Extra! Jon Trask interviews Robb Thornsberry of Infinity Events

meetingspodcast interview meeting planner Extra! Jon Trask interviews Robb Thornsberry of Infinity Events

Today Jon Trask interviews Robb Thornsberry of Infinity Events

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The Meeting Planners podcast source for what’s new and exciting in meetings and events industry!

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Jon Trask of Alliant Event Services

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Show Notes:

Jon Trask: Hello and welcome back to the Meetings Podcast. This is Jon Trask and I’m here today with Robb Thornsberry of Infinity Events and Robb is going to be one of the speakers at the upcoming BizBash L.A. Robb is also a company owner here in Southern California. Does event planning, does DMC type work and I think what I’ll do is introduce Robb and let him tell you a little bit what he does actually. Robb welcome to the show.

Robb Thornsberry: Thanks Jon. Well we are – I’m the owner of the Infinity Events Incorporated which is a full services meeting and event production company which covers a lot of ground. So, when I ask people or when people are trying to find out a little bit more about what we do, it can be a little overwhelming so I tend to break it down in four divisions. The four divisions is being special events, so that could include but not limited to event design, concept developments, staging, lighting, audio and visual, multimedia, rentals, décor, staffing, logistics you name it, it’s all a part of that division.

We also have a meeting planning division which can include but is not limited too hotel contract negotiation, logistics printing, budgeting, menu planning, onsite staffing. We can do administrative coordination pre and post. We also have a destination management division which will handle all the ground, transportation once they arrive, other tours and recreational activities, team building, concierge services, anything GMC related and of course an entertainment division which supports you know, the special events division and that could be anything from simple DJ to a band to soloists, variety acts, cirque acts, celebrities and their impersonators. We – constantly – we scouting out the newest latest and greatest, so that everything is kind of cutting edge.

So, the whole purpose behind all of that is to truly provide and I hate this term but I’m going to use it anyway, a one stop shop for the client. It’s all about creating maximum and convenience for them, so that way they’re not having to sign with multiple contracts, deals with multiple contacts, make multiple phone calls in order to get the business done and all of that being sad, a lot of time and a lot of time and a lot of money is being spent to put one event together when truly all they need to do is make one phone call to us and we will outsource everything for them. So – and in that show that’s kind of the premise of the company.

Jon Trask: So, you kind of like the general contractor?

Robb Thornsberry: Well, exactly how it can be considered is a general contractor. My job is to oversee, to negotiate rates on the client’s behalf that they would otherwise not be able to get because we have buying power. We do volume and our suppliers see the benefit in that where as meeting planner would go and they kind see as – kind of a one shot deal, so they tend – you know, they tend to charged them more retail rates where we one of getting wholesale.

Jon Trask: Right.

Robb Thornsberry: And for those reasons we don’t charge our client a management fee. We are able to negotiate the rates on their behalf. They give us wholesale, we charge them retail. So, the cost – the cost to the client really is pretty much the same if they were to go direct or if they want through us.

Jon Trask: Right.

Robb Thornsberry: Also the benefit is going through us is that it’s just – it’s working smarter and not harder. They get a lot of that excess responsibility and all of the tasks that go along with that and still manage to – stay on budget or in oftentimes be able to come under budget.

Jon Trask: Well and I’m wondering if in economy like we’ve all been dealing with here is that isn’t something that is particularly helpful when you’ve got department that’s are being cut back and people that are being kind of overwhelm with addition task to sort of justify their – their existence within a corporate structure to be able to outsource some of this things like that. So – is that helping you in this economy or actually gain a little bit of market share?

Robb Thornsberry: Oh absolutely, I mean that is always on then one of my major marketing tools even before all of this started to happen. It’s just you know, when I started the company, I actually launched the company right after 9/11 probably looking back not the best time to start a company but has really work for me and the whole idea, the whole driving force behind company was to be you know, client – a company that provided maximum benefits for the client, really provide all the services that they need you know, really in one package so that it save them time and save them energy you know, in this you know, based on the all down tossing that’s been going on oftentimes the first position to go will tend to be in the meeting planner.

