S2 Episode 6

[deanna_camille]: welcome back to the show today’s episode i’ve got john pistotti he is an account executive in the virtual event and hybrid event tech space and you’re in for a troop for this conversation we talked about it all we talked about having a personal brand why there’s value in posting on social media and building a president presence online we talked about

experience design and what it really means to be attendee centric and how you can build a community outside of just hosting an event whether in person or virtual so i hope you buckle up for this conversation i will mention there’s a quick mention of john’s time at the playboy mansion so definitely want to hear what he has to say and uh yeah it’s a great conversation with john today and enjoy the show

[deanna_camille]: I am so excited today to have a friend of the show on with me having a conversation today. I am proud to present to some and reintroduce the others. the lovely John Pistotti. I don’t know if you like the term lovely before your name, but going to with it John.

[john_pistotti]: I do actually thank you.

[deanna_camille]: So John and I met on LinkedIn. He had his infamous coffee quotes. The guy in a suit holding a mug of coffee,giving you a motivation ▁que, for the day, and I think you kind of transition to something else, kind of moving forward. But why don’t we start off with you telling the audience a little about who you are and what you do

[john_pistotti]: thanks so much. it is absolute and honor to be here and to be referred to as lovely, and uh, you know, I, I’m someone who doubled down on on using LinkedIn about five years ago, Um, when it was definitely not as bustling and uh, it’s really incredible to see all the interesting relationships and and really meaningful friendships that I’ve developed throughout the course of year, as well as some great business opportunities. Um, so I’ve been involved in events and event production for ten, fifteen, twenty years, depending on you know, if if we want to bring it all the way back to when I started as a DJ when I was in high school, Um, I was involved in a s. B. You know, tying balloons together and creating archways and all these kind of things that I didn’t realize were’re just building on experiences, Um, some of which I know that we were going to cover, But Um, eventually that led me to work in audio visual production. And

more recently, uh, technology doing sales for event technology companies, and Um. And that’s kind of Uh. what I do? I help people try to identify how they can deliver their brand or their organization’s message in a meaningful and paful way.

[deanna_camille]: yet? You’ve had a pretty interesting career journey and we’ going to dive into that a little bit, But um, I like that. you kind of alluded to the fact that you started really on the production side. What prompted you to kind of move over to the dark side of sales? Where was the that impetus? The word that come from

[john_pistotti]: Yeah, I, you know, it’s so interesting. A lot of times people were always trying to push me away from sales and I was always trying to veer towards it because I actually have a lot of technical skills. I, I’m an audio engineer.: I’m a lightning designer, so I’ve done a lot of work for doing lighting A at concerts and Um. I, but I was always fascinated. both I love to, I’m a people person. Uh, so I I love to work with clients and um and meet people and help them identify solutions. And um, the other thing, like just to be perfectly frank, was that I worked a lot of really wait late late nights and long hours doing twelve hours, fourteen sixteen hour days. and uh, especially when I was at the Hard Rock hotel and we could have. Uh. The parties would end sometimes at two a M,  and we have to strike everythingtil four a m, and then loading the next event the next morning and be back in. you know, a short term less than eight hours, and all those kind of things, And I was realizing that I was like, you: know, and don’t get me wrong. There. You can make a lot of really great money, especially if you’re really skilled, but I was like, I’m still like, more or less broke and I’m like working eighty hours a week, so I kind ofneed to figure this out as I’m having a child and that, and um, but the other thing is that for me you know, there’s so many connotations with sales. I love. Theres a recent video and I think presentation that you’re giving for M. P. I about you know this connotation nine out of ten sales people are are terrible human beings, and that um, you know, for me that is the complete anth antithesis of what sales is really about which I, I think it’s about helping people and I know that’s maybe cliche and cringe. and people are like. No, it’s really about scamming people out of there money. But you know, ultimately, for me, it’s about identifying people’s problems and their pain points. and um, yeah, a lot of times I don’t even really sell hard to people.

If if somebody has a problem and my solution doesn’t solve that problem, then it’s really not a great fit. And I mean I, you know I send you pricing, but like you actually need a different solution And that also builds a lot of trust andppor with people. And so um, yeah, I’m I’m big into relationships and I also try to have fun. I think that’s a really important thing for a career and why a lot of people probably gravitated to events in the first place is ’cause they like to have fun, so I try to have fun with clients. I’m also an undercover marketer, which is partially why and how I was using Linked in. I, it was a time when I was doing a lot of outbound sales and people are like, just call more people and leave more voice mails. and I was like Look, I will do that, But that can’t be my only strategy. Like Let’s just let’s be honest about the world we live in which is information enabled. We know that people are reviewing products for hours before they buy them. They’re reviewing them online. They’ll literally drive to Best Buy. pick up the product. Put it back down, Drive home and go buy it on their cell phone, so we know that this is the type of consumer behavior that I’m myself engage in as well. I buy a lot of things using Amazon using different online sites, So I was like I need to go where my customers and my clients are. I need to create value for them and give : them a reason to pay attention to me. So I started writing a lot of articles on Linked in and producing other type of content and reaching out saying.

Hey, check out this article that I just wrote about how non profits can save money with different tactics for audio visual. Check out this p. uh, article I just wrote about projection mapping and this project that I recently did, highlighting cool stuff I was doing. So, um, those are some of the the things that I think are really a part of sales. E,

[deanna_camille]: Mhm, Mhm, Mhm.

