On the importance of authenticity and a great hotel bar: Q&A with XP producer Tanya Gelman

XP producer

Tanya Gelman is an XP producer who describes herself as a “slayer of timelines and schedules, music lover, all around dog person, and someone who’s just happy to be here.”

Role: Tanya works at Twitch, the video game live streaming platform, in the Brand Partnership Studio as the program activation manager lead for the East Coast. Prior to Twitch, Tanya was a senior experiential event producer for Conde Nast and Pop2Life. There, she concepted and built one-of-a-kind experiences for brands including AMC, Teen Vogue, NFL, Bonnaroo, TBS and iHeartRadio.
Years in the biz: 10+
First job in XP: College marketing rep for Sony Music at the University of Maryland
Where you can find her: Instagram | Twitter | Website

What qualities define the perfect experience?

Caring people, safety and, a word I generally hate to say, authenticity. Whoever is working on behalf of an event, I want to feel like they care about attendees and see that reflected in how they act around them. This could be as simple as offering help or a welcoming “hello” and a smile. People want to feel respected and cared for, and there are so many small actions that can show that.

Safety has always been important to me as a producer, but since 2020, it’s obviously been of the utmost importance to attendees, too. Today, I want a venue to know that even if technically the space can fit 100 people, there should only be around 50 guests. Take the attendee cut, and work through how to make this the most ideal experience for 50 safe and comfortable people.

People (especially young people) are smart, and they have a nose for authenticity. They know when a brand sponsors an event just because its hip and on TikTok, not because they share its values. They also don’t care about which logos are slapped on a step-and-repeat. If a brand can really dive into why they want to be at SXSW, Coachella or Comic-Con, attendees will be much more engaged.

What’s the best XP you’ve experienced recently?

While I haven’t been to many events in the post-Covid world yet, I had a really nice time attending Outside Lands in San Francisco. The music festival was incredibly organized — the required proof of vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test didn’t feel like a hurdle. I especially loved that they offered local Covid testing for attendees the week of the event, during and after. It felt like the Outside Lands production team were really looking out for attendees’ health, which is not a “nice-to-have,” but an absolute requirement for events in the future.

Where are we most likely to find you the night before a new XP project of yours launches?

In front of my laptop — I’m checking emails, referencing my to-do list of who I’m waiting to hear back from and what I need to check on the moment I get on site, reviewing everything that’s stressing me out and brainstorming backup plans.

If I’m out of town, and things are not super crazy yet, I’ll do this at the hotel bar (I particularly love the bar at The Dream Hotel in Hollywood). There’s something about the low music and the people chatter that makes me really happy, and when I’m happy, good things happen. If it’s a huge event and we’re potentially pulling an all-nighter, find me in the hotel’s conference room we rented with everything sprawled everywhere (looking at you, Marriott Marina Del Rey).

What’s been your proudest moment as an XP producer?

Absolutely working on the season six premiere of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” Pop2Life helped produce a fan-first premiere at Madison Square Garden, and we were tasked with ticketing 20,000 sweepstakes winners, and, most importantly, getting them in their seats within 60 minutes. Late arrivals weren’t allowed into the arena and no one could take their phones out for fear of spoilers hitting the West Coast.

At this point in my tenure at Pop2Life, I was still leading social media and photography efforts and hadn’t yet dabbled in ticketing, sweepstakes or event production. But, with thousands of attendees, it became an all-hands on deck project and I was able to join the party.

Although the pre-event work was a lot of planning, the craziest part occured when Google Docs went down the day of the event (something that I now understand only happens once or twice every few years). It was also monsooning in New York City and the rain was coming in sideways through the doors of MSG. What are the chances?

We quickly pivoted on almost everything we had prepared and figured out how to make this event go smoothly. Those few hours are still a blur, but our team somehow got 20,000 butts in seats with little issue. I learned so much that month, from how to deal with unhappy fans to how to book travel, and why sleep is important for everyone’s happiness (we got very little of it).

The Walking Dead season six premiere Madison Square Garden
“The Walking Dead” season six premiere, Madison Square Garden

What are your thoughts on the impending ~ metaverse ~ and how virtual events will impact IRL experiences?

I don’t think IRL experiences can live without virtual components in some way, shape or form. Fewer people feel comfortable traveling on airplanes or other public transportation, but they’re willing to spend money on something they care about. Even if it’s virtual, people want to partake in the culture.

IRL-experience producers now have to put on their virtual experience producer hat, too. We especially need to be experts on live streaming. While I do think that virtual events still have a long way to go, they’ll get there because the demand is there.

This interview has been very lightly edited for length and clarity.

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Experiential Is Everything

XP Land is for experiential creatives and experience-makers, brand leaders, and IP-owners, space stewards and venue visionaries — all those in the business of epic gatherings and live, immersive storytelling.