Jon Trask: Right.

Robb Thornsberry: And these meeting still have to happen, all the events still have to happen, so those responsibility then fall on the lap of an administrative coordinator or HR you know, person in that company who already has you know, a desk full of other responsibilities that they are in charged of. So, I’m editing on top of that, now they have to produce this meetings and so many cases they’re so overwhelmed with really not knowing where to turn or where to start and that’s where we come in, we don’t like to consider ourselves as a part of – as vendor “to accompany more as we like to consider our self a partner”.

Jon Trask: Right.

Robb Thornsberry: We come in and we learn their corporate culture. We find out what they’re all about, why they’re producing this meetings and a lot of cases we like to be a part of their first initial meeting where we can strategize what they’re hoping to accomplish, so that way there’s a consistence from beginning to end. So, yes, it’s certainly I think is definite benefit to companies now you know, and meetings are not going to go away. In fact I think they’re more important now than never before.

Jon Trask: Well, you know, the sort of thing that you’re describing there being at the table early and coming in, in that process, I found just in my scope of – of doing the AV side of things does really help – help the final products so much when you bring – when you bring a team or you bring people in early – early in the process and give them a chance to have some input on it. You can find some great economy and you can find some really innovative ideas that way that you don’t always come to if you just say, “We’re doing a meeting it’s going to be two screens and a stage” you know, so I think – I think that – that coming in, in that part of the process plus the relationship part that I know is something that – I mean we know each other through MPI-OC and I found that I get the best results and I have the best work with clients who I been able to know overtime and build up a relationship with just like you’re describing there.

Robb Thornsberry: I know, absolutely I completely agree with you. This whole industry is all relationship based. My intents and my goals why walk away is not so much just to check things off their list in terms of what they need but to have them and truly build and gain trust in us in term of having their best interest at heart you know, and the one benefit from the company and being you know, so multifaceted and offering so much diversity is that enable us to oversee the whole package that way again it create consistency from beginning to end. So, that’s so piece meal together but we are one of the very few companies that is as comprehensive as we are and not only just provide our services here in Southern California but we had the ability to pick up and go where our clients go you know.

Jon Trask: Right.

Robb Thornsberry: And again that create consistency, they’re not having to reinvent that wheel and every destination that they have to go to. They already know that we have you know, knowledge in terms of how they work and their corporate culture and what they’re you know – what they’re looking to achieve. We already know all of that because we’ve been there, work through that you know, within before. So, it’s just makes perfect sense and we are small enough but with much as – as much ability to be able to go wherever they go and again it’s just creates our partnership.

Jon Trask: Yes, I know one of the – one of the best things that I – I ever had a client say to me in the past couple of years was that they didn’t even care if it cost them more to me in other city. They would rather have me there because I know their meeting so well and it was worth that extra money to make sure that I was supporting them but I’m sure you have clients who are in that same position, it’s like the – the money becomes the secondary element, you’re going to make the budget work for them but – but on the other side of the coin, you’ve got that – that knowledge basis that you’re bringing in and the continuity of their meetings and that – that’s hard to even put a price on because again they’re not, let’s just say reinventing the wheel, they’re not having to go back and go through a new vendor list and explain to everybody what their meeting is about.

Robb Thornsberry: Absolutely, I mean I think it makes a really huge difference you know, and I don’t – you know, it’s hard – if we don’t sell tangible products you know.

Jon Trask: Right.

Robb Thornsberry: We self services and that’s the hard thing to be able to communicate to a client to you know, potential prospect when you’re sitting down with them you know, just convenience that they’re going to be able to benefit from you know, working with the company like ours you know, that provide all of those services for them until you’ve actually gone through it and once you’ve gone through it they – it just the light bulb goes off and I’m like, I understand now, I get, you know, gosh you’re so right and that makes just perfect sense for us you know, but it’s a matter – it’s just a way of changing and you know, the way you do business. If people you know, their comfort level when they think that you know, gosh how can you provide quality when you’re providing so many different services under no circumstance what I even attempt to say that we can do all of this if I didn’t have the back ground to prove it you know …

Jon Trask: Right.

