Skip to content

IN-PERSON is a podcast series that tells the stories behind the world's most daring events and the people who make them happen.

Music by Winesap.

 

GUEST SUBMISSIONS
By Industry
By Topic
By Role
feather_search

44 | Brad Ehrlich, Markey's: Billie Jean King and How to Produce a Hybrid Event

  • May 5, 2021
  • 34:33

Brad Ehrlich, (General Manager, Markey’s) shares his experience helping clients shift to virtual events and how he and his team are already supporting the technical aspects of hybrid.

You can also listen on these platforms:

Top Takeaways

1

PRODUCING HYBRID EVENTS AND ENSURING ON-SITE SAFETY: "Well, certainly, we have our own protocols in place to make sure that we can provide a safe event for our customers, from disinfecting high touch equipment to not sharing microphones. But from a venue standpoint, I think it's important to make sure your venue is taking those considerations and that they actually have an active plan to deal with mitigation—in terms of having seating options that are socially distanced, having cleaning protocols that meet the CDC guidelines, and actually are thinking it through rather than just winging it. While I think there's a great desire and need to get back in-person, there is still that trepidation that some customers are going to have. We want the first few events that come back to be good, to make us feel better, and finding the right venue is a huge part of that.”

2

MARRYING THE VIRTUAL & ON-SITE AUDIENCE: "I think one of the things that helps with attendee experience, and something we've done in the past is, have some sort of virtual concierge. Somebody's who's going to be speaking to the virtual audience, so they're not feeling left behind. Because you have this on-site audience that really feels engaged. And then you have this virtual audience who are watching from a camera, what's happening in this space. So having somebody that can bridge that gap, and that might mean you might want to have a space set up in the middle of the lobby, where there could be some interviews or discussion, or there's some sort of, ‘Hey, what's going on here?’ to get the attendees that are live interested in what's happening with the virtual, and tying that together.”

3

THE BENEFITS OF LONG-TERM PARTNERSHIP: We get to grow with our clients, and grow with their events year over year. We want to help the customer deliver their communication goals, their vision, and just keep doing it better and better. That's the message we've been driving since I've been here is customer service, looking at those customers with the understanding that it's not transactional. We're with you for the long haul. We're going to work year over year, to make sure your events continue to get better, and we can learn and enhance those together.”

ABOUT Brad Ehrlich

Brad joined the Markey's team in 1994 as a driver/rental technician and quickly learned all facets of the event industry. He was soon promoted to management and took over Markey’s in-house services at multiple hotel facilities in the Indianapolis area and was later hand-picked to move to Merrillville, Indiana to launch Markey’s operations at the Radisson/Star Plaza Theater, as Director of Audiovisual Services.

In 2000, Brad was selected to manage operations at the NCAA Hall of Champions. After a 10-year stint managing the NCAA account, he was promoted to Managing Director of Account Services/Director of NCAA Account Services. Now as the General Manager at Markey’s Rental and Staging, Brad oversees corporate strategic and operational initiatives at the Indianapolis headquarters.

Episode Transcript

Rachel Rappaport:

Hello, and welcome back to In-Person, brought to you by Bizzabo. In case we haven't already met, I'm Rachel Rappaport. And in each episode of In-Person, we explore the world's most daring events, and the people who make them happen.

 

Rachel Rappaport:

Today, we're speaking with Brad Ehrlich, from Markey's Rental & Staging , an agency that helps clients like PWC and the NCAA, produce high quality events, from supplying technical equipment to providing expertise and support.

 

Rachel Rappaport:

Brad joined the Markey's team in 1994, as a driver and rental technician, and quickly learned all the facets of the event industry. He was soon promoted to management, and took over Markey's in-house services at multiple hotel facilities in the Indianapolis area.

 

Rachel Rappaport:

And later was handpicked, move to Merrillville, Indiana, to launch Markey's operations at the Radison/Star Plaza Theater, as the director of audio visual services. In 2000, Brad was selected to manage operations at the NCAA hall of champions.

 

Rachel Rappaport:

After a 10 year stint managing the NCAA account, he was promoted to managing director of account services and the director of NCAA account services.

 

Rachel Rappaport:

Brad now serves as Markey's general manager at the Indianapolis headquarters, where he oversees corporate, strategic, and operational initiatives.

