We had the most wonderful FEAT evening on Thursday night. I didn't get much sleep before airport drops on Friday morning so I've been a bit of a zombie and was so totally communicationed out. But I'm back...
Let's see... this was the BIGGEST FEAT event thus far with around 900 people in the Linder Auditorium. It seats 1060 so we weren't full; I have no doubt that next year we will be.
There are always things to improve on - and I've got a list. With a new venue there will be teething problems but as Linder will be FEAT's home for a long while to come, I've got the opportunity to iron out the kinks. BTW - my dates for next year are already reserved. I've got 1 and 8 October as options... I'll probably go with 8 October.
If you'll indulge me... more than anything it is my team at FEAT that are so special. I really could not pull it off (or get through the night!) without them by my side.
I always get through to the venue really early to get things ready for the people who have stuff to setup. When I arrive my AV guy, Johan (from Showgroup) - and his assistant Piet - already had the projection screens up as well as the LED lights for the back wall lighting.
They really made the stage look amazing. The venue is actually an orchestra venue so adding LED lighting against the rear wood-panelled wall added dimension. We put up two huge screens, elevated and angled them and projected from the balcony.
I was totally impressed with what the guys created for me. I've used Showgroup in the past (Alexandra Theatre - Oct 2011 and 2012) and I've always gone to them without looking elsewhere because I used to work alongside them back in the day when I was doing tv camera work at events. Always professional. And they more than lived up to expectations. Without hesitation I'll have them back next year.
Alistair, an AR friend, is my sound guy and he has been with me for every event. He even came down to Cape Town with me in Feb 2011. Al makes sure that everything runs smoothly - sound being very critical!
My dear adventurer friend Ray came up from Cape Town for FEAT, as he does every year. He comes up either the day before or in the morning and kindly allows himself to be dogsbody for things that need doing. Floor decals, banners, parking signs, photo wall assembly, rigging speakers with mics, helping me to pack everything up afterwards. Ray has spoken on the FEAT stage twice. Not having Ray at FEAT would be like missing a hand.
My mom... Her involvement with FEAT starts months before and the amount of stuff she allows me to get her to do is vast. But more than anything she gives me unwavering support, which really keeps the boat afloat and my sanity intact.
Also on my core team is Kyle, who has run the slides for the past three years. Kyle was a speaker at the first FEAT in Oct 2010. Staci (the same crochet Staci) can handle anything. This year she took on the sales of FEAT Buffs. Lauren is so totally an old hand at the Guest Ticket Table where she passes on the complimentary tickets assigned to the partners of speakers, sponsors and media. She also handles a host of other issues that I don't even get to hear about (but I'm very certain they're there), like from audience members who don't know their seat numbers, can't find their tickets...
Maggi and Marcel did the photography again for me this year (they also shot Forest Run earlier in the year). I pretty much just leave them to it and from when they got involved last year I've been impressed by their commitment and attention to detail. Maggi is a whiz with the photo wall.
Willem and Tiaan are my videography guys and they've shot all the events except the one in CT. Back in the day I worked with both guys. We travelled around the country shooting all kinds of events and activities for about two years. Like the rest of my team, I just leave these two to it and they make nice-nice.
Heidi is a newcomer - but a long-time friend - and this was her first FEAT. She worked magic to make me look presentable on stage ;)
I brought in my young orienteering friends this year to be door ushers. It was the first FEAT for all but one and they are such FEAT fans now. Ant, Brad, Caitlin, Jess, Sarah B, Sarah P, Tim and Dylan were bubbling with excitement and enthusiasm. I printed floor plans of the theatre and seating plans for their section and didn't worry about another thing. As orienteers, they do maps. They were accompanied by Zoe (Staci's charming daughter) and Tayla (my mom's friend's daughter) - who I didn't get to meet.
Libia and Gideon kept an eye on things in the foyer. They've assisted me at many events going back - from being on my marshalling team for the Spur adventure events to guiding cars into parking at last year's FEAT. They thoroughly enjoy the variety of the events and are always game for anything.
For me, having a team I can trust is non-negotiable. There are so many things happening on the night and when each person does what they have to do, then it really is easy. And it was.
The talks were as diverse and varied as always. It is impossible to pick a favourite because each speaker and topic is so different. This year there were 10 talks and 14 speakers in total (four of the talks were by pairs).
One talk that will be talked about for a long time to come is definitely that by the young Wits Yacht Club sailors, Patrick Chappel and Alistair Moodie. They did the Cape2Rio yacht race in Jan and we've been in contact for some time. They were in the audience at FEAT last year.
The pair came on to stage wearing their foul weather gear, which is what they started the trip in - awful weather out of Cape Town. And they took off layers during their talk down to their Speedos. That will be a hard one to beat ;)
Planning the speaker order is a bigger deal than you can imagine - to get the right mix and flow and variety. Many of the speakers I only meet on the night so while I know the topic, I don't know what they're going to be like. I'm never disappointed because speakers are always a great bunch of people. This year the order really worked well.
To Alistair, Clyde, Cobus, David, Guy, Jacques, Patrick, Ryno, Sean, Squash, Steve, Tracy, Vasti and Vaughan - thank you. You are FEAT.
I also have the most amazing sponsors. They all got so much more involved this year and really pulled out the stops to have an awesome presence in the foyer. Sure, FEAT needs their money to make the event happen, but more than this I need them. Their support and involvement. And they were so totally there this year. Thank you Black Diamond, Fluid Kayaks, Powertraveller and Trappers.
Also in the foyer I had a bunch of adventurers with their books - many of them past speakers. I've read most of them and can highly recommend getting your hands on their books. Feedback from them is that they did sell some copies and they were also delighted to autograph copies that the audience brought with them to have signed. And also just to chat to people. Lovely interactions.
I look forward to growing this aspect of FEAT. It really is a big deal to write and publish a book and FEAT is the best place to celebrate and share this.
The photo wall this year had a kayaking theme and we had a Fluid sit-on-top plus paddles, helmets, PFDs as accessories with a waterfall (kayaker dropping down it) backdrop. I look forward to seeing the photos.
Maggi and Marcel are busy editing photos, which will go up on Facebook shortly. The video footage is in with my editor, Anel (she has edited all FEAT events). Talks will start to go up online in the next few weeks. I enjoy watching them because I often miss bits during the night.
On Friday I spent a lot of time on the phone calling my team and speakers. I also spoke to my catering guys - they made up all the platters for the speakers and guests pre-show and also ran the bar.
"Your audience is fabulous," they told me. "Such nice people. We hope you'll be back again because we'll do anything you need, any time."
Yes, that's the FEAT audience.
I feel like a proud parent whose child is complimented by strangers for being good and well behaved and polite and well brought up. Even the audience does me proud.
So that was FEAT Jo'burg 2014.
My next adventure? Sleeping!
P.S. This post marks my 1000th blog entry. Goodness!