Robb Thornsberry: … my up to 20 years in the university and in the industry, I work for – it considerably large, very well-known destination management company, nationwide destination management company for about 5 years. I produce international events on a very large scale from 70 people to –you know, 70,000 from budget up to you know, $3 million to $8 million programs around the world and of course in meeting planning you know, I have two incredibly well session meeting planners on staff for CMP, certified who are planning events around the world from Hong Kong to Monica and Los Angeles and New York. So, you know, if what I don’t know I surround myself around an experts and you know, masters at their craft who do know what’s going on so that – the client again is able to benefit from you know, a full and complete inclusive package.

Jon Trask: Well and you’ve been nominated for an award at BizBash too, I understand for decor, correct?

Robb Thornsberry: Yes, so it seem.

Jon Trask: So, it’s working?

Robb Thornsberry: Well, you know, look it’s all about marketing this days and I was thrilled. I was honored to you know, to have been given you know, that nomination and as they said not to be clique but it’s just being nominated you know, is all I need but you know, it is true and actually the – that kind the speaks to why I I’m actually speaking at BizBash you know, the nomination and that’s – I was – my category is best overall event decor for any events under $50,000 and you know, and that’s you know, I hate to say but if it provide a benefit and it’s approve to the client then I’m certainly happy to – to wear this badge.

But you know, one thing we tend to get known for because our diversity and because we are you know, being able to put our hands and a lot of different pots is that we negotiate those rates like I said before and bringing clients you know, budget – on budget or under budget almost single time and you know, just event that you know, was submitted for nomination certain speaks to that. It’s a very comprehensive events you know, in terms of what we – we’re able to achieved for Canadian Tourism you know, under an event there you know, under an event – their overall goal was to be able to send a message out to their buyers, to their wholesalers about some technology that now exist on their website and so they wanted an event that reflected that.

So, it was very modern, very contemporary, very expensive looking when you walk in. We created a lounge environment that was very, very comfortable but very hip and cheek at the same time you know, part of their technology on their website kind of what it does is that matches the traveler to destination that best suit their needs and they take this test when they get on the website and so our goal was that to able to replicate that but in more alive lounge environment.

So, I think the judges in their you know, when they were looking to figure out what their requirements were – were impressed how we are, not only manage to achieved the concept but to have a great looking event all but under $50,000. So, yes – I mean I’m honored and excited for Thursday to come to see what happens.

Jon Trask: Well, that’s you know, I think that’s a critical point as the – the budgetary side of it and I know that’s what you’re talk is a little bit about financial issues. The budgetary side of putting a meeting on I mean I’ve been trying to have to this conversation with people lately, right now especially in the economy the way it’s been, it’s every easy to get a cheaper price you know, it’s very easy to get somebody to just step up say, “We’ll do that for less” but what you need to look at in my opinion is always the underlying elements and what value are you actually brining to the attendees underneath that you know, it’s – it’s not effective to save money if the message doesn’t get through and if the meeting doesn’t work and if you don’t have an effective outcome from it and so – so being able to do a really effective award winning meeting under $50,000 is a huge skills of this days.

Robb Thornsberry: Well, you know, yes and it isn’t always necessarily about saving pennies and dollars you know, you’re defeating the purpose if you’re putting together you know, a bark and basement event when again your general message is not being communicated very well. When your guest walk away feeling they’ve been cheated a little bit you know, especially for associations where the attendees are having to pay to attend this meetings and this conferences you know, they know what they have been through before and what has been expected of them and oftentimes their rate doesn’t go down.

Jon Trask: Right.

