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Interview with Sterling Lanier from Lights Camera Interaction!
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Mike McAllen: Hi, Sterling. How you doing?
Sterling Lanier: Pretty good. How are you?
Mike McAllen: Great. Thank you for being on the show. You are with Lights Camera Interaction, a great team building idea and why don’t you tell the audience a little bit about your company.
Sterling Lanier: Yes, sure. So, we are founded six years ago in 2002 and we are a team building company that uses the magic of filmmaking, if you will, to really inspire people and build teams. So, typically, we’ll take a group of – or large group size (is 00:01:15) and split them up into teams, put the participants up into teams of 15 to 18 people and each one of these people has specific role. Now, each team overall has to create a commercial and that’s what there was at about a three-hour time frame. And each person on this team is assigned a specific role. So you have a director and you have the writers and you have the camera people and those cinematographers, excuse me – at the proper section, we try – like to say that we can outfit pretty much any idea a team might come up with so if you want to be Mick Jagger, you can be. If you want to be Neil Armstrong on the moon, you can be et etcetera.
So, we do shipping quite an extensive prop, wardrobe and make-up unit into each event. And then teams come up with their own commercial. The commercials are based on any content theme that the client chooses so it’s flexible in that regards. So it’s – there’s a national sales conference. It might be about some new sales initiative going on and the commercials are about that or a company’s rolling out a new brand or mission statement. They want to see how employees creatively interpret and internalize that message et cetera or training. We do a lot of training conferences et cetera, perfect tool for that as well.
And clients are free to dial up or dial down the competitive element of it. Most clients do choose to make it very competitive so that teams will square off and almost like an Academy Awards presentation style. And one of the …
Mike McAllen: I can see that’s great for a – I can see that’s great for a sales team.
Sterling Lanier: Yes. You know, the sales – you’d be surprised. I mean, we started out thinking, “Well, the competition is really only going to resonate amongst sales conferences and national sales, sales meetings only because those sales will tend to be more type A than others …
Mike McAllen: Yes.
Sterling Lanier: … and you know what, it will resonate across the board. We just did an event for Reuters, Thomson Reuters and that event was how do we merge these two companies and I was at there Accounting Department and I can tell you those guys were – the CPAs were as cut-throat as any sales people I’ve seen. So it really – up and down the board, I think people just kind of – and it’s fun. You know, it’s a fun thing to do and one of the things that makes this unique is that we almost have what I call near immediate gratification and that the commercials are ready to premiere that evening. So, say you do an event in the morning or the afternoon, you know, our (SWAT 00:03:43) editing team kind of adds all the special effects, all the music, soundtrack, that type of stuff to the commercials and they’re read to premiere that evening at the client banquet or cocktail party or what not.
So it’s – so teams kind of film it and they will be able to see their finished commercial that evening so it’s a pretty quick turnaround.
Mike McAllen: That’s great. It’s a great idea. So the – usually just surround the day around this or is it – I mean, I remember talking to you while back about doing it for a client of mine and I was thinking it would be great, you know, walk-ins every morning, you know because it was a week-long conference so like they do it the first day and then have them at …
Sterling Lanier: Yes, absolutely. So some people will do that exactly you mentioned. Particularly larger groups, you know, we’ve been up to, you know, 50 teams. It’s a little bit difficult to watch 50 commercials in a row although they’re all – they usually all come out all creative and most of them are – most people tend to go towards funny so they’re pretty humorous but other clients have chosen to, you know, premiere 10 commercials before each general session each morning.
Mike McAllen: Right.
Sterling Lanier: And they will roll it out over the course of that conference as you mentioned.
Mike McAllen: Wow. So what kind of companies have you worked with for this?
