Thursday, January 30, 2014

TEA leadership meets in LA for annual strategic planning

PHOTOS: Graeme Baker, TEA
The Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) held its strategic planning meeting for 2014 Jan 23-24 at the Globe Theater, Universal Studios Hollywood. TEA president Christine Kerr of BaAM Productions (above) is now in her second year as TEA president and will finish her term in November. Among the milestones Kerr recounted at the meeting were effecting the transition to a new COO of the association, putting the development of TEA's new website into motion, the growth of the TEA NextGen initiative and enhanced collaborations with IAAPA.
It was the first such meeting for TEA's new COO Jennie Nevin (left), who replaced outgoing executive director Gene Jeffers, who retired at the end of 2013. "Jennie has top financial skills and association experience," said Christine Kerr. "Her joining us is a big win for TEA." January 21, 2014 was Nevin's 90-day benchmark on the job at TEA. In her opening talk to the group, Nevin said that communications and member services are a high priority along with the formation and implementation of effective, standard operating procedures. On the right is director of development Kathy Oliver. Universal Studios and Chip Largman of Universal Creative generously hosted the meeting and took care of all our needs over the two days.

The annual Strategic Planning meeting is a gathering of TEA leadership - president Christine Kerr, COO Jennie Nevin, the International Board, the Division Board presidents (Eastern North America, Western North America, Europe & Middle East, and Asia Pacific), TEA committee chairs, TEA past presidents and TEA staff. Some of the leaders have been with TEA since its founding in 1991 - including people who were active in the founding itself. They have provided valuable continuity as the association has grown and expanded internationally over more than two decades. "One of the most impressive things to me about this organization," said Nevin, "is the immense amount of volunteer contribution and dedication - the personal resources and teamwork that volunteers provide. It's clear that the very existence of TEA is due to its robust international board structure and volunteer culture. So many important things and creative things are done by Board members."
Speaking of TEA members' creative contributions, here is a classic napkin sketch that someone at the meeting was inspired to produce. We haven't yet identified the artist - will he or she please step forward?
Chris Conte of Electrosonic has been active within TEA for many years and is currently Secretary of the International Board. He was a driving force in establishing the new TEA Asia Pacific Division. His call to action at last year's strategic planning meeting led to the formation of an interim Asia Pacific Board and then the transition to the current Board. The Asia Pacific Division has had several successful networking events and expects to grow rapidly in keeping with the rapid expansion of the industry in that part of the world.

Far left: Dale Sprague (Canyon Creative), chair of the TEA Marketing & Communications committee was part of a working subgroup discussing TEA brand capital; they took their huddle into the fresh air outside the Globe Theater. As the meeting was on Universal Studios property, we were able to observe many signs of construction going on as the park adds a new Harry Potter land - in fact, several TEA member companies are currently engaged in the project. In the picture with Sprague (L-R) are David Aion (Weber Group), Louie Allen (Adirondack Studios), Peter Chernack (The Chernack Group) representing the TEA Past Presidents Committee, Klaus Sommer Paulsen (ADVENTURELAB) - leading this particular discussion - and Matthew Maldonado (TEA NextGen), an Associate Member of the Western Division Board.
David Aion of The Weber Group chairs the TEA membership committee and sits on the TEA International Board. The total of TEA member companies is now about 1,000 and, reflecting how projects and business are done today in our industry, a significant portion of those are small companies and individuals. He spoke of improvements being made in the process of recruiting new members and processing their information, and of the possibility of an annual membership drive. Aion has taken pains to recruit international representation on the Committee to help drive global growth. Thanks to its activities, conferences, awards, publications and Internet footprint - and the employee base of its member companies - TEA has a very large total reach beyond its formal membership numbers.
David Willrich of D.J. Willrich Ltd. recently became president of the Europe & Middle East Division, succeeding Philip Hartley in the position. The EME Division is working to build membership numbers in several different countries and has embarked on a promising series of SATE Academy Days events that are based on the "Storytelling, Architecture, Technology, Experience" focus of TEA's annual SATE conference.
In front, L to R: Jordan Coleman (JB Coleman LLC), Lynn Allmandinger (Wells Fargo), Michelle Mace Michelle Mace (student, Art Institute of Los Angeles), Associate Member of the Western Division Board, Ann Hathaway (Mousetrappe), Matthew Maldonado (student, Art Institute of California), Shannon Martin (Color Reflections).
On day two of the meeting, people formed groups to think creatively about specific issues such as mission/vision statements and potential new revenue streams, and then share those ideas back to the full group. Here, blue-skying new strategies to attract TEA global sponsors are (L-R): Judith Rubin (TEA communications & publications), Peter McGrath (WDI), David Willrich (D.J. Willrich Ltd.), Jennie Nevin (TEA COO), Steve Birket (Birket Engineering) and Michelle Mace (TEA NextGen).
Jennie Nevin, TEA COO
Aram Ebben (exp) and Stefan Lawrence (Stefan Rules!) were co-chairs of TEA's successful SATE conference in 2013 and are repeating those roles in 2014. Details of SATE '14 will be announced soon.

