Enroll Now

The Power of In-Person Meetings | Stories With Traction Podcast




SUMMARY: In this episode, Carol Kavanaugh-Arrington and Matt Zaun discuss how in-person meetings spur on innovation and creativity for organizations.

CAROL KAVANAUGH-ARRINGTON BIO: Carol is the Director of Group Sales for Outside DMC.

She became an event producer in 1986 when she moved from Buffalo, NY (Go Bills!) to Hilton Head Island.

For over 25 years, Carol owned and operated Click Event Production, where she focused on fundraising events. Her acclaimed work was highlighted with many Celebrity and televised events.  She proudly was part of raising more than $9.5 million for children's charities local and international nonprofit groups.

Ten years ago, she joined Outside Brands to manage their DMC division and successfully resurrected the business post-pandemic.

For more info, check out Outside DMC or Carol's LinkedIn.

PODCAST EPISODE MENTIONED: What Business Leaders Can Learn From Football

MATT ZAUN BIO: Matt is an award-winning speaker and storyteller who empowers organizations to attract more clients through the art of strategic storytelling. Matt’s past engagements have catalyzed radical sales increases for over 300 organizations that range from financial institutions to the health and wellness industry. 

Matt shares his expertise in persuasion with executives, sales professionals, and entrepreneurs, who he coaches on the art of influence and how to leverage this for profits and impact. 

For more info, check out Matt Zaun HERE


*Below is an AI-generated transcript, which may contain errors.


Matt Zaun 

One of my most favorite aspects of business is getting people in person and creating a surge of ideas.

I can't tell you how many times I've gotten people in a room in person and the creativity is Off the charts and it leads to so many incredible ideas to offer more value to our clients.

I am so excited to unpack more of that because today I am joined by Carol Cavanell Erington. She is the director of group sales of outside DMC.

Carol became an event producer in 1986 when she moved from Buffalo, York to Hilton Head Island. For over 25 years she owned an operated click event production where she focused on fundraising events and her acclaimed work was highlighted with many celebrity and televised events.

Not only that but she proudly was part of raising more than $9.5 million for children's charities local and internationally.

Ten years ago she joined outside brands to manage their DMC division, Destiny Management Company. And successfully resurrected the business post pandemic.

I'm so excited for you to be here.


Carol Kavanaugh-Arrington (Outside Brands)

Carol, welcome to the stories with Traction podcast. Matt, I'm so thrilled to be here. This is going to be a really great conversation.

enjoyed meeting you and we're excited to collaborate and share some information.


Matt Zaun 

I have been waiting for this interview for quite some time in anticipation because we had met a couple months ago and I learned more about your industry.

And I just got really excited because I love what you do. There's something to be said about bringing people back together and having this surge of ideas.

So I want to start right there and then I want to unpack more of your story, maybe how you got into this, but I really want to capture this for people.

So prior to COVID, someone quoted this to me, a very reliable source. So prior to COVID, 2019, there were 400,000 conferences that took place.

In fact, in the US, it was the number one, on investment year for trading and development for employees across the country and leadership groups across the country.

then we know what happened. COVID happened in 2020. That fell off the cliff. And now it is coming back in a big, big way.

It's not totally where it was when it comes to 2019 numbers, but it's coming back. However, as it comes back, I'm still hearing some leaders say, oh, we don't need to get together in person.

We don't need to do that. And it amazes me because yes, there is a place for hybrid work, but they're missing out on big, big opportunities.

So can you just speak to some of the things you've seen firsthand? Well, first off, briefly tell us what you do.

And then what happens when people come together through what you do?


Carol Kavanaugh-Arrington (Outside Brands)

Let's start there. Yeah. So as a destination management company for DMC, our goal is number one to be experts in our destinations that we are the main connection from

meeting centers wherever they are and handle everything above what the hotel would do. So our focus is evening events, entertainment, activities, transportation, staffing, gifting experiences.

So call of those things and sometimes meeting planners, know, they might call and say we need a band for Tuesday nights, welcome party, and then we start talking about all the different things that we can do and the access that you can give them.

And it turns into a whole different level through that kind of needs assessment call. So it's really, really exciting to collaborate with clients on a one-on-one basis and create vision of a program.

And as far as, you know, the industry coming back post-pandemic, we had sold our biggest year for 2020, the biggest year in the history company.

And on Friday, March 13th, We got the word that our first group was canceling, and they were supposed to come in on Sunday.

Their program was planned, it was paid for, it was in the books, and we found out on Friday that that group was not coming on Sunday.

