If you are a movie and TV watcher like Jonathan Williams of One Smooth Stone, you can visit New York many times without going there. After all, it’s the metropolis where Spider-Man calls home, and where Stark Tower serves as the headquarters of The Avengers. Jonathan Williams, a project coordinator, recently visited the Big Apple for the first time while doing a site inspection for two events. In the following interview, Jonathan shares the joys of discovering Manhattan. Learn more about Jonathan on the One Smooth Stone website.
One Smooth Stone: What was the purpose of your trip to New York?
Jonathan: One Smooth Stone is producing two forthcoming events for AdExchanger — Programmatic I/O, being held at the Marriott Marquis Times Square on October 29, and Industry Preview, being conducted in January at the Grand Hyatt, which is adjacent to Grand Central Terminal. I was in New York to do a site check for both properties. The purpose of a site check is to ensure that the event spaces are going to deliver on all your needs and to make mid-course adjustments as needed.
This was my first visit to New York.
One Smooth Stone: What were your impressions of New York before you arrived?
I felt familiar with New York from seeing the city as a booming metropolis on film and TV.
One Smooth Stone: What were your first impressions once you got there?
Jonathan: It’s a ginormous city. Right away I noticed the absence of personal vehicles. The city is crawling with taxicabs and cars for hire.
It’s always on and always busy. Take Chicago and multiply the level of action by five times and you get a sense of the pace of Manhattan. Union Station in Chicago seems deserted compared to the bustle of Grand Central Terminal.
New York is also a great city for people watching. I walked down to Times Square to take in the sites on a free night. It was different than what I expected. A lot of it is blocked off for pedestrian traffic only. There is less vehicular traffic than I thought I would encounter but far more foot traffic everywhere.
The people watching is great. I must have seen six people dressed as Olaf from Frozen and four Elmos from Sesame Street. I also saw the naked cowboy, who is a fixture on Times Square.
One Smooth Stone: did you get a chance to catch any entertainment?
Jonathan: I saw Something Rotten on Broadway. It was awesome. I had this preconceived idea of theaters in Broadway being these gigantic structures. But a lot of the theater spaces are smaller compared to venues like the Cadillac Theater in Chicago. The St. James Theatre, where Something Rotten is playing, seemed like a small theater to me, but I liked the intimacy of being so close to the stage.
One Smooth Stone: How did the New York on the ground differ from the New York in the movies?
Jonathan: The media saturation is stunning, which you just don’t appreciate until you are on the ground or in the middle of it. The number of LED screens in Times Square is overwhelming. On one corner, you have a 50-foot tall woman modeling jeans, and on another LED screen, you seen an oversized Star Wars advertisement.
I was surprised at how many people just hang out in Times Square doing nothing but watch other people. The movies give you an impression of New York as being a city of constant activity, which is true, but amid the bustle there are many people just watching life go by at their own pace.
I kept seeing snippets of different movies going through my head as I wandered around Manhattan. I would look at a skyscraper and think, “I remember seeing this building in Spider-Man.” When I walked to the St. James Theatre to see Something Rotten, I had this odd sense of deja vu, like I’d been in this place before. After the play was done, I did some research on the St. James Theatre and found out that the movie Birdman was filmed there. Suddenly everything clicked into place. I had been here before, just not in person.
One Smooth Stone: How did the site inspections go?
Jonathan: They went very well. On a site inspection, you review a multitude of details, such as how the rigging for the stage will be done; the dimensions and layout of all the rooms where the event will occur; venue branding opportunities; and logistical considerations such as the location of the freight elevator relative to the ballroom.
I also scoped signage opportunities. One of the things we are doing for AdExchanger is to coordinate signage for their own branding and that for their sponsors. We need to find locations that are high visibility and allowed by the hotel, too.
You need to examine many more issues than what I’ve just described, too.
The deliverable consists of a workable budget and game plan. We deliver to the client a load-in and load-out schedule and a budget for each location.
One Smooth Stone: any tips for travelers doing business in New York?
Jonathan: Be prepared for expensive prices. It’s not a cheap place to do business. Also, make sure you set aside some time to get to know the city. Manhattan is a very walkable location. You can just step outside your hotel at any hour of the day and do incredible people watching.
I also have a few tips for doing site inspections, whether in New York or otherwise. For instance, whenever possible, have your client with you. Doing so makes it easier and faster for you to make decisions together. Be thorough. Ask a lot of questions. There are no stupid questions on a site inspection. Also, get to know not only the space your event is taking place in, but the adjacent spaces as well. It helps to know what else is going on around your event, and what challenges the adjacent space could pose.
I’m really looking forward to going back to New York and learning more about it. Every new city is a new adventure.
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