Episode 53: Event maven Allison Gerlach

Heather Newman:  Hello everyone. Here we are again for another episode of the Mavens Do It Better podcast where we interview extraordinary experts who bring a light to our world. And I couldn't be more excited today to introduce all of you to someone who brings a lot of light to my world. Um, my dear friend and colleague Allison Gerlach coming to us from Chicago. Allison, say hi to all of our listeners.

Allison Gerlach:  Hello everyone.

Heather Newman:  Um, ah, goodness, Allison and I, I'll tell you a secret, we're pretty good friends. We've known each other since about 2004, uh, which it seems like it's been longer than that, but um, yeah,

Allison Gerlach:  Yes. I can't remember us not knowing each other.

Heather Newman:  I know, I agree. Um, so hey Allison, will you tell everybody about your cool parade and what you do there in Chicago, working in the arts and doing fabulous things?

Allison Gerlach:  Of course. Um, well I'd moved back to Chicago to be closer to family oh about the fall of 2014. And then I was, you know, just coming off of doing events with you, with Microsoft and Microsoft partners. And so I think that, um, I immediately started working with events and I worked briefly for Columbia College. I produced an event for them called Portfolio Day. But while I was there, I met a gentleman named Mark Kelly, who at the time was the, um, the vice president of student success. And, um, he liked my work on Portfolio Day. I invited a bunch of professionals to come review students' portfolios and it was really well attended. So through that he asked, he said he was art directing a new parade that had never been done before, called the Halloween Gathering, um, with a company called the Chicago Cultural Mile. And he asked if I would like to join that team and work with them and um, and I said yes, I would, I would, I've never produced a parade, but you know, I'm always up for a challenge. And so 2015 was my first Halloween parade. And, um, yeah, I might, you know, and I loved it. I loved being able to contact, because our parade is, is different. There's no politicians. There's um, no corporations, you know, with their logos everywhere. It's a, it's all arts organizations. So we try to use Halloween to shine a light on the artists in our city and kind of proclaim Halloween as, it's the artists' holiday and let's look at all these great organizations, um, in the Chicago area that you might not know anything about. So our parade has grown and grown and grown each year. This year I have over 80 groups that are going to be in the parade on October 19th. We have everybody from, um, Afterschool Matters to this year is the year of Chicago theater. And so, um, the department of cultural affairs and special events have, um, have, uh, donated money to, um, groups that will participate from theater companies. And so I have 14 theater companies leading the parade. So I have everybody, everybody from Black Ensemble Theater to Lookingglass Theater to after, to Synapse Arts About Face theater. Just the list goes on and on.

Heather Newman:  That's a who's, who.

Allison Gerlach:  A whole bunch of great groups. Um, and we, and our parade is really great about bringing in cultural groups. So I kinda have, everybody from the Brazilian Culture Center has been in every year. So has Columbia Fest, um, I've got a really great group that was new last year that's called the Chicago Balinese Gamelan. And if you've never seen those kind of musical performers from Indonesia, they have these, um, these metal-a-phones that they play with mallets and all of these crazy instruments. But they walk down the street and it's, it's really amazing. They had stilt-walker dancers and all sorts of crazy things with them. But it's a fun, it's a fun parade. I mean, Burning Man Chicago is in it. We have fire dancers, we have, we have Playa bikes, um, and all sorts of things.

Heather Newman:  That's awesome. Yeah. I, I, I've been to two of your parades, uh, and loved working on it. Um, it's such a fun event. It is a different, you know, it's all arts and it's at night, right as well?

Allison Gerlach:  Yes. It's a nighttime parade. And we've moved, we started it on Columbus Drive, which was kind of had its own charming quality, cause we, we strung, there's no buildings over there. It's like right by the parks. And so we had cafe lighting strung down the streets and kind of gave it a really nice, you know, vibe. But we've moved it now because it's so popular and people, you know, a lot of times people would come downtown and be like, where's the parade? And they didn't know to go East all the way almost to the Lake. So we moved it now to State Street. So it gets a lot more action as far as, um, you know, the people in the audience. But we have to compete with the buildings on state street. You know, they have their lights on and their business lights on, so, so there's a tradeoff. But, but you know, all is good. Everyone loves the parade and they really enjoy being a part of it.

Heather Newman:  That's super cool. And you mentioned, um, Burning Man, which we just came back from, um, you and I. And is where we actually met. Um, will you talk about, uh, can we talk about Everywhere a little bit? How cool that is?

