The 12th Floor: Meet Alex Ernst from the Toronto Office
Our fifth post in the series features Event Coordinator Alex Ernst. Hello, Alex!
Spencer Gordon: What’s your role here at the Agency? And how do you describe your job to others?
Alex Ernst: I am an event coordinator, which means I handle the nuts and bolts behind getting a speaker to event, delivering the goods, and getting them home (hopefully in one piece). To help describe my job, I preface with, “You know those speeches to banks Hillary Clinton is catching a lot of heat for? Well, there’s a ‘me equivalent’ behind the scenes turning the sausage-making machine. In this example, a keynote speech is a sausage.”
SG: What’s your favourite part about the job?
AE: Facilitating the spread of ideas of some truly unique and brilliant minds, and working with said unique and brilliant minds.
SG: What is the most challenging part about your job?
AE: Working with strict deadlines is challenging, but in a good way! The most challenging—in a bad way—is dealing with airlines. A pox upon thee.
SG: Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you come to work here? What were you doing before?
AE: I used to do this sort of thing in university, and it never really occurred to me that it was an option as a job. My educational background is in genetics (really), but hot tip: industrial science is not the most fun. Right before I started here I was working at a laboratory at the northernmost iron mine in the world. It was cold: like -50 Celsius cold. I don’t think the winter south of Hudson’s Bay is cold anymore. Dark, too! Undeniably beautiful though.
SG: What is the best (or what were some of the best) keynotes you’ve seen?
AE: My current favourite is Martin Ford’s Rise of the Robots. His book won the Financial Times 2015 Business Book of the Year and his keynote based on it is excellent. It’s fascinating to hear a successful entrepreneur and business advocate, and make sound arguments for, a guaranteed income for all.
SG: What are some of your favourite books/projects authored by Lavin speakers?
AE: Dataclysm by Christian Rudder is way funnier than you’d expect from a book about data collection and analysis. I also enjoy Matt Taibbi’s books and Rolling Stone columns. His investigations into what America really is like are illuminating, hilarious, and maddening, but a neat peek into the psyche of the red, white and blue.
SG: Do any of our speakers speak on topics close to your interests, passions, commitments, and so forth in particular?
AE: Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben, two outspoken advocates for our transition away from fossil fuels to sustainable energy, are fighting the good fight. It would be super chill if the Earth stays the Earth and doesn’t become Venus. (I’m not pulling Venus out of thin air; it’s commonly used as the model for what the runaway greenhouse effect looks like.)
SG: Are there any highlights of your time here that you’d like to share?
AE: We have cake on everyone’s birthday, and since we have like 35 employees here, that’s three cakes a month. That’s a good cake: no cake ratio.
SG: What are the most common questions you’re asked about being an Event Coordinator?
AE: Can I interview Ta-Nehisi Coates for my blog?
SG: How do you ensure that a speaker makes it to an event, and gets home safe, without problems?
AE: A magician doesn’t reveal his secrets. I’m not a magician though, so I just pay attention, stay organized, work hard, and collaborate with everyone.
SG: If there are unavoidable problems with travel, how do you solve them?
AE: Quickly cycle through the five stages of grief, regroup, and get to work. Some things are not in your control and some things are. Accept those that aren’t and rectify those that are.
SG: How do you arrange hotel accommodations and special requests?
AE: Some luxury hotels are bonkers. Did you know butlers still exist? At some hotels you get a butler with your room—not sure if all are named Jeeves or not.
SG: What are some great lessons you’ve learned through securing so many arrangements?
AE: Keeping cool under pressure goes a long way—nothing productive gets done when you don’t have your shit together.
SG: If you could describe a perfectly arranged event, it would be …
AE: A perfectly arranged event hinges on motivated parties on all sides. All things are possible when people are willing to work together and execute. Direct flights are #dece—flights with connections are less #dece.
SG: Are there any memorable occasions that have made you think outside the box in terms of events?
AE: No two events are alike so most things are boxless (spellcheck says boxless is not a word. It also says spell-check is not a word so I’ve now hyphened it). One instance that I can look back on fondly (because it worked out) was when an American speaker forgot their passport and needed to cross the border for a Canadian event. Couriers can move things very quickly!
That concludes our fifth 12th Floor interview! To begin your search for the perfect keynote speaker for your next event, get familiar with Lavin’s philosophy through our FAQ section, search our speakers alphabetically, search our roster by idea—where you can search for motivational speakers, leadership speakers, innovation speakers, TED speakers, and many more—or scan through a list of our newest, most exciting exclusive speakers.