Robb Thornsberry: Their rate seems to go up you know, as the years go on and so they certainly are showing up and finding that they’re getting so much less for their money that then they’re use too and that’s can only mean one thing which means attendance is going to drop.

Jon Trask: Right.

Robb Thornsberry: Oftentimes association rehire heavy on you know, the attendance because that’s where the revenue is coming from so …

Jon Trask: Sure.

Robb Thornsberry: … shooting themselves in the foot when this happen.

Jon Trask: Well, tell us a little about the talk your doing at BizBash, I guess it’s entitled “Financial Issues for Planning Events from the Inside Out”?

Robb Thornsberry: Well, it’s – it’s kind of a – there’s three – it’s kind of a – there are three components to this topic that’s I’ve been ask to speak on the first is being key tips to running your business or department during a recession, the second part of it is negotiating with your vendors and your suppliers during this time and the kind of the third part is just some design ideas that will save your money but you know, at the same time give impact to a room, have guest walking and truly feeling you know like they’re part of an experience you know, and not that they are being cheated out of you know, the same expectation that they’ve had for years past, so just waste to save money in doing that.

You know, the key tips in running a business I mean it comes down again as you said there are so many ways the you can save money and you can save it dime here or there but not even dealing with events as a whole, how are you running your business doesn’t make sense you know, there are certain things that you could be doing that you’re not that will save you money on your hard cost you know, and then bearable cost as well you know, and a lot of this just seem very simple and again as I mentioned to you before you know, prior to our call is that – who am I to tell people who to run their company. I can only tell you what we have done and what’s working for us you know, and what – you it sense to make comments, you know, what is comments sense for us to do and hopefully somebody will benefit from that.

But – you know, I mean overhead you know, that is a huge expense for so many companies this days and you know, a lot of what’s going on right now with the recession I think that you can certainly see and see this is being a negative and as being a struggle and you know, you can do one of two things either hide under the desk and hope that it will all go away eventually and surface again hope that your business is still intact or you could become a aggressive and take a risk and really uses and see this is an opportunity which I fully do. You know, our business is down but at the same time I’m not letting that sway me, I’m just considering this is a great opportunity to get back on top so that way when the swing happens we’re right where we need to be.

So, in the mean time you know, one other ways you know, a few other ways that we’re saving money is just looking at your overhead and controlling that you know, there are fixed cost that you’re paying that are just not really entirely necessary, other ways that you can do things cheaper or with less expense you know, and this is a couple of example that I’ve just gone through for the last couple of weeks that is saving me an unexpected amount of money and that is looking at your internet connection your DSL. An absolute requirement in doing business this days but I’m guessing when DSL really hit market people – everybody signed up and if I had to guess still are few people have gone back to reevaluate those cost. They have been comfortable where they are or knowing as long as my DSL works that’s all I care about.

Jon Trask: Right.

Robb Thornsberry: But I think really now is the time to start evaluating all your money that’s going out and is there any possible way, especially with competition this days and all the companies buying for your because you know, it puts you in the driver sit you know, are you in the position to power where you can go and say this is what I’d like and I this is what I’m looking to pay and DSL internet connection are certainly a way to you know, one way to express that.

You know, I don’t name companies but we switch from one major company where we were paying approximately $50 a month for our connection and I switched to another major company very well-known and not only then I get a premium elite package where as before I was getting your base package. The premium package meanings you know, quicker connect, you know fast speed.

Jon Trask: Higher speeds, yes.

Robb Thornsberry: Much faster speeds and I’m paying $15 less per month you know, and if you have an IT or a person in your office who can help you to kind the get through all of this that’s preferred you know, if you are a business owners such as myself and tend to do a lot of this things on your own just set some time aside, get a glass of wine, clam yourself down and just go to the process because it really is so helpful and it will save you money you know, like I said we are – we have fantastic service which is know wireless. We can go anywhere on our office and you know, we’re paying $15 less a month you know, for that luxury. Website hosting you know, we have our website being hosted by Yahoo and they done a great job but you know, at the same time you know, I see per month that money that comes out of our account you know, what’s being spent and I’m thinking what am I getting from my money, are there any companies out there that are well-known.