Allison Gerlach:  Yeah. I got involved with Everywhere. I was brought in by a friend of mine and I started camping there and volunteering. Um, first as a volunteer. Um, I mean I'm still a volunteer but um, I would just like bartend and such in Everywhere. But then I moved on and this year, I was the volunteer coordinator for Everywhere. Everywhere is a space that really, um, it is for kind of telling about what Burning Man does year-round and different, um, types of ways to be involved in Burning Man when you're not, you know,

Heather Newman:  On the playa.

Allison Gerlach:  A lot of people, a lot of people are going to Burning Man events in their own region, in their own town, but some people don't know that they can, they don't have to go all the way out to, um, Gerlach, Nevada. They can actually go to, um, a Burning Man a couple hours from their home and it might be actually, you know, more economically feasible and they can actually, you know, be a part of big art projects that maybe it's not possible for them to do because of geography. And so, we would like to encourage people to, to find their, they're regional burns and people with like-minded, you know, people in their, in their area. And then, um, there are other initiatives that that get taught in Everywhere as you know, as well now. But there is Black Rock Labs where people are talking about, you know, um, ways to um, make a smaller footprint to, you know, sustainable ideas. And so people share ideas of, of innovations that they've come up with. We have, um, uh, we have Burners Without Borders, which is a great organization that helps, that started, you know, with Katrina, that helps, um, you know, using the skills that have been learned by camping in a remote area and creating a temporary city like Burning Man. Um, they are able to use the skills learned to, to help in crisis’s when, when things happen and people need to rebuild and need to create a temporary city because, uh, there's been an incident that's occurred in, in different cities and areas around the world. Um, I don't know what else would you like to know about Everywhere?

Heather Newman:  That's great.

Allison Gerlach:  It's a fun space when you visit Burning Man to go learn about these types of things. And we, we have the, um, we tend to do a kind of variety show daily where people from all over the world can come and perform and share their talents. But, um, but it's connected to the Artery, the artery is the space, which actually, you know, takes care of all the artists that bring the great art out to Burning Man and places them on the playa. It's kind of their art support, um, hub. So we're, we're in a really cool area being, sharing a space with them.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no, that's, you nailed it. Uh, again. Of course. Yeah. No, it was really fun everyone. So, Allison, I've been to Burning Man, this was my 11th burn, although I hadn't been in five years. And Allison asked me to come and be a part of the camp and be a part of Everywhere Pavilion this year. And so we just got done doing that and it was terrific. And the folks who run the, you know, Josh and uh, it just Jenny Kay and our camp, it was just great, you know, and it was really fun to be a part of. Um, I was one of Allison's volunteers, so she was my boss lady for the week at, uh,

Allison Gerlach:  Yeah. You know, I kinda like it when you’re my boss, but I was happy to be your boss for a week.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Um, do you remember the first, so, you know, Burning Man is such a beautiful event and you know, it's like when you and I both grew up, we were theater majors, you know, and we got into, you know, doing meetings and events and Allison is a beautiful videographer as far as like, she would do a lot of art direction for me, back when we were doing videos for, uh, for Microsoft. So, we, we started working together after we met actually out at Burning Man in about 2004 and five. And so she was part of the, sort of the Maven crew that went around and helped do all of the events for the Office and SharePoint teams. And so she was part of that. Do you remember your first one by the way? I was, I couldn't remember.

Allison Gerlach:  Yeah, I remember it was, it was the one, there was a launch of, I think it had to been a new Office product because I remember it was the one where there was, there was a hair incident on stage and you know, you know what I'm talking about. I think it was like 2000 and five.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, but that would've been Office 2006 may, I dunno. Yeah, it must've been, it had to be a tech ed or something. I'm not sure. Or

Allison Gerlach:  It was a long time. It was an Office launch at first cause I think I came there. And then from there on you brought me on for tickets.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, I think it was actually the Office Developers Conference and yes, because they started and that conference only like when a couple of times, I don't think it got, it didn't really go, but we worked on all the other SharePoint stuff together anyway. Oh my goodness. That's so funny. So, so theater major. So where are you from? I know this, but tell everybody where you're from.

Allison Gerlach:  I am from Louisville, Kentucky. You know I'm from Louisville, if I say LOO-a-vul.

Heather Newman:  Yes, shout out to KFC, uh, folks and your sweet parents by the way, who I adore. So that's fun. Um, so then, so grew up in Louisville and then off to where for college?

