It is no wonder that today Jason Scott is one of the most important people in British and world event industry. He was voted number 1 Mover and Shaker by Eventbrite, Number 1 on Double Dutch 250 people in Events and top 10% of social media in events in the world. He has stepped on the gas several years ago, managing to wipe off the Russell Brand smelly traces from the 1, Leicester Square and re-shaping the Infamous realm of kitsch and dubious jokes into the one of the best event venues in London. Since then, Jason went from one sound victory to another promoting even more venues and events. His name is associated with the successes of the Bloomsbury Ballroom and the London Cabaret Club, activities of the ILEA UK and the Event Foundation UK. Today Jason Scott is also leading his own companies — the beauty-oriented Noninvasives International Limited, and Hollywood Inc Ltd concentrated on marketing. His online Guestlist Podcast, called as the great inspiration for entrepreneurs-solopreneurs-wannapreneurs, is gathering tens of thousands listeners and every event-industry conference is happy to get him as a speaker. Three books he has written, “The Eventrepreneur” being the most notable, have got the bestseller status. His image might look provocative for some, still it works and works the best. “I prefer the word ‘influence’ to ‘celebrity’”, — Jason says, and it is hard not to feel that he is damn right. Enters the eventrepreneur.
Name and title
Lord Jason Allan Scott, the eventrepreneur
What facts of your biography have changed your life?
I grew up in a very tough part of South Africa during the apartheid, in fact, when I was a child I was shot. So I’ve always been used to challenging environments, and using my words wisely as a way of getting out of trouble.
What is your most vivid memory?
When I was 6 years old, I was kidnapped. As I returned home to my family, I remember seeing them on the other side of the glass as I arrived in the airport. I can remember every single expression on their faces like it was yesterday.
If you had to choose a profession again, what would it be?
(Pause) I think I would go into medicine and be a psychiatrist.
What is something you could never give up?
What do you want most?
What do you fear most?
What makes you happy?
Spending time with people I care about.
Which traits would you like your children to inherit from you?
Never-give-up attitude. Always making a plan from absolutely anything.
Who is your all-time hero?
Felix Denis, the creator of Maxim magazine and one of the wealthiest men to come out of Britain.
Your image seems to have a certain eccentricity, unlike many other speakers or people from the industry. Do you deliberately step a bit aside from most of the corporate flock?
I’ve always thought that my number one attribute was transparency. I wanted to be someone you could look at and say, “I know that guy”. But I’m not doing anything groundbreaking. I started dressing maybe a little bit more flamboyantly when I took over a venue in a heart of London because I wanted to be easily recognised, so that if there was a crowd or a queue, I could easily be spotted: “Wow! Look at the gentleman in a three-piece blue suit and fedora! It’s Jason!” That quickly became “the trademark look” that made it easy for people to walk over and talk to me, whether it was about wearing a hat or not wearing socks. It has come from looking at my heroes like Charlie Chaplin and understanding how his “brand” worked: it was that silly hat that was identifiable by the audience.
Isn’t it a bit contradictory to the whole corporate culture that you inevitably have to deal with?
Yes! “Eccentric” is a word I hear a lot, and it literally means going in the opposite direction as the rest of the circle. Which can sometimes be a benefit and a detriment. Sometimes you are in the room of very blue tie, blue chip companies who don’t understand why you come looking like you’re about going to some awards ceremony. But I feel like I do a lot better in my own tribe. If I am selling to an advertiser, marketer, or a brand ambassador it’s easier for me to explain my vision to them than explaining it to procurements or legals — the latter are so stuck in that one-way circle. For me I find it helps me to get heard among those who I end up working with and for.
“Eccentric” is a word I hear a lot, and it literally means going in the opposite direction as the rest of the circle
In addition to professional skills, do you think a contemporary event-maker should be a kind of ‘celebrity’ to get head and shoulders above the others?