So, I did my homework and did my research and check out you know, all of the testimonies and you know, how strong they are, where their tech support is coming from you know, their accessibility, how quickly can I access them and you know, or what hour of the day can access them and – well, I found a company that is saving me $12 per month you know, and there so many other companies out there that are doing it know FatCow, GoDaddy who are you know, are very aggressive and have gone very large and are able to save you a ton of money.

Jon Trask: Right.

Robb Thornsberry: So – I’m already – we’re saving you know, $27 to $30 per month just in terms of the way we’re connecting online and doing business you know, and the things that we need everyday but you can kind the take for guaranteed, you forget it’s their. So, really make a check list and go through and find out what are the hard cost that you’re paying out per month that your business is truly relies heavy on and is there a way that you can get that better, faster, cheaper.

You know, and one thing we also just did is you know, a brand new you know, list of our computer system and how old it is? Is it running as efficiently as it could be you know, is that relevant – and it’s software all updated you know, is the operating system as current as it can be, how much storage do you have and what’s the cost for continues repair?

Jon Trask: Right.

Robb Thornsberry: You know, I was having system guy command and cleaning that out and taking all the viruses and making sure our virus system was up you know, and current and going and you know, replacement of software upgrade you know, on a continuous basis. I think that you really need to evaluate all of that and determining how much your money you’re spending and then really take a step back and say, okay, you know – the computer is tend to unfortunately they become obsolete about 5 years and you just see money continually going out the door you know, is a new system a better idea you know, if it’s just to make more sense you know, we’ll get another at least 3 years to 4 years without really any repairs or upgrades necessary. So, with exception of the you know, the small stuff that you have to do from time to time but you know, it’s – it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to have to spend money this time you know, base on what’s going on right now there are certain areas where perhaps you should, so that way you’re still – your system is strong and it’s support you the way it would.

And then the last component is just you know, your real estate. Are you – you know, do you truly need a 3,000 square foot office, how many clients are dropping in on a day to day basis, how many staff are you housing you know, it is just for imagine, is it just to make you know, to give you that specific address that you’re looking for, with technology being what it is. It is so easy to work you know, and to be effective anywhere you go. It could in Starbuck. It could in your car in a parking lot where wifi is readily available. It doesn’t really matter. Business can be done in any corner you know, of the world. So, something to truly I think take into consideration or for some company having that office and having that store front is viable and necessary, so.

Jon Trask: Right, right. But again it – there should be an evaluation process I think as what you’re saying where you’re – you’re actually deciding you want that for a reason not just doing it by route or because it’s what’s always been done in the past.

Robb Thornsberry: Absolutely, you know, I think that what’s really important is you know, looking back and or taking a look you know, a step back and then really looking the way you do business, again it’s all about opportunities and now is an opportunity to start maybe changing a few ways that you do think. Making – it just makes better sense, maybe you had been planning to make that move and to make that jump and if you find out in your schedule is unfortunately slowing down, well use that time wisely and really capitalize and improve upon what’s been going you know, and enhance your company in terms of what it needs to run and to function.

Jon Trask: Well, it’s interesting because I think you could make the same case when you’re taking about planning meeting as well and simple looking at you know, why do we do all of this things they way we do then and are there more efficient, effective ways to do them like say brining an expert like yourself or you know, just maybe we meet an different round of cities or things like that because the old rotation that we’ve got going is just sort of a legacy but it’s not really relevant to our audience anymore. I mean I think you can extend this thought process out very deeply all the way through your business and the meetings that you do within our industry.

Robb Thornsberry: Oh absolutely, I mean there are so many things that you can do that just you know, that you can kind the just add some new energy and some new life into the way things are done into your programs and to your meetings that proves that they don’t have to go away you know.

Jon Trask: Right.

