IACPNYC Conference Part 2: Food Karma meets Social Karma

We were going to need a culinary event producer to help us make this conference a reality.

What does it take to produce a Conference? Think of a series of interlocking gears, and each piece needs the other piece in order to turn. The producer provides the means to keep the gears turning.

IACP Board Meeting
A funny thing happened on the way to launching this Conference, IACP decided to move to being a self managed association.  This means instead of relying on a company that manages any number of various organizations, we would take the reins and run IACP more nimbly, more responsively, and with more attention to fiscal reality.

Take-Away:  we were going to need a culinary event producer to help us make this conference a reality.

What does it take to produce a Conference? Think of a series of interlocking gears, and each piece needs the other piece in order to turn. The producer provides the means to keep the gears turning. 
Screen Shot 2012-04-28 at 3.10.19 PM
Here’s an example: you want to throw a party for 1,000 people and it involves a dozen or more guest chefs and sponsored product. You’ll need a venue (a legal place to throw the party), you’ll need permits, a caterer, a sponsorship team that enables our sponsors to feature their products at the party, it means rounding up those chefs and making sure they show up, signage, electrical drops, cleaning crews, sanitation permits and dumpsters.. what have I forgotten??  Right..you need some ooommph to get the party rolling. In our case it wound up being the artists from La Figa Project slicing fresh fruit onto naked women. Worked like a charm.

And remember that’s just one cog in the Conference gear box.

We knew we needed an event producer in place very quickly. And,  as is the way with non-profit organizations, we also had a very tight budget.
There aren’t that many good culinary event producers so the interview list was short, but  nevertheless, interesting. We interviewed one top notch company, with lovely offices; a Rolex on every wrist sort of place. They would have been perfect, but they were too rich for our budget.

We needed someone flexible, who would be willing to work with us as we figured out what it means to be self managed.

This lead us to Jimmy Carbone’s doorstep. One day I’m talking to an event producer in a fancy office, the next day I’m sitting on a barstool at Jimmy’s No. 43 talking about what is Food Karma Project.

Jimmy may be a teensy bit scruffy around the edges, but he has a heart of pure gold.  He’s a beer maven, knows all the local brewers, and truth be told, he’s like a teddy bear, with twinkly eyes and an ever ready mischevous smile. He’s also completely dialed into the farm to table movement, Heritage Radio and he produces events all year long.
This multi-day conference was bigger than anything he’d ever done, but he was willing to give it a shot, and work within our budget.

For a decision like this, the IACP Board of Directors had to interview Jimmy and approve him coming on board as our event producer. Jimmy shows up at the September board meeting with his secret weapon: Erin McMonagle. As you know, a tall woman in heels, with her hair in a tight topknot, always makes an impression. With her no-nonsense, everything will be organized air, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see her in leather, snapping a whip.  We hired Jimmy and the Food Karma Projects team.

I had no idea that Erin and I, along with the dapper and unflappable Sebastian Cervantes, would become literally inseparable over the next few months. Very much like going on a mountain climbing expedition, you start out as strangers, and wind up as family.  

Now that you have the image of conference as interlocking gears, think of it as little streams, coming from different directions and merging into a river. 
One stream was the Jimmy stream, but there was another, urgent, stream that was demanding attention. The SOCIAL MEDIA stream, and the captain of that ship was none other than the Diva herself, Jackie Gordon. Jackie Gordon

Jackie dove into IACP conference planning like an Olympic diver going for the gold.
She is a sparking flame on Twitter, and like moths, we gather around her energy. I don’t even remember how I first met Jackie. Was it on Twitter? Did she come to a conference planning meeting.  The Twitter-ific "divathatateny" was everywhere at once, pushing us to reach higher, faster, showing us the power of social media.

We had meetings on Skype, we had meetings in bars (thank you Rev and the Idle Hands Bar!), we had meetings in our loft. We talked, we analyzed; what is IACP and how do we communicate that message.
It sounds simple, and IACP is going through a period of re-energizing; so these conversations were invaluable. How do you engage the up and coming generation, without alienating the long time members?
There should be a synergy: the new members look up to the experienced members for guidance, while the older members look to the younguns’ to see what’s going on in the shape shifitng culinary landscape.

It’s a delicately balanced dance and some of the people Jackie brought into the conversations are masters at manipulating social media. The language they spoke was peppered with lingo that didn’t exist…a year ago. Fast, sharp, nimble, they point the way forward.

The wheels begin to turn, the gears mesh and move forward.

Next Installment: Supporting our Sponsors

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