[john_pistotti]: Especially this. you know sales, too, point, know the um that I’ve just really taken and run with and again. Try to have fun

[deanna_camille]: It’s interesting you mention the kind of pre qualification that people do now? Um, I’m sure it’s happens in the event world, too, where you know. your attendees are looking at. What are other people saying online about your conference? What are past attendees? especially if it’s a Uh professional conference, and if they have colleagues or friends in the industry that have attended? what are they saying about Right? So it’s not just pre qualifying for products, but for services for experiences. think about trip advisor. You think about yelp. it’s all about you know, before I use my time to invest in this experience or this service, I want Vetted from other people that it’s worth my time. Not just my money, but my time, because that’s essentially what you’re investing with these experiences, righters. we love you

[john_pistotti]: one hundred percent, and even in in in terms of do I want to work with you.: So W, you know, I think we were briefly had a conversation about how sometimes when you post things online, people aren’t actually engaging, but you have a lot of these like lurkers online lurkers. And and we love the lukers, It’s okay, you don’t have to click the link. You don’t have to like.I, if it brought you, Yeah, if it, it brought you joy or insight in any way it’s okay. You don’t need to you know, do the social signaling of liking or sharing or whatever, But the fact is also that people are doing that same research about individuals, so yes, you’re going to go to the company’s website, but you’re also probably going to check out my profile and you’re going to realize. Oh, wow, this person is connected with more than ten thousand people. They have all these other experiences. All this other content is lending social credibility and brand value. Um, and the other thing, I think that there’s been a shift where uh, at a certain point when social media first came out, and it was all just like people getting drunk and posting pictures you know from college on Facebook. And you had organization saying, Do not post anything on social media, or you will be fired. And then

[deanna_camille]: right,

[john_pistotti]: at a certain point you had people that were developing valuable brands and you are starting to see this even ten times now more, with all the Ti to content for linked in and people who are creating funny sales content. Um where now brands are saying Wow, This is incredibly valuable. They can get organic reach that we could never get. And another great example that I always bring up is that Lebron James, now his individual Instagram has more followers than the NBA  and Uh, the NFL combined.

[deanna_camille]: Mhm, Mhm, Mhm,

[john_pistotti]: Okay, So Tim Cook has more than twice as many followers than Apple does on Twitter. So we’re seeing the shift where the the actual individuals you can call it personal branding or whatever you know. Their, their digital identity is extremely valuable as people are making these decisions. So

[deanna_camille]: it’s it’s interesting. I just stumbled upon Um, the refined labs, Uh, business. And and it’s just they have nailed it when you look at every. almost every single employee has a pretty strong brand within their individual field.

Yes, it’s a Uh, marketing and sales related company in terms of like the service that they sell, but you know they’ve got, you know, sales people. they’ve got marketing people. They’ve got Uh. Their Vp of talent is has a really big presence, And so when you think about the fact that yes, people buy from people, Um, you connect with people. you look at their individual post. Yes, the company does really well refine labs. But if you look at their individual post in the presence that they bring, so many companies are missing the mark. Um. With just using the like you said, the organic reach of you know their employees, and encouraging that, encouraging employees to have a personal brand. I gave a talk at MPI  last year and it was talking about why event professionals need an entrepreneurial mindset and that’s a big piece of it. It’s just you look at a company like Uh, it’s all over the news right  now, Peleton, Uh, just laid off a bunch of people, Um. Willow Tree laid off people. Uh, like a month or so back. there was a bunch of layoffs in December that hit the headlines and you may love your job. You may be at a  great company. You may love the work that you do, but at the end of the day who you are as an individual, the value that you bring is not necessarily tied to that brand. and so as individuals, Uh, some of us are losing out on big opportunities by not embracing the value that we bring to the table and shouting it out to the world. It’s okay it. I think a lot of people might think it’s really um,uh. What’s the word? uh, vain? Or you know, kind of prideful, But how people aren’t going to know if you don’t share it? I know a lot of people that do really amazing great events behind the scenes. No one knows like they’re working with big brands. These are huge events, great experiential activations and no one knows who they are because they don’t have a personal brand. So the event is getting all these kudos that’s winning awards and this person is behind the shadows. Um, you know, basically the the brand is getting all of that recognition on behalf of that individual, so I think it’s important. Um. I think probably half of my LinkedIn followers may have come from EU, John, because you interact with my : stuff and so they’. That’s how people ba finding me, So I’m just glad to be in. You know, your aura, your presence, because I know that it’s It’s helping expand my reach as well.

[john_pistotti]: stop it. I have such a granding, your, as I was saying to you privately before we got on the call that I’ just a huge d. understand and yeah, like so real quick. Yet Chris Walker, from her fine Laps is a genius and the things that he sang is like this is kind of back to my conversation about why I started to diversify my strategy as a sales professional. To use content marketing. Is that there are things that we know as consumers or as the attendees that we do not like or that we would not want to be communicated in that way. But then we still have these top down directives to do these tactics. You know,

[deanna_camille]: Mhm,

[john_pistotti]: so he’s one of the people who is like this Doesn’t make sense. This is what you really should be doing and honestly has grown a massive business and massive following from doing podcasts. and Um, it’s just a great example. also of like you know, linked in as a channel. There’s a lot of people who hate linked into. Let’s just be honest and real about this, and there’s great reasons why they do, Because they’re being spammed.. They’re

