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Unleashing Multiple Revenue Streams With Events

Updated: Dec 14, 2022



Note: transcription provided by Otter.AI, which is a technology company that develops speech-to text transcription and translation applications using artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Welcome, everybody to this week's podcast episode for the financial freedom for physicians podcast. And I'm your host, Dr. Christopher Loo. And as you know, we talk about four different types of freedom: financial, time, location, and emotional freedom. And so what started out as physician guests and audience has broadened and increased its scope of reach. And so now it's entrepreneurs, investors, business owners, people doing things on the cutting edge. So hopefully each party can benefit.

So in that light, I have a very interesting guest today, Keith Willard. He's a podcast host. But he's also in the event space. So you know, events these days are really popular; conferences, conventions, meetings. And we're going to get a lot of information, and it's going to be a great conversation. So Keith, welcome.

Keith Willard: Thank you so much. I'm glad to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, I know, we had connected on PodMatch. And it's really interesting. I've always been fascinated with the event space just because of its scalability. And you just have one venue, and you can pack so many people in, and it's just great and I love networking. So tell us more about who you are, your background, and we'll go from there.

Keith Willard: Perfect. Well as you said, I'm Keith Willard, I own a company called Keith Willard Events, which is my own company. And then I also have a podcast called Behind the Veil, which is all about weddings and events behind the scenes. And like your podcast, it has expanded into ways I could have never even imagined when we first started it three years ago. And you know, before I had my company, I actually was the director of catering for Ritz Carlton for many years. And then before that, I was actually the executive director of a not for profit. So my life has always been in events in one way or another.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah. I think it touches on the core value of just being a human trying to connect with others and interact and network.

Keith Willard: Yeah, but that's one thing about events is that you typically do events for life markers, right. Births, deaths, weddings, celebrations, jobs, new jobs, all of those typically happy moments. And so to be that person that is involved in usually happy moments, is awesome. Because I get to see a side and a time in people's lives that other people don't get to see. And it just brings a lot of joy, constantly. A lot of pressure, a lot of stress. And we just put that there. But it's also amazing, because I really get to see people at their best.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, that's awesome. I know you do a lot of different types of events. What makes a good guest or a host, and how do they make the event successful?

Keith Willard: Well, I think one of the things that most people make a mistake on is that they get too caught up into the minor details. And I go through this process with my clients all the time. The anticipated experience is a very different field for somebody that's throwing an event versus somebody that is coming to an event. And so if you're coming to an event, let's say wedding, right. We're going to a wedding. If I'm invited to a wedding, pretty much I think I'm going to get to see two people get married. I'm going to have a couple of drinks. I'm sure there'll be a cocktail hour and there'll be some dinner and some dancing, right? That's about the extent of my expected experience.

But on the wedding side, on the Bride side, or the Groom side, they get very caught up in, oh my goodness, well, what if we don't have a favor? What if we don't have a candy table, whatever. And they get into these “what if” scenarios that circle and create a lot of stress and drama. When really, they gotta bring it back down to, what is their guests’ true anticipated experience? And, bring them into your life. People want to feel connected to other people. And so if you can find ways to make it easy for your guests to laugh, talk to each other and leave knowing a few more people, you're going to have a successful event.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, I like that. Everybody has this idea of perfection and has to go a certain way. And if it doesn't meet that it's like - but I like how you boil it down to simple concepts.

Keith Willard: Think about the last event that you went to, I mean, what are the things that really, truly annoyed you when you went to an event? And typically the things that annoy us as guests are long lines, because nobody wants to sit in a long line waiting for a cocktail or drink. Bad service, right? If somebody doesn't smile, and valet, waiting for your car. Those tend to be the big three.

And so if you can figure out a way to make sure that people have great service, have immediate access to food and beverage, and easy access to parking or valet. You're already on the positive side.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: The other thing I know is booking in person events, especially venues and things like that. What red flags should everyone be aware of when choosing a hotel, vendor or venue?