Robb Thornsberry: Just energetic reaction with so many companies canceling all their events, I think is so dangerous you know, I think it send a really poor message but at the same time I think it’s just – it’s disabling them.

Jon Trask: Yes.

Robb Thornsberry: You know, meetings are viable and I think we’ve proven that, I think it’s a multi-billion dollar industry that has shown it’s worth and are truly necessary and I don’t think are going in way anytime soon and to cancel your meetings meaning – that just means that the productivity that you’re use to getting from this meetings is not going to happen either. So, I think people just need to take breathe, take a moment and really take a step back and reevaluate.

Jon Trask: Yes.

Robb Thornsberry: You know, one of our key goals this year you know, is really communicating to our clients to step away from that cancel button, take a deep breathe you know, don’t react harshly you know, or panic and allow us to find them alternative. You know, a great thing about company is that we are boutique size small company and but with very large capability. We have the time and the interest you know, and the knowledge to be able to take time and spend it with our clients, really find out what they’re looking for and interview them and to find out what is worked, what hasn’t worked and to really research and research and research and find them alternative methods, find them options.

And I think that’s what clients are looking for this days is that you know, we don’t want to cancel but we need some other options and I think now is the time to really start exploring them, they certainly out there you know, everybody wants to do business I mean the suppliers are affected by this as well and you know, they want to be able to stay in the game. So, they’re going to work with your, I can almost guarantee you and there’s a lot of other ways in terms of understanding the value of what you’re doing and promoting that effectively you know, this event are not just parties but they’re marketing and advertising tools you know, think of what you’re doing in larger frame as it pertains to your organization purpose and how it contributes.

Capitalizing and conquering you know, we know the economy is not great, we know budgets are down and meetings and events are being cancelled. However, this is all temporary, we seen this before, it’s going to go away and we’re going to get back on top again but will you be ready when the business is isn’t swing or you’re going to be hiding under desk waiting for it’s totally over? Now is the time to increase your marketing efforts. Really make sure that you’re out in front, that relevant, that you’re staying in front of your clients and that they know that you’re still there. It shows support for them and at the same time it shows that you’re a solid secured company and that means a lot to them right now.

Jon Trask: I think I couldn’t find a better message to wrap up on in today than what you just said. I think you’re absolutely get on there and I really appreciate you’re being on the show today.

Robb Thornsberry: Thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

Jon Trask: And let’s – I will put a link to your website from the – from the podcast page, I think you also have a blog, do you want to promote that as well?

Robb Thornsberry: Yes, you know, I mean we have a blog, I am so guilty and not updating nearer as often as I should but that’s changing. So, we do have some updates and some basic information about the BizBash Expo and Style Awards coming up on this Thursday, June 11th in Downtown Los Angeles at the L.A. Mart.

The website is also up and offers great information in terms of what we provide and the services that we offer within the next month, two months that website will be entirely renovated and brand new and fresh with all new information and new portfolio pictures of some of the events that we’ve done but that address is www.infinityeventsinc.com and that’s infinity with the Y, eventsinc.com and the address for our blog is infinityeventsinc411-http://infinityevents411.blogspot.com, so knowledgeable.

Jon Trask: Yes, well the good news is we’ll put a link from it, so if – if you don’t want to rewind and go back and write that all down, you can also the link on meetingspodcast.com which is our homepage.

Robb Thornsberry: Great. Thank you.

Jon Trask: And also you can subscribe through iTunes or you can always reach us through meetingspodcast.com, if you want to send us e-mails it’s meetingspodcast@gmail.com.

So, that’s it for this show, I really appreciate you’re being on Robb. Thank you so much and if anybody wants to get in touch with you we certainly refer them along and hopefully the people who can’t be at BizBash will have a chance to connect with you directly and talk about ways you can help them you.

Robb Thornsberry: Jon, thank you so much.

Jon Trask: Thank you.

 Extra! Jon Trask interviews Robb Thornsberry of Infinity Events
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