[deanna_camille]: Mhm, Mhm,

[john_pistotti]: feeling that you know. They’re superficial types of interactions on it or whatever you know. for you and me, We don’t have that same kind of : relationship with the platform. Um, partially, I think also, it depends on like how much are you giving? What is the value you’re providing. You know. so, even if like, one of my favorite things to do is like post and turned: off. um, uh, I, T had this really like legendary tweet. It was like something like, Um, like I, You know, I get in, talk a little shit and get off and I feel like a lot of times. People also don’t understand that there’ll be like John. All you do all day long is post on Linked in and it’s like No, I : actually am very strategic with my time and how, H. but I’m consistent, so you may log in once every other month. I’m logged in every single day and : posting two or three times a day or interacting with people. Um, in, and that is where you start to see those compounding gains over year over year. So I, at a certain point I was just trying to do growth hacking and I was like sending out fifty connection requests per day, right

[deanna_camille]: Oh, my God,

[john_pistotti]: and I, I don’t recommend this for soft, you know, but but yeah, but if you were to do one a day or five a day, if you were to do five a day, : and you were to do somewhere around a thousand a year and do that for ten years, that’s ten thousand, and people are not thinking about their content strategy or their career in that way, and tragically like you were. Saying too, a lot of times we wait until you know there’s been layoffs or there’s been a life change, and then all of a sudden now you need to. You need your network When you weren’t building it, you know, so I totally agree with you on that, and um, I think just in general to that. Uh, What your your comments about you know being an entrepreneur is that people don’t understand that Like you as an individual, you are a company. You know, like whether or not you have a LLC whether or not people are writing your checks and one of the things I started doing when I was like Okay Now I’ve got five thousand follow on Linked in. I’d need to start getting paid for this like yeah, I’m writing this content. but like a Yeah, and I have a full time job and it’s helping me close deals, But like, where’s the value exchanged? so I started actually reaching out to companies directly to their P. R, teams, and saying, hey, I would like a free copy of the software. Sometimes it was thousand dollars, a five thousand dollar piece of software and I’ll review it here. And I was like, wrote this. S very similar to If it was a sales approach. And Um, I started receiving all this this free software to review, And so again for me it was like it was an experiment of How can I take what I’m building and turn that into value? And I think people missed that in terms of. Also, you don’t know how posting could affect your own company, So like there’s a monetary value associated with every time you post something posting for your event, And also, if you’re in sales, and you start posting every single time your organization, the marketing team pays attention. Then No, they.

[deanna_camille]: Mhm, Mhm,

[john_pistotti]: they will say they will reach out. You will become their new best friend. So these are the kind of things. I think we can all be real champions, and just the one last thing that I think everyone should really take a note. Uh, from: Deanna is that she’s an exceptional cheerleader and someone who’s always commenting on other people’s content. And so this is also, and I, I know that eventually we’re going to like. We’re just having so much fun talking about marketing influencing. But back to events, is that again? Like how do you drive engagement with events? 

This is like this mystery, especially virtual. I think. Uh, in some ways people are even more perplexed about how to do this and a lot of it has to do with this. ▁quotequote, commenting or the dialogue that takes place where people show up on. They’re like I’m going to create a Twitter. Okay, So they go on Twitter and they likeweet something. And uh,  it’s you know. it’s called when you don’t have any followers. it’s referred to as Tweeding into the void and I feel like so many times people are like I’m going to you know, Come out with this tweet. It’s going to be the most insanely insightful thing since Socrates. people are just going to be mind blown by. and then there’s like crickets. as opposed to showing up for your community. What does that really look like That means that you’re engaging with what they’re doing. That means you’re sharing what they’re doing and commenting on what they are doing and not making only about yourself so

[deanna_camille]: Yeah, yeah, I love. I love that that uh, community first, uh thought process and it being a two way conversation and again to kind of bring it back around to events. What we’ve seen. Uh, you know, it’s currently today is February tenth of twenty twenty two, And what we’ve seen over the past eighteen months is just this huge push for people to be back in person with events. Um, obviously, John sells a virtual event platform, so he’s got a little bit of mis stake.

[john_pistotti]: hybrid. So you know, we also do in person as well, you know. But and like,

[deanna_camille]: Sorry, you are hybrid platform

[john_pistotti]: and I’m like a huge fan of imperson events like I, I was mentioned before. I have a huge career that was doing concerts and live bands. And you know celebrities and all those kind of things. So I’m I’m clearly not rooting for a corona virus in more ways

[deanna_camille]: right right right.

[john_pistotti]: than one. However

[deanna_camille]: However,

[john_pistotti]: are right,

[deanna_camille]: there’s been such a push to get back in person and we’re getting some research now that it seems like event professionals : are just so gung ho to get back in person. But our attendes aren’t nessarily quite there. Uh, not in and it depends on the sector. Some sectors, Um, my : former employer. They’re in like the construction space, so it’s a little  bit more um, politically conservative and they are a little bit more um, uh, open to meeting in person.