Allison Gerlach:  I went to Denison University in Grandville, Ohio. Where I desperately wanted to be an actress. I was, I started as a theater major, only a theater major. I completed most of my requirements my freshman and sophomore year because I was such a theater geek. And then I was so excited for my junior year because I knew I was gonna be getting lead roles cause I'd done all the leg work, I'd done summer stock theater, I had worked in every department and my junior year there was a new freshmen in town and it was Jennifer Gardner, and she got all the parts.

Heather Newman:  Jennifer Garner moved into town. Oh my goodness. Yeah.

Allison Gerlach:  And then I, you know, I, I realized that, um, you know, the place I was always welcomed was over at the, the cinema department because they always needed someone to be in their movies and they always cast me. I never had to audition. They just said, who can we get? Anybody will do. And I, I, you know, I kind of became the B movie queen of Denison for a while. And then I so, I decided to double major, so I became a double major in theater and cinema.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. And then, and then you were in Chicago. Yeah? Which you're in Chicago now.

Allison Gerlach:  I moved to Louisville, Kentucky right after college and I actually used to produce educational videos for, um, American Guidance Service up in Circle Pines, Minnesota. And I actually made educational videos like lying, cheating, stealing, gossip, teasing, prejudice. We would do these little series and we do an elementary school version, a middle schooler version, and a high school version. So I did those and we put them out on CD ROMs. That's how long ago was. You know, you know, I'm turning 50 when I started talking about CD-ROMs.

Heather Newman:  I know, I said CD-ROM and I was talking about, I dunno, corded phones the other day and I was like, Oh my goodness.

Allison Gerlach:  We're old, yeah. So I started there and then I moved up to Chicago and my first job was working as a post-production producer for a company called Editell. And I used to produce the Danny Bonaduce, um, promos for his TV show and we would vivex them. So that was like old cable, coaxial cable wire. We would send the videos through that way to Los Angeles, for them to put, to send out. So that's, that's old technology. We had D2 tapes that were like the size of a suitcase that we had all of our elements on. Yeah,

Heather Newman:  I remember that. What do you think, as far as, you know, like we, we've talked about this a lot, but you know, you, you're talking about this kind of technology and then now you know, I'm sitting here, you know, I have a zoom, you know, H6, four or whatever, you know, and we're on our computers and when we get done this file will be like this big and I can flip it up to this place and you know, Annelise who produces all these, you know, it gonna, like what have you seen or how has it affected, do you think the industry of all of these changes from sort of all the big stuff to like being able to do things on your phone?

Allison Gerlach:  I think it's really exciting. I mean, I really, as much as I love the fact that when I went to film school, I actually shot 16 millimeter film and got to edit on an old Steenbeck editor because we didn't have an Avid to edit on. We didn't have that technology. I mean, I didn't have that. So I just think how exciting to be a film student now and be able to just do it. Like I like, I think that I would have been more confident in those kinds of skills had been, you know, a lot easier, like had it been able to be done on my computer like that. I think there wouldn't have been, you know, I think that, you know, learning it when you're learning it is very important. So I think that, you know, I think just how great. And when I went back to Denison, just recently, my, my film professor retired. And there were more women than men that were majors, you know, like when I'm, I, when it was like eight guys and me, there were like nine of us, you know, and now there's like a hundred in the department and that just is a Testament to how things have changed and, and where things are going.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no kidding. That's super cool. Yeah. And I think, I think people have had to, you know, we've talked about like shifting, when technology shifts or things shift around us, you have to shift too, you know? That uh, I've found that, you know, remember, I dunno, you probably, we would get, people would get paid a lot of money for like a two minute movie or film or you know, or advertisement. And I think that, have you seen felt that shift in the world too, as far as like what people will pay for content?

Allison Gerlach:  Oh my gosh, , yeah. I mean, it was crazy time and like the late nineties. I mean, if you didn't have a half a million dollars, you weren't doing a commercial. Like it, it was mad like they wanted to do them for $10,000 maximum. Even if it's in France, you know, like it's like no money. So yeah, that was, they, it changed a lot for sure. Yeah. I mean, yeah, when editing, when you went to pay $1,000 an hour and it goes down to like $50 an hour for an editor and you're like, great. Like what's the difference?