 

Rachel Rappaport:

In this episode, we take a look at how Brad and his team have adapted to the virtual world, and how Markey's has already begun to test the waters with hybrid events. We'll dive into some examples of how event organizers can marry the virtual and on-site experience, how to approach the technical elements of a hybrid event, and the benefits of cultivating a long-term partnership with your agency.

 

Rachel Rappaport:

Finally, we get a glimpse at some of the more technical terms, that event planners should know, when producing a hybrid event. And if you stick around to the very end, you'll hear an inspiring story of crossing paths with the acclaimed tennis champion, Billie Jean King, let's get to it. Here's Brad Ehrlich, and our host Brandon Rafalson.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Brad, you've been at Markey's for more than 29 years, but before you made your way to Markey's, you were a personal trainer. So how did you first get into the world of personal training? And I guess second, how did you make the jump into events?

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

You don't see the natural progression there? So my family, my parents were in the medical field, my dad was a doctor, oncologist, OBGYN oncologist, and my mom was in nursing. And so I was going down that path of physical therapy, kind of that route. And in the meantime I got out of college, I got a job as a personal trainer, which I loved, and it was paying the bills, okay.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

But my brother-in-law back then, started working for this company called Markey's, and he said, they were hired a bunch. And it's fun technology, and I said, fine, I'll try it. So just to make a little extra money, I got this side gig at Markey's, which then led me 29 years later, to where I am today.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Wow.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

Yeah. One of the things with my dad... he will travel the entire world doing lectures, as he got later in his career, certainly one of my all time idols. And I can remember having these conversations with him, because he was a techie, he was into everything.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

When I was in college, just a real quick, he was able to log into my computer, which you know, this is late 80s, early 90s. And if I had a technical issue, he could log into my computer, and bounce around in there, which was amazing.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

I'm not even sure I could do that with a computer from the late 80s, early 90s.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

I know, I think I was the only one that had a laptop. It was an old monochrome kind of piece of crap, but it was a laptop. I remember he used to work with this program called Harvard graphics, which is like the precursor to PowerPoint. I'm not even sure, I don't think it's around anymore, I don't know when it went away.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

He would talk about these horror stories, because he was right on the cutting edge of presentation technology, and these horror stories of gear failing, nobody knowing what to do.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

And I thought, wow, that's really cool. And what a great transition to be in a field that would support folks that have those horror stories. So I think that's my circuitous route to getting into the event-

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Oh, wow.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

Industry.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

At an earlier age, you just had that exposure to it of this can be a pain point.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

Yeah.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

That's funny. And I think that's one of the reasons why we're so glad to have you on the show. Obviously we're familiar with the work of Markey's, but with your expertise in particular, you're right at that intersection of the presentation, and everything that needs to happen, to make that event, make that session, make that just one keynote, go off without a hitch.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

Yeah. I love being that solution, and the person to come save the day, that was always a good feeling, yeah.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

And never any pressure I'm sure.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

No.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Cool, so you had this earlier experience with presentation technology, you got a call and heard about an opportunity over at Markey's, and so you made your way over there. Could you walk us through your journey once you got to Markey's? How you just got more and more involved with events? And I guess further and further away from physical therapy.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

Yeah, I started off, there was entry level. I was a driver. Markey's back then was Markey's audiovisual. And we delivered equipment around the city to support different organizations, and so that's what I did. I soon became a technician, so then I would run events on the technical side. So I did that for a couple years.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

And then I was in Indianapolis, we had a smaller branch in Northern Indianapolis, and I became the operations manager of the dispatcher there. And then eventually, got kind of bored with that.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

But I was really loving what I was doing. And an opportunity opened up at a hotel, and Markey's is also in-house that many hotels around the country. And this is what I did in Indianapolis. And again, got more exposure to what Markey's, does learned a lot more. Meanwhile, Markey's was growing and really was loving what I was doing.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

So at that point it became a full-time position. And then eventually went to just south of Chicago at a place called Merrillville, you may be familiar, and I opened up a hotel there with a company called White Lodging, which is a huge hotel chain.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

