, because of course, Cole and Jakob used to be based in Vancouver.
Erin: When they were looking to do Way Up North, they sort of recognized that they had a vision for what they wanted the show to be but they had no idea how make it happen. So they knew they needed a professional. Somehow, they didn’t find someone local to Stockholm that they felt was a good fit for their idea of rejuvenating the conference experience So they reached out and asked if I wanted to be involved. My company here in Vancouver is very much about rejuvenating the wedding experience. Doing things a bit differently than the traditional way. So they thought it would be a good fit to work together.
WUN: Do you do other conferences like this or is it mainly weddings?
Erin: We do 90% weddings. We have done a couple of conferences for corporate clients, but my personal background is in the music industry. So I’ve had a lot of experience putting on shows, running the production, the audio visual and the stage management. So that kind of came in handy as well.
WUN: Right, so that’s kind of close to what this is all about.
WUN: Do you work closely with Cole and Jacob to change and improve things between events?
Erin: Yes, afterwards, Cole and Jacob sent out a feedback form to everyone that attended, so we spent quite a bit of time going through the comments that came up, our own thoughts about things that we thought were really good about the different Way Up North events, always looking for what could get better next time and changing things that wasn’t working for people. We want to be the kind of event that people can come back to again and again and still get something new.
For example, in the most recent Stockholm event (October 2016), a lot of feedback was about wanting more time in the breaks for people to network and chat to each other.
So we are trying to figure out how to give them more time, working with the schedule for Rome. Doing like hour and a half breaks and we’re thinking about bringing in some food and coffee so people don’t have to leave the theatre and then disperse in different directions, so that they can stay together if they want to and meet new people.
Erin: So we definitely try to make each one different, trying to improve upon each one as we go and a big part of that is our own observations and the feedback from the attendees each time.
WUN: That is tricky, because you don’t want to cut back on time for the presenters, but still want to give enough time to everything around and not having it feel rushed.
Erin: Yeah, it’s definitely a balance because we don’t want anyone to burn out. I feel like our very first Way Up North in Stockholm (in 2015), we had a really long first day. I think we gave all the speakers an hour to talk, plus 15-minutes of Q&A. As we watched it unfold, we saw that it was too long, that people were getting super tired by the end.
Erin: So we obviously want to give them as much as we can for their money and for their time. But there’s a limit to how much people can take in during a day like this, without being overwhelmed. Also, just the mingling part with other people, is a big part of what people enjoy about the conference. So it’s kind of a juggling act to get that perfect timing.
WUN: Alright, thank you Erin for giving us an insight into what you do and we are looking forward to Rome in April where you get to work your magic again.