Heather Newman:  Completely. Yeah. No, I, I feel like, you know, and, and everything changes that, you know, there's the gig economy and all of that. Like, it allows for, you know, you can get somebody on Fiverr or you know, some of those others to do that sort of work. And it's definitely changed how I think we all interact with each other to do marketing and, and all of that. Um, you know, I wanna I wanted to ask you about will you tell everybody about, um, Figment, as well?

Allison Gerlach:  Oh, sure. I mean, Figment is a project that I've, um, that was started, um, by David Corrin in New York city. Um, I've um, produced a couple of them here in Chicago and last year I just, I helped with it. But it's a cool, it's a cool arts festival that takes place, any city can have a Figment project, they just have to, you know, uh, correspond with, with David and their initiative what they're doing in New York city. But it's kind of a, it can either be a weekend or a one day event, which is kind of a, um, it's an arts festival. Um, uh, with no commercialism that's kind of um, you know, donated, I mean you can do it different ways. You can do it as a neighborhood association. You can do it as, I mean we, you know, in Chicago it kind of went through a Burning Man Chicago, cause those were the types of people that would, you know, bring the art projects and bring it. But it's, but it's meant to be a community builder where you invite the community to come up with stations and kind of, um, activities, um, that are, that are, you know, all ages, family friendly, and you just spend the afternoon just kinda playing in a park and it's a great kind of concept and idea. Um, they've had some really great ones in San Francisco and other, other big cities. I mean, they do them, I think they're, um, global now. Like they have them in China and other places, but yeah, but it's a cool project. It's called Figment project.org.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. That's so cool. So what do you love about producing events?

Allison Gerlach:  I don't know. I think that I have, I am, I like networking with people and I like making people's ideas come to fruition. That's kind of what, so even with my Halloween event, it doesn't seem very hard to come up with 25 people and come up with a creative concept for walking less than a mile. But you know, when you are busy not for profit and you have a million other things going on, just coming up with the little tiny idea that makes your group look so much cooler is, you know, means a lot. So I think that was, you know, part of what my job is to is to contact these groups and make sure that they have the resources they need and if they, you know, they want to add something that, that we, we find a place that they can resource it and, and have it, you know, be affordable and that type of thing. So it, it's been nice like networking with people and having them think outside the box and think of, you know, you don't have to have $1,000 float. This year we have Chicago Children's Theater is one of our grant recipients and they're doing these huge mouths made of cardboard, that open and close. But that's going to look amazing going down the street, you know. But that's, you know, that didn't cost them $1,000, like it cost them everyone, you know, taking recycled boxes and, and some paint and big and getting creative. And so I think that that, that's the exciting part about working with arts events is facilitating artists and helping them, you know, come up with things that work.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. No, I think it's a bit when you, when you're in the producing side of things, um, you know, the backstage right, or the back of house or you know, walking through the kitchen, you know, with the servers and all of that, there's an element of um, uh, MacGyver, uh, plus, you know, just thinking on your feet and um, just being able to come up with those ideas. And I don't know, I think that, I think those theater degrees serve us well for that sort of thing. Right. I don't know

Allison Gerlach:  That comes back to, I used to always be, I mean, poor Dennison when I was so furious that I wasn't getting cast in any of the parts I auditioned for, I kept getting cast as stage manager. I think I got, I kept getting cast for a reason because they were trying to tell me that that was something that I do well. And that's something like when I did corporate events that I liked doing. I liked interviewing people because I like making them feel comfortable talking to me. I really enjoyed being, you know, introducing people who are getting ready to speak and do their PowerPoint presentation and then making sure that their PowerPoint's working and micing them and getting them comfortable before, you know, performing on stage. It's just all of the things that I think come with the territory.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no, absolutely. Yeah. And yeah, I don't know. What do you think, how many events do you think we were doing a year. Back when they were like kicking it?

Allison Gerlach:  Well, I know for, I know for a fact that I always did. I don't know. It was like I did like three to five for sure with you. I mean, we did every pick ticket and every world partner conference for sure. And then we would, do you know the one in Boston? The SharePoint there.

Heather Newman:  SPTechCon, yeah. I was trying to count the other day about how many events, like we did sort of at the height of that, and I think it got up to 20, um, one time, you know, if you sort of count everything that was going on and all of the events within events.

Allison Gerlach:  I think that when we worked with other partners, like when we were doing other activities, they weren't, you know, a lot of them, you know, when we were doing video and those types of things. I think we were, we were hitting a lot more than, you know, other years. But, yeah.