That was our first White Lodging property. We're now in several White Lodging properties, but that was our first foray into that, that was a 1997. So I stayed there for a couple of years, there was a theater attached to the hotel. The events had gotten more complex, the ones I was working on. So I continued to learn more, grow, gained a lot of experience.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

I remember, I was walking in the theater, and I could hear this kid singing. And it was Leanne Rhymes, and she was just a baby and she was doing a rehearsal and I was like, "Oh my God, this kid is so good.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

And this was before she ever made it huge. I remember, but that was the Star Plaza theater. If you look it up, you look at the history of the star Plaza theater. I mean, it's been around for a long time, I think that's where I really fell in love with the event industry, because we did so many cool events, and there were so many cool people I met and I just love the energy and the excitement.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

I'm kind of a hyper person. And I think it all just fit with me. Flash forward to 2000, the NCAA was coming to Indianapolis. There was a big announcement, they're moving their headquarters to Indianapolis.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

Our president CEO, Mark Miller somehow got a little wind of this, made it so we were going to be on-site at NCA, supporting their events. We needed an account manager.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

So that was going to be me, that was like a dream job for me, being a sports fan. I could come back to Indianapolis, which I wanted to do. And again, just elevating the type of events I'd be exposed to.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

So I started the NCAA, right at the end of 1999. And so I was there until NCAA till 2012. And we did some events at the top of mountains, on ice rinks. We've taken over cities, and had events at multiple venues across the city.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

Just really complicated, fun events. I learned a boatload at the NCAA week, which became an ESOP in 2012. ESOP is an employee stock ownership program. So basically all the employees bought the company from our previous owner, Charles Markey.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

And at that point I moved over here to our corporate headquarters, and became the general manager, our CEO, which was Chuck Markey had moved on, so Mark Miller, my boss took on his role. And so I stepped into the GM position, which Mark had, that's where we are today.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Wow. Going back to some of the events that you named, the types of events, you're talking about events on mountains, events on ice rinks, we're talking college basketball tournaments. Could you tell us a little bit more about some of the events that Markey's produces?

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

We run the gamut. So, that's one of the beautiful things about Markey's is, there's really no event too small for us. And I think we put the same amount of focus and care, into a small event as we do these large ones, but we still do.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

Local businesses here in the Indianapolis. We'll do drop-offs and deliveries, and small setups to giant super bowl events. I talked about a festival we did with the NCAA, where we would take over say Louisville, and many schools,this is a division two, would come in and host several championships over that week period.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

And there was a ton of special events and hospitality, and VIP, and all these things that go into it. And so it really covers a lot of basis, and you create these teams. And I think this is another reason why I like events, but you create these teams.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

And we would create these teams that just worked so well together, and we understood each other. We all sort of had that same weird desire to work on that Razor's edge. It's very stressful, the hours are horrible. It's nights, it's weekends, it's all the worst times and yeah, that's stressful. And there's a lot of things that can go wrong, but it's working together and finding those solutions, and that feeling when you've executed a great event, there's nothing better than that feeling at the end.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

And even if things don't go 100%, the way you plan, you adjust, like I said, champions adjust, and then you keep moving forward. And that's probably why I'm in this business that puts all the gray hair on my head, right now.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

It sounds like there are just all sorts of different events that Markey's is helping to produce, in terms of equipment and staging. I imagine that 2020, and 2021, is bringing quite a bit of change, into how you and the rest of the Markey's family is approaching that. So could you walk us through how your approach, your business model, has evolved over that time?

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

Yes. So last March, Mark Miller and I were... Mark and I were at an event, for the Rental & Staging Network Forum, and Markey's is a part of that. And it's companies like Markey's, and they have a breadth across the nation.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

We were at one of our meetings, and this is in mid-March, and all of a sudden these other owners of businesses are seeing the business just oh, that canceled, as things went crazy.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

And the South by Southwest, and other events, we've worked for many years, that canceled, NCAA basketball tournament that canceled, all these things canceled. And within two weeks, we were at like a zero on business, other than a few in-house contracts that were still paying us. All our business went from... And we were having the best year ever for us. It was definitely going to be a banner year.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