Traci Klainer Polimeni (The Luce Group) is president of the TEA Eastern Division and has worked to broaden the scope and location of her division's events and mixers, pushing beyond Orlando to New York City, Chicago and other places.
Clara Rice (JRA) chairs the TEA NextGen Committee and gave an impressive report on the committee's dynamic growth and extensive activities, which include targeted gatherings at the TEA Summit and Thea Awards Gala, and efforts to help identify internship opportunities with TEA member companies.
Jordan Coleman (JB Coleman LLC) is a member of the TEA Western Division Board.
Klaus Sommer Paulsen (ADVENTURELAB) is a Denmark-based Experience Economy expert and consultant who moves in business and academic circles. He is a member of the Europe & Middle East Division Board. He has been active with TEA for several years on a number of committees, including Membership and Marketing & Communications, and helped to plan and promote the SATE conference when it was held in Europe.
Liz Terry of Leisure Media joined the TEA International Board several years ago and has been working with the TEA Marketing & Communications Committee (headed by Dale Sprague of Canyon Creative) to create a new TEA website, which is now in the building stages and is set to be unveiled later in 2014. The website will have an updated professional look for the association, and help to deliver a higher level of member benefits while also facilitating improved communications and data management. Terry's extensive experience leading publishing and media endeavors of all kinds, and her relationships with trade associations in a range of leisure markets have been extremely helpful to our organization. 
Louie Allen is VP Creative of Adirondack Studios, is a member of the TEA International  Board. The company's Asian branch is Adirondack Asia PTE Ltd. 
Michael Mercadante (Main Street Design) is on the TEA International Board.
Michelle Mace, a student at the Art Institute of Los Angeles, is an Associate Member Representative on the TEA Western Division Board, and a TEA NextGen member.
Monty Lunde (Technifex) is not only a past president of TEA, he is the founder of the organization and still in a very hands-on role more than 20 years later. Before the formation of TEA, there was no generally accepted descriptor for this multifaceted industry - with the creation of the Themed Entertainment Association, came the phrase "themed entertainment."
Monty Lunde
TEA past president Peter Chernack (The Chernack Group) is seen here wearing his TEA-branded jacket. The Past Presidents Committee has helped preserve the institutional memory of the organization, and spearheaded significant initiatives such as TEA NextGen, and the TEA20 celebrations. Looking ahead, the PPC slate includes the creation of a TEA Hall of Fame. Chernack commended the TEA20 rebranding effort that has resulted in a new logo and series of branding directives and guidelines - developed by Dale Sprague and Canyon Creative working closely with TEA leadership. It will help visually unite the various TEA Divisions, conferences and initiatives such as NextGen. The new graphic identity was enthusiastically received in Sprague's presentation and the group burst into applause. Chernack commented, “The new look honors our past but celebrates our future. You have done an extraordinary job that will take all of us well into the 21st century."
L-R: Rick Rothschild (FAR Out! Creative Direction), immediate past president of TEA, confers with Jason McManus (Lightning in a Bottle) and Paul Kent (Electrosonic).

Matthew Maldonado (TEA NextGen) and Peter Chernack (The Chernack Group)
Nancy Emerson (Wyatt Design), president of the TEA Western Division makes a point. To her left is Ann Hathaway (Mousetrappe) of the TEA International Board.

TEA president Christine Kerr (BaAM Productions) in the foreground with Chris Conte (Electrosonic) and Ann Hathaway (Mousetrappe) seated in the background.



The assembled group poses for a "TEA family photo" at the close of the meeting.

Also present at the meeting, but not previously named here: Tommy Bridges (ATI) of the TEA International Board, Pat Gallegos (Gallegos Lighting), TEA past president, David Price (DAPA Leisure Group) of the Western Division Board and Tricia Rodriguez (Mad Systems), also of the Western Division Board. Thanks to everyone who attended and worked so hard to make the Themed Entertainment Association the great organization that it is!