So it was kind of interesting when that happened, you know, the area that were in the low country is kind of designed for social distancing, right?

So it was all developed with a focus on nature and not architecture. So people were kind of flooding to this area because they could work remotely, and they could send their kids out on a dolphin either tour while they're, you know, sitting on the beach with their laptop.

So it was a really, really interesting thing that was what was happening there on the leisure side of things, but of course the group side kind of shut down.

In September of 2020 when our first group came back, they were ready to go. We kind of limped through 2020.

And in 2021, things started to come back. Things were all short-term bookings. We would have groups of 45 people coming in in two weeks and they needed everything.

Any transportation, vendor reservations, they needed everything. And of course, that's what we do. You react, you get it done, you move on.

And then we would have groups all of a sudden, 200 pop up here and there. all of a sudden things were coming back.

we went from September of 2020 until many of last year with solid nonstop business coming. And it was coming in like a train.

And now I think things are kind of normalizing a little bit. I think, you know, summertime, people have family travel and things like that.

So now we're coming back into that big season in the fall and then a lot of stuff coming in the spring.

But, you know, it's definitely coming back to that one-on-one in-person conversations. You know, we were talking about... You can send somebody a text and just say, that's fine.

Is it fine? That's fine. It's so different. And you just don't know what the intonation is. If you're sitting next to somebody or in the office and you hear over here conversations and you can contribute and you can learn.

And it's just a different, different level. And that's what we're seeing. we're seeing it from the leadership level. I just came back from IMEX, which is an industry trade show and international trade show that brings suppliers and buyers together.

So destinations from all over the world and everything from corporate to individual companies and things like that go to learn more about different destinations.

And it was 20,000 people. I mean, it was remarkable. The group that I was with, Global DMC partners, had 900 meetings in the course of three days.

Big time stuff. And it's all about that. That's all we heard. It was the return of in-person, return of in-person.


Matt Zaun

So it was a great Very, very cool to experience that. Wow, that's awesome. So there's a lot that I want to unpack with what you said.

So the very first thing that you had said is experts in destination. And this means a little bit more to me because I've, you know, I met you in person kind of speaks to the importance of meeting in person, right?

it speaks a lot to me because when I did meet you a couple of months ago and you were talking about your industry, that expert in destination goes deep.

Like you're really passionate about what you do to the point of looking at every detail to make sure that it is an incredible, an incredible experience for people that do this.

And when I think about that, here's what a lot of business leaders might be missing out on when they just really nearly pull events together, especially for me being a speaker that I've traveled all of the United States and made tons and tons of venues, tons of retreat areas, conferences, and it's

Amazing to me when I go to a place and in my mind, I'm thinking What in the world? How was this not thought of verse going to a yeah verse going to a place where I'm like Wow, this is awesome.

And guess what? I remember those awesome experiences for years later Years later.


Carol Kavanaugh-Arrington (Outside Brands)

what we saw right 100% that's exactly what we saw So it's so awesome. So, uh, you know, I got to Hilton head in 1986 My brother was a musician here.

had a cousin here and I kind of fell into the industry I you know, I was working for YMCA in Buffalo, New York came out here and went to work for the youth center The youth center was producing major events and taking that management fee to raise funds for the island's first Recreation center.

So it was kind of a different approach I was working with a great guy named Chuck wargus and we were doing the Bud Light national triathlon championship Which was a crazy event

I just got kind of got bit by the bug and I was good at it. know, I was good at being absorbed in those details and processing things to make things better.

You know, when we were in Vegas, we went to U2 at the sphere, which was unbelievable. But I will tell you, every single person we came into contact with was unbelievably well-trained.

They were so professional. I was having a problem with my phone. I couldn't access the tickets right away. The lines to get in were super short, easy to move around.

And the guy was like, you know what? Just take a step to the side. Once you get figured out, we'll get you in.

If not, we'll take the right to customer service and you're good to go. You go in the restroom. There's four tendons in there.

Wiping counters down, all professional, you, thanking you. You go to get your seats seats are, let me get you there.

Y'all said when you leave, the security staff is standing there clapping and thanking you. for coming. It was an unbelievable, well thought out experience from start to finish on those touch points.

And that's what we do as a DMC. am always looking for different ways to have those exceptional experiences and taking the ordinary to extraordinary.

So, you know, my background with that nonprofit event fundraising, I was pretty scrappy. You kind of have to, when you're searching for money, you'll walk into a restaurant and we'll look, scope the room and go, what can I get from that person?

