April 2014

Beth Ellen KeyesAt Matrix, do pay attention to the woman behind the "curtain." She is Beth-Ellen Keyes, Matrix's executive producer, who was its program chair in 2002 and 2003 and picked up that job again in 2006. She delivers a seamless presentation onstage, ensuring that the many jagged pieces dovetail on the red carpet and at other events leading up to the awards, and also oversees fundraising for the big event.

Ready for anything "My training as a stage manager for Broadway and off-Broadway shows was paramount. Anything can happen in live theater, and you must be ultra-prepared for all contingencies and work with calm assurance. For Matrix, at any moment a national or international news event could occur that would necessitate shifting speakers."

The TED guy "At the investment bank Wertheim Schroder, I launched a conference called the Business of Entertainment: The Big Picture, which the bank coproduced with Variety magazine. It was the first industry conference that combined entertainment with serious finance, and it was so successful, it became a model for other such events. That led to my becoming conference director for Variety, where I worked with Richard Saul Wurman, creator of the TED conferences, on an event called TED Technotainment. This was my introduction to thought leadership conferences and resulted in my opening SpeakerSpace, a conference-development and production company."

NYWICI thread "In the late nineties a colleague on the Matrix Program Committee asked me to help host one of the VIPs for the Matrix Awards for NYWICI. Fast forward to last year, I won a Member Empowerment Grant, which I used to begin a new phase in my career as a nonprofit fundraiser and further the fundraising efforts I perform for the NYWICI Foundation and the Matrix Awards. This honor came after spending four years on the operating board, VP Membership and VP Communications. I have also served five years on the Foundation Board, VP Mentoring and VP Development (current), created the organization's coaching and mentoring programs and have begun an endowment fund, which will ultimately provide sustained income for the Foundation."

Matrix by the numbers MC's, 2; scholarship winners, 18; seats on dais, 20; hair and makeup for 30 honorees, presenters and scholarship recipients; Matrix Programming Committee volunteers, 40+; year, 44; tables, 100+; chicken salads, 1,200.

It takes a video village "In the Waldorf Astoria ballroom, we have technicians, audiovisual equipment and computers, which run slides, videos, music cues, social media integration and satellite feeds."

Bill Clinton "When the Matrix honored White House reporter Helen Thomas in 2002, we arranged for President Clinton to surprise her onstage. Logistics had his limo arriving just in time at the Waldorf garage, and we had volunteers waiting there to bring him to the ballroom. It was a beautiful day, and Mr. Clinton decided instead to stroll on Park Avenue to the hotel, shaking many hands along the way and coming to stage via the kitchen, where he also enthusiastically greeted the kitchen staff. 

"The show is very tightly scripted, and the few of us who knew he was coming also knew he was arriving late. I was onstage with a headset connected to those downstairs, whispering 'Has the package arrived?' The former leader of the free world jovially showed up in his own time — tardy by 20 minutes — but it all worked out in the end."