Keith Willard: Don't overestimate your guest count. This happens a lot. So, being from the hotel industry, I can tell you that most of the time when you walk in, let's say that you're doing a networking event or conference or convention. The hotel is going to ask you for minimums, right? Everything's based on a minimum, the hotel wants to know, how much are we going to make off of this event? And people tend to overestimate, by at least 30%? Usually. But the problem is, once you contract that, you can't go below it.

So let's say you have a networking event or conference, you have a day conference, and you expect that you're going to have at least 150 people. So that's what you contract for. But when you end up at 100 people, you still have to spend at least the 150 person mark, because that's what you've contracted. You can always go up but you can't go down. So, when going to book a hotel, be realistic about your numbers, drop it down by 20%. And then everybody will be happy, right? Because again, once you get closer to the actual date of the event, you can go up and the hotel is going to be thrilled. They're gonna be like, Oh, great, more money, more people. Excellent. But they're not going to let you go down. So always underestimate a little bit.

I think that we fall into this thing that we think that we're more important than we actually are, or that more people are actually interested than they really are. And sometimes they are, and sometimes they're not. So I'd rather err on the side of caution and then be excited when things do go crazy and go huge. And then and then work to figure that out from that point.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, have you come up with any new ideas or strategy or risk mitigation techniques now that COVID is in the picture? So, any sort of advice or strategies that you've used, especially when planning in person events?

Keith Willard: Oh, my goodness it's been all over the place in the last three years. I'm located in South Florida. So thank you, Governor DeSantis for not shutting anything down, because our businesses did great. Didn't do great for healthcare, let me just say, but yeah, did great for business. And we've had to adjust everything that we've thought we were going to do constantly. So there's no real right answer for this.

Many times, it's about the comfort level of the client, right. So if I have a company that has a pretty strict mask policy, then I know that their event is going to also have to be fairly strict in their mask policy. And that means that I'm going to have to have a lot of extra sanitizer, a lot of extra space, I'm going to have to make sure that there's as much distance between people as possible. If I have a company that, they're very lackadaisical, or they say everybody's supposed to be triple vaccinated, then we plan on those things being a little tighter.

Now that the interesting piece comes in here is that you're going to have a wide range of guests that are coming. And in order to make sure that everybody has a good time, you have to make sure that there is going to be space for everybody there to be comfortable. And so what I mean by this is that you're going to have to have tables of 10 but also tables of six. So that way, if somebody who is very cautious about their personal health, is wearing masks and doesn't want to sit at a crowded table, that there’s going to be that option available for them.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, that's interesting. People were planning things in January, February, March 2020. And then they had all these big events planned. And all of a sudden, just a whim regulation shut everything down. Do you have any risk mitigation for those types of things? Where everything just closes?

Keith Willard: That was bad. Oh, yeah. So down here, March 13 was the big day, right, March 13. Everything came to a close down here. And it was really devastating for our event industry. And that's actually why I started the podcast, is because being in the wedding and event industry, there wasn't a lot of information coming, because people didn't know what to do. It's often that you couldn't get a hold of anybody at the hotel, because they weren't there. And so you have these big contracts. And you're like, what's going to happen to that money? What's going to happen to my event?

And so we started the podcast, because we could put on the directors of catering, we could put on the general managers, we could put on the vendors. And they could give us a little idea of how they were dealing with it internally. And they gave people some insight. But yeah, it was a very scary six to nine months for us here in South Florida. It was very scary for I guess, a year and a half to two years for the people in California because of different rules and regulations. It was just a really, really rough time. And we were basically moment by moment figuring it out moment by moment. It was crazy. I don't know if there's any way to mitigate that loss, because we've never had that situation happen before. Right? Yeah. When's the last time that everybody said, Oh, yep, shut everything down for six months to a year.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Never.