How much money can I get over here? What can we do? What can we, you know, where can we fit it?

How can we make it good for the sponsors? You know, all of that stuff. So I gained a lot of connections then, opened a lot of doors.

It was very fun. We produced a lot of stuff. We raised a lot of money. So it was very well respected.

So you kind of build a nice reputation there. And then when I came to work with outside, we had the chance to work with a woman named Kelly Corn, who is the event producer at Montau

push-on-the-glove back then, was an odd bearish property. So she would do very, very high-end, high-style events, you know, just a quick little half-million dollar bar mitzvah.

But what's cool about it is when we collaborate on an event, she can put together this whole big program, and I can come back with the budget, and we can pull the different elements to give that feel of the big vision board to the client at their price point, and then kind of work that way, or say, you know what, maybe you book this with us, but maybe you book direct here to shift some money in the budget and things like that.

So that's what we do to really bring everything together there.


Matt Zaun

That's awesome. That was awesome. And as you're saying this, my mind immediately went to an article that read about a year ago.

So I think there's a really powerful article, and I really think leaders should pay attention to this. So I'm reading this article, and in the article is about Google.

Okay, now before I say that, Let me preface. I am not downplaying hybrid work at all.


Carol Kavanaugh-Arrington (Outside Brands)



Matt Zaun 

I'm not.


Carol Kavanaugh-Arrington (Outside Brands)

Yeah, we got to do it.


Matt Zaun 

There's a there's a place for that.


Carol Kavanaugh-Arrington (Outside Brands)



Matt Zaun

this article talked about all the money. Google was saving by having their workers work remote. And then there was a plot twist at the end and the very end of the article.

It talked about how Google wanted to bring their people back. And here's why, because I'm reading this and it's like total plot to us.

They're talking about how much money they're saving, but what it says. So Google is known as a very creative company.

They make money based on their creativity. At the very end, it said that they were missing out on so much innovation and creativity that they needed to bring people back together in person to get that back.

So there could be people listening to this podcast and they may be thinking, Oh my gosh, I don't want to shell out money to do something like that.

Carol. But it's an investment because as you bring your people together, you have the surge of ideas and it can lead to more innovation and creativity in your business.

So you could be missing out on a ton of revenue that could be brought in based on these retreats.


Carol Kavanaugh-Arrington (Outside Brands)

I thought that was fascinating.


Matt Zaun 

How do we look at it?


Carol Kavanaugh-Arrington (Outside Brands)

truly is. And you know, here's the thing. I spend probably at least eight hours a day on email and phone calls and text messages.

It makes such a difference to be with someone face to face and you know, have conversation grown naturally and to be able to talk about my crazy dogs or the Buffalo Bills or, you know, whatever, whatever it comes up.

It changes the connection with that individual person at a great site visit yesterday with a client that had a budget.

We were really working together well. You know, we connected. We were changing the focus of the program a little bit.

And then I was taking him to the airport. And we had the most incredible. personal conversation, his dad had died a year ago, my dad died this year.

That is an immediate bonding experience. And you know, what happens then is you really build that connection. He's not going to go look at a competitor at that point because we have that personal connection.

And that's really what it's all about. I mean, that's all we do all day long and this, you have to be flexible.

You have to have that access because we need to be able to give it. If all of sudden I've got an event and it down for us and I got a ship, I need to have people in my pocket that I can call and say, Hey, you know what, can you open up the brewery for a private tour?

Or, you know, one time we had a group rain out and I called the head pro or the Harvard Sound Golf course where the PGA tournament is played, the heritage and he gave it behind the scenes tour or the golf of the pro shop.

And you know, you've got to be able to have that and be ready to go and be ready to pivot.

It's a ridiculous word that everybody's used way too much. But that's all we do, you know, and I've got an amazing support.

team that that delivers all of that stuff because they're the ones that are in the trenches, you know, kind of dealing with all that in the moment.


Matt Zaun

Sure, sure. So you had to mention the bills. appreciate that. So you bring up a really good point with that.

And what we were talking about prior to this podcast episode was football and the bills. I recently had an episode, a podcast episode launch with Will Bagget.

He is very into the business of football. An amazing episode. It was called What Business Leaders Can Learn From Football.

Okay. There's so many creative things. lot of people that are into football, they look at a winning team and they don't see everything that goes on behind the scenes.