Sterling Lanier: You know, we’ve pretty much done most of the big pharma and med device so, you know, we’ve worked with the Baxters and the Pfizers or we’re doing – we have there healthcare coming up. I think in a couple – two weeks from now. So work with all those kind of folks in the healthcare industry. I do a lot of financial services so a lot of the large insurance companies like the Principal Financial Group, those types of companies. And then a lot of consumer product – or what they call CPG, consumer product goods companies. General Mills, we had just finished up an event not too long ago for 600 of their financial analyst actually. Again, another situation which you might say, “Oh, gosh, one of the …” And this is actually General Mill’s concern going into it was, “Hey do these – can these financial analysts think creatively enough to come up with their own commercial?” And I can tell you they’ve – those guys there [00:05:47] some of the concepts they came up with was, you know, was – could go on straight to Madison Avenue. So, they all came out looking great and then just a range of kind of other brands you’re familiar with, kind of the Morton’s Steakhouses of the world to Georgia-Pacific. You know, the kind of larger brands that, you know, really need team building to help kind of coalesce a diverse group of people.
Mike McAllen: Right. Wow, that’s great. Now, so in this day and age of all this people with the new media sending everything out on the internet, are they – are you seeing any of the stuff either used – I mean, giving these giving them ideas for real commercials or real stuff or also, are they being – you know, the YouTube generation. Are you finding these videos? Are they added up on YouTube or how – you know, not all realm that …
Sterling Lanier: Yes, the – so we have a sense of privacy. So we always – we have the capability to – when we do this, that’s about 50% of our clients want to give an individual DVD to every participant and we’ll do that. Other clients say, “Hey, just give me the master and I’ll control it.” You know, and just kind of control its distribution, if you will. You know, we’ve never really had any problems with any of these stuff and again, a lot of the – it’s rare that confidential information is …
Mike McAllen: Right, right. And I didn’t mean the – I didn’t mean the – in a negative way of – is it in a positive way? is it getting out there like, I mean I could see, you know, how these viral videos are going these days with …
Sterling Lanier: Yes, yes. No, absolutely. You know it’s used a lot – to be honest with you is in internet, right? So they’ll post them on their internet so for new employees. You know, for Baxter Healthcare, again another large healthcare company, they used it as a way to convey to – for instance, the new employees what the culture is all about, right? “Hey check out these videos. We made it our last off-site, et cetera.” And it was posted to their internet so a lot of companies use it in that way as kind of a primer to kind of, you know, for – kind of what the culture is like within the company. So – and we’ve had – in Georgia-Pacific’s case, they actually – which is a large paper company, they are now maybe the biggest in the world. I’m not sure but up there. They actually sent their ad agency from Chicago out to the event. That event was in Huntington Beach California and they sent their ad agency to the event to [00:08:16].
Mike McAllen: Yes, it’s a great idea. I mean, these are – you know, that the people that know the most about the company so they probably …
Sterling Lanier: Sure, sure.
Mike McAllen: … you know, come up with some great idea.
Sterling Lanier: So that was the – and the other thing I should mention is we do [00:08:27] in – because of Hollywood, you know, team building Hollywood style. Then I say, “Well, do you have to be only in LA to do it?” And Dave Wendell who I founded this company six years ago thinking that, “Oh, hey what a great thing. We’re going to – you know, all these events in LA.” Well, it turns out most people don’t – they hold events in LA, right but I think they’re scared of by the traffic or the smog or what not and kind of the immensity of the city. That’s number one and number two, you know, people hold conferences all over. So, we actually hold very few of our events in Los Angeles and most of our events happen in the usual suspects of New York, Vegas, Orlando, Scottsdale, Miami, Chicago, kind of the major centers. Although we’ve done, you know, we’ve done groups – we’ve done events in Santa Fe in New Mexico, Charleston South Caroline, some even small markets and we have done international. We just did Cancun and looks like we may have something coming up in Argentina believe it or not. So ..
Mike McAllen: Well, wow. That’s’ great.
Sterling Lanier: So, yes. So we have cameras, (we’ll travel 00:09:27) for sure so …
Mike McAllen: Yes. Well, it makes sense. I mean, you know, we’ve done events all over the world and then – and we’re trucking and stuff and flying, you know, boat and things and all over the place so it makes perfect sense and plus, yes that’s great, fantastic.