So we basically pivoted our entire operation to go fully virtual. And so what we did... and thank God we built a brand new warehouse here in Indianapolis, that had a demo room, is what we call it, where we were going to do product demos, training, things for customers to... we want to set up an LED, we want to show you what it looks like, those kind of things.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

We had built this big, beautiful space, which we immediately converted it into a virtual studio. And it's one of the bigger ones you can find with an LED wall, jib and cameras and all the lighting you would ever need and different options.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

We also in this new building, which again, finished in late January. We had our company meeting in January, that was the very first time we were in this new space. I mean, it's just a godsend.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

And then the upstairs of this building, we put in another studio. So we had two functioning studios really quickly. And now, we're not new to streaming, we'd been doing streaming for many years, way back to ISDN lines, if anybody knows what that is.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

So we've been doing streaming for years. So it's nothing new to us, but just completely making it our entire focus, while having 250 employees scattered around the United States, trying to figure out how we keep as many people as we can, how we keep people working.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

We pivoted completely virtual. We realized we needed some kind of platform and we looked at a bunch, and somehow we stumbled on Bizzabo, that wasn't on our radar. I'd looked at some others, and so I contacted Bizzabo, and I believe I spoke to Ryan O'Connell, and he did a couple of demos with us. And pretty quickly, we realized this was probably our best bet.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

We had checked all the boxes, we thought price was fair. It certainly was, I think, very user-friendly from some of the stuff we saw, and very flexible, and that's what we needed.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

And once we signed onto that, which was in April, we completely started doing virtual events. We got everybody trained across the company to support events virtually, we immediately started training, and no matter where you were, you could support an event wherever it was.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

Because we all know Zoom, we all know the virtual ways of communicating, we trained everybody up, and had support across the country, and started hosting virtual events, and it picked up rather quickly.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

Reached out to all our customers said, "Hey, we know you're going to be looking for a virtual solution. The event industry is extremely unknown right now, at that point last year, we didn't know when it was coming back."

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

And we started getting our customers in line engaged, and got up to speed with Bizzabo, that really saved our bacon. And these studios really were a big help. And outside these two studios, we have a training center here, and it just completely became our virtual command center for across the company.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

It's been probably my hardest year of my career for sure, but it's starting to feel more rewarding, as we see light at the end of the tunnel. It wasn't all bad. And trying to keep that positive outlook, and keep the company positive.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

Ultimately, we did have to reduce our staffing. It was just no way to keep the number of staff we had, but we're on the upswing and we're building back.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Wow, that's quite a journey. I think your experience there, probably will resonate with many of our listeners in terms of 2020. All right, the stage is set, it's going to be a great year, and err, all of a sudden you have to hard break and adapt.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

And that's what you and the Markey's team did with these studios, which kind of brings us up to today. You know, we're recording this in towards the end of April, 2021.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Virtual is, we know still something that needs to be supported, we're still seeing organizers and businesses invest in virtual. We're still seeing that - provided these virtual events are like very targeted, and their topics and their audience - they're still getting great engagement, but we also know that we're coming back to in-person being on the table again with additional in-person events and also this well, this idea of hybrid and blending the two experiences.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

And I think part and parcel of that, just in-person and hybrid, is this idea of health and safety. There are a lot of concerns with that, even with rising vaccinations and so on, people haven't been attending events for a while.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

So Brad, I'm curious from your perspective on the event production side of things, what are some of the key considerations for organizers to keep in mind, when say, working with a venue to produce events in a way that makes attendees feel safe and comfortable?

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

Well, certainly, we have our own protocols in place to make sure that we can provide a safe event for our customers, from disinfecting high touch equipment, not sharing microphones, really easy things like that.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

But from a venue standpoint, I think it's important to make sure your venue is taking those considerations. And they actually have an active plan to deal with mitigation, in terms of having some seating options that are socially distanced, they have cleaning protocols that meet the CDC guidelines, and actually are thinking it through rather than just winging it.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

I think back in February, I went through COVID-19 officer training, and these are really designed for... At least the one I went through, more of the movie industries of sets, but it's still, the thought process is all the same. And that's making sure that we're wearing masks when you're indoors, and that they are flexible too, and will work with you to fit the needs of your program.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

While I think there's a great desire and need to get back in-person. There is still that trepidation, that some customers are going to have, we want this first few events to come back and be good, to make us feel better, but certainly finding the right venue is a huge part of that.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

When you think about what a hybrid experience would look like, from the attendee perspective, say we have health and safety taken care of, what are some other considerations to keep in mind, when selecting a venue that would support a hybrid event? And I guess we can add onto this just generally speaking considerations for marrying both the virtual and in-person experiences.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

I think from a venue selection standpoint, if you're going to do a hybrid event, you're going to want to make sure they have the IT infrastructure to support that.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

I think that's something, that's going to be critically important. Again, thinking about the flow of your event and the physical layout of your venue is important. And then how does this venue... how can they support the virtual component of this live event?