Heather Newman:  Mmhm. Yeah, for sure. Um, what's your favorite party that we've ever thrown?

Allison Gerlach:  Well, of course I'm going to say the AvePoint red party.

Heather Newman:  Yup. Yup. That was a good one. Miss. Ariana did that.

Allison Gerlach:  Yeah. We had really good parties. We had some good ones.

Heather Newman:  Do you find that people are still throwing big parties like that in Chicago?

Allison Gerlach:  You know, now that I've mean the last five years I've been in my, you know, my parade world, so I am not sure exactly, you know, what kind of parties people are throwing. I don't even go to the, you know, the AACP or AIC ones anymore. But, but yeah, I still think so. Yeah.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, I think so too. I think there's like, um, there's a, it's about experiential, you know that word. You're, are you hearing that word a lot? Experience and experiential.

Allison Gerlach:  Oh yes, in fact, you know, I think that, you know, cause it might, you know right now it may my parade job is a contract job, so I work kind of, you know, spring to October on this particular job. But I think that a lot of the jobs that I've been, you know, working with and you know, even when I worked with Sony and I did pop up stores, a lot of experiential event work is, is where people are going out cause they like having social media moments and things that people can, you know, fall, you know, chance into and fall upon. And that takes a lot more planning than something that is staged and can be controlled.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, I agree. I, that's some of the things I saw this year that Microsoft did is like there was a, you could walk into what looked like a Starbucks and you could see how all of the machines were hooked up to that sort of BI tracking behind them. And there was another one that was like set up like Kroger and you could see where they'd put up the AI cameras that would tell you if you pulled something off the shelf. And, and that's a lot of that stuff you did with Sony I think too. Right?

Allison Gerlach:  Well, the Sony, I toured, we did it, we had a competition. So I went to every camera store around the country giving demos for the 87 camera. But we were, it was in Alaska. Like they'd walk in and it was an Alaska scene and they'd take pictures of a model, you know, sitting in front of a mountain in Alaska. And yeah.

Heather Newman:  I like that approach. You know, I keep seeing more and more of it and I think that allows, um, for better storytelling. You know, like, I've been writing and reading about, you know, storytelling and, and uh, I just, I came across it, it's like 22% people respond, uh, and comprehend 22% more when you actually add story into sort of the facts, the figures and the like, I dunno, uh, features of something and I think, I dunno how, how, how do you find, do you find people want to build narratives? I think you're doing that with your parade obviously. I'm seeing it a bit. And do you guys do a theme for the parade besides Halloween?

Allison Gerlach:  We've, we've just started doing the theme the last two years. Last year and then that's a way that we kind of, um, reach out to our groups. Last was the, the year of Chicago Youth.

Heather Newman:  Okay.

Allison Gerlach:  We had grants that went to youth organizations that really had never participated in the parade before. And a lot of them, even though they're not getting a grant, of course they signed up again because they're students had such a great time. So this year we are Chicago theater. We had, you know, we Lookingglass has always been a great supporter as well as the Broadway in Chicago, but we didn't have a ton of other theater groups. This year we've got over 20 theater groups, you know, all over, you know, being a part of our parade. So I'm very excited. You know, it, it, it kind of gives us, next year is the year of Chicago music. So, you know, I’m going to be loving that.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no kidding. Yeah.

New Speaker:   That's my favorite.

Heather Newman:  I think you probably have one of the most eclectic music tastes of anybody I ever known. And I always love it. You know, you definitely

Allison Gerlach:  I'll blame it on WDUB 91.1 FM in Granville, Ohio, where I was a DJ for the first time. I love music, I do. I Kind of feel like I should have had a career in music, but you know, I'm not dead yet.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. Well. And you did, um, this was what, the second or third year you were on BMIR radio at Burning Man?

New Speaker:   I've done it more than that. I think it’s probably been at least five years.

Heather Newman:  Oh sweet. Okay. Yeah, that's super fun. So, everyone who doesn't go to Burning Man, there's a radio station that happens, um, at the event and uh, at BMIR and Allison did a couple of sets and she's done them for years now too, so yeah, she's great on that. You had a

Allison Gerlach:  It's really fun, I love of being on Burning Man information radio. It's a kick.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. That's super fun. I like that cause with the going after sort of like youth or theater or whatever, it's, it's uh, yeah, it's a great way to target to get more people to one know about the festival and then, you know, they probably want to hopefully be a part of it after they've, you know, so they'd come on with that focus and they stay with you probably because they have a good experience. Cause you're awesome at what you do and it's a really cool event.