[john_pistotti]: Mhm,

[deanna_camille]: They’re having a banner year for attendance this year, but in other spaces and medical spaces in Um, maybe association spaces. Some of your attendees just aren’t comfortable traveling. It doesn’t matter if you’re comfortable if your stakeholders are comfortable, and you know your sponsors want to be back in person. If your attendees are not comfortable, they’re not comfortable. So are you having that dialogue with them, whether it’s on social media or if it’s you know on the phone? I mean, that’s a

[john_pistotti]: right,

[deanna_camille]: novel concept in twenty twenty two. But picking up the phone and talking to people that may come to your event. Are you actually having conversations with the people that you are creating this experience for to make sure that it’s what they actually want,

[john_pistotti]: yeah, that is a novel concept to ask people. Um, yeah, yeah, just so much going on there. I think you know one of the things that you’re touching on to is that Uh, different communities have different cultures or their. how? How like? even if you fly to different states like it’s literally night and day based on what the covered situation is. not just like the actual, like

hospitalization and mortality, but the

[deanna_camille]: Right comfort level

[john_pistotti]: the cultural perception. Yes, exactly so, the other thing is, I think. Um, you probably have a lot more of the executives who are anxious to get back in person. They don’t feel comfortable in virtual environment. They don’t feel comfortable presenting to a their computer as opposed to on stage where they get to be a celebrity for the moment. Um, All these kind of things are part of that that. maybe they. they had a more traditional sales, uh background at some point in their career, So they. they really love the shaking hands and all those kind of things. And so they are dictating down to their attendees and to the Uh event experience. Let’s not even mention that they had, in some cases, two to four to ten times the amount of attendance the very first year that everyone went virtual and digital. Let’s not even mention the enhanced analytics which are virtually impossible to create an in person. The the value proposition of digital and of uh, virtual and hybrid events is extraordinary, and that people, to your point about record attendance for in person for some of these conferences and events you know, sometimes called revenge attending, which is that, now that that that privilege in that right has been taken away from people their freedom to meet in person that people are, you know, really excited to go back into Imp person, and I think that it obviously, that’s great, especially for concerts and and, and things like that, and ways that : people can gather safely. But I also think yourre your point about. are we really being attendycentric? Are we asking people what did they want? What is the way that they want to be communicated? Um, all these kind of things. Uh. one of the things. I love the statement that Um, virtual and hybrid events are radically inclusive. 

You know, like how many Imp person events before? Where did you see close captioning on the screens? None, you know that like there, there are so many elements of whether that’s people who are medical fragile. Whether that’s uh, people who it’s it’s challenging for them to travel for one reason or

[deanna_camille]: Mhm,

[john_pistotti]: another with a that’s like a gorophobia like there’s. I mean, there’s tons of outlier cases of people who had challenges with meeting people who have uh issues with anxiety. All these kind of things And now we’re just saying like Well, actually the c e o wants to meet in person. So too bad you know, two bad record attendance and our increased user base. Um, that that you know, you bring up a lot of really important questions, but also, I think asking attendees and asking your your stakeholders what they want is inherently valuable. You know we always want this. You know a survey. you were talking.

Uh, I think a little bit about. like, uh, you know, yelp and trip advisor culture. We always want that as a metric immediately after the event, but like, never, like a month or two prior or during the planning process. Do we take people out in focus group and do we say Hey? like, Can you give us a

[deanna_camille]: right, Mhm.

[john_pistotti]: really more of a deep dive into your needs and into what is important to you about the event? What? What type of sessions are really important to you?

Hey? is it more important that we get a a huge keynote or someone who’s like really interesting? Uh, niche in your in your industry or field? Is it super important to you that we have the c, e, O, Or would you actually rather hear from a diverse group of people on the stage

All these kind of issues that? actually, we kind of intuitively already know the answer to you know, but we have to somehow justify to the executives with research from our attendees?

[deanna_camille]: It’s just such a reminder that Um experience design can be a really community leg thing. Right. You can involve not just your stakeholders, not just re sponsors, but the people who are going to be consuming the experience. What do you want to see? What is the pathway that you’re on back back to your career, John. Youve kind of had a windy path. I would say. Similarly if we go back to our college age times we both have had outlier type of experiences and you started as like an adventure guide. You worked at the playy.

What some of these earliest experiences in the event industry kind of teach you about Um. experience design. as a whole,

[john_pistotti]: Yeah, I was also a personal trainer. I worked at a sushi chef. I did uh, like  a lot. a lot of different things and I think everyone.

[deanna_camille]: you really have been all over the map

[john_pistotti]: Yeah, I think everyone should experiment more or less. Um, and uh. you know, i’ve learned so much from each one of these different experiences and they’ve all kind of led and and built Uh up to each other. So specifically about the adventure guide experience. Um. I was working at Sacramento State. They had a challenge course, so like a you know ropes course with all these different obstacles, high element, low element, And actually it I. I was there studying outdoor recreation, and uh, you know, maybe to potentially become like a a: ranger or s, or you know, a outdoor wildlife scientists or something like, I don’t know. Um, mostly just wanted to have fun and and go uh adventure in Run California, But Um, the things that I learned about group facilitation from working at the ropes course were incredibly valuable. Like had to ask questions, so I find myself using all these skills as a salesperson. I thought I was there to lead rock climbing trips, but I was actually doing training about how to you know, ask questions and dive deeper into people’s pain points