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

For example, I think one of the things that helps with attendee experience, and something we've done in the past is, have some virtual concierge, if you will.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

Somebody's who's going to be speaking to the virtual audience, so they're not feeling left behind. Because you have this on-site audience that really feels engaged.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

And then you have this virtual audience who are watching from a security camera, what's happening in this space. So having somebody that can bridge that gap, and that might mean you might want to have a space set up in the middle of the lobby, where there could be some interviews or discussion, or there's some sort of, "Hey, what's going on here?" And get the attendees that are live sort of interested in what's happening with the virtual, and sort of tying that together.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

That totally makes sense, and having that separate space for that MC, to have some sidebar conversations, to segue between session to session. I mean, it's something I think there are analogs for this, and when it comes to general broadcast, maybe some of the live streams that were out there pre-COVID times, but something that I imagine we're going to see even more of moving forward.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

I understand that you've already kind of hit the ground running, and had the chance to work on a hybrid example with a client. Could you share a little bit more about that particular example?

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

So I think one of the things we've done for a hybrid event, this has been very successful, we did sort of talk about that... just have that production studio out and visible to everyone. And we would do key hits throughout the day. We would do a little quick interviews.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

There was scheduled time, so the virtual attendee knew, at this time, this is going to happen. We just recently did an event here in our studio, and we gave the attendees who were watching online, a virtual tour of behind the scenes on, what was actually happening at this particular event. We had a 100 computers set up, which were hosting a large virtual event. Each computer was its own little breakout session.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

Visually when you see that, it's pretty impressive. So giving someone remotely sort of that behind the scenes, that insight into how all this is being accomplished, really brought them to the fold. So I think any way you can share that experience with your virtual audience and your live audience, the better.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Let's jump into terminology. There are a lot of terms out there when it comes to production. Whether that's In-Person, virtual, hybrid, I mean, I feel like I'm learning a new term every single day. I already just heard a few that maybe I have an idea of, but I'm not exactly sure what they mean in this call.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

So my initial question for you Brad was, what are some of the most common production terms that you find organizers do not know, but I'd love to throw in my own personal request. First, I heard you mention a jib, and I typically think cut of your jib, that phrase, which I think speaks to boats, but how does it relate to events?

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

So a jib camera is... The jib is really the... you've seen them at football games, and the really long arm that, when somebody is swinging around and controlling the camera, that's a jib.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

And just provides beautiful sweeping shots of, whatever you're shooting, and really smooth. You can get them up to pretty long. Ours is 32 feet long. So we have a camera on the end of the 32 foot arm, that then swings and provides all those beautiful artful video footage.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

What are some other terms that pop up?

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

I feel like we've been in this for a little while, but some of the ones that I think we talked about, that I don't know that maybe others are aware of, what is vMix? If you're familiar with vMix and that's just a-

 

Brandon Rafalson:

No.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

... software application that, pretty industry standard for streaming live events. Vimeo, we all know what Vimeo is, and that's just a video protocol, a way to stream, obviously you use Vimeo in Bizzabo all the time. Also NDI, are you familiar with NDI, which is a-

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Non disclosure information.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

No.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

No, I have no idea what NDI is.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

So that's another video protocol, I can connect devices over NDI, which is just over the internet. So rather than having to run a million video cables like we used to, they can all be part of the network. And NDI, is a standard protocol that most devices understand.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

Gamification is one... that's a new one, that's fairly new. We've been living it the last year, and just a way to bring fun into your virtual/hybrid event. And then one that's fairly new is Simulive, which I think you're aware of.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

And that's, you're playing back prerecorded content as if it were live, and nobody's the wiser. And then I thought I would throw in COVID-19 compliance officer, because out east and out west, those are pretty good paying gigs. So if somebody needs one on set for something cool, you know where to reach me.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Thanks Brad. So for the next section, we're going to talk a little bit more about that partnership between agencies and organizations, and how both parties can get the most out of it.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

So let's start off with Markey's. I understand that long-term partnerships, and creating those sorts of relationships with clients, is key to how you folks run your business. So why is that so important to you, aside from having that client retained for a long amount of time? And what is that value in a long-term partnership for the client?