Allison Gerlach:  Well the, the event, it's, you know, it's, it's easy. It's, it's on state street. It's only a two hours long. It's from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM, which is a great time for, for parents to take their kids because even if they're young, you know, bedtime at 8:00 PM we're done by 8pm and then get home. But uh, but the, the groups who participate, what we really like is having major institutions walking with youth organizations. So I love the fact that, you know, that the Joffrey Ballet is walking with, you know, these little dancers from Volta Art or from, you know, dance, um, you know, Bance Chicago or by Pally Chicago, like a different groups inspired different groups like, and it's just nice that they're adults walking next to kids and kids can look up and be like, wow, that's really cool. I'm in the city parade with them.

Heather Newman:  right. That's super cool. Yeah, I like that.

Allison Gerlach:  Encourage children to have careers in the arts.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. That's fantastic. So you're a busy woman. How do you chill out?

Allison Gerlach:  Oh, my goodness. I don't think I do. Not the not in the month of September. Ask me in November.

Heather Newman:  Right. I guess. What do you, what do you love about Chicago? You've lived there a long time and,

Allison Gerlach:  You know, when I, I, I love Chicago. I think that when I moved, um, back, you know, in 2008 and when I moved out to California, I kind of thought, Oh my gosh, I'm never going back to that snowy place. And no, and I think that when I came back to move to be closer to family, like I really have loved being back and I kind of realize that, you know, that these are my people, you know, that these, the Midwest people are my people and, and I, and I feel like, you know, I have, I've, I've re-found my home that I just forgot was my home for eight years.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, that happens. It happens for sure. Yeah. I love the Midwest too. And, um, it was fun going back to Michigan this summer, you know, for, for a brief visit to see my people as well. So I'm hoping to spend a little bit more time with you there.

Allison Gerlach:  Well, you're welcome anytime.

Heather Newman:  Thank you. Um, this has been awesome. I just, I love this parade and I've loved being involved with it and I just, it's, it is so different and cool. And um, I love the connections that you have sort of from all of that, like into the Burning Man community and the arts community and how you're just, you always are bringing people together. And that's a, that's a big cool deal, hun, and you’re so good at it.

Allison Gerlach:  Ahh, thank you. I mean, I feel like this year, well this year we tried, like the last two summers we've tried something new because like we really want to get like regular people in different neighborhoods to jump up and participate if they feel like, and so we've been doing these Lantern Walks along the Chicago river walk in the summer, so we have been teaching people how to make lanterns and trying to get other things going. So I just think that as much as we can tell people that even though you're not professionally trained in the arts, that doesn't mean you can't express yourself. And that's one of the things I love about Burning Man is that, you know, you see so many people that go out there that they might be a lawyer in their day time, but they have made this rock outfit like, you know, rock star outfit that they come out in and they really are showing, you know, their inner artist. And I think we all have that.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no, I agree with you. I mean, yeah, people that are I'm not creative or I'm not this and I'm not that. And everything we do has artistic quality and merit, you know, some, some more than others. But yeah, I love organizations and events and experiences that let that fly free, you know, which is really super cool. Um, well I adore you one, and, and it's so funny talking to somebody, you know so well on a podcast in a way. So it's quite lovely. Um, but I always ask, uh, for the last question, uh, what, if you can point out, uh, uh, person, place or thing or time or something that really sparked you to do what you do and you know who you are today. If you could pinpoint one or two that you would feel free sharing with our listeners?

Allison Gerlach:  Wow. No wonder you didn't give me the questions in advance.

Heather Newman:  That's the only question!

New Speaker:   Well, I know, I think that, um, I do think that my very first time, like when I went to Burning, when I read about it in Wired magazine, when I read about Burning Man with my friend Denise Gerhety, who got me to go my first year, um, I had no idea how much going to that festival in 1998 would change kind of the, the scope of the type of work I do and, and, and what I do. But it did, I think that it had a really big impact on me. Um, you know, I'm sure there's many things in my life that had a big impact on me. Like, you know, switching from theater to cinema and then working in, in film for most of my career. But I think that when I went out and saw Burning Man and I saw these large-scale art and spectacle type pieces, I think it kind of led me to what I'm doing right now. Where it'll take me, you know, after those who knows, but, but that's, that's where I am now.