Very interesting question. I don’t know. It seems like the event industry is trying to create known characters or known personas that you might want to call a ‘celebrity’ because of that. And they’ve chosen people that do fit that mould to stand up from the crowd. I suppose I’m kind of seen as a ‘celebrity’, however, I don’t think people like Kevin Jackson, David Adler, Julius Solaris or myself in any way has that as a part of our mission statements, or our objectives. I think it comes organically from standing out, from thinking differently, being outspoken, and adding value in content to our industry that we are being seen as influencers. I prefer the word “influence” to “celebrity”, though I do understand exactly what you are saying.
What do you consider have been the cornerstones of your career that brought you to where you are today? These things don’t happen just at once…
No, definitely not. Sometimes I’m talked about as a kind of overnight sensation — you went from no one to being in the Top 100 of the event pride or Top 100 of the Double Dutch. But it’s not! It’s taken me twelve long hard years of constantly adding value, constantly collaborating and contributing to do that. And if I was to think about the cornerstones, then the first thing that comes to mind is No.1, Leicester Square. It was about going into a venue that had a reputation that preceded itself, distancing it from the night life and entering it into the events world. It was also about collaborating with big brands, for example, Unilever and its Lynx “Fallen Angel” campaign. Or it was about taking the picture house that did movies like “Avatar” or “Mamma Mia!” and coming up with ways to collaborate with it.
All of this slowly lifted me up until the point where I felt rather confident that I could do other things. Other things mean that I could come out of my niche and start things like a beauty pageant which we sold later, or a TV-show. And for all of these things the key points were collaboration, co-operation, content and value. But the pivotal moment still was in taking the venue that had a really bad reputation and was famous for Russell Brand, prostitutes and drugs, and turning it into a space that corporates like Unilever would choose to have an event at. And the same with other big companies: someone looks in and says, “Let’s have an event here”. Say, Yahoo had a Christmas party there. That made the big difference.
You’ve been working for years in the British event industry. What does it look like from the inside to you?
There has been a lot of changes in the last couple of years. A lot of people are trying to push an educational background as a way to get into events. So, the multiple types of qualifications have appeared and exist now. But they haven’t made a difference because no one chooses a job based on someone’s qualifications, you’re still judged by your last events. It’s very similar to film in that landscape. There’s also definitely more established players now than has ever been in the UK event scene. You know who to go to when you want to have an expert — a conversation about incentives, about conferences, about parties. That has definitely changed. There has never been so many influential figures in various sectors as they are now. It is as unregulated as it always has been — anyone can start an event company. There is definitely a lot more checking testimonials and references through things like LinkedIn and social media to find out how good an event was. There is a transparency now which makes a very big difference in the event space in the UK.
No one chooses a job based on someone’s qualifications, you’re still judged by your last events
A lot of people write books — all these guides to event galaxies, recommendations for the beautiful future, thousands of pages depicting how to build your business and career. So, if you dare to write your own work of this kind, there must be at least some special points. What makes your event-making guide “The Eventrepreneur” better than others?
First of all, I would say everyone is thinking about writing a proper book — not an e-book. But it is a tough thing. E-book deals are not like they used to be. I sold a little bit shy of 30,000 copies in the last quarter alone and I only took home £398 after paying everything that had to be re-payed. It is really hard to put something out into the world and then people judge you from your work and they think that everything is amazing. (Laughs) I think what makes my books different is that they make a canapé of the events world. It is not the main course, but a taster of what to expect. They provide the knowledge of the terminology, concepts, rules and regulations of the system. They also approach from a psychological side because I’ve studied the psychology of what it takes to be a great event-manager or event-planner. They take you through a day and a life of such people - but they are not going to give you the whole thing. A lot of books are trying to give you everything, so that you read it and say, “I can be an event-manager now”. But you can’t! It’s about practical hands on experience and knowledge. I simply wanted to give a book that just says; these are all the core components. After all, there is a difference between a canapé and a main meal. They both might be made from the same ingredients, but the canapé is harder to make — it is one bite, one taste that encapsulates everything at once. That's why my book is different. I made it smaller on purpose; about 18,500 words, while the usual format might be 25,000. That made me a better editor and, also, forced me to edit my knowledge down. I worked with an incredible editor, Katie Low, so my piece of advice is to get a good editor when you write a book. And the third part is that my book has a deep-down dive exposure to the industry, but it’s purely an academic piece. It doesn’t have my own opinions, it’s not a propaganda leading you anywhere. I just say, ‘these are the facts, these are the things you need to know, take a moment to look it through and really ask yourself questions to each chapter. If you finish this canapé and are still hungry for more — you can find my address at the back and allow me to push you further in the right direction.’