Keith Willard: I don't think so. Now, what we're doing is, a lot of people are putting into their clause, a COVID clause, so to speak, saying if something like this happens again, you will be able to move your date once, six months out, eight months out, but typically within the same calendar year, right. Hotels, their budgets are based on a year. And so they really want you to spend that money in that year. So if you have an event in January or February, and let's say it's a $50,000 event, a contract that you signed for 50,000 with the hotel, and COVID happens again. The hotel now has in place that yes, we understand this isn't going to happen. We're going to allow you to move that but you need to spend it within the same calendar year. Oh, hoping that everything is going to reopen.

I'm saying on average, I'm not saying every hotel, by the way, please don't think that it's every hotel. But that's what I've been seeing on average, is hotels focusing on that. And vendors too, because small vendors, like florists, let's talk about florists. You know, it was really hard for them, because they signed all these contracts before COVID. Who knew that the price of flowers was going to double. So now they have these contracts for like 10,000 or so. And the cost of flowers is 12. So they're making zero money. They're actually paying to do your event. But they're trying to fulfill those contracts, because obviously they want to keep their reputation and they want to keep the business going. But a lot of the small florists actually had to close their doors. It was bad.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, it was horrible. COVID has highlighted so much inefficiency and was really destructive to society.

Keith Willard: You know, what else COVID did though? It also brought out the best in humans, too. And it's one of those things, it's weird. I mean, I being on this side of it, it's the understanding that people had at the beginning the willingness to adjust, to let people out of their contracts, to give people money back. I've never seen that before, and hotels and events, ever. And so that was really, really surprising to see that, and it was actually nice to see that. Humanity went, we're going to try to take care of each other during this crazy time. Now that lasted about six months, people got tired of being a super nice guy and giving all their money back. But at the beginning, it was great to see how people reacted and how they rallied around each other to do everything they could to help their fellow man because everybody was in the same boat.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, you focus a lot on weddings. And that's really one of the highlights. Any takeaways or any analogies with business conferences or other types of networking events, some parallels you can draw between those two?

Keith Willard: I think that it's basically a human connection. Human beings like to be connected with one another. And yet, we all have the same insecurities, right? And it's amazing how many times I see people that are very worried about how they look, how they appear, how they come across. And there's somebody for everyone out there. And I think that if you're, if you're true to yourself, you're going to find people that are similar to you that you're going to really enjoy yourself. So don't try to be somebody else, be you. And, almost unapologetically, be you. Don't apologize for how you act or who you are. Because there’s nobody else just like you. And do you really want to be connected with people that aren't like you? Or would you rather cut up all that wasted time and get to the people that you really are connected with?

It's part of human nature that we constantly worry about what other people think about us. At some point in your age - I don't know what happens. Now that I'm in my 50s, I care less. And I hope that continues, because it's a little freeing to be like: I am who I am, as I am. If you don't want to take me as I am, there are 7 billion other people out there for you to go talk to.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah, I think back to when we were in our 20s and 30s. And we're just so uptight and care so much.

Keith Willard: So worried about how we carry ourselves and our presence. And I get it, people are learning to figure themselves out as well. A lot of times we don't even know who we are. What are the things that make us tick? But it's nice that at some point that does start going away. And then you start thinking, Yeah, you know what, I'm alright, I'm good. Why did I worry so much?

It's quite interesting, because you've done events. And one of your underlying values is happiness. And you incorporate that, in terms of, you started your podcast because of the pandemic to help others. How did you come to this value and belief of happiness and contributing and serving?

You know, I think it goes back to the fact that one of my very first jobs was being an executive director of a nonprofit. It's already always been kind of in my ballot, in my tool shed, so to speak, to help other people. I've always liked it, it's always brought a lot of joy to me and, and has always been kind of a calling. Plus, the warmth and joy that you get from helping another person is something that you can't buy. You can go and get a brand new coat, and you love your brand new coat, or you get the sick pair of shoes that you've been looking for forever, and you love them. And that's amazing. But it's not the same feeling that you get when somebody else says thank you. Right?

