It takes a talented team of highly-skilled professionals working in perfect harmony to pull off an event like the 2012 Market America World Conference. Since 1997, Market America has relied on Howard Spector and Ashley Events to coordinate events like our World Conference and International Convention.
With 11 semis fully-loaded with props and equipment, and over 150 people on hand, orchestrating a highly-technical event of this magnitude takes experience and savvy. So what does it take to pull off an event like Market America’s World Conference? We asked the man behind the curtain himself, Ashley Event’s owner Howard Spector…
First of all, could you tell us a little about yourself, and how you got involved in the event management business?
I was a cruise director for about 7 years, managing all of the activities and entertainment onboard cruise ships in the Caribbean and Mediterranean. In 1994 I decided to get off ships and start my own company. I thought that with all the entertainers I had met through the years, I would plan weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc.
I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and my first client was “The Summit of the Americas 1994” in Miami. All of the sudden I was dealing with state department, secret service, the white house, and Miami leaders. That led right into Superbowl XXIX – also in Miami, where we produced many of their events.
I was very lucky to start out with such great opportunities and they snowballed into where we are today. We have had 3 of the last 4 US Presidents on our stage, played a major role in the last three Republican National Conventions and are in full swing for the 2012 GOP convention in Tampa. Our clients include Coca Cola, Burger King, the Miami Heat, Microsoft, the Miami Film Festival, Daimler Chrysler, and others – but there is something special about Market America.
When did you first start managing Market America Events?
I remember getting an urgent call from my office - it was sometime in 1997. I was at the Renaissance Hotel parking lot in Orlando, producing a tented concert event for Key Pharmaceuticals. Hootie was performing. It was urgent that I call some guy named Marty Weissman immediately! So I called him, from a pay phone, and he explained that he needed carpeting and glow sticks for Market America’s 4th annual Leadership School at the Broward County Convention Center. Nancy franks, Dennis’ wife, was who we reported to. I have been producing Market America’s 2 major annual conventions ever since.
I feel like a have grown up with Market America. I feel like I was a kid when I started with you guys - Joe Bolyard ran all the PowerPoints, Steve Ashley was 13 (I think), and I had no idea who Loren and JR were. But I learned quickly, and learned from them. They became my family, and I still learn from them – I am very lucky to have met all of you!
How have Market America events like World Conference changed over the years?
They have grown from 1500 people in a hotel ballroom to sold-out arenas! We used to put up some drapes, some spandex, Dennis’ daughters, Katie and Lauren (Lauren, who in addition to becoming one of the up and coming fashion stylists in LA, still works with us on our events to this day) would dress up as dancing lipsticks and compacts to promote Motives®.
Today we have performances by Alejandro Sanz, and Paulina Rubio. Now we are building full hard sets, utilizing the absolute latest in video and presentation technology. Our crew has grown from 15 to almost 60 for World Conference in Miami. World Conference and International Convention are now full blown corporate rock concerts!
Our production is right up there with the highest caliber of awards shows - but while everything is much larger and grander now, the energy has never changed. It has always been, without a doubt, the highest energy shows I produce every year. Just being in that arena – twice a year – engaging back and forth with the crowd – that is what recharges ME for the next 6 months! JR always talks about how when you truly love what you do, work isn’t work anymore – well that is certainly true for me – and I am very thankful for it.
In a nutshell, what does it take to pull off an event like World Conference?
It takes a hand-picked team, the best in the industry. We work on World Conference and International Convention all year long. Most of the crew has been with me, and you, since we started. Not only do they understand the production, but they also understand Market America – the culture, philosophy, products, and people. It takes a team that knows it has to get done regardless of what it takes. Failure is simply not an option.
We spend a lot of time prepping the show in a virtual 3D environment – where we lay in everything, down to the last moving light and speaker timer. We check camera angles, shadows, and sight lines – all before we walk in the venue.
In a nutshell, while I may have great ideas and vision, I am only as good as the team that supports me - and I love my crew. It takes the most dedicated, professional and passionate production team - and that’s what we have!
How long does it typically take for you to set up and break down the stage for World Conference?
Typically, a set of this size would take a week to load in, focus, polish and rehearse. We will build the entire thing this year in 24 hours. Check out a time-lapse of last international convention. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhddochwogm
Are there any particular challenges for this year’s event?
This year, due to the NBA lockout and then the Miami Heat being scheduled for 2 back-to-back home games – we are extremely challenged with load in (only 24 hours before rehearsal) and load out (have to get out in 6 hours because there is a home game at the arena at 1pm on Sunday).
What other interesting facts can you tell us about producing Market America’s World Conference?
We will have over 150 people on hand for the first 24 hours during load in – while our show crew is around 55. We’ll utilize another 150 people to help us leave American Airlines Arena in 6 hours. Yes, we have to be out of the arena 6 hours after JR walks off the stage!
Nothing guests see at the show exists in the arena before we get there. We hang over 70 chains from the roof of the arena – which supports all of our truss, lights, audio, projector, stage set, etc.
We use so much wireless technology (mics, monitors, signal, internet, pyro) that we have dedicated crew members who do nothing but monitor RF frequencies - being so close to the port of Miami. Not to mention the arena staff that use over 20 different frequencies – we are constantly monitoring and adjusting our frequencies to ensure we do not have any mics drop out or pick up any other conversations.
I have, on multiple occasions, introduced and announced Presidents Bush (41), Clinton and Bush (43). However, I get the most excited and anxious when I introduce the president of Market America, JR Ridinger.