Forbes Under 30 Summit 2019 – An Oral History

On February 26, 2019, Forbes announced it would be bringing the Under 30 Summit to Detroit for the next three years. This historic and monumental summit, presented by Rocket Mortgage at the Masonic Temple, involved multiple partners and vendors. This production fully stretched the capacity of Display Group’s team and services. Let’s walk through the process, from the first meeting to the final teardown.

Pitch & Initial Meetings

Niko Solomos, Sales & Marketing Manager: Our team identified the contacts for the event months in advance and we really worked hard to make sure we connected with the client and presented our capabilities. Really, we wanted to create a conversation with Forbes about what we could do, and our business development got us in the discussion a lot sooner and we ended up participating more as a partner versus a vendor.

Jamey Denno, Account Executive: I started on the job when the lead first came in back in May. We knew Forbes was coming to Detroit and we knew it was going to be a big job. I realized pretty quickly we needed more help from the sales team.

David Cross, Account Executive: This job was really too much for one person. Jamey asked me if I would help and I said ‘yes.’ Forbes was complex and this job demanded a lot of attention beyond the normal scope of a sales job. I was brought into the project as one of two account managers and became the project manager during the install and actual event.

Will Harris, Event Stylist: I was brought in from the beginning. One of the first things we did was a site visit of the Masonic Temple to take photos and measurements of the venue and figure out how to work with the historic elements of the building. The chapel has a cross covered in lightbulbs that is easily over 150 years old and I had to cover it without damaging it.

Lindsay Sowter, Operations Manager: I was brought in about two weeks prior to the first day of load-in. We had a couple of pre-planning meetings to go through the event’s goals, logistics, as well as the production and warehouse staff needs. We had to pull and stage everything and plan how many trucks we would need as well as the drivers and labor services.

The Masonic Temple building in Detroit with an Olde English D sculpture on a black base with the Rocket Mortgage logo

The Venue

The site hosting Forbes Under 30 was the Masonic Temple, a historic and massive building located in Detroit’s Cass Corridor. About 100 years old and boasting over 1000 rooms, the Detroit Masonic Temple is the largest Masonic Temple in the world.

Niko: The Masonic Temple is not your typical venue. It’s a historic massive building that really shows the character of the city. Forbes was very intentional in this decision and it’s a beautiful space, but there are still inherent challenges to overcome in an older venue that doesn’t have large exhibition spaces.

Gary Rizzo, Designer: Make no mistake, the Masonic is difficult to navigate! But as someone that had to draw the layouts of the space and develop the drawings for the building, I now have a very intimate knowledge of the space. We really had to take the job room by room.

Rob Branski, Production Assistant: The elevators aren’t typical of an event space and are a lot smaller than what we are used to.

Will: The Masonic is a historic building that can easily be spotted when you look at pictures of Detroit. Whenever I would have a spare minute, I would explore the venue and see how vast it is. There are some pretty cool rooms and when you learn the history of the building and the mystery that comes with it, it can be pretty overwhelming!

Lounge area with beige couches and glass and brass coffee table at the Forbes Under 30 2019 event

The Install & Under 30 Summit

October was a busy month for Display Group as well as the Masonic Temple. The iconic Halloween Party, Theatre Bizarre, had their final day of partying on October 19. Their load-out overlapped with the Forbes load-in beginning on October 23rd.

Taryn Branski, Inside Sales: I was brought in as the project coordinator to assist with the contracts and paperwork. So, the first day of install, we had about 35 contracts for the event and I went on-site to help execute and guide the production team and temp workers. There were a lot of restrictions with the building. We could only use 2 of the 4 elevators and there was a constant fight for space. As we were loading in, Theatre Bizarre was loading out so the elevators were a prime place to be.

David: Logistically the load-in was very challenging. We had to share load-in times and points of entry with about 200 vendors. It was a 3-4 day process to get everything in.

Gary: The photo op booth is a great custom piece our fabrication team built and designed, and took a lot of time and coordination between a lot of people.

A custom-made photo booth at the Forbes Under 30 event with the Rocket Mortgage logo on the front glass window

Rob: Taryn & I ended up being the main on-site liaisons during the event for anything that needed to be done. We were still getting deliveries while the show was going on for replacements of furniture pieces.

A lounge area with two leather armchairs and a brass frame coffee table on a white rug

Reflection & Looking Ahead

The Forbes Under 30 Summit took place in the Detroit Masonic Temple from October 27-30, 2019. At the end of the event, the teardown began as hundreds of pieces needed to be pulled and loaded out. The reflection is particularly poignant because this event returns to Detroit for another two years. What were the lessons learned?  

Robert: The teardown was insane. I ran the second shift and we put everything in the lobby of each floor and progressively moved stuff down to the basement to load on to the semis. We easily had a football field’s worth of furniture and pieces and I’m pretty sure our first load-out was 4 semis filled with stuff. The production assistants that helped with the load-out were incredibly crucial to our success.

David: This job touched everyone in the company, and it was amazing to see that everyone there pitched in. I was so proud to be a part of it and I can’t wait to evolve and improve for next year.

Jamey: I really liked working with David and with the whole crew. It was nice to see the company rally together and help out. It took a lot of energy and a lot of people to make this happen and I’m so proud of my team.

Rick Portwood: The dedication that everyone showed from the company was overwhelming. I could provide you 100 examples of people stepping up and helping.

Gary: We did things we’ve never done before! We got to experiment with our equipment and capabilities and we really showcased that we have the experience to get it done.

Niko: Forbes highlighted our unique capabilities and how well suited we are for this event. It truly was the ideal project for our company and our team.

Taryn: It was exhausting, but so worth it.

David: We got it done.