On November 12, One Smooth Stone will produce Digital Democracy: The Yahoo Conference on Technology & Politics, an event at Drake University that will explore how technology is shaping the future of the democratic process. The stakes are high. We’re talking about a high-profile gathering of superstar pundits — and possibly a few presidential candidates — hosted by Yahoo. Digital Democracy places special demands on any event planner. For instance, in the days leading up to November 12, the event agenda has been largely undefined, by design. The agenda has to be fluid order to accommodate the possibility that presidential candidates might show up on a moment’s notice. Extra security needs to be planned. The team needs to prepare to manage an unusual setting, the campus of Drake University, for an event that will be attended in person and streamed live.
Amid all the unknowns, Executive Producer and One Smooth Stone Vice President Ken Haller looks relaxed in his office at One Smooth Stone in Downers Grove, Illinois, the Friday before the event. He’s even smiling.
“I feel great, and so does our team,” he says. “We are accustomed to dealing with unknowns. We’ll be ready to adjust course instantly when needed.”
But isn’t he a tad bit stressed that he might not know until show time whether a presidential candidate will appear?
“Well, we’re accustomed to having agendas all set a week before an event,” he laughs. “But this is the events industry, and we know how to adapt. If a presidential candidate appears to speak, we won’t have the flexibility of telling them, ‘You go onstage at 9:00 a.m. — be backstage at 8 to get prepared.’ They just don’t have that kind of control of their own time. But technically all we need is 30 seconds to prepare a speaker with microphone. We’ll be ready.”
Ken speaks with the calm of someone who has planned events in 30 countries throughout his 30-year career. He is well suited to manage One Smooth Stone’s role at Digital Democracy, having worked with a wide range of high-profile clients including the Summer Olympics. For Digital Democracy, Ken and his team are handling responsibilities ranging from production of the general session to logistics such as even security and speaker meet-and-greets.
Digital Democracy is a one-of-kind event that thrusts One Smooth Stone into the epicenter of current events, technology and politics. At the event, registered attendees onsite will witness a number of discussions about technology and the democratic process. The agenda will include appearances by high-profile Yahoo journalists such as David Pogue, as well as acclaimed author Nicholas Carr, among other luminaries. Yahoo describes Digital Democracy as an inaugural live news event that will “connect Americans to the people influencing public policies” to answer the question, “How is technology shaping the future of our democratic process and the relationship between citizens and their government?”
The One Smooth Stone team has prepared for the known and unknown, including recruiting Drake University students to act as production assistants in training for last-minute requests that will inevitably arise, just to cite one example of planning ahead. One Smooth Stone has managed myriad other details such as setting up security and planning all the elements such as signage that will be needed to brand the event space. As Digital Democracy illustrates, event planners such as One Smooth Stone live a constant paradox: planning every detail down to a T while leaving room for the unknowns.
Down the road, we’ll provide on update on how the event turned out, and we’ll cover some of the content live via Twitter. You can watch the event live on yahoo.com/politics and follow us on Twitter, where we’ll use #DigitalDemocracy to tag our posts.
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