[deanna_camille]: who know

[john_pistotti]: exactly, and uh, and also like so. If you think it’s hard to captivate someone during an hour long podcast like we’re doing or doing a virtual event, imagine having sixty fifth graders that you have to try to get all of their attention from, you know, fidgeing or whatever, and to play a game and we would play no prop games. you know, Like these are the kind of things that were. it was an exraordinary experience experience, Um, it was. uh, it was really challenging. Long days sometimes was like a hundred, five hundred and ten degrees outside, like you know, and I wouldn’t have changed it for the world, But the other thing I think you know, an adventure. Um, uh, my wife, who also worked as an Aito guide with me at that time, and who, um, she was leading trips in Ecuador prior to that, and uh, one of the things when she was with that group was that an adventure is a bad situation with a good attitude, And I think, um. I, I think that there’s so many parallels about adventure and about travel and hospitality in general, or the that that are parallel to the attende journey. whether that’s at an imperson event, whether that’s you know, a, a, digital or virtual experience, And so, I think a lot about that in terms of some of the stages that even sometimes we omit from the event process, Whether that’s like you know, when you go on an adventure trip, like you had the planning. you have the, you know, the the pre trip meeting. You have all these kind of different things that happen and that probably some of those things should be incorporated into experience design. So so those were some of the things and then Yeah, like I mentioned, I, I did work at the Playboy Mansion. That was when I was going to school at UCA. This was my first kind of window into celebrity and you know, d ▁j

bismarque and d ▁j a M, and all these meaning cream of ndulge bar, and like all this kind of cool stuff andI think that um, : w. you know we were talking a little about this earlier. Like no one ever really told me this was a thing, like

[deanna_camille]: Mhm,

[john_pistotti]: no one in high school told me that I could go throw celebrity parties, and like make a whole career and support my family, or that I could be involved: in some of the most interesting conversations with some of the you know, the: the most, um, n, not the Playboy mansion, but at conferences and events where I’ve had a a front row seat to some of the you know most intelligent minds of our time. You know, meeting

[deanna_camille]: Mhm,

[john_pistotti]: people like Uh, Slim Isishmail and Peter Di Amones, from singular to university, and and people like that who have totally inspired me to go out and read their books and to see the world in a different way, so um, uh, you know, but one thing I will say, I always love to Um. Chef Carter, from the Executive chef Carter from the Playboy Mansion, used to say Smile. It makes the food taste better,and uh, you know I was nut.

[deanna_camille]: Yes, because that’s what everyone’s thinking about at the Playboy Mansion Is the food and the Um.

[john_pistotti]: Well it, there’s an interesting dynamic on that because there you know a lot of these women. Also, they are either anorexic or bulimic. They have you know different? Uh,

[deanna_camille]: Mhm,

[john_pistotti]: you know, body image issues and stuff like that. And so they would be like. What is that? it was like. What is the food that you have and we had this whole like long sentence Like this is the you know Alaskan salmon that’s been charred with maple glaze and the you know, uh bossam ma, Gns, uh, whatever, And instead of doing that at a certain point, I would just say it is delicious. you have to try it, and um, and and just smile, and I had a lot to smile, Ro for a nineteen year old. You know also the E,

[deanna_camille]: right. You have many reasons to smile around you, Huh?

[john_pistotti]: and I think the other side of that is that I and I people don’t like to hear this, but I actually thought the playw answer was really dark place and I quit my job and I was one of the only people that ever ▁quit there because everyone else either stays and works forever or gets fired. Um. But it was like the epitome of Los Angeles to me, and I basically was just like over it, so um, I think that it like many other things when I was working as a sushi chef, you know, or : when I, I was a dishwasher briefly at a Japanese restaurant And it’s like it was a great chapter. I learned how to turn a carrot into a butterfly, and I  learned about

[deanna_camille]: Mhm.

[john_pistotti]: plating and I learned about how to cook rice and all these kind of things. Um, and I took from that experience what I needed and then it was time for me to move on and and applied those lessons to other things. Uh, but if you ever come to my house you, um, yeah, now I’m just the executive chef at my uh, in my kitchen for my uh, wife and my two kids, and you can stare. Still hear me shouting, playingng, uh, when it’s

[deanna_camille]: right,

[john_pistotti]: time to uh to eat, so

[deanna_camille]: Turning carrots in the butterflies is a very essential skill for feeding small children, so I think that who knew twenty? You know how many years later that you know that that early experience was going to help you be a better parent.

[john_pistotti]: don’t play with your food like these are the things that are. You know our parents used to tell us, and then now it’s kind of comful circle of like food : is art, and uh, and yeah, uh, So all those kind of things that Um, I think eventually led me to When I eventually I wanted to go work at the Hard Rock hotel again. Uh, incredible experience. originally working as part of the sales and catering team and Uh, I was kind of like a a banquet coordinator.

The role was actually called Roadie, because it was a associated with the whole Hard Rock hotel brand, Um, but that

[deanna_camille]: You are a roadie that didn’t travel.

[john_pistotti]: exactly, and uh, also like it was more like the. It was like an assistant to the event planners who were on site with the organizations and so work meaning a lot of really incredible amentt planners and people like very first event that I was there. Uh, Vanilla Ice performed for This was for a corporate event and I’m like What is going on here? You know, like I didn’t know Th. This is what yall do at a conference like uh, but that

[deanna_camille]: Oh, yeah, these corporate parties can put some uh, private parties to sha.

Let’s just put it that way.

[john_pistotti]: a hundred percent. Oh yeah, they can run up a bar tab for sure. and um. and then I was really fascinated with the audio visual aspect of it, both from my background as a d. ▁j. and and I, I’m also a musician. And so, um, I just : kind of dove into that aspect and got to produce events with like you know, John Bon Jovi, My first lighting gig was Walkofl Flame, a Far East movement,: And like you know, big concerts that are, this is not your average audio visual in house, Audi. Usual, Um, but again, I, you know, I had just some incredible experiences and I think some of it is about you know. For people who want to get it, you know, break into this. Whether that’s like you want to be in an experience design, or you want to be a show caller, You want to be a technical director, or or you know, audio engineer, or whatever it is,

Um, you know, part of it is really being at the right place in the right time and finding people that you can learn from and taking the self initiative to learn things. So I just like read the manual for the lighting console, and like, watched five hours worth of. You know, I just taught myself like no one gave me permission to do it. I was just like I could do it like Okay, here we go. and um, and then that’s opened up some incredible experiences. Uh that you know, really treasure. and for some of the funnest coolest uh chapters in my life.