Who did you have in mind when writing?
Myself. I think, like a lot of authors and entrepreneurs, we create solutions for ourselves. I was thinking about leaving the events industry after doing it for quite a long time, I thought I couldn’t do more than I did. And I thought to myself, if I was starting again with the industry I would be jumping into, will there be a book I could pick up to become a psychiatrist or a lawyer? I’d need a book that would give me just hard facts and omit all the emotional aspects. So when I wrote the first book, it was exactly what I kept thinking: don’t make it personal. Make it about the knowledge, make it about the content — the production, the legal aspects, the ramifications. And you need a thick skin because you will do more wrong than right before you master your craft.
You graduated from university with a degree in clinical psychology. Does it help when dealing with people?
Definitely, yes. I would like to say I’ve never done it, but I have. (Laughs) I find myself like many psychologists putting people into boxes and saying, “I’m dealing with the critical thinkers”. When I’m pitching it helps me a lot to refine my pitch according to the audience. I think it makes me a better listener because I know that I need to listen twice as hard and speak half as much to get the same point across. I also know that as psychologist it is better to have a person come up with their own solution, than to tell them what the solution is. And in the events world that can be incredibly powerful when you’re competing against a lot of planners who are predominantly artists and creatives, who are throwing ideas at their clients instead of allowing their client to discover their own inner artist.
You have a podcast, written books and are an accomplished speaker. Have you tried to analyse what gives the biggest result in pushing your thoughts to people?
In the beginning, I think, that was blogs because they reached out to a lot more people, especially blogging through the LinkedIn, which is a really powerful format. Also, blogging through the Julius Solaris’ Event Manager Blog, because it has such a great readership. Lately I’ve found it’s been the speaking engagements because it is an opportunity much like an event, when you are in the room and can immediately take action. You don’t meet judging the grammar when you are mailing or presenting your thoughts or content in paper and pen. So these speaking engagements get a far greater response from the audience than anything else.
It is interesting that people like you always like to speak about educating other people — who are, in fact, already educated and experienced in their field. Why so and which kind of education is it?
(Laughs) Education is important. I’d like to use an example of the Olympics. I don’t think people are becoming become fitter or stronger every single time we put the Olympics on. We have better athletes because there are better coaches. And the coaches are who educate the athletes to get them better and better, because they have new ways to train, new pieces of education to give to those athletes. The human body has evolved in the thousand years, yet we could not beat a four-minute mile for a long time, and now it can be beaten in high-schools. All of this just because the knowledge and the access to it is more available for us today than it ever was before in history. I am lucky enough to have this radio-show called the Guestlist Podcast, where I speak to incredibly successful and powerful people, and there is one thing they all seem to have: knowledge — knowledge of their industry, knowledge of their competitors, knowledge of themselves. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses, knowing when it is time to collaborate and when it is time to be self-reflective is key. The only problem we have today is who we get this knowledge from. That is the hardest piece. You travel around the world, you hear about people and you search them up, and you do your homework — and then you meet them and realise that everything you have learned comes from their PR and marketing teams. These are the real brains! On the other hand, you meet people like Tony Robbins (American businessman, author and philantorpist — Live.), or Seth Godin (American entrepreneur and marketer — Live.), or Tim Ferriss (American businessman, entrepreneur, investor and public speaker — Live.) — great thinkers, they just see the world in a very different way, but are also not afraid to look back at the classics.