Ravinia Festival (retired)
What were you doing in 1979?
I was starting in a new position as head of marketing for London’s Barbican Centre. I was not aware of INTIX (then BOMI) at that time or of its first meeting in Milwaukee in 1980; my first contact with the association was in 1982 when our ticketing software vendor sold a pair of Barbican subscription tickets via satellite from the meeting in St Louis; in 1983 BOMI held its fourth annual conference in London. The Barbican was one of the venue tours, and I also had a chance to meet with Richard Carter, who had worked with Pat Spira to found the organization. Richard, a Lifetime Achievement recipient, remains a close friend.
What drew you to INTIX?
I was drawn to INTIX in 1984, specifically the conference in Los Angeles. I was hoping that the conference would provide me with some useful insights with regards to North American ticketing and marketing practices that I could put into effect at the Barbican. Much to my surprise I discovered that we were in many respects ahead of the game, especially with regards to box office computerization, and the integration of our marketing and box office functions; these seemed to be two areas that were very challenging to many U.S.-based organizations at that time. Needless to say, that feedback provided me with a huge professional morale boost!
Talk about a mentor you met through INTIX and how that person helped better you personally and professionally.
Without question the one individual who I met through INTIX who had the most impact on my professional career was Ernie Santi, the ticketing manager of the Ravinia Festival, a founding member of the association and a Lifetime Achievement recipient. I met Ernie at the 1984 Los Angeles conference. Eight years later I sold him Ravinia’s first in-house computer system; a year after that he invited me to take over his position when he took early retirement. I don’t think these events were related! My subsequent career at Ravinia spanned 23 summer seasons!
Personally, the individual who has had the most impact on my life was also a founding BOMI member who I met at the Los Angeles conference: my wife, Chloe! At that time Chloe was subscription manager at Houston Grand Opera. We soon decided that two people in the same family working in ticketing was one too many!
What’s an INTIX membership benefit that has been especially helpful to you?
Without a doubt the annual conference. For various reasons I have had to miss three conferences since 1984; The Texas conference will be the 33rd that I have attended. INTIX is family, and INTIX members include many of my closest friends.
What business challenge has kept you awake at night the most over the course of your career?
There have been several, but the longest running, and seemingly most intractable, was managing Ravinia’s annual season on-sale each April. The entire season went on sale on the same day, and typically we would sell approximately 25 percent of the total season revenue on that first day. Over more than 10 years we went through numerous iterations of bandwidth, server capacity, website design and ticketing system. A new ticketing system in 2014 finally cracked it.
Given the constant advancements in technology, what’s the best way to maintain the human touch and personal service in ticketing?
Regardless of how good the technology is now, or becomes in the future, customers will always want/need to talk with a human being. In many instances the need for that contact will result from some kind of problem with an online purchase. Customer service staff need to understand that the people that they are helping are not buying tickets; they are buying an experience, hopefully an enjoyable, fulfilling, shared experience. The way in which their problem is handled should have a positive outcome on that experience.
How do you see INTIX leading the way into the future of ticketing?
The future of ticketing rests on the shoulders of those starting out in the profession today. They need to be valued and supported.
What’s your favorite INTIX memory?
Many rewarding conversations at the bar!
What’s your proudest INTIX moment?
Being recognized by my peers. I was named Outstanding Ticketing Professional in 1999 at the 20th Anniversary Conference in Nashville, and was the recipient of the Patricia G. Spira Lifetime Achievement award in San Antonio in 2012. Those are two moments that I will never forget.
Additionally I was honored to chair the INTIX Board of Directors for two years, 2000-2001, during which time we implemented significant structural governance changes which I believe have served the association well in the years since.