[deanna_camille]: So talking about those experiences, I’m sure you know through all of your time as a roadie, your time, you to playboy mansion, your time at hard Rock, and even up now you know, kind of helping with these virtual hybrid experiences. Has there been a person along the way, whether it’s an event : professional or a colleague, or you know some of these celebrities that you work with that just really left an indelible impact Or you, just you know, you walked away from that experience, just kind of like  stunned for lack of better term, and you will never forget about ▁. Is there anything that you could share about a person that really just kind of left: that mark on you?

[john_pistotti]: Yeah, I mean, there there are so many people and I’m I’m so grateful to throughout my career. I think, um, some of the like notable people that like they probably don’t even realize like there. Uh, A, you know, a wonderful gentleman named Ryan Lee, who was an event manager that I worked at the Hard Rock Hotel, then later at the Hotel Solom, Just you know, I just I think I learned from what I have learned from event planners in general, and people who, actually, especially, either on the hotel side or corporate event planners is attention to detail like you know. 

Okay, Well, you know, we’re gonna read over the b e o’s, right, Ah banquet event orders. Uh, okay, but  like are you like? really reading every single line like he would catch things on this. Like why is there this typo like this is a contract with the client? You know this changed this. now. Um, and I think that that’s something that I still like when I create a ▁quote. And like you know, there’s uh, the on the product line. If like one word is capitalized, the other word is not, and I’m like this is unacceptable. You know, like those are the kind of  things that I’ve kind of internalized with my own perfectionism that Id try to you know, Uh, make peace with on a regular basis, but Um, I just think that all of the really incredible uh experience designers, uh event professionals, whether that’s someone who’s doing Uh, projection mapping across the side of a hotel or doing a massive concert or just hosting a small intimate dinner, Um that they are acutely aware of the details and paying attention to, you know, Um, hey, this spoon needs to be polished like those.

Kind of small things and then let’s not forget that same level of detail as we go into uh, digital and virtual. So like a great example, : the checklist that you sent me for this podcast right, Hello,

[deanna_camille]: It’s a little exhaustive, a little

[john_pistotti]: love it. love it. Okay and I’m saying like most people do not who are doing a podcast are not sending like, I felt like I was like going on Joe Rokan or something. I was like. This is like totally legit like you’re go asking me to send the

[deanna_camille]: I promise I don’t have a Podcast manager to just be.

[john_pistotti]: floor on it exceptional, but I think that those are the kind of things I, you know,: event planners, uh, and people who are also in audio visual production and things like that. who are? you have to be extremely organized. Otherwise things fall apart and so, um, just that level of attention to detail. Uh, there’s just so many people that I could really shout out. and um, you know, uh, I think, uh, ▁ultimately, the people who have always really struck me are the people who just really own their subject matter expertise. Love what they do, and um are just uh, admired by their peers. Like who? who’s a person like? If you had a problem that you would call, you know. Like those like, Be that person you know like. especially if you’re in audio visual production. Like you know, There’s certain people that’s like y, like I even get calls these days. people. There’s a a um, video mapping and uh, ▁l e d wall video playback program called Resole, which I’ve written articles about it. I’ve done uh, big, LED wall shows. With that I’ve done projection mapping and I literally I have people like call me up and be like Hey, I’m trying to troubleshoot something and I like go into the matrix. I’m like Okay, go into. uh, the settings panel. I’m like you know, I have to like. Imagine the user interface. I don’t even have the computer in front of me, but that like

[deanna_camille]: You’re like immersing yourself in, you know, in your mind

[john_pistotti]: I have to jump into the matrix E. But that really? what that comes from is from years of practice of like owning your craft. And and those are the kind of things like I always gravitate to those those types of people. And um, yeah, so there’s a lot of it is just time and an effort that goes into it.

[deanna_camille]: the attention to detail piece that you mentioned. I think back to banquet : servers that I’ve worked with when I was a server years and years ago, or even know on events that have gone to and polishing the soir, putting out the butter plates and making sure that the butter is out in advance, so it’s not frozen when people are bringing the bread, Making sure the bread is heated up before you know. These are the types of things you see people that they’re doing in a lot of respects. Sometimes it is monotonous repetitive work, but having pride in your work, regardless of if people see it as consequential or not, but really taking ownership, as you mentioned, Um to this little task, and in the greater scheme of things, this little detail. It’s not necessarily going to uh, make their experience, but best believe I find that a lot of times those little details when they aren’t in place, they will break someone’s experience, so

[john_pistotti]: Absolutely

[deanna_camille]: it’s key to not forget them, not forget the menutia, Um, especially on a virtual or digital or hybrid event, because you know every little step,every little attendee journey is slightly different, and so one little, one little back space in the wrong backslash in the wrong place, one little extra colan, and that link is broken and now they’ve had a terrible experience, so um. It’s It’s

[john_pistotti]: yep.

[deanna_camille]: a really good reminder to to not uh, lose sight of the mennutia,

[john_pistotti]: totally like all the the little uh, animation graphics. Is there music or is there a video role that’s playing when people actually arrived to the session before it started? all those kind of things Like you would never. could you imagine walking into a massive general session. And there’s like no music on and there’s nothing on the screen. Now

[deanna_camille]: Oh, my God, talk about awkward.