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

We've been around 60 years, and we've had Eli Lily, as a customer, we've had for almost 30 years. I mentioned the NCAA almost 20 years, or over 20 years, American Legion, well over two decades. And there's a ton of customers like that.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

Most of our business comes from repeat and referral. We don't do a ton of advertising, and that's been how we've been successful. How does it help you? How does it help the customer? We get to grow with them, grow with their events year over year.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

We're big on process improvement, so as we... our first year of an event, we learn a lot, and we take what we've learned with the customer. We want to be part of all the discussions, we are going to be at the table the entire time, so we understand what their goals and their visions are, and be able to help execute that.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

And the way we do that is, improving year over year. We're not trying to get the best deal we can this year, we only wanted to help the customer deliver their communication goals, their vision, and just keep doing it better and better, year over year.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

So hyper-focused on customer service, we are second to none on that. I would put us up against anyone, and that has served us well.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

And we were started in 1959, by Marty Martelle Markey. And she started it as a film strip delivery business, and original name was Markey's Ideal Pictures. And her focus back then was customer service, and she got to see this business grow and her son, Chuck took it over and he was the CEO until we became an ESOP.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

That's the message we've been driving since I've been here is customer service, looking at those customers as, it's not transactional, we're with you for the long haul, we're going to work year over year, to make sure your events continue to get better, and we can learn and enhance those together.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

So always we think about navigating towards this virtual, and hybrid future, I know that there are different ways that you were thinking about licensing your virtual event platform, to drive value for your clients. Could you share a little bit more about that initiative, and how it is driving value?

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

So we bought into Bizzabo, and immediately got people trained up. I think I built the very first site, which if you look at it now, I mean, it's just, you would laugh at it. But we got a lot of people, very engaged in it, and we created a position pretty quickly called ESP, we love acronyms there, and that's an event support professional.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

And these are the folks that will meet with customer, will understand the vision for their virtual event, and then map the strategy forward to build the site, and then execute the event.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

Well, along with that ESP, we branded the Bizzabo platform as MVP, which stands for Markey's Virtual Platform. A little bit down the road, we decided we would add to that, so MVP then became Markey's Virtual Presence, and within that is the MVP studios, which we've talked about. The studios are here in Indianapolis, and we have them in other cities.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

The MVP creative services, and so those are the folks that are going to help you develop your content, build the site for you. And then MVP productions, that's the crew behind executing these flawless events. So there's really four MVPs in there, the MVP platform, MVP studios, MVP creative services, and MVP productions, all within our MVP, Markey's Virtual Presence. So there's a lot of MVPs in there.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

I mean, talk about evolution and growth. It's a whole new arm of services, that have emerged in the past year or so.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

Absolutely. And it's certainly garnered us new customers, we've certainly helped a lot of existing customers, we've gained some great new customers. That's been an amazing outcome of this. And, and I think some will continue to do virtual events, and some will do hybrid, and some we'll be involved when they go back to fully live.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

So it's been while a very trying experience, with the way we are structured, and our focus on the customer, and the people we have, we were able to turn something very good out of something that was pretty drastic and dramatic.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Wow, I know we're coming up to time, I just have a few more questions for you, Brad. First off, we talked a lot about the value of that agency partnership, of being super customer-centric, customer service oriented, growing and iterating on events produced with clients, year over year, event over event.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

But that set aside, what's one piece of advice you would give to your agency peers in this space, who are also looking to drive value for their clients?

