“This was the best work trip I’ve ever attended.” That statement carries a lot of weight when your career requires you to travel to different industry events and you regularly get to see what our country has to offer. However, that was the exact phrase that an Exertis Almo employee said to me when I asked him what JBL Fest 2019 was like. For the 2nd consecutive year (not counting 2020/2021 due to the pandemic shutdown), our sales team at Exertis Almo was selected to participate in a sales incentive with the grand prize being a trip for 2 to Las Vegas to attend JBL Fest 2022. This year, we had five lucky winners (and their spouses) descend onto Las Vegas from Sept 27th-Sept 30th. Christina Smith, Kenny Razor, Kyle Smith, Cassidy Alley and Doug Schulte all did an incredible job to earn this opportunity, and congrats to all of them! I took on the role of “Unofficial Tour Guide” to make sure they got the most from the trip and did not miss any of the swag opportunities either. Allow me to do the same for you as I attempt to paint a picture of what this experience was truly like.
Leading up to the 27th, I made sure to review the itinerary which included the Harman Tech Forum, Installed Audio Masterclass, Content Creation Master Class with world famous DJ Morgan Page, and multiple concerts and club events each night. Once landing in Las Vegas, you are greeted in the baggage claim area by multiple people holding JBL Fest signs and helping usher you to the waiting bus in the parking lot to take you to the destination. Admittedly still jetlagged from the 3-hour time difference and 2:30am wakeup, I was happy it was a short ride to the Virgin Hotel where immediately you hear the bass thumping, see a bright JBL-orange truck and a solid-gold dancer just in the parking lot. It was tough NOT to hang out in the parking lot with everyone else. Once checked in you immediately feel thrown into the experience of JBL Fest. Bright colored signage everywhere and an oversized chair that replicates JBL earbuds are sitting in the lobby. The short walk from the registration area to the room was well worth it when you open the door to your room and find there is a concert stage directly outside your room (more on that a little later on 😊 ). Once I was settled and rested, I decided to head down to the JBL Hospitality Lounge where I was checked in and “tagged” with an orange JBL bracelet that acts as your “tracker” for all the events you attend and it’s your VIP pass. I am all about branding, so I certainly did not mind wearing a JBL bracelet for a few days. Once finished with check-in, I was told to go into the lounge and pick up my “welcome gift,” while assuming it was a fidget spinner or pop socket; you know, the usual swag that is handed out. Instead, I’m given a Herschel/JBL branded backpack that was filled with JBL noise cancelling wireless earbuds, a premium wireless battery pack, a premium wireless phone charger, and a JBL fanny pack (which now sits on my Michael Scott standup at home, haha). I do not want to give off the impression that I can be bought with premium swag, but this sure was a nice way to welcome guests to the event!
After a brief bit of downtime to explore the hotel, it was time to meet up with the rest of the Exertis Almo team and head to Club JBL for the 1st night of concerts, headlined by pop star Bebe Rexha. Food, drinks, and sitting feet away from future NFL Hall of Famer, Rob Gronkowski, made this a great first night for everyone — ending with Bebe Rexha singing some of her more radio-popular hits from the past few years. Waking up on Wednesday, it was time to roll as we had our busiest day ahead. Starting with the Harman Tech Forum, which featured several panel discussions on the future of the metaverse, where the automotive industry is heading, and learning how athletes and celebrities are using technology to become more accessible to their fans. Capped off with a Shark Tank-like presentation of innovative ideas, we also heard from President and CEO of Harman International, Michael Mauser. Afterwards we took a brief hiatus to head to the Maui Jim Gifting Experience. Essentially, you went outside to a group of tables where they were designed to look like a sunglasses retail store. You were instructed to try on as many pairs as you wanted and select which you liked best. They literally hand you a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses for FREE! Just chalk that up to another piece of premium swag that Harman treated to their
guests. With our new sunglasses in hand, we then headed the Pro Audio Installed Masterclass. Among the presenters was Saben Shawhan who is the Director of Audio Applications at Harman Pro. Saben is a personal favorite of mine, and he certainly did not disappoint this time around. Standing on a mock stage with speakers all around him, Saben went through a brief slide presentation on each series including the CBTs, PRX One, Eon One MK2, and the new SRX900s. However, the fun part was the actual product demo. Featuring an eclectic mix of music to highlight the strengths of these different speakers, we went one by one to fully immerse yourself in each. While all were extremely impressive, I think my chest is still feeling the bass knock on the SRX900s from the heavy techno music that was playing. Holy cow did that speaker really impress me!
As if I was not already feeling excited and inspired enough, I was then approached by Whitney Bosch and Frank Joseph from the Harman Marketing team with what I can only describe as quite an honor –having a private 1-on-1 meeting with Michael Mauser himself. To have Michael touch on our sales growth at Exertis Almo and then ask for my thoughts and feedback on the improving supply chain and how to continue improvement was something I will never forget. There are certain moments in your career when you might experience an emotional “high” or a “flow state” as I’ll describe later…..and this was certainly one of those times. Thank you to Whitney and Frank for affording me that opportunity.
After heading back to my room feeling as excited and inspired as ever, I started to hear some “disruption” outside my window to find that the sound check was starting for the night’s musical guests, The Kid Laroi and Doja Cat. I would like to think that I have a wide-spanning taste in music; there is something about live drums and guitars that just perks the ears regardless of the musical artist. I wound up standing by my window overlooking the stage for a good 35 minutes just watching and listening. After being a gracious guest for drinks with the Harman Marketing team and toasting the successful event, we headed to the VIP section outside on the lawn for the evening concert. First stop was the bar where you receive a blinking glow-in-the-dark JBL cup to enjoy the drinks all evening, and then I found my way to the balcony ledge with a clear view of the stage just in time for Kid Laroi to appear. While I do not know all his music, the best moment of his set was when he played “Stay” which is easily his biggest hit song and clearly recognizable to everyone in attendance. I overheard a lot of people saying, “oh this is that song from Tik Tok,” truly a sign of the digital world we live in. Once Doja Cat came on stage and ran through some of her hits, it was time to end the evening with another day of fun ahead on Thursday.
While the final day was a lot more relaxed and mellow, I was ready and waiting for the Content Creation Masterclass featuring DJ Morgan Page. Morgan conducted a presentation on his “Quick Tips,” which essentially are a guide for how to reduce complexity in whatever you do and as he puts it: “grease the wheels of resistance.” Every attendee received a box of his quick tips cards, which I am guilty of looking at ever since I returned home. One point that I raised previously was in regard to experiencing “flow state.” As Morgan described, a “flow state” is when you find yourself in such a groove with your work that time is flying by, and you are in such enjoyment with what you are doing that you remain in a state of constant flow. That really resonated with me and as I attempted to describe it here, this trip was my “flow state.” The final event of the trip was offsite at Hakkassan nightclub featuring world famous DJ Martin Garrtix. Lights, smoke, loud club music, and plenty of drinks and good conversation to go around. It was the ideal way to end the trip. Having “foolishly” booked a 3:30am Uber ride the next morning to head home, I knew the wise thing was to end the night and go back to the hotel.
As I sit here composing my thoughts and memories from the trip, I just received a message from Christina Smith, Exertis Almo Director of Sales and one of the lucky incentive winners for JBL Fest. Christina says, “this time last week we were all arriving in Vegas” to which I replied, “and now I sit here writing about it.” This was easily the best trip of my entire career as it was so methodically planned out by everyone at Harman that it truly was the perfect blend of education and entertainment.