[john_pistotti]: we are literally doing that. W. People are doing that every day with virtual events. What is going on? people?

[deanna_camille]: Mhm.

[john_pistotti]: Hello,

[deanna_camille]: Mhm,

[john_pistotti]: insane, um, uh, real quick, totally sidetrack. I don’t know if you, Um, I, I was a big fan of Succession, which is a TV show on HBO Um, there’s this ho.

[deanna_camille]: I unfortunately binged the first season and I was just Thor thoroughly disturbed. But yes, I’m familiiar.

[john_pistotti]: It is this hilarious. I think it may have been in the second season of Uh, there’s a birthday party. The oldest brother is being like. The. Basically,: he’s like managing the event. And and he said the exact same thing about the the butter. He’s like the butter is not melted and it’s like people are

[deanna_camille]: Yes, I remember what you’re talking about. Yes,

[john_pistotti]: people. Are you know like you’re Cr? You know crushing the bread as you’re trying to spread it, and like he goes backstage and he’s like screaming at everybody, and then like a half hour later like the performance happens  really well and he comes back and he’s like. I just want to say, a guy’s great job and everything. But and he also had yelled at one of the banquet servers, because like the the spoons were parallel as opposed to like one slide by side and I was just dying as I was watching that because obviously it’s never okay. Uh, to be disrespectful to anyone at event or anyone at a restaurant. I think if you’ve ever worked in service like you have a certain reverence and respect and appreciation for people in the service industry, you know. Um. but also that like you still have those really high standards and expectations. I still want to have someone fill up my glass of water whenI sit down at a restaurant. I’m not going to be a jerk about it, but it’s a expectation because that is the level of service that I would provide. Um,you know so

[deanna_camille]: mhm, Mhm,

[john_pistotti]: again, and don’t even get me started with. Like how food was such animportant element of events and then virtual is basically completely taken : away. like we, we. We’re not even anyway, seeing organizations for the most part exploring like Hey, how can we do something where everyone has the same food delivered to their house with ubereats, Or there’s some kind of a gift package which has different things at different times of people open. You know a lot of these things. People say that it just doesn’t scale because  economics, but the reality is that I think let’s just let’s be honest event professionals. We are exhausted and burnt out and there’s only so many things we can manage and there’s and, and the budgets are shrinking. The staffing is shrinking. So the like, we just don’t even have like the creative. uh, uh, you know, time or you know, let alone the budgets to do some of these really provocative things that we could still do and incorporate and bring back that magic. Um, that, like literally, people were traveling to these five diamond esorts for conferences. Low

[deanna_camille]: Mhm,

[john_pistotti]: key, Because there there’s excellent food at this conference, you know, and that, now

[deanna_camille]: right,

[john_pistotti]: that’s taken away, and then now there’s a box lunch and it’s very mediocre.

So then why would I travel in person? You know. Uh,

[deanna_camille]: exactly,

[john_pistotti]: these are the kind of things that I think we really need to you know, be honest and critical with, and it’s not to the event planners is to the people who are you know holding the puss rings on these events.

[deanna_camille]: yes, Yes, Virtual does not mean cheaper. It does not mean uh. it, by any means. In some regards it’s more expensive. Let’s be honest if we want to try and have a lasting impact and imprint on those who uh attend. I think you know you got to come with with the purse springs, and it’s funny because I did a an Instagram reel that you commented on a few weeks ago and I was  talking about. You know there’s all these different trends coming into

events like N f ts and the Meta Verse and everything. And like the professionals we’re tired. we don’t have time to like investigate all these that that’s great. That’s great that these new things can come to the table.But like I just need someone to approve my budget. I need my speakers to arrive at their tech check on time. like I just need the bare minimum. Andwhen I get that and I get a break from, you know, covet, Onslaught and Omacron, then maybe I will set aside some time to research these other things, But for now I’m doing the best I can. So thanks for mentioning that, because it’s it’s hard out here. We get it

[john_pistotti]: Yeah, but I mean you have executives and different people. They read random headline and be like Okay. We have to have an n f T at the event. It’s like Okay. The average demographic of people at your event is between forty eight and sixty two. Like none of these people have an A theory. and well, this is not a thing. unless you’re having a crypto currency conference. Probably  don’t need an end of theatre event. You know,

[deanna_camille]: right.

[john_pistotti]: There are maybe outlier cases or some interesting things and interesting people who are doing things in that space. And I think that’s also true about like virtual reality in the meta verse. It’s like, Yeah, it sounds great, but like, Are you going to ship out Uh, headsets B, r headsets to every single person who attends? You are going to help them troubleshoot and figure out how to do this? Is this is this again? Is this something attendees want or is this just like It’s a cool article in Tech Crunch And then like moving on. you know. Um, So yeah, and it, It expends a lot of the resources to actually do the event design and do the interesting. the thoughtful. Like, how does this event align with your mission of your company? Like is? Was that even brought up at any point? Do people leave this event knowing what’s your mission statement was? or why? What’s the whole point of this? You know and

[deanna_camille]: Say it again for the people on the back. What

[john_pistotti]: you know.

[deanna_camille]: is the mission is it being? Is it coming across in the event that the experience you were creating do the attendees taken away with them when they leave?

[john_pistotti]: it’s like you know. like Uh, Like,

[deanna_camille]: Sorry, but you know how to get all my soap box there for a second time?