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

I think one of the things we've learned is, don't be afraid to speak up. And what I mean by that is, sometimes we're trying to really focus on providing the customer service, but maybe we see them going down a path that we know could be, maybe not the best way to approach an event.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

So I think if we can stand our ground in certain areas, and really push the customer in that direction you really know is going to be better for them, even though that's not their goal, but you're sort of seeing the future, and maybe you've been burned by something before, I think that's really a key to making sure that, you're looking out for their best interests.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

So sometimes speaking up, not trying to deliver the best customer service in that moment, it may not feel like it in there, although you are, because you're steering them in the right direction.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Great. And who's someone you look up to in events, marketing or business in general?

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

I think my dad who passed away quite a while ago, is probably the person that I'm, still look up to. He was the hardest working person I've ever met, and was also just loved by everyone. He was just a great person.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

He had so many interests, and I could never keep up. And he made his own wine, made sauerkraut in our basement, made beer.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Wow.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

He was like I said, a tech wiz, and read constantly. We didn't really have the internet... I think he died before the internet got to be anything. But I can only imagine, I mean volumes of books, and magazines, and 100s of those.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

And he would just constantly read, constantly be doing stuff, so he's a guy I've always looked up to, and will always... but in terms of business, Mark Miller, our president and CEO has been awesome to work with, throughout my career he has really... He steered me, I quit Markey's at one point, and he pointed me in another direction, and said, "Why don't you try this, and see what you think." And what he did, really helped me and kept me here, so he's definitely one I look up to.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Well, your father sounds like quite an inspiring man, and shout out to Mark Miller.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

And he had a great handlebar... my dad had a great handlebar mustache, which during COVID I just... I'd never let my facial hair grow, but I did. I almost had the handlebar, and it just didn't work for me. He also wore the bow-tie every day, so I didn't-

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Wow.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

... have that going on. It's like a true monopoly guy.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Yeah. No, that's very good look, but it's very tough to pull off.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

Absolutely.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

All right. So how can our listeners keep up with Markey's, you, and all the great work that you and your team are doing?

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

Well, you can visit us at www.markeys.com or, if you have an event, you have questions, and you want us to help you. You can email us at info@markeys.com and someone will get right back to you.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

Excellent. Well, thanks so much Brad.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

All right. Thank you.

 

Rachel Rappaport:

Thank you again to Brad, for joining us, and thank you all for listening. If you enjoy listening to In-Person, there are several ways that you can show your support, subscribe, rate, leave us a review, and share the show with your colleagues and friends.

 

Rachel Rappaport:

If you'd like to share your feedback, please drop us a line at in-person@bizzabo.com that's, in-person@bizzabo.com. You can also find full transcripts of the show, along with key takeaways at in-person-podcast.com.

 

Rachel Rappaport:

In-person is a production of Bizzabo. Today's episode was hosted by Brandon Rafalson, co-produced by Brandon and myself, and edited by Brian Pake. Music by Ian O'Hara, until next time, I'm Rachel Rappaport, thanks for tuning in.

 

Brandon Rafalson:

All right, Brad, so I noticed you were in the background of your office, you had a Billie Jean King action figure, I guess, what is the story behind this?

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

That was given to me from a colleague, but it's centered around a story, probably one of the best stories of my career, and that's... We were doing an event and Billie Jean King, was the keynote speaker. And so I'm standing with her before she goes on stage, we're in the wings, and just kind of talking about what's going to happen.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

And so right before she enters the stage, they play a video of her life. And as I'm watching, I'm not hearing any audio, and immediately I'm.... My head's kind of like, I'm rubbing my forehead, oh no. And Billie Jean King sees that I'm a little bit anxious about this, and she says, "Brad, don't worry about it, they'll figure it out." She says, "You know, there's, the economy's in shambles..."

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

This was back in 2008, 2009. "...and today a plane landed in the Hudson, this is the least of our concerns today." I said that's great, you still have to make sure you tell our customer. Anyway, she goes on and goes on stage, but the best part of the story is the following day, I'm in our office there on-site, I think we were in somewhere in DC, and they bring me this book and it was Billie Jean King's book.

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

It had been signed... I opened it up, it had been signed and it said, "Hi, Brad, say hi to the family, thanks for everything. And then remember champions adjust."

 

Bradley Ehrlich:

To send that to me, and just take the time to do that, was something I found awesome, and have a lot of respect for her. She was great.