There's a ton of creativity that goes on behind the scenes and a lot of focus. And what is beautiful about what you do is it one thing that people missed was those side conversations.

during COVID. And some of those side conversations lead to so much creativity, so much focus. And it is outside of our normal realm, but that's how we're pulling in the innovation.

So I really appreciate you just saying something, you know, as simple as the bills brought back this whole idea on we see different championship teams and or to create a championship team, they need to build connectivity.

They need to be doing that and you empower people to do that.


Carol Kavanaugh-Arrington (Outside Brands)

I appreciate that. So when we were in the nonprofit event fundraising mode, had a business partner, Kim Capen, and she and I, when we were coming up with like a new idea, let's say we were going to do a new function at a big golf tournament that we were doing.

Whoever had the idea would would throw it out there and intrinsically the other person would argue it down and break it down to it's to every single thing that could possibly go wrong.

So that when we're in the moment, if something else goes wrong, we kind of know. how to fix everything else and make it go forward.

We've got to visualize every single bit of the program from the guest experience. When that guest arrives at the airport, how they're greeted, how their experience is at the airport.

If they lose their luggage, here's your driver. Let me introduce to him. Make sure that the drivers have appropriate conversations on the way to the hotel.

Make sure that the vehicles are clean, that the drivers don't smell. With all of that, so it's a greeted and they have that experience from the moment they set foot on the ground to the moment they leave.

One of the things I always loved, I moved away for about 10 years to gain some real life experience, but I had family here and I would come back and I'd drive back and I'd be driving back to Atlanta and I'd hit make it and I would just kind of like move my arm and smell Hilton Head on my clothes.

So I always like to bring that sense back to people that they're always gonna remember. their time here. They're always going to remember the music that they heard, the food that they ate, you know, all of those little things that aren't really little.

They're very, very important. You know, so if I even have a group that comes in and all of a sudden the CEO is like, oh, forgot to bring my favorite cigar.

You know, we've literally called people and have them sneak into the cigar shop and get us whatever that that client was looking for because it's a thing.


Matt Zaun

And here's what I don't want people to miss that are hearing this. Part of the investment, financial investment, is them not having to go through decades of mistakes, learning all this stuff to create that experience.


Carol Kavanaugh-Arrington (Outside Brands)

You know, you had mentioned you've been an event producer since 1986. That's 37. You don't need to put numbers.


Matt Zaun 

No, I want I want to be able to just understand the magnitude of the number that for 37 years you've ironed out You've gone through trial and error you figured out what works So not only are people investing and having their people come together and connect to have that innovation and creativity They're also investing in everything that you thought of for 37 years brought together and that's so powerful because They don't want to spend 37 years of their life figuring out right so almost it's like It's it's inexpensive when you think about it in that realm because they're going to be able to do this You know I always say when I went when I'm when I'm speaking or when I'm doing consulting I'm literally sharing something that I've personally ironed out for the 15 Last years of my life, right?

I'm handing it to people on a silver platter Here's everything I wish I would have known 15 years ago to say people from headache and you've you've twice that


Carol Kavanaugh-Arrington (Outside Brands)

out over. We made a lot of mistakes along the way. There's no doubt about it. And you know, the interesting thing that happened too after post-pandemic was they split my role.

So I now am directly focused on sales. And now we have an operations director who's remarkable because I can't do everything.

I don't want to do everything anymore. After 37 years, I'd like to be at home with my dog. But you know, so we also have to let other people learn and make mistakes on their own too.

And that's kind of bringing up that next generation. You know, for event planners, there's a lot of people out there like, oh my God, I love to be an event planner.

You know, it'd be so fun. And they think it's, you know, planning pretty parties and, you know, you know, that pretty little vision for Instagram.

But what they don't see is people crawling around the floor at two in the morning, putting together gift bags and things like that.

You know, there's short how much that goes into it. And there's a lot of long days and then the flex time is awesome too.

One of the things that you were talking about earlier when you travel and things like that, you can have a meeting anywhere.

You could have a meeting at the Marriott and the Atlanta airport. That's a place to do it. Or you can really build that experience.

getting people outside, people to do things, getting them out of that boardroom. Obviously, you've got to get business done.

But when you bring people to a different experience, it changes everything. It takes them out of their comfort zone.


Matt Zaun 

I'm literally laughing because I was just talking to a friend of mine who had to go to the Marriott meeting room in the Atlanta airport.


Carol Kavanaugh-Arrington (Outside Brands)

it was a drug room.


Matt Zaun 

Why would you spend that money?


Carol Kavanaugh-Arrington (Outside Brands)

It was a drug, it was a drugery for him.