[john_pistotti]: Do you ever see commercials on like the Gulf Channel and stuff like that

where you’re like. What is that commercial for it? like they didn’t Did they even put the logo up? I, I feel like that’s where we’re at with a lot of corporate events. Is that they’re like You know togetherness is like. Is that : togetherness a part of your your mission statement of your company like I? That’s great that it makes you feel good, or that you consulted an expensive marketing agency? Um, But ▁ultimately, these are the kind of things. Uh, that when we talk about event design experience design, Um, so every single email it doesn’t have to explicitly reference your mission, but is every email is, every touch point is every uh, speaker and guest that you invite. Are they aligned with the values and the mission of your organization? And that’s a big. Like you know. Uh question. I don’t think people are asking.

[deanna_camille]: Well, John, Um, as we said before we even start, hit the record button. We: could probably talk for hours and hours, because that’s just what we do.

[john_pistotti]: I know it. We be friends like I. I know we already are. but like you know when you see somebody and you’re like, Oh my God, I really like you. and

[deanna_camille]: Yeah, likes be friends.

[john_pistotti]: so I just want to say I appreciate you like. uh, yeah, it’s I think. There’s : also this other underlying antagonism between people who are ▁quote unquote vendors. Uh, at that is, you know, people who are providers for different services for event planners and that like. So. I’ve always felt like No, like no, but I am an event professional like I’m an defence planner, too. like,maybe I’m not

[deanna_camille]: We’re all in it together right.

[john_pistotti]: exactly. And so that’s really great. I appreciate that you know you always have. Um, just been so kind to me. And so, uh, I think trying to create a  real community. You know, there are you know, people who are real community builders and they’re incredibly important, so I just you know, I have so much E. You know, admiration, uh, for you and the the work that you do in Um, both like it. People don’t realize it’s a lot of work. It’s a lot of work to to run Podcast. It’s a lot of work. Even just to post a sentence on Lincton. It takes timeand energy and so I think we all need to be our biggest cheerleaders and support each other in many ways we can. so. Uh, if you’re watching this or if you have gained any value from Deanna than support her in a meaningful way, you know, like let’s let let’s go,

[deanna_camille]: Thanks so much for that, John. Really, appreciate it. and final question I asked every guest. this someone to on the spot. But if you look back over your career as an event professional and kind of the conversation we’ve had today there is a song that could encapsulate that. what would it be? And why?

[john_pistotti]: you know I, I had to rack my brain about this. I feel like totally cliche for even saying this. I’m going to say Uh, Drake, start from the bottom. I mean, I think if I look back in my career, especially having been a dishwasher at a certain point in my career at a a small Japanese restaurant in San Diego, like there were a lot of doors that were not open for me like I couldn’t apply for the current job that I have now Back then if I had rewinded, you know, ten or fifteen years ago, Um at, And so just wherever you’re at, and your career like if you’re watching this, or maybe you just got laid off, or maybe you’re you’re at a job. That you’re not super happy or fulfilled that and you’re wondering, like how do I get to where I want to be at? Um. Like,  Just realized that it it takes a lot of time and there’s a lot of steps that you may have to go through before you can get to where you ▁ultimately want to be at. Um. But I would just say, also try to align yourself with people who you can learn from and grow with. and um, I’m really grateful, like I have a lot of other aspirations and things that I want to continue to build and be apart. but I also have to stop and remind myself like. Oh yeah, like when I, I remember when I was just a roadie. and when I, I had my first daughter and I had to work the day after she was born, because I had to be able to provide. You know

[deanna_camille]: Mhm,

[john_pistotti]: I had to. I was just I. I wasn’t salary employee. I was a hourly

[deanna_camille]: right.

[john_pistotti]: employee, so I have to remind myself that on days that I, I’m feeling down or depressed or challenged, Um that have come a long way, so

[deanna_camille]: Yeah, that’s That’s an excellent reminder. A great way to end the episode’. Like Yeah, I started at Taco Bell

[john_pistotti]: straight up

[deanna_camille]: many moons ago and worked at a hotel in the restaurant and in banquets, and my first job out of college. I was making like thirty thousand thousand dollars a year, and fortunately, I’mm not where I was and not where I want to be, but’m not

[john_pistotti]: right,

[deanna_camille]: where it was And so that’s a good kind of take away from this Is you just realize your growth realize, you know, started from the bottom here and you know, appreciate those milestones all along the way.

[john_pistotti]: Absolutely well, hey,

[deanna_camille]: Well, thanks so much, John, and

[john_pistotti]: great.

[deanna_camille]: Um, we’re going to uh, tell people where they can find you and we will put it in the show notes as well

[john_pistotti]: Yes, I am extremely online so uh, definitely look me up

[deanna_camille]: everywhere.

[john_pistotti]: on LinkedIn, and I’m also very active on Twitter. Um, this was my first and last name Uh, on Twitter and um, Yeah, just connect me and, and maybe even like in real life. Uh, if you ever see me out and about, Uh, either at a comfort or event and even if you don’t know me, just come up and say hello and uh, hope to see you again in real life. At some point

[deanna_camille]: Yeah, unfortunately that we were planning on a meeting up an i. ▁x and didn’t happen, But we will meet Uh

[john_pistotti]: one day

[deanna_camille]: in real life and face to face, maybe the Metaverse down the road, but face it. Basically we will meet Uh as soon as possible, but thanks John, and have a great rest of your day.

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