Getting to know Sam McNeill from Song Division

Here at Event Birdie we LOVE meeting event professionals that ooze passion and enthusiasm for their day jobs. Sam McNeill, Creative Director at Song Division, is one such individual. His energy when creating amazing events through Song Division's unique music team building activity is contagious. Having recently won the YMEA Future Leader Award at the National Meetings and Events Awards, Sam is one Event Birdie Pro you are going to want to get to know!

Give us a snap shot of your career to date Sam McNeill Song Division

6 years ago I was performing with my band at The Basement in Sydney and Song Division founder, Andy Sharpe, was there. He asked me to help out on an event with Microsoft (writing a song at 8am in their car park). I instantly fell in love with the concept and asked how I can get more involved. Since then I’ve worked my way up the company and am now Creative Director, responsible for sales, marketing, design and execution of all our events in the Asia-Pacific Region. I have been lucky enough to work on events in Australia, New Zealand, The US, Singapore and Malaysia with some of the biggest brands on the planet!

The most memorable event you have worked on and why?

I remember them all very clearly (which backs up the fact that music helps solidify memories and messages), but the highlight for me would have to be helping 1500 Virgin Australia staff surprise Sir Richard Branson with an original song about how much they loved working for him. Kissing and crowd surfing ensued.

Song Divisions, Sam McNeill with Richard Branson

What was your ‘learn the hard way’ event management blooper?

We tried to execute our team building process at a cocktail event. Everyone just wanted to chat and drink (understandably) and had absolutely no interest in sitting down and writing a song. It was a tough one but lead to us creating an offering much more conducive to a cocktail setting (that we now call our Rocking Reception). There is no failure at Song Division, just learning.

What are three personality traits that are required to succeed in the events industry?

I think this applies to most industries, but for me, success requires passion, the ability to understand your client’s REAL needs, and a sense of differentiation (both personally and from a business model point of view). I was at a conference last month and a number of people came up to me and said ‘I remember meeting you years ago when you’d just started working for Song Division and thinking “He’s different…” I was happy with that! 

If you could share one piece of advice to those starting out in the industry what would it be?

Be resilient! I’m lucky, as a performer, I’ve been told “No” from the age of 6 so I’m used to it. Having said that, losing a job or perhaps not doing as well as you’d thought you would still hurts (and so it should!). Use that energy, turn it round, change people’s minds and make the next one the best thing you have ever done!

What song always gets you on the dance floor?

Jackson 5 – I Want You Back

Favourite type of food?

Laksa!

Describe yourself in two words?

Peter Pan!

How do you unwind after a big event?

Red Wine!

Words to live by?

Do you… no one else can

What is your biggest challenge at the moment?

Not being able to multiply or teleport!

Where do you go for creative inspiration?

I have no idea. It just keeps on coming. Probably life in general - there is poetry in the most mundane things if you choose to look at it that way.

Best event you’ve been to as a guest?

I was lucky enough to attend the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas earlier this year and score tickets to Monster (headphones) 35th Anniversary party. It was pretty intimate and Fleetwood Mac performed! I have always wanted to see them so that was pretty special.

It’s event day - heels or flats?

Heels do wonders for my calves! 

Why do you love your job?

I travel all over the world sharing the power of music and song writing! It’s not exactly how I imagined it would happen but that has been my dream for as long as I can remember!

If you weren’t working in events what would you do?

Busking!