Matt Zaun

So one of the things I don't want people to miss, as you mentioned, you love working at home and being with your dog.


Carol Kavanaugh-Arrington (Outside Brands)

I want to highlight this because you're not against working for. Oh, I am a hundred percent hybrid. But when I'm home, I don't even throw a load of laundry in.

I am locked in and I am focused because I can't, with this stuff, you have to be so quick on responses and thoughtful on this.


Matt Zaun 



Carol Kavanaugh-Arrington (Outside Brands)

But I also have to go to the office at least two days week because I need to be around other people.

I need to listen in on those conversations. I need to know what other people are doing. You pick up ideas.

It makes such a big difference to be able to collaborate and create with someone face-to-face than it has through emails.

I love email. can count out so much work. I don't know where we would be without it. I also have the generation where I sat with an IBM Selectric typewriter with the crazy little backspace and all that stuff.


Matt Zaun 



Carol Kavanaugh-Arrington (Outside Brands)

So I think you have to have that.


Matt Zaun 

I think that's going to be the future for sure.


Carol Kavanaugh-Arrington (Outside Brands)

And I wanted to highlight that because I have seen either or with a lot of leaders where it's either Everyone will come to the office and there will be butts in seats We mandate everyone come back or everyone's gonna be 100% versatile We never get this we will never have to see you again face-to-face and I do think there's a healthy balance I appreciate you highlighting that yeah, I think you have to have the healthy balance I think the biggest thing for me that we took from 2020 was to have to set those boundaries to Not have your phone on all the time Sometimes it can wait and that was again the division of my role But I didn't have to to have my phone going 24-7 But you have to have that balance But you know we just bought a great home out in the little remote country area and it's got a little pond to me I call it the lake, but it's it's kind of our soft place to land and after

You know pushing and working so hard for so long.


Matt Zaun

This is a big gift to us a lot.


Carol Kavanaugh-Arrington (Outside Brands)

Just lot of work to become projects. But that's another story.


Matt Zaun 

Nice. Well, you had mentioned GIF. That's a great segue. So I appreciate this conversation. It was almost a gift to me.

I've been waiting for this for quite some time. appreciate you, especially what you do, your organization. love what you do.

I've seen the power of in-person events for years now. And I want to continue to keep that up. love it.

So I appreciate the conversation. There are three things that I'm going to remember from this conversation. I appreciate you mentioning experts in destination.

I appreciate the passion that you bring to what you do. I mean, and that really came through to me when I admit you in person, just how passionate you are.

Because you've seen this in action and what it can do for companies. The second point is the wow experience.

You understand that when someone walks in the room and their immediate reaction is wow that really sticks with them.

then the third and final piece is the attention to details. You're focused on looking at details that some people might overlook that might be small and minute but they have big ripple effects.

So those are the three big takeaways. I know other people got other takeaways from hearing this and if they did what is the best place that they can go to get your information or more more information on outside DMC.


Carol Kavanaugh-Arrington (Outside Brands)

Well let's let's bring people here. So we love to do a site visit. We can bring companies here. We can get them out on the water.

We can take them to the South Carolina Yacht Club and have an exceptional experience there and taste the food and maybe go listen to some great music.

That's kind of the starting point. And we can do it. We can start a phone call, sorry conversation and figure out what it is that we can do.

How can we make it work? What's the best bit? So I think we we expect. tell in that area to and again to get to those finer points and details because they do make such a big difference.

Nobody is going to know that I picked up a cocktail napkin that was on the floor. But if that cocktail napkin is there, they're going to notice that and they're going be like, oh, place to try to shoot.

You know, but it's those little teen tiny things that make the huge difference.


Matt Zaun

Perfect. All right. So is your website the best the best fit they just click and go?


Carol Kavanaugh-Arrington (Outside Brands)

Yeah, website is outside DMC.com. You can I'm on LinkedIn. I'm on Facebook just as Carol Pavanagh at Aireington. We do some great posts with outside DMC on Instagram and outside experiences as our parent company.

They do some incredible posts there too.


Matt Zaun 

So really, really fun things there. Okay, great. I'll make sure that that is then the show notes. People could just go to your website or go to your LinkedIn and connect to you there.

But again, thank you. Thank you so much for this conversation.


Carol Kavanaugh-Arrington (Outside Brands)

I really appreciate it, Carol. Totally appreciate the opportunity to talk with you. let's grow. Let's do some stuff together.



Want weekly updates...

to take your storytelling
to a whole new level?