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“Great experiences must incorporate storytelling, meaningful interactions, emotions, and a heavy dose of theater and presentation skills to make an impact.”

Eddie Newquist, the chief creative officer at Global Experience Specialists, has more than 25 years of experience creating and producing a wide range of events, exhibitions, attractions, and tours for Hollywood brands and studios such as Warner Bros. Entertainment, The Walt Disney Company, Pixar Animation Studios, FOX Broadcasting Company, and Universal Studios. He spent 10 years working with Universal Studios on the creative development and production of theme parks and attractions. While head of the studio division of Iwerks Entertainment, he was responsible for developing a wide variety of special format films and interactive attractions. During the past eight years, he has led the GES entertainment team in a variety of events, promotional tours, holiday experiences, and touring museum exhibitions.

Businessinterviews.com: Tell us more about your role with GES.

Eddie: I wear two hats at GES. I’m the chief creative officer of the company, and I also work with the events and entertainment division on a daily basis. This enables me to work creatively across the company so we can share best practices around the globe. It also allows me to spend time in the entertainment field — where I’ve spent most of my career — and see exciting new applications.

Businessinterviews.com: What do you see as the biggest obstacle when bringing ideas to life at a live event? How do you overcome it?

Eddie: I think the biggest hurdle to overcome is that companies need to understand that a live event needs to stand on its own as a holistic experience. You can’t simply take your website and turn it into an event. Great experiences must incorporate storytelling, meaningful interactions, emotions, and a heavy dose of theater and presentation skills to make an impact.

Businessinterviews.com: What is one of the most innovative marketing projects you’ve tackled?

Eddie: We’ve had a decades-long relationship with Disney, executing some extraordinary initiatives. While there are some that I can’t reveal, one in particular was very innovative: The promotions team asked us to look into touring cars around the world for “Cars 2.”

We worked with the studio on the first film, so we were familiar with the brand’s popularity. For this implementation, the team requested that the full-size cars appear to drive by themselves. We struggled with this because a hidden driver still needed visibility, and the vehicles would have to meet strict vehicle safety standards. The estimate kept climbing, and I didn’t know how we would solve this challenge.

Then, while I was playing with my kids, the idea hit me: We’ll build full-sized radio-controlled vehicles. That solution sidestepped the driver and vehicle issue altogether and brought everything in line. We took the vehicles all over the U.S. and made more than a dozen duplicates for global use. Innovative solutions can come from the most unusual places; you just have to be receptive to trying new things and breaking out of the norm.

Businessinterviews.com: When working with clients, what are a few tips you have on how to manage client expectations and requests along with other factors that make an event possible?

Eddie: Partners must be willing to openly share their utopian visions, which should include financial goals and, ultimately, the goals for the event. Everything should be listed and prioritized.

For example, we partnered with Warner Bros. to create the first live Harry Potter experience, which is currently touring Europe. We’ve enjoyed a great history with the company, and it knew that working with us was going to be an adventure. Every last detail the audience experienced was scrutinized to ensure it delivered on the brand.

Our goal was to provide a completely immersive experience that conveyed the emotional connection guests have with the brand. Then, we created a lofty list of possible experiences and worked with the film producers and department heads to boil them down to the ones with the highest impact.

Doing this creates a relationship that isn’t simply based on dollars and deliverables, rather on meaningful outcomes that help partners grow together.

Businessinterviews.com: Innovation is a huge buzzword right now, especially in the live event space. Walk us through how you and your team brainstorm to come up with truly innovative ideas.

Eddie: Ban the bazookas!

Everyone invited to a brainstorm is allowed to offer whatever comes to mind. You know you’ve achieved the ultimate respect when you can jump into a brainstorm and be free to say something crazy in an effort to create something truly special for a client or partner.

For the Pixar film “Up,” for example, we proposed the idea to fly reporters in a chair tethered to giant helium balloons just like in the film. We were pushing the limits pretty hard, and we spent a lot of time working with the FAA and our insurance company.

It was all considered “too risky” until we did a proof of concept with a Disney executive strapped in the chair out in the desert. The video of the test was a huge hit, and it settled a lot of nerves. We ended up executing that promotional event across America, and we even flew Academy Award-winning film director Pete Doctor up at Pixar.

Walt Disney once said, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” And I couldn’t agree more. At GES, our job is to open people up to new ideas that might seem out of the box or impossible.

Businessinterviews.com: What’s a trend or buzzword that’s been overdone in the live event space?

Eddie: Using a touch screen as an interactive. There are still plenty of uses for touch screens, but it’s important to remember that nearly everyone has a touch-screen smartphone or tablet, so that experience isn’t special or unique anymore.

Businessinterviews.com: You’ve been a part of creating hundreds of experiences. Name one that really sticks out to you as the most successful. Why do you think this event was so successful?

Eddie: I examine and re-examine every experience for the plusses and the minuses, so this is a very tough question.

One that comes to mind is the Twister attraction I created at Universal Studios. The concept was centered on having a full-scale tornado touch down inside the attraction and attack the guests. I was convinced we could take what was basically a simple science demonstration and make it giant.

At that time, though, no one had done this effect larger than a few feet. It took an incredible team of talented people to make it work. That tornado has been thrilling thousands of guests every day for 16 years, and it has spawned a whole slew of duplicates in science centers around the world.

The most successful events are always the ones where the partners and team are aligned, there’s a deep trust to share good news and challenges, and there’s a spirit of working together to ensure the end result. I’m happy to say that as a company, we’ve been part of more successes than failures, and I attribute that to relationships, teamwork, and the love of doing great work.

Businessinterviews.com: What has been the most innovative trend that has changed the live event space over the past few years?

Eddie: From a technical standpoint, I’m very excited about all the lightweight, environmentally friendly materials that are being used. I’m also a huge fan of LED lighting systems, and I love that the cost of audiovisual software and hardware is going down.

From a creative standpoint, I think we’re standing at a new threshold. Companies realize that social media can only deliver so much. So when social media and PR are powered by great experiences, the possibilities are endless. I see more companies willing to push the envelope to create something unique and memorable for their customers. It’s a great opportunity for these brands to stand out and connect in a more meaningful way.

Businessinterviews.com: Tell us about the worst job you ever had. Looking back, what did you learn from this job that got you to where you are today?

Eddie: I’ve learned that there’s no substitute for hard work. You can have a great idea or a great opportunity, but if you don’t stand up and get to work, nothing will come of it.

I used to work on a special-effects stage and would often have to work through the night filming spaceships and starfields. At times, it was exhausting, but no matter how hard the work was, it was always rewarding to see what I had accomplished on screen.

I’ve been blessed to be able to do work that I love. I know that hard work, determination, and dedication can achieve great things, so I never look back or feel bad about hard work.

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