Inspiration Doesn’t Come Easy

Inspiration Doesn’t Come Easy


– By Dave Coopersteinsenior creative designer and Justin Stichter, Attraction Designer / Project Manager

Just as a car needs constant input of gas to go, or a city constant input of energy to light the night, a factory of creativity needs constant input of inspiration. Imagining never-before-conceived roller coasters, unique solutions to animal welfare, or unprecedented luxurious relaxation demands an attentive ear, watchful eyes, and the ability to spark those observations into something transformative: inspiration.

As PGAV attraction designer Jim Wible once said, “The best ideas don’t have to be yours,” so we often look outside of PGAV – and the Destinations industry as a whole – to seek inspiration for the next great attraction. Beginning in 2018, PGAV assembled an internal team to develop the first speaker series program for our Destinations staff. We thought of this team like a Trivial Pursuit board: how do we cover as many genres of topics with minimal overlap? We’d need varied backgrounds, interests, and expertise, so that we could get a balanced approach and could challenge one another, and that all types of professions and backgrounds were represented at PGAV in the decision-making process. It was the ultimate Pub Trivia team.


This committee had no easy task before them: conceive the program, create goals for the program, brand the program, craft an exceptional methodology for identifying and selecting the right speakers, and execute the coordination of the program to make sure it would run smoothly and be successful. As anyone should, they began with a set of goals for PGAV staff to get the most out of this program:

  1. Hear about and share in varied life experiences;
  2. Be exposed to a wide breadth of information;
  3. Gain insight into society, trends, and/or culture;
  4. Foster enlightenment to other world views and possibilities.

The team also agreed that each guest speaker would need to touch on at least one of, and possibly more than one of, these four pillars:

  1. Social Equity
  2. Self-Actualization
  3. Creativity
  4. Thought Leadership

With those parameters in place, the PGAV Presents (a name which required much brainstorming and debate itself) committee generated a wish-list of 75 authors, actors, musicians, visual artists, chefs, journalists, storytellers, performance artists, brand experts, TED talkers, athletes, futurists, scientists, influencers, inventors, and more. Each team member selected their top six candidates, followed by the group identifying those speakers most often-favorited, and at last began the exciting process of inviting them to share their insights, wisdom and stories with PGAV Destinations.

Countless calls to agents were made across the globe, inquiring about availability, fees, their interest in our goals and pillars, and their speaking topics. It was an invigorating puzzle to determine the best mix for the program’s inaugural year; at which point, the team began to negotiate terms with potential candidates. Throughout the process of assembling a calendar of speakers, the PGAV Presents team learned some invaluable lessons.

The team learned how to be flexible, because there are a hundred reasons why the perfect speaker, or the one you have to have, in unavailable or unattainable. Picking a date becomes a critical first step in the process, as it’s almost always the first question agents ask. Finding ways to be creative about how a speaker presents, what they speak about, and how you get them on-site makes it easier to put together an exciting slate of speakers and topics. Don’t give up; it often takes a lot of negotiation with their agent to nail down the details. Don’t be afraid to aim high; there are lots of famous people who are not only affordable, but also enjoy appearing at speaking events and sharing their experience, wisdom, and points of view. And, perhaps most importantly, diversity of thought, diversity of race and gender, diversity of interests, diversity of professions, diversity of presentation styles, diversity of culture… the mix of all these things are going to make for a really interesting slate of speakers. They’re going to challenge your audience in new ways, and that’s a good thing.

Once the year-one slate was in place, the challenges had only just begun! The PGAV Presents team has already been met with a host of unexpected surprises. While ABC News Chief Legal Affairs Anchor Dan Abrams was on the plane to St. Louis, Robert Mueller decided to announce a press conference on the release of his Report. About an hour later, Dan Abrams sat in a conference room inside PGAV Destinations’ new office to be interviewed by ABC News on the legal ramifications of the Mueller Report, while the PGAV staff watched ABC News on a TV just outside the door. Speakers have cancelled in advance, reschedule, cancelled again, and been replaced. The team has learned about contract negotiations for talent, which can often exclude using their likeness or words, in any way, without prior approval. The team has debated topics for sessions, trying to decide what is relevant to the PGAV staff today, while looking towards what might be fascinating for them in the future. Finding just the right mix of diversity, availability, affordability, relevance, notoriety, creativity, and engagement in a series of speakers has challenged the PGAV Presents team to really figure out what this program has the potential to provide our creative herd.

ABC News Chief Legal Affairs Anchor on "The Trial of the Century"

PGAV Presents guest Dan Abrams, best-selling author and ABC News Chief Legal Affairs Anchor, shares how the perfect storm of culture, celebrity, and technology ensured that there will only ever be one "Trial of the Century."

Posted by PGAV Destinations on Tuesday, July 2, 2019


Since launching PGAV Presents this year, author Joe Pine has enlightened us about mass customization, the Transformational Economy, Authenticity, and the Currency of Time; while Dan Abrams deconstructed the Trial of the Century, realizing success, and how to process the daily news churn. While our creative staff approaches the edges of their seats in each one of these sessions, some of the greatest energy is seen over the lunch table, where our staff discuss and debate the new insights that have been generated, and how it might impact our business and our clients’ attractions.


The momentum is strong with PGAV Presents, and we can’t stop here. The committee aims to succeed in each of its four goals within the first year, and to guarantee that our speakers deliver on our content pillars. We hope our peers walk away with something unique from each of our speakers, and that they enjoy sharing what they’ve learned. Most importantly, we hope that we’re laying the foundation for a sustainable, long-lasting program that will outlive our own tenure, offering valuable, eye-opening, exciting insights for every PGAVer, now and in the future. Because Inspiration Doesn’t Come Easy, but we can help ease the burden ever so slightly.

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