Heather Newman:  Yeah. That's awesome. Yeah. Well, Denise Gerhety, uh, gave me my tickets too, so as we like to say, it's all her fault. So

Allison Gerlach:  Yeah, we'll blame her. And we'll toast to her. So, yeah.

Heather Newman:  Yes. A big cheers. Love to Denise. For sure. So, and all of our campers out there, so we've got this, uh, beautiful parade coming up in less than a month. Yeah?

Allison Gerlach:  Yeah. It'll be October 19th. If you're in the Chicago area, you're not gonna want to miss it. We got some great groups.

Heather Newman:  And its a, so is it something, um, I know it's changed, but like five o'clock, six o'clock?

Allison Gerlach:  Oh, it steps off at 6:00 PM. So, you probably want to get down there around 5:30 and find a spot or earlier, you know, there'll be people you know, clogging up state street, but it starts at Lake street and ends at Van Buren.

Heather Newman:  Awesome. That's great. Oh, you know who else? You know, I, I had on, um, your beautiful poet friend that, uh, she is, she made me cry. Carron Little. Yeah. She just was amazing and read this beautiful poem and yeah, we had a great chat, um, on one of the pods a couple of weeks ago, so it was kind of fun. So thank you for that. She's a Chicago based artist, folks that's a poet and she does a lot in arts, uh, grants and um, arts advocacy and stuff and Allison connected her with me, which was really good.

Allison Gerlach:  Yeah, I thought you guys would like each other cause she's working with the women's March here and that type of thing too.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, no, it was super awesome. So that's great. Cool. And then, um, you know, a little bird knows that you're gonna be with me for Ignite in Orlando.

Allison Gerlach:  I'm very excited to be your official handler. Make sure that you get all the interviews down perfectly.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, probably that's a good, need some help as a community report running around, so, but yeah, so Allison will be there with me, which will be great. So

Allison Gerlach:  Yeah, it will be great to see all the people I've, I've missed seeing everybody.

Heather Newman:  Yeah, absolutely. That'll be super fun. So, and then we round into the new year and I don't, I don't know. Do you have any big plans for the new year?

Allison Gerlach:  You know, I am. I don't have any big plans for the new year. I just, I plan on, um, celebrating the entire year. It's my 50th year. I think that I should, you know, do great things in 2020.

Allison Gerlach:  I know. I was kind of leading you along that since it is your big five-0. So, yeah, it's like we're going to celebrate all year long, so that's awesome. Cool. Well great. Well, honey, thank you so much. I, I love you. I adore you and I've been wanting to have you on for a while to tell everybody about all the cool things you do in the world. So.

Allison Gerlach:  Oh, well I really appreciate it. And thank you for promoting our little event, our little big event here in Chicago. And yeah, I really feel free to cut out whatever you want.

Allison Gerlach:  Not a, not a word. Nary a word. All right. Thank you, honey. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Awesome. Yup. Uh, so everyone that has been another episode of our Mavens Do It Better podcast. Uh, you can find us on Stitcher, on iTunes, on Spotify, on Google play, all of the great places where you normally find us. And here is to another beautiful day on this big blue spinning sphere. Thanks.


Heather Newman

Heather Newman is an award-winning marketing maven, technology entrepreneur and an epic connector that brings many worlds together. She has extensive experience marketing products and services for Enterprise businesses, startups and emerging markets. Heather builds plans and processes that are nimble, human and different. She is an adept storyteller and is passionate about growth for both employees and the corporate bottom-line. Heather hails from the arts and the bulk of her career has been working with the largest technology companies in the world (Microsoft, Google, Amazon, NetApp, Hewlett Packard, and Dell). Her nineteen years of experience working at technology companies and building global high-tech marketing strategy has driven millions of dollars of revenue and multiple award-winning campaigns. She has led global marketing teams for many technology companies including AvePoint, IT Unity & KnowledgeLake. Heather was a part of the original Microsoft SharePoint Marketing team. During her tenure, she helped launch multiple versions of the product, build the SharePoint Partner Ecosystem and conceived of and produced the first three Microsoft SharePoint Conferences. Creative Maven has produced thousands of global marketing campaigns and events. Currently CM is focusing on go to market strategies for Microsoft and its partners as well as a new site sister site launching in 2015 called Marketingfixer.com. Heather also serves as Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Content Panda, an innovative technology startup looking to actively disrupt how content is delivered inside software.