Sterling Lanier: So, although we need it – I keep asking for the Hawaii event. We got – we need one though.
Mike McAllen: Yes, that would be good.
Sterling Lanier: That would be great.
Mike McAllen: So what’s the – the future looking like? What’s on the – do you have a large calendar already planned out or …?
Sterling Lanier: Yes, you know, I – just quite frankly, I mean, I was a little bit worried just you know, you can’t pick up the Wall Street Journal without some headline screaming at you about how miserable the economy is and how everyone is going that the profits are down. So I was a little bit concerned that just the entire kind of event, meeting planning industry particularly team building may feel the effect of kind of the economic recession and thankfully, we haven’t seen it too reflected in our calendar where we continue to get a lot of calls for [00:10:32] and for early next year so I guess that’s hopeful for the industry as a whole the company still see value in this, you know, in this type of activity. So yes, so we have a kind of a (hectic 00:10:45) mix coming on.
Just over the next, I think, 30 days, we have maxIT Healthcare which is a kind of healthcare hospital, consortium, excuse me, in the Midwest. We also have Associated Wholesale Groceries. It’s one of the largest food coops in the country. Not many people have heard of it but if you eat – most of your food probably comes from them. They’re in Kansas City and that’s where the event will be and then I’ll just – [00:11:09] as I talked about. So – and today, actually we’re in Ithaca, New York with State Farm Insurance. So, yes, so that’s kind of what the next 30 days looks like. So, overall, I think we’re kind of pleased. You know, I read today in the Journal that someone talks about keep waiting for the other shoe to drop and you know, I’m hoping that doesn’t happen to our industry but so far, so good. So I don’t know if you’ve felt the effect of the economy at all either.
Mike McAllen: Well, we talked a little bit about it on the show and we’re – the three people on the show – I don’t know if you’ve heard our show yet. It’s a – we have an audiovisual guy from an audiovisual company and a guy from a third party planning company and myself who has a production company and we’ve all – we’re all worried about the future too but it seems to be busy all the time. I mean, it’s just slam busy. So I think things like your company are good because it will, you know, easily withstand this because they’re, you know, good companies are looking for good things to keep good people, you know, aboard on their teams. So …
Sterling Lanier: Sure.
Mike McAllen: … when you come up with something like, you know, Lights Camera Interaction, they, you know, that’s a great thing. So I think – I don’t know. It’s crazy, the whole economy is a crazy puzzle right now but, you know, I’m busy so …
Sterling Lanier: Great. That’s fantastic.
Mike McAllen: It’s okay with me, yes. So, why don’t you tell the audience how to get a hold of you, where your website is and …
Sterling Lanier: Sure. So our website is LightsCamera.com, which is the URL, I doubt I could get right now. [00:12:39] six years ago but LightsCamera.com and my contact information is both on the website I think but I’m Sterling Lanier. I’m a partner for LCI and phone number is 310-699-6884 and email address is [email protected]
Mike McAllen: Great. Okay, Sterling. I appreciate your time and I look forward to working with you someday.
Sterling Lanier: Fantastic. Yes, I hope to join forces. We’re always looking for great production companies too and you know, we also – I get asked for referrals as well so I’ll be happy to pass your name along.
Mike McAllen: Great, great. All right. So thank you so much and …
Sterling Lanier: Thank you.
Mike McAllen: … then I’ll talk to you soon. Bye-bye.
Sterling Lanier: Fantastic.
Female: We appreciate and thank you for listening to the Meetings Podcast. You can find Mike McAllen at GrassShackRoad.com, Jon Trask at AVSU.com and Tom Hillmer at CreativeGroupInc.com. The Meetings Podcast theme music comes from the Delgado Brothers which can be found at DelgadoBrothers.com and a special thanks goes out to RipTideGraphics.com for the audio editing of this podcast.