When somebody genuinely comes to you and says, I cannot thank you enough for what you did for us. There's just something about that, that just fills you with warmth, and pride and love and humanity in general. Just and I think that being knowing that I was in the event industry, seeing how many people were going through so many issues. And not just not just vendors, but couples, all of a sudden couples who had been planning their wedding for years, all of a sudden, couldn't get married. So what happened, what happened to them?

And then vendors that all of a sudden had no money, what do they do? And then hotels all of a sudden had to layoff people that they never thought they would have to lay off. Right? And so the idea of the podcast actually came out from all of that pain because I was really trying to figure out, how do we provide answers to people in a way that we can reach as many people as possible? And actually started as a zoom call. Much like this, as a zoom call, and we put it out onto Facebook Live. And it was once. So the first one was on a Tuesday at two o'clock. I don't know, it was random, Tuesday at two o'clock. And we had a director of catering from Conrad Hotel, and we had another event planner. And we got together, and we just started talking. And people were asking questions on Facebook. What about contracts? What about this? What about that? And so we were answering those questions as much as we could. And so after an hour, we were like, Okay, guys we're done. But we're going to be back next Tuesday. And we'll have different people on. And so you can ask those questions.

And so after the like, the fourth Tuesday in a row, and it kept getting bigger. First, we had, like, 50 people watching. The second one, we had, like, 150 people watching, then we had like 300 people watching them, like 500 people watching. And my husband actually said, “you're gonna have to name it something, because you can't just keep calling it Our Zoom Call on Tuesday.” And so he actually came up with the name Behind the Veil, which I thought was pretty brilliant. And then we had to figure out how to widen our access to our audience, because we were just on Facebook at that point. And so I found a software company called StreamYard, which goes to LinkedIn, Facebook, and YouTube all at the same time. And then it also converts it to an mp3, which allows us to do the podcast. And so you know, fast forward three years, we went from 50 people to 50,000. It's been a little crazy.

And we still hold true to the original values that we're here to provide answers and a fun and entertaining way. And you know, that it's not a sales call, we don't talk about our personal businesses there. So you know, you don't hear about Keith Willard Events, you don't hear about Marcy Gutenberg, An Affair to Remember. You don't hear about those companies, we're only focused on the guest, and getting those answers.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: It's so amazing. Because you're all about community and then celebrating the important moments in people's lives. And then you've created a business out of it. And what's interesting is, if you show up and you have a daily habit, then your tribe and followers will come so it's been a great conversation.

Keith Willard: And this is what makes the world go round, conversations like this and learning about other people.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Yeah. I've really enjoyed this conversation. It has been fascinating just talking about connection and community and how you can create a business out of it. And I know clients or audiences are listening, and they may want to reach out to you, visit you, maybe even work with you. So how can they do that?

Keith Willard: Oh, easily. Basically, all of my social media is @KeithWillard. So if you go to Facebook, Instagram, TikTok - there's nothing on TikTok, so don't even try - but it's @KeithWillard. The only difference is on LinkedIn. I think it's Keith Willard1, which is weird. And then for my website, Or if you want to check out our YouTube channel, it's Behind the Veil by Keith Willard.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Excellent. Excellent. And for all the listeners and audience, Keith’s resources will be in the links and show notes. So Keith, thanks so much. I really got so much out of this conversation. And hopefully the audience did too.

Keith Willard: Thank you so much. I really enjoyed it. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. It was awesome.

Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD: Many thanks again for being here. If you’re new, you can find me online at Christopher H. Loo, MD-PhD, where I have links to other episodes or links to online resources that will support you on your financial literacy journey. I’ll see you there in on next week’s show. While I bring you thoroughly vetted information on this show regarding a variety of financial topics, I cannot promise you a one size fits all solution. This is why I caution you to continue to learn. Educate yourself and seek professional advice unique to your situation. If you want to talk to me, I welcome it. Please reach out via my website or email at I read and personally respond to all of my emails. Talk soon!


Editor's note: This transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.


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